Seattle flew into Los Angeles and soundly thumped the Galaxy. The final score was 3-1, and the possession stats were even, but Seattle consistently found the better chances and converted them, while the home team settled for many speculative and easily-saved chances. In a surprisingly amicable match, the Sounders stretched the LA defense on multiple occasions, creating quick-strike goals through gorgeous passing and excellent individual execution, and they dominated before giving up a goal late.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.2
Although the LA Galaxy aren’t scoring a lot of goals this season, they still have dangerous attackers in Cristian Pavón, Chicharito, and Sebastian Lletget, and Frei and company did well to limit their chances to single digits. There should have been another clean sheet in this match. Unfortunately, Frei was a bit hard done by the defensive concentration late in the match.
One thing I liked: Frei was asked to make five saves and he made four. He used a variety of positioning to make most of them. A highlight was a 41st minute point-blank stuff of Chicharito; Frei made himself big and forced the shot directly at him. Late in the match Stefan brought out the punch to great success, clearing the ball from danger in the 75th, 81st, 84th, and 85th minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: I hated losing another shutout late, and Frei still needs to work on his connection with the defenders. Often in this match, when used as an outlet there were few options, or Stef cleared out of bounds or to an opponent.
Going forward: If Seattle wins, shutouts are a secondary concern. Frei looks once again like the kind of dominant goalkeeper who won’t show up on any GOTY ballots, because reasons.
Nouhou – 8 | Community – 6.8 (off 82’ for Ibarra)
Just as competition arrives in town, Nouhou has perhaps his best match of the entire season. Showing coherent and dominant play on both sides of the field, Nouhou was a catalyst for much of the Sounders success on the evening. He ended with 12 defensive actions and multiple great supporting runs and passes on offense before leaving with a knock.
One thing I liked: Nouhou has clearly had deficits in offensive production, but these weren’t in evidence against LA. He was fabulous joining the attack, including a beautiful unlocking pass in the 12th minute to put Jordan Morris free in behind the defense to earn his third Sounder assist. That wasn’t all, though: in the 28th he uncorked a rocket shot that forced a parry wide for a corner. In the 34th he drove into the box and pulled back a pass for Jordan. In the 51st he found an early, looping cross onto the head of Will Bruin on the six. It was a complete offensive outing.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou had a non-contact knee injury that forced a sub late in the match, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time for a guy fighting for playing time.
Going forward: We know Brad Smith is coming in to play on the left, but Nouhou’s play showed he deserves to be in the discussion at left back.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.7
Arreaga was steady and strong in the back and combined well with his teammates. He was clean in possession, only missing two passes all night. When Nouhou and Morris ran rampant up the wing, he calmly slid over behind them to defend with smart positioning, staying home and solidifying the shape instead of dashing forward and creating gaps.
One thing I liked: In minute 17 we got the full package. Xavi started by completely trucking Lletget, shrugging off the Galaxy player and gaining possession. He then calmly found a forward pass to Gustav Svensson, and a few touches later, Seattle scored the opener. His ability to pass not only to teammates but also into space out of the back increases our midfield success immensely.
One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga lost a runner in the 41st minute and Chicharito nearly scored. This run from outside in through the lines was very difficult to track, but I thought Xavier could have had better communication there.
Going forward: Arreaga is doing well on defense and his passing from the back assists our midfield, which dominoes up the field.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.2 (off 79’ for O’Neill)
Yeimar did what he does best, rack up double digit defensive actions by shutting down the opponent strikers who can’t deal with his size and pace. Time and again he was matched up with Chicharito and put him in his pocket while limiting him to a single shot on goal.
One thing I liked: It wasn’t just Chicharito, in the 18th minute Pavón tried his hand against YGA and was summarily dismissed, getting dispossessed 1-v-1 with the Sounder defender easily dominating him and pushing the ball to a teammate.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar’s passing is clean in the back but messy going forward. Seattle hasn’t been penalized for it yet, but he consistently misses passes out of the back or loses possession when pressured and looking to find teammates around midfield.
Going forward: YGA is dominant in most ways but will want to clean up his passing to be the best he can be.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.6 (off 69’ for A. Roldan)
Leerdam was matched up with LA’s best performing player this year in Pavón and did well to keep him bottled up defensively. You can judge Kelvin’s defensive job by looking at the massive struggles Pavón had. The LA left winger attempted 13 passes into the box, and completed zero, mostly while defended by Leerdam.
One thing I liked: Outside of his lock down defense for most of the night, I liked seeing him get a chance over a 5th minute free kick. It was a well taken attempt, and just another weapon in the Sounders’ arsenal.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam didn’t get up the field a lot, and on several occasions he failed to handle switching passes from João Paulo that would have immediately translated into attacking chances on the backside of the field.
Going forward: Leerdam missed four passes all night and showed he can do the defensive work too.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.0 (off 79’ for Delem)
I loved this game from Svensson, who came back from international play and performed excellently. His range and strength in the middle of the field is a decidedly different look when paired with João Paulo than when Cristian Roldan plays there, but it was effective against the Galaxy. Goose showed off 10 defensive actions in between the lines and had a sparkling 90 percent passing completion rate, only missing a few long attempts.
One thing I liked: In the 77th minute Svensson got forward and dribbled through about four defenders before getting a shot off. It was a fun bit of charging forward from a guy not known for it, and it’s too bad he didn’t get more from this run.
One thing I didn’t like: Part of the reason Goose was so successful with passing is that most were short and square, and he didn’t get into the attack nor use his distribution to add much to the offense.
Going forward: It’s interesting to see how the defensive midfield roles change when Svensson is in there versus not. The tactical balance may demand more of the Goose in the starting lineup.
João Paulo – 8 | Community – 7.8
This was an incredibly complete performance from the new DP midfielder. Defensively, he had a massive 18 actions, shading right and sitting in between the lines to disrupt anything the Galaxy tried to get started. Offensively, João was constantly looking forward, turning a 78-touch performance into a dazzling display of linkup play with the attacking half.
One thing I liked: When Gustav plays alongside him, JP turns into a vertical passer extraordinaire. His passing map is almost entirely vertical, always looking to push the ball into attacking spaces, such as in the 61st minute when he found the ball from some Nico Lodeiro hold up play, looked up, and dropped a beautiful over the top pass to Roldan to earn his assist.
One thing I didn’t like: LAG scored on a runner dropping through the midfield and not being picked up or passed off to a defender. João was the closest to the play.
Going forward: It’s exciting to see JP excel not only with Roldan, but with Svensson as well, and to have such an enormous effect on the match from all areas of the field.
Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 8.5 (MOTM)
Morris showed everyone that he’s the best athlete on the field, leveraging his physical skills to accentuate brilliant tactical movement to continually terrorize LA and create big chance after big chance. His 43 touches were a lot, and he did well with them, including get three shots, an assist, and a goal. His ability to get behind the defense was the difference maker against the Galaxy.
One thing I liked: Sure, he handed Roldan a layup goal. Sure, he got in behind another time to finish clean and put Seattle up 2-nil. But in the 57th and 92nd he did something he hasn’t done much — he took shots from outside the 18 and both were dangerously close. If he starts to dial up the curler from an inverted left wing, in addition to being able to drive by to the end line and tee up a cross … how do you even try to defend this guy?
One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t make either of those outside shots, merely hitting the post in the second. C’mon man, if you went to Europe you would make those.
Going forward: Jordan Morris this, Jordan Morris that.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.8
Nico did a lot of everything in California. He touched the ball a game-high 84 times and completed 83 percent of his passes. He contributed 13 defensive actions, dropping deep time and again to support his midfield teammates. He had a shot on goal that nearly opened the scoring early and added a beautiful assist later in the half. Lodeiro was everywhere doing everything.
One thing I liked: At times, Seattle hasn’t made the runs or converted on his passes. Well, in the 38th minute Lodeiro sent one of the prettiest through balls you will ever see to cut out the entire Galaxy defense and put an onrushing Morris in behind the defense to double the score. His ability to even see this pass, let alone convert on it with perfect precision to weave it through traffic and onto the foot of a guy running 40 miles an hour was like a video game graphic. Oh, and Nico forced the turnover that started the play.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle struggled with set pieces against LA, and we saw Svensson and Leerdam take a few that Nico would normally take. I would love to see us leverage more people this way, but also get Lodeiro more consistent.
Going forward: Nearly an entire week of rest must feel amazing to Nico, and he continues to adjust his play to accentuate the strengths of everyone around him.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.4
Cristian was pushed back to the wing against the Galaxy and erupted offensively to the tune of two shots on goal (that both went in), 88 percent passing including two key passes, and immaculate tactical positioning that saw him roam all over the field to both create attacks and support teammates.
One thing I liked: Roldan scored two goals, both incredible in different ways — one with off ball hustle and tactics and the other with individual skill. On the game opener he reacted quicker than anyone else to Morris making a wide run, and Cristian outsprinted three opponents to walk in a goal. In the 61st he made an inside vertical run, trusting João to drop a ball over the top. There was so much to do, though, including trapping an overhead ball and pushing it toward goal in two touches while sprinting full speed, drifting to the right to prevent a defender from having any chance at overtaking him, getting his head up to track the keeper, and finishing with a deft chip that pushed the Sounders’ lead to insurmountable.
One thing I didn’t like: Only two defensive actions in the second half (seven overall) showed some fatigue and reliance on the defense to hold the lead.
Going forward: Roldan had looked rough on the wide attacking role for most of this season, but this game reminded us how effective he can be there.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 69’ for Smith)
Seattle came out with a different look with Bruin up top, consistently utilizing his hold-up abilities and efforts to drop into the midfield and link. This worked well, and Bruin used his 26 touches and movement to pull the Galaxy far far away, creating gaps for his teammates to consistently run into.
One thing I liked: Bruin has great feet, and he shows this off by controlling hold-up play that impresses. He did a ton of strong work in the first half, highlighted by a sick 27th minute trap from a Frei clear on the fly before turning and creating an attack. Will’s ability to hold up play and then find the right pass is combined with off the ball movement that creates gaps for others, as evidenced by the scoring plays.
One thing I didn’t like: No one is going to confuse Bruin with Clint Dempsey, and at times he needs to “try a little less shit.” This isn’t only regarding his numerous failed backheels and flip passes but also some of his hopeful runs that a little more control and positioning could replace to increase results.
Going forward: Don’t forget how effective Bruin is, and what a great depth piece he can be.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 69’ for Leerdam)
Roldan had a nice outing after coming on in the 69th to give Leerdam extra rest. He had five defensive actions and was very clean in a defense-first appearance.
One thing I liked: Any time a sub comes in and gets 21 touches and combines that with 87 percent passing, he has done a good job.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex did well defending but gave up about three corner kicks in the process. When closing out a game, giving set pieces to an opponent is rarely a good idea.
Going forward: I love having enough subs to allow the steady Roldan to give Leerdam some much needed rest throughout the season.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 69’ for Bruin)
Smith nicely made his first appearance since the MLS Cup Final last season and had a mixed bag of a match. While he was active, he showed perhaps some rust in multiple areas of the field.
One thing I liked: Smith entered and immediately got a shot off, forcing a save seconds after arriving on the field.
One thing I didn’t like: Brad as a left wing underwhelmed, creating almost nothing and sometimes looking lost. He was beaten in the 93rd minute and appeared a little shaky at times.
Going forward: Defensively, he remains behind Nouhou based on this outing, but his offensive upside will make him an intriguing weapon.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 79’ for Svensson)
Delem got his first playing time in a while and came into the defensive midfield to pair with João Paulo and close out the match. He managed three defensive actions.
One thing I liked: Although Jordy only had 78 percent passing, his mistakes were up field looks, and he didn’t take any chances with the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: An 86th minute pass was lucky not to have contributed to a goal, as it was a backwards pass to the middle of the field with a Galaxy player waiting to pounce; a completely awful decision.
Going forward: Delem was a bit of a surprising sub as he has fallen well down the depth chart, but with Roldan playing better on the wing and subs happening, he would do well to stay prepared.
Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 79’ for Yeimar)
O’Neill came in and replaced Yeimar, in a surprising move that saw him paired with Xavi in a back four instead of the five-man backline he has been installed in recently. He touched the ball eight times.
One thing I liked: Shane was asked to do a lot, and had five defensive actions in limited minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: Shane was asked to do a lot, and had five defensive actions in limited minutes.
Going forward: O’Neill didn’t make anyone forget Yeimar when he was subbed in, and with Román Torres returning, there is a lot of competition in the back.
Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 82’ for Nouhou)
Forced onto the field due to an injury to Nouhou, the human victory cigar came in and played 10 minutes.
One thing I liked: Yet again Ibarra was perfect passing, this time going a stellar 8/8.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 88th minute Ibarra didn’t close out on Rolf Feltscher, and the Galaxy player crossed for the only LA goal. Seattle must close down defensively wide, especially late in matches.
Going forward: Ibarra remains an enigma.
Jair Marrufo – 9 | Community – 6.4
After some new referees, we got an old one, and I must admit, Marrufo was excellent. He consistently covered the field and made smart calls, used advantage near-perfectly, and relied on his crew to fill in any needs he had for decision making. This was a very clean match from the players (credit to them) making it a potentially easy match to referee, provided the center doesn’t make the game about himself. He didn’t, whistling only 12 total fouls.
One thing I liked: When the teams aren’t hacking each other or obstructing behind plays, it’s up to a referee to let the play flow, and this is exactly what Marrufo did. When a player committed a professional foul, the card was quick and efficient, and this referee did a splendid job letting the teams play soccer. It was so absolutely refreshing.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s hard to find something not to like when the referee calls a record-low three fouls against your team! I can’t remember anything even remotely controversial.
Going forward: It’s rare to see a combination of players willing to play cleanly and a referee willing to facilitate a flowing match, but this was a great example of how it can be done.
LA Galaxy MOTM
Lletget had a fantastic headed opportunity early in the second half after splitting Seattle’s centerbacks. He would ultimately convert in the 88th minute to deny the Sounders a clean sheet.
The Vancouver squad comes into Seattle this weekend and the expectation should be a solid Sounders win over a team that’s been struggling.