Faced with the prospect of a rivalry match in front of a raucous home crowd, Seattle responded by missing some early chances, giving up a few preventable shots, and leaving the game with a loss. Portland plays such a counter-centric tactical match that it’s hard to analyze the teams as the Timbers were content to sit back and create from the multiple Sounders’ mistakes. When your team plays fairly well yet looks like it’s getting run off the field, maybe it’s partly luck and partly the opponent being effective at making your life difficult. Even though Seattle won the xG battle, things the Timbers did frustrated the Sounders. The second watch showed a game that was there for Seattle to win, but the Sounders were excruciatingly frustrating in their inability to do exactly that.
Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 5.9
I wasn’t very impressed with Frei, which is hard to write. He was okay, but in a rivalry match he let in two of the five shots he faced and was part of a defensive effort that lacked cohesion. I have seen much better from Stefan.
One thing I liked: In the 18th minute Portland got a header down to his right and Frei made an outstanding save, pushing it away from goal, and Portland was unable to capitalize on the rebound.
One thing I didn’t like: Just two minutes later, Stefan reacted a bit late, missing the shot that clanged off the crossbar while futilely diving outside the goalmouth. In doing so he removed himself from the exact spot Brian Fernández scored in a split second later. I also think Frei could have saved the second goal, which went through his hands.
Going forward: Running to confront the opposing keeper who was doing stupid stuff all match is great; getting on the same page as your backline is better.
Brad Smith – 4 | Community – 4.8 (off 87’ for Nouhou)
Portland found a weak spot in Brad Smith and attacked that space until they scored, then again victimized that side when they needed more offense. Smith’s offensive contribution was negligible, failing to offset his clear defensive liabilities. He did have seven recoveries.
One thing I liked: Smith had a key pass in the 60th minute, but even this was a floated cross that was hard to get power on. He put his single shot on frame, a weak effort off a volley from the top of the 18 that didn’t trouble Steve Clark.
One thing I didn’t like: His defense was atrocious in the 20th minute, immediately leading to a goal. Portland smartly attacked him consistently. He had seven chances to put the ball into the box, but only one was successful while the rest were blocked, looped, or just plain bad, and his offense did not offset the defensive liabilities.
Going forward: Good teams will take advantage of Smith when he’s poor on defense and inconsistent on offense. With other options around and Brad on a pricey contract, questions are coming up again on who should play left back.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 5.7
Kim was good versus Portland, showing fire and desire and playing well to back it up. 89 percent passing highlighted a quiet outing, with just 10 defensive actions. His positioning and speed were integral to keeping the Timbers from more success on the counter.
One thing I liked: In the 33rd minute Kee-hee was quick to cover behind Smith, and he did well to continually hover over that side and support with Brad struggling.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim and Román Torres appeared to get split a lot, and I’m not sure why. A single lone striker continually getting in between them is something two veterans should figure out.
Going forward: Kim made a case for being the defender who plays every match, with others rotating.
Román Torres – 5 | Community – 5.0
Bryan Fernández was destined to run by Torres a few times this match, and for the most part Torres did a good job forcing the Timber into predictable runs/shots. Román had a few clearances, five impressive aerials won, one elbow to the face, and 85 percent passing which included an assist.
One thing I liked: Torres tied Raúl Ruidíaz for team lead with four shots, two on frame. He is an imposing figure in the air and consistently made set pieces a nightmare for Portland. Unlike Marshall, however, he didn’t seem to know what to do with those chances. (Hint: try finding a backside runner instead of weak headers at the goal).
One thing I didn’t like: Seeing Torres get consistently beat by a run in between him and Kim was very frustrating. With Smith being beat on that side, the service seemed to keep coming in to the gap in front of Roman, including the eventual game-winning goal.
Going forward: This wasn’t the outstanding performance against Atlanta, but was an okay outing from Roman, who found other ways to help the team while being just decent defensively.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.2 (off 72’ for Abdul-Salaam)
Leerdam seemed to greatly fade in a match that he wasn’t a huge part of to begin with. He had 56 touches but clearly stayed back more after halftime before being subbed in the 72nd minute.
One thing I liked: Early on, Kelvin had some very nice 1-v-1 defending and then burst into the attack to support as well. Seattle needed to replicate this kind of play to create different angles of attack.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam is a better offensive player than Smith but it was Kelvin who was pulled early.
Going forward: It seems we are back to the “Leerdam can’t play 90” days, which is a shame. Having to replace a defender every match handicaps the team. I have been impressed by Kelvin’s work with the ball at his feet, as well as his early service from wide areas.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.1
Once again, the Goose was a strong midfield presence, clogging passing lanes and forcing Portland into wide areas instead of finding Valeri in the middle. Svensson had eight defensive actions and 84 percent passing while doing an okay job with long switches to help the team unbalance the defensive shape.
One thing I liked: Time and again it was Svensson who stepped up to stop a potential counter attack before Portland could break out. His consistent ability to keep the ball in the attacking third enabled Seattle to maintain pressure on the goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Svensson lost Julio Cascante badly in the 18th minute, with only Frei to stop Portland from scoring off his subsequent header.
Going forward: Goose did a good job patching up holes in the passing lanes through the middle. I’d love to see more direct play from him, as he didn’t complete a single pass into the box, but I believe he does what is asked of him and does it well.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 6.3 (MOTM)
Roldan was great in this match, perhaps embracing the rivalry better than any other Sounder. Aggressive, active, fiery, and resilient all describe an outing that included three tackles, two interceptions, one clearance, 10 recoveries, and 94 percent passing. Cristian did some of everything, mixing it up in the middle and doing well to filter Seattle possession into the attack.
One thing I liked: Roldan is awesome when he gets into the attack, and his 78th minute service from just outside the box was excellent, earning him a key pass and nearly an equalizing assist. I would love to see him join the offense more; his distribution from wide is excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: Like Svensson, Roldan didn’t even look to get the ball into the box offensively. He was content to pass the ball square over and over again, and Seattle has to find a way for one (or both) of their non-Lodeiro central midfielders to be goal-dangerous.
Going forward: Cristian was great in this match, but we know he can do more.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 4.7 (off 62’ for Jones)
After a very strong few matches, Shipp regressed somewhat, unable to balance the defensive needs behind him with the offensive desires of his team. A mundane 74 percent passing rate highlighted the difficult time Harry had getting the ball into dangerous areas.
One thing I liked: Shipp put a number of passes into great spots for teammates, especially a 13th minute through ball that saw Smith in on goal alone. When Harry subbed out, Nico was cut off from anyone able to connect on the left, and it showed.
One thing I didn’t like: Harry must consistently be an offensive force to be an every day starter. Specifically, against Portland he needed to complete 2nd 7th, and 24th minute passes that would have split open the defense and changed the entire complexion of the match.
Going forward: Shipp is a guy who makes the skilled players around him better, but when they struggle, he hasn’t shown the ability to pick them up. This tends to accentuate both the good and bad of the team.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 5.8
Lodeiro had a very solid match, touching the ball a game-high 114 times and driving the offense. He continually attacked the goal directly with passes and was the only Sounder to do so.
One thing I liked: It’s becoming the norm, but seven key passes is outstanding. Many of them came from excellent set piece play, and Nico was the reason Seattle had double digit shots inside the box and a high xG.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico forced a lot of passes, and that is the worst thing to do against Portland. Unlike last match where he had a ton of defensive stats, Lodeiro had only three recoveries. He also got stuck in wide positions too much, which limited his ability to press Portland. That was hugely evident in Diego Chara’s ridiculous 100 percent pass completion rate on 43 of 43.
Going forward: Nico followed up last week with another double-digit recovery stat line, but Seattle seemed to lack that little bit of composure and magic in the middle that we all know he is capable of. Another dynamic option for him to find would be helpful.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.2
Morris had a nice match, which was overshadowed by the intensity and drama of the teams involved. He did some of everything, with two shots on goal, a key pass (that should have been an assist), three aerials won, and eight defensive actions.
One thing I liked: Morris had good distribution early, finding Raúl on a number of occasions and driving across the box to earn uncalled PKs. His aggression and runs were great and Seattle had success finding him in space to attack the left back.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first half he had five passes directly attacking the area. In the second he had two. Instead of forcing the issue he dropped the ball on a number of frustrating occasions.
Going forward: A few touches went awry, and he at times seems to be missing the killer instinct that guys like Roldan show. He is 6 feet, 180 pounds of speed and power, and he needs to develop the belief in himself that he’s a dominant player. He is a 1-v-1 matchup nightmare that Seattle should be utilizing much more often. I’d love to see him play inverted, attacking the middle on his strong foot and maybe even shooting once in a while.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 6.2
Ruidíaz will likely not rate himself this high, but he played well. Although he only touched the ball 22 times, he managed four shots, two aerials won, and like clockwork scored another goal.
One thing I liked: Although not as spectacular as last week’s, his goal took a lot of work. Raúl challenged a speculative long ball from Torres, and when he forced an error, pounced. Particularly impressive was his angle to get in between Larrys Mabiala and the ball by expertly accelerating in an angle across the field. In a perfect world he feels the knock from Mabiala and goes down, getting a red and Seattle goes on to win by five. He settled for scoring calmly after rounding the keeper.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 22nd minute he absolutely has to finish the gift-wrapped pass Morris gave him directly in front of the goal. He had a number of other chances that were great as well, and with the guy across the field making his, we needed Raúl to do the same.
Going forward: It’s not Ruidíaz’s fault that Seattle immediately gave up a goal after tying the match, and he’s so consistently in the right spots that you have to forgive him a mistake or two. Maybe expecting him to be the entire offense isn’t the best idea.
Joevin Jones – 4 | Community – 5.2 (on 62’ for Shipp)
Jones came in as an ostensibly offensive sub, but didn’t bring anything to the match. He managed a single recovery. Jones had a 90 percent completion rate and held possession in traffic a few times. He failed to do much positive in a listless outing and never won a 50/50 battle.
One thing I liked: In the 67th minute he did well to get through traffic with possession and find Leerdam wide.
One thing I didn’t like: On the left-wing Jones had 10 passes. A single one was into the area and incomplete. Another single one was a 68th minute pass up the line to Nico. The other eight were all backwards, toward his own goal. In fact, he had three successful forward passes all night, none in the attacking third.
Going forward: I lauded getting Jones in here early to help over the break and thought his time in Germany would have improved some of the things that drove me nuts when he was here before. It didn’t, and he appears unable to be a part of the team. Can he still play left back? This outing didn’t show him to be a winger option moving forward.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 72’ for Leerdam)
Once again Abdul-Salaam came in for a tiring Leerdam and did some good things, holding down his end while getting into the attack as much or more than Kelvin had. He won a few aerials while showcasing a number of long throws.
One thing I liked: Saad had nice anticipation in the 76th minute to cut out a pass and force Portland to concede a corner.
One thing I didn’t like: Another 60 percent completion rate seems to be the norm for him, and Saad was lucky not to have a bad turnover in the 89th while dribbling.
Going forward: SAS is an option should we need Kelvin to sub, but I struggle to see how he makes us better in the attack. Nice to see him play well though.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.5 (on 87’ for Smith)
Again, Nouhou came on and brought intensity, desire, and direct play. When you needed 1-v-1 defense in the corner in the 89th minute he was there to tackle strongly. A switching ball in the 93rd was vertically urgent, not just passively horizontal. When Jones was being twisted into a pretzel and badly beat by Diego Valeri in the box, up teleported Nouhou to steal the ball and back up his teammates defensively.
One thing I liked: Nouhou tried nine passes in his limited time, and all nine were vertical, including two into the box. He may not be polished offensively, but he was one of the few guys out there late who seemed to know which way to go to attack the goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Both of those two passes into the box were unsuccessful.
Going forward: If Seattle is married to forcing the ball up the left side then Nouhou isn’t a great offensive option to do so. If they want a guy who other teams want to avoid because of his solid defense and energy, Nouhou is the guy. There are a lot of moving parts to the left back situation, but Nouhou isn’t hurting himself by looking strong each time he comes in.
Drew Fischer – 3 | Community – 3.5
This was a mess. When an away team scores first, especially a counter- attacking team, it’s often a recipe for crummy, negative tactics which escalate personal battles and create stalling, tactical fouling, and soccer that isn’t fun to watch. A referee has to make a choice to referee the game closely and limit the shithousery or allow the away team to delay, commit obstruction to stop attacks and set up their defense, delay restarts or play substitution games and ultimately end up with a contentious, dangerous soccer match with both sides out of control at times. Fischer chose door number two.
One thing I liked: In the 53rd minute he called a foul that was a foul.
One thing I didn’t like: How he called the game, from allowing tensions to escalate with off the ball fouls, obstruction on give and go’s, and blatant baiting by numerous players to create tension. Some of the late fouls were just ridiculous and could have been curbed early. What really upset me, though, was his complete refusal to use VAR. On five occasions he listened in his ear to Tim Ford who talked about plays and on none did he decide to have another look. That is just plain arrogance. What exacerbated this arrogance was he was wrong on most of them. Jordan Morris in the 22nd minute was fouled in the box, a foul that was later called on Cristian Roldan in the 38th minute in the middle of the field, not called on Roldan and Chara moments later, but deserving of a 99th minute yellow to Chara. Portland’s second goal came on a clear foul in the midfield committed against Lodeiro, which allowed the Timbers to counter-attack off the turnover. In the 73rd minute Svensson was hit with a high elbow on purpose by Jorge Moreira, a red card offense which mattered even if he only gives him yellow as Moreira got that (second) yellow in the 84th for time wasting. In the 82nd minute Fernández should have been off for multiple games for a nasty scissor from behind with studs up on Kim, yet the ref refused to even look after giving it yellow on the field. Román Torres was quite deliberately sized up and elbowed in the face (in the box as well) in the 94th by Mabiala but Fischer wasn’t interested in even looking. In the 100th minute Kim tried multiple times to hack at people including barging in dangerously from behind and even kicked a ball at Valeri on the sideline without so much as getting a card. Why were none of these things reviewed? Absolutely ridiculous refereeing.
Going forward: This was bad refereeing, and dangerous. Multiple head injuries were possible, as well as potentially long-term injury on tackles from behind from both teams. It’s already not fun to play Portland 32 times every season, but does anyone think the match there is going to end full-sided? Remember Kim and Roldan both getting hurt there last year?
Portland Timbers MOTM
Brian Fernández, he of the scissor tackle and the taunting, but also the two goals, predictably wins Man of the Match.
Seattle plays Houston next, who will have a rested Alberth Elis because he carded himself out of the Atlanta match in the first 10 minutes. They do play Wednesday against Club America in that stupid other random tourney that they decided to put in the middle of MLS, so maybe they will be tired. Midweek game didn’t seem to bother Portland, though.