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Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City: Player ratings

Jordan Morris scores two but Seattle needed three.

You have seen it all before. You already know how Sporting Kansas City is going to play. They will constantly hack you, daring the referee to do his job. Give an inch, they’ll take a foot. That’s exactly what they did against the Sounders last weekend with great success in the first half as the referees allowed their “tactics.” This clearly frustrated the Sounders into some big mistakes and made for an ugly, choppy match. Other than a few players, our team looked listless, especially in the first half when the Sounders seemed unprepared and unable to play anything like cohesive soccer. The second half was somewhat more inspired, but also came with defensive mistakes so that SKC was able to hold onto a 3-2 win away. Seattle was missing some players once again, but there is little excuse for the ones there to play so poorly and once again get in a deep hole early.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 5.5

Frei was okay against SKC. Once again, he gave up three goals to a lousy team and once again, I wonder whether he could have done better on any of them. He gave a lot of the goal to attackers and was beat on angles that seemed predictable.

One thing I liked: With Seattle down 3-1, old nemesis Johnny Russell subbed in and he immediately had a great chance. Frei was up to the task, finally stopping a shot from Russell with a great sprawl to block.

One thing I didn’t like: Absolutely terrible decision-making led Stef to kick long for Nicolás Lodeiro versus three defenders in the 31st minute. This was a chance to show some leadership, calm his defense and get the team on the same page after some struggles. Instead, this hopeless play resulted in instant possession for SKC, who immediately came down and earned a penalty.

Going forward: Seattle isn’t going to win many games giving up three goals.

Defense

Nouhou – 5 | Community – 4.2 (off 86’ for Delem)

Nouhou was obviously the player most frustrated by SKC’s constant fouling. I looked specifically at his matchup with Gerso Fernandez, which Nouhou dominated for 90 percent of the time. Unfortunately, that 10 percent included a really stupid penalty tackle that was just unnecessary. When not turned off mentally, he was excellent, with three tackles, two interceptions, two clearances, and six recoveries.

One thing I liked: Nouhou played good defense, and his 94 percent completion rate was second best on the team while getting 92 touches.

One thing I didn’t like: I counted Gerso’s fouls committed: he had six called and four more not called. He was warned on foul #3 in the 22nd minute. On his 5th foul called he got a yellow card. Those two fouls called (and another not) in between his warning and his yellow were huge, especially the 27th minute called foul that should have been a yellow. If he rightly gets that yellow for hacking Nouhou for the 5th time, none of that PK play likely happens and maybe we are rating a different match right now.

Going forward: Nouhou is a great defender and he was good for all but 10 minutes last match, but he absolutely has to fix the impetuous play to be taken seriously for playing time.

Kim Kee-hee – 5 | Community – 5.2

Kim had an odd stat line that defensively consisted of seven recoveries. That was it. He didn’t have a single tackle, interception, or clearance. This led to a strong 91 percent passing completion rate on a completely horizontal distribution map.

One thing I liked: In many matches, what Kim did would have been enough. He got the ball, found clean passes, and let others do their job without fear he was going to lose possession.

One thing I didn’t like: On the first Kansas City goal Kim dropped into the middle and marked the 6-yard box. The box didn’t score, but Felipe Gutiérrez did.

Going forward: Kim is making a few massive mistakes every match, and his teammates aren’t able to bail him out. Major bummer.

Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.7

On paper, it seemed like Arreaga had a good match: three tackles, four clearances, five recoveries and 96 percent passing on 94 touches. On deeper analysis, he was quite active moving forward, which at times was a huge problem for Seattle’s shape but at others was quite helpful as both central defensive midfielders pushed forward a lot.

One thing I liked: Xavier does very well to step across behind the other center back and cover diagonal runs, all the more reason it’s confusing why Kim didn’t aggressively step out on the first goal.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 58th minute SKC scored a brutal third goal and if you weren’t busy watching Erik Hurtado run by Kim, you might have noticed Arreaga jumping upfield to try to cut out a passing lane, leaving a massive hole behind him for said SKC forward to run into.

Going forward: This might be the CB pairing of the future but they are off to a rocky start. The communication wasn’t there, the positioning was often not great, and these guys need practice on working together to prevent multiple goal losses.

Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 4.9

Abdul-Salaam got another start and barely scratched my book with notable plays positive or negative. Stat-wise he got up and down the line a bit, had three clearances and three recoveries, and a nice 87 percent passing rate.

One thing I liked: When presented with a fast player in minute 55 who might go by him and score a 60-yard breakaway goal, SAS put a shoulder into him and earned a yellow but stopped the play. This is notable because the next time SKC had a similar situation, they scored.

One thing I didn’t like: Saad didn’t bring anything offensively or combine with teammates toward goal, and was only okay on defense.

Going forward: This match, Abdul-Salaam was just a guy. He has to do more.

Defensive Midfield

Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.1

Leyva played like a teenager, with some pretty egregious positioning mistakes that got compounded by poor decisions and some unusual bad touches. As a defensive midfielder he was credited with a single won tackle in the 88th minute and two recoveries, both after the 75th minute. Passing-wise, he did have a key pass and completed 87 percent, limiting big mistakes.

One thing I liked: His aggressive forward step in the 15th minute created a turnover for Seattle, and he was active all match, trying to cover ground.

One thing I didn’t like: Early on Cristian Roldan was dropping into the right corner when Abdul-Salaam went forward, but in the 12th it was Leyva who was tasked with supporting the right and he was nowhere to be found as Gutiérrez walked into the box and scored the first goal.

Going forward: This game might slow the hype train down a bit, as Leyva was exposed for his lack of pragmatism on the soccer field. On various occasions the lack of a 6 between the defensive midfielders was a huge liability. His lack of positional rigidity and the combination with Roldan needs a lot of work.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.9

Roldan had nine defensive actions as well as a good-looking distribution map that saw him attacking vertically on a number of key occasions.

One thing I liked: Cristian was the only Sounder who seemed to understand that Jordan Morris over the top was effective, and on three separate occasions in the first half found the Seattle striker in advanced positions.

One thing I didn’t like: When he had his pocket picked in the 11th minute, SKC should have done better with the gifted possession in a very advantageous position.

Going forward: I am not completely soured on the Roldan/Leyva midfield but believe their roles need to be much better defined. With the other defensive mids, you can usually count on them to stay deeper, allowing Cristian to roam forward more. That wasn’t the case against SKC.

Attacking Midfield

Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 4.5 (off 69’ for Bwana)

I have very few positive notes about Jones and was frankly underwhelmed again. He had three successful tackles, two shots, and was credited with a key pass.

One thing I liked: In the 26th minute Joevin peaked, with a nutmeg on a defender earning his team a corner.

One thing I didn’t like: His first four touches resulted in turnovers, and it didn’t get a ton better after that. A great example of how frustrating his outing was occurred in the 61st minute, with Jones making a nice move to beat a sliding player before inexplicably turning back into said player and losing the ball.

Going forward: I would guess Seattle was expecting more from Jones. I sure was. He needs to be a lot better regardless of expectation.

Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.5

Nico hit 106 touches, and was his usual effective self. For most of the game he wandered around the midfield, probing the defense and getting fouled a lot. He was one of the only Sounders able to create anything for others, including some great set piece services and an assist, part of five key passes.

One thing I liked: Nico’s pass in the 46th minute was magical. A perfectly weighted curled ball into the onrushing path of a full speed Morris. This pass was just beautiful.

One thing I didn’t like: Lodeiro spent so much time looking for teammates, but there were a few times I wish he would have been more goal-direct, which might have opened up the passing lanes he was struggling to find.

Going forward: Nico was okay, but clearly missed the quality in teammates that would help him utilize his unique talents.

Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 59’ for Dhillon)

Shipp had another very up and down match. His passing map showed a player who moved all over the field looking to impact the match but was unable to combine in the wide areas Seattle was trying to attack. On the few occasions Seattle got the ball to Harry in attacking positions he was very good, but he was unable to do more than be an accessory part in a match that needed more direct play.

One thing I liked: The best chance in the first half came from Shipp’s great vision to split the lines and put Morris in 1-v-1 with the keeper. The first Sounders goal was jumpstarted by a tremendous early pass to Nico from Shipp as well.

One thing I didn’t like: The second-best chance of the first half saw a free header back post hit Harry’s head and go wide. He didn’t see the ball till late, but he had time to get it on frame and he didn’t. This is yet another example of Shipp doing everything right but the finish.

Going forward: Shipp is a very cerebral player but it seems sometimes he can’t get his body to do what his soccer mind wants. As with nearly everyone else, surrounding Harry with better options should increase his effectiveness.

Forward

Jordan Morris – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.8 (MOTM)

Morris was the best player on the field, constantly driving forward, goal dangerous all match, and physically impossible for SKC to contain. He ended with 39 touches and turned those into 74 percent passing, five shots, a key pass, and two goals. He nearly had multiple others while being an absolute offensive force for Seattle.

One thing I liked: SKC couldn’t contain him, and Jordan consistently ran right at the defense and created offense for Seattle. His assertive movement was fantastic, earning him multiple goals and constantly forcing keeper Tim Melia into acrobatic and game-saving plays.

One thing I didn’t like: It’s just so damn frustrating that on the 91st minute deflection off the post, Morris was in a perfect position, and it decided to go the only place that wasn’t a guaranteed goal.

Going forward: Jordan is making stuff happen and doing it from multiple positions, with multiple feet, and he should be appreciated.

Substitutes

Justin Dhillon – 6 | Community – 5.4 (on 59’ for Shipp)

Dhillon came on immediately after a goal. I’m not sure what the plan was, but if it was to be a big body in the middle and free up others to make runs off him, he did well.

One thing I liked: In 30 minutes Dhillon got a shot, had two key passes, won four aerials, and was even credited with a clearance in a productive shift. His ability to occupy both center backs freed up teammates often.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 71st minute Justin took a long ball down off his chest and nearly scored, which would have completely changed the match. That little bit of skill needed to make the huge play surrounded by multiple defenders just wasn’t there.

Going forward: Dhillon has quietly done a lot of good things as a substitute, somewhat lessening the loss of Will Bruin. While clearly a bench option with a full-strength team, Justin has a knack for getting into good spots and helping create chances for his team.

Handwalla Bwana – 7 | Community – 6.4 (on 69’ for Jones)

Bwana was inserted for a completely ineffective Jones and celebrated his return to the Sounders with a very positive outing. Handwalla was a game changer with his direct play and willingness to take on defenders and create chances without depending on teammates.

One thing I liked: Bwana was the direct offensive option Seattle needed all match, and he immediately showed his class, first pressuring SKC then picking up a loose ball and finding the onrushing Morris with a slip pass for an 82nd minute goal. Handwalla’s curling 91st minute effort had tie game written all over it.

One thing I didn’t like: 62 percent passing once again showed Bwana as a little careless, often attempting passes that perhaps worked in USL.

Going forward: It was great to see a player who had struggled come back to the team after a few months off and make an impact. He needs a few more of these performances to prove himself.

Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 86’ for Nouhou)

Delem came on, played some defense, and was 1/2 passing the ball.

One thing I liked: In the 94th minute Delem showed Nouhou how to tackle Gerso (cleanly) in the box, preventing a shot.

One thing I didn’t like: I don’t know what this sub was about. If it was to create a more offensive formation, waiting until the 86th minute seems very odd. In any event, Delem came in for a few minutes, sat deep, and allowed Seattle to push more numbers into the attack searching for a late equalizer.

Going forward: Delem doesn’t give you a lot going forward, but his ability to shield the center backs frees up his partner defensive midfielder to join the attack more frequently, something that was missing against SKC as both Leyva and Roldan struggled to meld their playstyles.

Referee

Ismael Elfath – 3 | Community – 4.5

Elfath was the center, Toledo the 4th official, and Stott the VAR. For a match against SKC, who have played this foul-heavy style for years, this was a preposterous group to run the match. The numbers were 23 called fouls against the away team, 11 against the home. What a ridiculous, terrible job by all involved.

One thing I liked: Elfath did well to give Erik Hurtado a deserved warning seven minutes into the match.

One thing I didn’t like: HE THEN ALLOWED HURTADO TO COMMIT SIX MORE FOULS AND NEVER CARDED HIM, ONE OF WHICH WAS BORDERLINE RED. HOW CAN YOU REFEREE LIKE THIS? I already mentioned the 10 fouls committed by Gerso that directly led to the second goal, but this guy had seven called fouls and you never give him a card? That is absolute insanity.

Going forward: It’s just so stupid.

Sporting Kansas City MOTM

Gutiérrez showed great positional awareness and composure to open the scoring, then cooly dispatched his penalty for SKC’s second. A deserved Man of the Match.


I thought Seattle needed to win against SKC. I really think they need to win against NER. I’ll be bringing my kids.

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