The Seattle Sounders looked to build upon a quality win over the weekend against Vancouver in their midweek match at New York City FC, and for much of the first half they looked poised to get a positive result. The second half was another story, however, as a tired squad featuring many depth players failed to capitalize on some very good chances, instead giving up multiple goals as the opponents thoroughly dominated late to win 3-0. Based on the lineup, you would have likely understood this result before the match, but after that first half it was a very disappointing result that featured some rough play and questionable decision-making. The inverted wingers, lack of outside overlapping presence, second-choice lineup, and often very poor positioning somehow worked for a while, but as soon as Seattle got tired, it was exposed for its inadequacies. Substitutions not only failed to make a positive impact on the match, they may have actually made things worse; Seattle conceded within five minutes of each sub.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 5.9 (MOTM)
Frei faced 20 shots, eight of them on target. Considering that three of those got past him, this was a tough scoreline on an average outing for the Sounders goalkeeper. I don’t know what more Frei could have done, but he still failed to keep the opponents out of his goal on three occasions.
One thing I liked: Working with yet another new backline, I thought Stef did a good job organizing players while they were active and energetic. The defensive shape wasn’t pretty, but for at least the first half guys weren’t tripping over each other on the small pitch.
One thing I didn’t like: For the second match in a row I thought that Frei struggled heavily with distribution from the back. He rarely connected with teammates, and on at least four occasions overhit long balls directly to NYCFC keeper Brad Stuver, instantly ceding possession and adding to the fatigue of the other Sounders.
Going forward: I don’t know how many more matches this season Frei will have to sit behind this exact back six, but I hope it’s zero. There wasn’t much to take away as a keeper from this one, but I sure would like to see a clean sheet this weekend.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.2 (off 72’ for Leerdam)
The Nouhou Experience was on full display against NYCFC, with a mix of some good and some questionable moments from the left-back. Defensively he was excellent, with three tackles, two interceptions, four clearances, and eight recoveries. None of the goals came through his side of the field, but Seattle neglected the usually strong left side of the attack to focus elsewhere. His 86 percent passing led the team, which says a lot about how much his teammates struggled in this area.
One thing I liked: I’ve been looking for an ability to add to the team’s offensive arsenal, and Nouhou showed that he might be the one to do it in the first half. Early on, he put in a beautiful cross that Justin Dhillon smacked into the back of the net, only for it to be called back for offside. Later in the half Nouhou charged up the field and got on the end of an amazing Harry Shipp through ball and forced a big save from Stuver.
One thing I didn’t like: Like I said before, the Nouhou Experience was on full display in this match ... for better or for worse. Getting a yellow in the first five minutes of the match for a bad foul and then committing a few more iffy ones before finally settling down, the young Cameroonian was at times playing a different match than his teammates, making more than a couple bizarre decisions on both sides of the ball.
Going forward: There has been some discussion about Nouhou’s attitude coming off the field and such, and I have no idea what may or may not be going on. I do know that he played some good soccer and the team fell apart after he left the pitch.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.7
Similar to Nouhou, Arreaga was strong defensively and didn’t make any egregious defensive errors. His mid-80s passing completion rate was average and he had a number of important interceptions and clearances to add to his six recoveries.
One thing I liked: Playing on a small field, Xavier was one of the few Sounders to take advantage of the tight spaces, consistently pushing up high on the left and forcing defensive actions near midfield. Right before halftime, he went on a marauding run through the midfield that culminated in a shot that nearly put Seattle in the lead, but at the very least won his side a corner kick.
One thing I didn’t like: The cohesion from Arreaga and those around him was missing. At times he stepped up into space without the support of teammates, something that got more pronounced as fatigue set in.
Going forward: I like what Arreaga brings to the game, but I hope we haven’t seen the best from him in his first 232 minutes. That dynamic run was exciting, but Seattle hasn’t won a single game with him on the field, scoring three goals and conceding seven (one own goal). Hopefully having stronger players around him will change that.
Kim Kee-hee – 5 | Community – 5.7
After combining nicely with Saad Abdul-Salaam earlier in the week, Kim struggled with having a new left-sided partner in central defense and shifting SAS to outside back. His four recoveries and three clearances were okay, but he had some issues defending the right channel, which often meant that the Sounders allowed runners to freely enter that side of the box.
One thing I liked: There’s a ton of little things that Kee-hee does that don’t show up in game stats, one of which is his communication with others around him. Even not speaking much (any?) English, on multiple occasions he had conversations with Henry Wingo, detailing positioning and coaching on the field.
One thing I didn’t like: On a 10th minute free kick, Kim found himself unmarked with a wide-open free header and he dumped it harmlessly over the crossbar. Just about anything there scores, finds a teammate, or forces a save that Seattle had numbers to follow up on.
Going forward: I think a lot of people believed that this center back pairing was the heir apparent when Marshall retired and so far, it has been a bit of a bust result-wise. With Román Torres back and itching to go, Seattle needs to figure out what play style and communication works best in the center back position, and do it quickly.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 5.2
After a nice shift in the middle on the weekend, SAS was tasked with playing right-back against NYCFC, and he struggled. Saad didn’t record a single tackle or interception, but he did have four recoveries and four clearances.
One thing I liked: His offensive skillset is great for such a big defender, and he was an early and consistent asset on the right as an overlapping option or when combining on the wing with Wingo.
One thing I didn’t like: 66 percent passing is just not good enough at the outside back position for Seattle. This is an indictment of SAS and his decision making, but also of the runs in front of him and the central midfield’s lack of options for him.
Going forward: We know he’s not Kelvin Leerdam, but Abdul-Salaam struggled in this match and was part of the first goal that broke the Sounders’ confidence. If he wants to keep getting these midweek starts out wide, he needs to play much much better.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 5.0
Delem wasn’t amazing, but this match likely gets very out of hand without him. He ended with five recoveries, three aerials won, five interceptions, two clearances, a tackle, and a blocked shot. He had a decent 77 percent passing rate but faded late with the rest of the team. Jordy also had a great header which nearly scored, rocking the crossbar in minute 85.
One thing I liked: Delem did his job, defending well in the middle and playing the destroyer role at which he is quite adept. When the team was on the front foot in the first half, Jordy had the majority of his recoveries, constantly tracking down opponents to return possession to Seattle. In the second half he racked up most of his interceptions, often when frantically attempting to stop NYCFC from carving up the midfield.
One thing I didn’t like: When paired with more dynamic defensive midfielders Delem excels, and against NYCFC, Seattle had little composure in the middle, asking him to do more than he is capable of. Someone needed to take control of the middle and without that, the Sounders got outmatched and overrun.
Going forward: Danny Leyva got deserved hype this week, but it’s important to recognize that Delem has given Seattle MLS average play over the course of 10+ appearances this season. That is a pretty nice asset to have for depth, and I expect Jordy to continue to get time when a better combination of teammates is available.
Alex Roldan – 4 | Community – 4.2
Seattle hung on in the first half and at times was the better team, with Roldan doing an average job in the middle. He had an 81 percent completion rate and limited his turnovers to wide areas because he was helping to shield the center of the defense, but his positioning was awful and continually forced others to adjust to support his erratic movement. For someone who is so defensively active in other roles, he was oddly ineffective at DM.
One thing I liked: The first half is where Seattle and Alex played their best. His 12th minute pressing helped create a turnover and eventually, his shot.
One thing I didn’t like: After a fairly uneventful first half, Roldan really had a hard time in the second. For a guy who should have been rested, he looked slow to move and react time and time again as NYCFC exerted their influence right through his area consistently or pulled him into bad spots so they could abuse his teammates who tried to support. In the second half, Roldan registered a measly two defensive actions: a 51st minute recovery and another in stoppage time. In the 40 minutes in between, he wasn’t good.
Going forward: Alex had a chance to play centrally and show that he should still be in the discussion for depth there — but he fell flat, lacking the tactical instincts needed to play centrally. I not only don’t see MLS level play happening, I don’t see the ceiling for him to aspire to. With Leyva on the rise and his brother returning, I am struggling to see how A-Rold gets included in the 18 moving forward.
Joevin Jones – 4 | Community – 5.2
Looking at the Sounders lineup, Jones was one of the few highly-paid TAM-level guys out there and he should be expected to produce; other than a couple moments, he didn’t. Drifting way inside to collect the ball, Seattle effectively ignored the left wing as Jones played centrally in link-up play. This worked for a while, but without working hard defensively, the players around him were constantly overrun.
One thing I liked: Early on it looked like the possession Jones was going to provide centrally would help, and after earning a 10th minute free kick, Seattle looked to Joevin for service and he responded with a perfect pass to Kim that should have opened the scoring.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively, Jones was terrible. He didn’t step up on the second goal, played awful low effort poor positioning for about 20 minutes, should have been called for a penalty that was the consequence of more awful defending and deserved DOGSO, and just showed zero mental toughness to fight through the adversity of the match.
Going forward: I haven’t been super high on the return of Jones mainly because I didn’t rate him as great before he left. He has been solid since his return but some of the old effort issues that I remember haven’t been fixed, and NYCFC exposed him badly in this one. It was a great move to get him here before the international break, but he should be having a more positive impact in these matches.
Harry Shipp – 6 (MOTM) | Community – 5.5
With even less around him than in the weekend’s match, Shipp worked hard but just wasn’t as effective. He did just enough to win his second consecutive MOTM award, including a number of shots, a key pass, and some minor defensive plays. But as Seattle faded in the second half, he ran out of movement and pass options and he just looked plain tired.
One thing I liked: Sometimes Shipp just sees things no one else on the team does, and in this match he did so with an absolutely incredible through ball in the 32nd minute, a perfect pass that cut out five defenders into the run of Nouhou, who had a solid look at goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Missing the wide runs of Smith and Leerdam, and the central release valve of Svensson, Shipp struggled to find teammates. His 67 percent passing rate included nine incompletions, seven of which were directly attacking the goal. Shipp constantly tried to get guys in attacking positions, but it wasn’t to be.
Going forward: Harry isn’t a guy who can carry a team with his work rate, and when there aren’t other tactically efficient players making runs for him, he loses his effectiveness. Luckily some of those guys should be returning soon and take some of the pressure off Shipp trying to win MOTM awards every game.
Henry Wingo – 4 | Community – 4.9 (of 55’ for Rodríguez)
Wingo followed up a strong performance with one where he struggled, fading hugely in the second half into effectively becoming a nonfactor. He had a couple of shots in an active first half, and New York didn’t score while he was on the field, but his skill set was not utilized in the small dimensions of the pitch at Yankee Stadium.
One thing I liked: Henry was goal-dangerous on a handful of occasions, getting two shots in early. I am not sure why he kept cutting inside on such a small field, but he did test the defense a number of times.
One thing I didn’t like: 43 percent passing completion rate. 19 touches. That is quite a drop from 91 percent and 53 touches last weekend. Sheesh.
Going forward: Wingo seemed to take a step forward against Vancouver and then took a giant leap back versus NYCFC. Hopefully it was just a combination of the players around him and general fatigue. Now that we have seen what he can do, the expectation is there for him to not have any more stinkers like this one.
Justin Dhillon – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 82 for Ocampo-Chavez)
Starting his second ever MLS match in just four days, Dhillon again showed the skills that we saw against Vancouver. He did an okay job holding up the ball, won a massive seven headers, and had one shot and key pass apiece from the front. An early goal was called back for being barely offside, and Justin worked hard to get into good spots for teammates before getting tired late and losing much of his effectiveness.
One thing I liked: Recognizing that it is a small field, Dhillon put in a ton of work defensively, highlighted by a 17th minute 50-yard trackback on Alex Ring, chasing him from midfield and defending all the way to the end line within his own box. Awesome effort there.
One thing I didn’t like: 59 percent completion rate meant a lot of turnovers directly back to the opponents, and for all his work he only had a single 63rd minute shot, which was blocked. Seattle needs more than that up front.
Going forward: I am not sure with that lineup how much better another player could have done, but we know what Dhillon can and can’t do. He is exactly as advertised, and needs service to make more of an impact in matches.
Víctor Rodríguez – 6 | Community – 5.1 (on 55’ for Wingo)
With Wingo struggling, Seattle got Rodríguez back into the match with a chance to steal a result and promptly conceded. Víctor was very good in his time, leading the Sounders with three key passes and taking a nice 67th minute that forced a save. As Seattle tired around him though, there was little he could do.
One thing I liked: Víctor clearly was a step up as soon as he entered play, immediately dribbling at the NYCFC team and creating chances for Seattle. His movement and creation were strong.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle got worse as a team after he came on, immediately conceding and eventually giving up two more. He had a tackle and a clearance and did his defensive work so I wouldn’t put it on him, but the tactical change didn’t work.
Going forward: There’s been deserved talk about Víctor’s worth in regards to injury, and it was nice to see him out there. He clearly is one of the best players on the field when he can be on it, and I hope we get to see him finally shine amidst peers soon.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 72’ for Nouhou)
Leerdam immediately made a difference offensively with his intensity and skill — and then Seattle conceded a second goal.
One thing I liked: Kelvin brought intensity and desire that had been lacking a bit from Seattle. His combination with V-Rod was good, and his long throws were an offensive weapon for a Sounders team looking for an equalizer.
One thing I didn’t like: For all his effort and vocalization, Leerdam had but a single shot and 71 percent passing.
Going forward: I get what the staff was trying to do with this sub, but it failed – not directly because of Leerdam, but it put Jones in a defensive position he struggled mightily with. Kelvin has been playing well at fullback, let’s hope he’s there on Saturday.
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez – 4 | Community – 4.9 (on 82’ for Dhillon)
AOC got a bit more time this match, and did less with it.
One thing I liked: Fonz was 4/4 with his passing.
One thing I didn’t like: In his 10 to 15 minutes, Fonz was missing. He had one turnover, committed one foul, and he barely touched the ball in the attacking third.
Going forward: This wasn’t an impact sub.
Rubiel Vasquez – 6 | Community – N/A
This was a referee that I wasn’t familiar with and he did a very good job. Early on, both teams were a bit testy, and this ref did well to limit the bad fouls while allowing the flow of the game to continue. Seattle isn’t a very aggressive team and NYCFC took advantage of that, but I didn’t think the ref was unfair in adjudicating this.
One thing I liked: The refereeing was fair all match, and although he allowed a bit more midfield hand fighting and professional knocks early, I thought Vasquez controlled the match well.
One thing I didn’t like: I am not sure how Joevin Jones got away with pulling a defender back in the box without at least a penalty scored, and I would have ben fine with a DOGSO red card as Jones makes no play on the ball. I have no idea what the referee saw to not call a penalty there, but I do appreciate he didn’t just take VAR at its word.
Going forward: For the second time in two games we saw a single VAR call tarnish an otherwise good referee job. The last VAR miss had a much larger impact on the match and thus I graded it a bit harsher than this one, but it’s frustrating to see continual review messes.
New York City FC MOTM
Scoring NYCFC’s opener and contributing heavily to their second, Maximiliano Moralez earns a well deserved Man of the Match. He worked cleverly in tight spaces throughout this contest.
Seattle needs to get all three points against a dreadful Columbus team this weekend. With players rested midweek, there is no excuse not to come out strong. Even though Seattle is on the road again, the expectation must be that they leave with a win.