Last weekend’s match against the LA Galaxy had a little bit of everything. There were boring parts, exciting parts, defensive miscues, offensive execution, and goals galore. The game ended 4-3 in favor of the Seattle Sounders, but at times they looked ready to win 4-0 or lose 4-6. The bright spot was the offense, which was lethal and scored almost at will at times, creating big chance after big chance. Defensively, some huge individual errors overshadowed a generally positive outing. It was a weird match, but a much needed three points for Seattle. That’s six points in the last two matches for the Sounders, who are doing just enough to win and look poised to earn a high playoff seed.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.4
It’s much easier to rate a goalie when he doesn’t give up three goals every match. Three goals against isn’t terrific, but the nice saves offset the few errors in this one. Frei was very strong in keeping the pace of the match the way the Sounders prefer in the first half, but got caught a bit in the second and could have done more to help Seattle’s organization.
One thing I liked: Frei’s distribution stood out to me. He ended up only missing on two passes all night (83 percent) and LA quickly had to shelve any attempt to press after Seattle carved them up midway through the first half.
One thing I didn’t like: I have no idea what Frei was doing in the 66th minute. Coming out to punch Gustav Svensson in the back of the head maybe? He missed everything, bumping his teammate and Zlatan Ibrahimović made them pay. This was the worst option of many.
Going forward: The defense isn’t good. I’m not sure how much differently Frei is playing than last year when he should have been GKOY, but it’s a mess back there and I hope they figure it out soon.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 81’ for Jones)
Jones started on the left again and showed more rather boring, defensive soccer. He was very clean with his passing, made few runs forward, and was content to stay glued to Xavier Arreaga’s left hip. While he wasn’t badly beaten, there were times where Jones was out of place and others where he could have shown off some of his attacking ability. He completed 86 percent of his passes, mostly square and backwards.
One thing I liked: If we want Jones to be a stay at home defender, it’s nice to see him be able to do that. He had two tackles, three clearances, and a half dozen recoveries while coming over to support centrally when Ibrahimović came to his side.
One thing I didn’t like: Asking Jones to be a stay at home defender doesn’t make much sense to me. He isn’t a great defender, and what he’s good at is going forward. In this match he had two forward completed passes over the midline in the first half and zero in the second. He seems coached to stay back, which is confusing as there are better defenders at left back who can likely do this role better.
Going forward: Once again we heard the idea of “rewarding” those who played in Portland, so this might be the plan going forward.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.6
Arreaga turned in another good outing, meshing better with those around him and continuing to show off some elite passing and vision. He had 85 percent completion in a variety of short and long balls, consistently looking for vertical options. He had 13 defensive actions.
One thing I liked: With Seattle rattled and LA just finishing a comeback from two goals down, Arreaga kick started the offense with a ridiculous outside of the right foot line-splitting pass to Morris, who took it from there to the house. This pass was casually through three lines of defense and not only put the ball into an attacker, it also ripped the Galaxy’s defensive shape apart.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he was strong double-teaming Zlatan this match, Xavier missed Uriel Antuna on multiple occasions, who drifted in between the center backs and got a number of dangerous free headers.
Going forward: Arreaga is still acclimating himself to the team, with a carousel of players to his left and in front of him. He continues to look more comfortable and the Sounders need to leverage his great range and passing ability.
Kim Kee-hee – 6 | Community – 6.1
This was a quiet match for Kim, which, after the last time he saw Ibrahimović, I would guess he is happy about. He only had 27 touches (half as many as Arreaga) and concentrated on not being posterized. For the most part, he did that, leading the team with five clearances.
One thing I liked: With Seattle struggling to get anything going in the 15th minute, it was Kim who dribbled through two lines of defensive pressure from LA and helped the Sounders get their first solid chance. He did well to pick his spots getting forward.
One thing I didn’t like: Kim over committed on a few plays, notably allowing Cristian Pavon in behind in the 31st minute after a slip. His connection to Saad Abdul-Salaam suffered as the match wore on and Zlatan was more mobile, including on the third LA goal where he was pulled from the back on defense.
Going forward: Seattle gave up three goals but it’s hard to blame Kim for any of them. His combination with Arreaga looks to be improving.
Saad Abdul-Salaam – 5 | Community – 5.1
SAS was pressed into starting due to Kelvin Leerdam’s yellow card accumulation, and he had an up and down match. He was much better in the first half, and he may have tired attempting to support a very mobile Cristian Roldan in front of him. He ended with a mundane three clearances but added seven recoveries defensively and was a valuable height addition when double teaming on the backside of plays.
One thing I liked: In the first half Abdul-Salaam was matched up with Pavon and Diego Polenta 1-v-1 and denied their service into the box. This was excellent defending, and his ability to cut off entry into the area by himself allowed other Sounders to double team behind him.
One thing I didn’t like: He was completely beat in the 81st minute with a terrible defensive play. Caught too far wide, Jorgen Skjelvik got in behind him and easily scored. I have no idea why he was pressing so wide there, but it was a massive blunder.
Going forward: With Leerdam back next week, it’s less likely we’ll see SAS at right back, but with so many international callups, it’s likely he’ll have a role to play.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 40’ for Cecchini)
Delem started in the defensive midfield again and looked pretty good before being forced to sub with a head injury. Although he only touched the ball a few times, Seattle’s defense looked very strong, limiting LA to a single half chance in his time on the field. His passing wasn’t great, but his 64 percent included a number of incompletions where he was trying to slip people forward.
One thing I liked: Seattle was much better defensively with Delem on the field, and a lot of that was due to his ability to jump onto Pavon like he did in the 20th minute, stopping any counter attack with great 1-v-1 defending.
One thing I didn’t like: That head injury looked bad ☹.
Going forward: We all know Delem isn’t a dynamic offensive player but he has been very consistent defensively and hopefully he returns to action soon.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 6.8
Goose did a little bit of everything in this match, with a shot, a key pass, and 78 percent passing on the offensive side. Defensively, he had three aerials won and four recoveries as he slid around the middle supporting from side to side.
One thing I liked: In the 51st minute Svensson had a wonderful line-splitting ball from the deep left that put Roldan immediately into the attack for a shot on the far right. This pass was excellent, and the best of a number of attempts Svensson had to penetrate vertically. Not sitting on his laurels, as LAG drove the other direction, he ranged all the way across to the opposite sideline to defend and stop an attack mere seconds later.
One thing I didn’t like: When things got crazy in the second half, Svensson had a number of clearances that put Seattle under more pressure. One created Arreaga’s yellow card and others were given away too easily.
Going forward: Part of the defensive issues were the big gaps between Svensson and Emanuel Cecchini and Goose will need to iron out those problems quickly.
Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 8.3 (off 91’ for Nouhou)
This was another excellent match from Morris, who once again showed his immense talent. He ended with two shots, a key pass, a goal, 83 percent passing and massive impact on 42 touches. He repeatedly got into dangerous areas, created for others and finished his big chance.
One thing I liked: In the 77th minute JMo wasn’t happy about LA tying the match moments before. Clearly a man on a mission, he started off checking to a wonderful Arreaga pass, before controlling to the center and working through both Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz. The acceleration through the crowd of defenders was absolutely world class as a “simple” give and go found him 10 yards clear of anyone on the field, with only David Bingham to beat. This new, powerful, explosive Morris finishes those chances cleanly.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s possible Jordan was so inspired to make that goal-scoring run because he realized he’d kept Antuna onside in the 75th. After a nice defense effort to support on Zlatan in the box, Morris failed to move forward with the defensive line, keeping Ibrahimović (and his assisting butt) onside.
Going forward: We now expect Morris to do something mind-blowing every single match, and he is complying. When Seattle finds Jordan the ball with space, great things happen.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.3
Lodeiro didn’t play amazingly well compared to what we know he can do, but was still pretty damn good. Defensively, he chipped in nine actions, seven of which were recoveries. Touching the ball 25 times more than anyone else on his team, Nico completed 75 percent of his passes and had “only” four key passes (one assist). In the attacking third, he constantly put balls towards the area, probing and looking to unlock teammates.
One thing I liked: Nico never gives up on a play, and Seattle’s first goal came through a long spell of attacking where he touched the ball repeatedly. When the Galaxy failed to clear the area, Lodeiro stole possession, beat a man and slotted cleanly through traffic to a waiting Ruidíaz. His little glance up to find RR while controlling the ball full speed and the soccer IQ to realize where to put the ball were amazing.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a number of notable plays where Seattle almost had a great chance but for a misplayed pass from Lodeiro. The passes he attempts are difficult, but when he misses it can be disappointing for what might have been.
Going forward: Nico didn’t get a yellow and gets a good behavior bonus. That’s excellent news and combined with not being called into Uruguay’s team means he can play this weekend.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.5 (MOTM)
Another great nine defensive actions from the right wing highlighted a quiet night for Roldan. He only touched the ball 47 times and completed 80 percent. He had two key passes from wide areas, but only one shot that didn’t go in the net. Oh yeah, and he scored two goals.
One thing I liked: Cristian just has a nose for the ball. Putting him wide gives him more space to take advantage of his great instincts. Both goals were situations where Roldan had to move and anticipate where the play would go, and he responded by being in the right spot and finding the right finish. His first was expertly taken off his left foot in traffic and the second was popping up on the back post to slot home a game winner. He has so much physical ability, it’s important to note just how cerebral he plays as well.
One thing I didn’t like: At the end of the first half with Seattle just having scored, Roldan missed a wide-open Morris in what should have been a 2-0 lead going into half.
Going forward: There’s some debate about where Roldan should play, but we know these guys usually don’t change stuff that’s working. I guess we should expect 1.5 goals a game from winger Cristian from here on out.
Raul Ruidiaz – 8 | Community – 7.7
Ruidíaz had a goal, an assist, four shots, 89 percent passing, and yet probably should have had more. When not scoring or creating, his movement in the box draws defenders all over the place, allowing for tap-ins on the back post or forcing opponents to concede set pieces.
One thing I liked: His goal was a poacher’s movement goal and his assist was a bit of perfect interplay to put the ball neatly into the stride of Morris, but my favorite play came in first half stoppage with Chris Penso looking at his watch. Raúl got an over the top ball from Nico, beat two defenders with a dizzying array of moves and somehow got off a rocket shot that Bingham barely saved. That sort of aggressive mindset and ability is special and something to watch for in the future.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 21st minute an excellent cross from Roldan found RR on the six having beaten his man. A poor hip touch saw the ball go straight to the keeper instead of to his feet and finished.
Going forward: Raúl casually scores every match, sets up others, looks dangerous anywhere within the opponent’s half, and is playing sensationally.
Emanuel Cecchini – 6 | Community – 6.2 (on 40’ for Delem)
This game gave us a good idea of what kind of player Cecchini is, and it’s nothing like we have at defensive midfielder. In fact, Emanuel played closer to a 10 than anything else at times, roaming way forward and involving himself in everything. He responded from the pressure of his first CenturyLink appearance with a sparkling 87 percent completion rate from decidedly aggressive positioning. With Nico roaming, Emanuel stayed central and was a link up player consistently pushing the ball forward.
One thing I liked: This guy is an offensive tool with a very attacking mindset. He was repeatedly higher up the field than the attacking band (theoretically) ahead of him, and in the 80th minute, with a 3-2 lead, was in the box working a 1-2 with Nico. This ability to get into the opponent’s half and assault zone 14 is something this team is often missing.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he played forward and did well, as a defensive shield he wasn’t great. Most of his six defensive actions were recoveries, and time and again he was caught too far forward, pressing the opponents without support. This created giant gaps behind him which LA took advantage of on multiple occasions. Seattle didn’t adjust to the difference in positioning from Delem to Cecchini, and their defense suffered.
Going forward: I’m all for a more attack-minded midfielder, but there were times this team needed a break and Cecchini forced the ball forward. He’ll need to pick his spots of aggression better, while still being an offensive spark in the middle.
Brad Smith – 7 | Community – 7.0 (on 81’ for Jones)
I have no idea why the coaching staff didn’t make this sub earlier, as Seattle was clearly struggling for 10 minutes before they started to concede goals like crazy. Putting Brad in immediately following the final LA equalizer turned out to be a great move, as it was the dynamic Smith who burst into the box late and assisted the game winner.
One thing I liked: Brad immediately showed us what we were missing by Jones defending with a giant anchor around his neck. Three of his four incompletions came from directly attacking the box, and his last pass won the match for Seattle. Fresh and willing, Smith charged into the box and delivered a great ball across.
One thing I didn’t like: Brad had almost too much energy, flubbing a short corner soon after arriving on the field and with it, killing some Sounders momentum.
Going forward: It’s hard to know what to think of the left back situation, with Smith showing well in limited minutes in an attacking-only role. With callups this week, we might not get any clarity on who the starter is for another game or two.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 6.1 (on 91’ for Morris)
I tend to relax a little when Nouhou gets on the field, because I know how dynamic his defending usually is. His pace and ability to shut down large spaces and give a break to teammates is awesome, although his methods are at times quite wacky.
One thing I liked: Confronted with two defenders and holding possession in the 94th minute, Nouhou juked both of them, charging to the corner flag to smartly kill some time.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou lost the ball in the corner and fouled LA late.
Going forward: I am not sure how to play this medley of left backs to get each of their best attributes to shine.
Chris Penso – 7 | Community – 6.2
Aside from randomly red carding Clint Dempsey, Penso has been fairly good for Seattle in his history. He had another strong outing this weekend, calling fouls evenly and making sense with his cards. There weren’t any giant blunders or VAR mishaps, which was surprising.
One thing I liked: Penso made a great effort to allow advantage and then brought the ball back when there wasn’t any. This happened on multiple occasions, which was refreshing to see. He also wasn’t scared to pull a quick yellow for a bad tackle early, which helped keep the game under control.
One thing I didn’t like: Delem looked to be seriously hurt, and it didn’t have to happen. That breakaway for LA started directly off a non-called foul when Ruidíaz was clipped near the LA box. Had Penso called that correctly, Seattle might not have had a head injury.
Going forward: There were a couple of close offsides calls that VAR chose not to have Penso check out. They might have been worth a look, although I prefer the lack of long VAR delays for things that aren’t “clear and obvious.”
LA Galaxy MOTM
For the second time in just over two weeks, the tall man comes away with Man of the Match for LA. He had a headed goal off a corner on which he outmuscled a fellow Swede. He followed that up with a hip check of an assist to bring things level.
Seattle ran into a blizzard in Colorado when they tried to play this weekend’s original match, and now they’ll again travel to play the Rapids, this time with a severely depleted team due to international callups. If the Sounders are going to be a serious playoff threat, they’ll need to figure out a way to get points from this match.