The Sounders went to LAFC last weekend and lost 3-1, despite controlling the game and having the better chances. The difference? Seattle played a midweek match and had to travel, and it showed. Fatigue in soccer doesn’t always mean guys run more slowly or make fewer runs; it’s often evidenced in lapses of concentration and touch in big moments, and that’s exactly what happened to Seattle. The Sounders had numerous misses on offense and enough mental breakdowns on defense to turn a winnable match into a loss, failing to earn any points in California.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.2
Frei didn’t deserve a shutout in this one, but clearly, he and his defense could have been much better. They looked out of sync, and Frei only had two saves while picking the ball out of his net three times.
One thing I liked: Stefan remains eager to punch the ball away from scrums instead of attempting riskier catches, and he did so in the 38th and 55th minutes. A strong 83rd minute save looked to keep Seattle in the match, only to have LAFC score seconds later.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei seemed more flat-footed this match, and while the goals were probably not savable, his failure to even react to each of them was hard to watch. His frustration was on display for much of the game.
Going forward: The cure for underperforming your xG in the last match is to play well against San Jose in this one. Frei will be hungry to earn a shutout, something he hasn’t done in six matches.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.5 (off 58’ for Nouhou)
Smith got his first start since some game last November, but he didn’t impress. Although most of Seattle’s offense went through the left and Smith, he initially struggled to combine with teammates. When he did get into good spots, he had a hard time picking out the runs of other Sounders. He did end with a shot and a key pass offensively, while adding six defensive actions. He was part of the left side defense that was prone to errors and being beat.
One thing I liked: The biggest offensive difference that Smith brought to the match was the ability to combine centrally with entry passes to the feet of the forward from wide areas outside the 18. This ability allows Seattle more depth in their shape and creates a multi-faceted look instead of being linear up the line to the corner or recycled.
One thing I didn’t like: With a wide-open header in the 43rd minute and a chance to tie the match going into halftime, Smith put the ball massively wide. He isn’t known for headers, but this was a chance to show his offensive talent and prove it was a good idea to start him.
Going forward: Smith clearly can work technical, intricate passing with the likes of V-Rod (miss that guy!) but he needs to show he can 1) defend better, and 2) translate his game to the current Sounders team.
Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.8
O’Neill had a hard time (as did all the Sounders defense) with LAFC’s movement up front and their inverted wingers coming into his zone. Shane had a lot of defensive responsibilities and responded with 12 actions, most deep in his own box as he was consistently dropping off defensively and frantically clearing away danger.
One thing I liked: Shane showed some positional flexibility late, moving out wide in a three-center back formation and was good at anticipating defensively from a wide area, which influenced the offensive shape positively, allowing Nouhou to play higher up the field.
One thing I didn’t like: O’Neill gave away a pointless obstruction foul in the 13th minute and LAFC immediately scored from the ensuing free kick. Little things like this add up and become very frustrating to see each match. He is having a lot of either bad touch or over-compensating for his speed deficit errors, which are pulling apart the backline cohesion.
Going forward: O’Neill has done his job so far this year but doesn’t show some of the intangibles that others have. While his floor remains high, there may be competition from other center backs with a higher ceiling.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 5 | Community – 5.7
This was one of Yeimar’s worst games as a Sounder, yet he was still a positive, dominant force for much of the match. He had a massive 16 defensive actions and showed his usual range from the six-yard box up to half. He nearly scored a goal and ended with three shots and two on target, both somehow highs for the Sounders.
One thing I liked: Yeimar nearly brought Seattle right back into it in the 57th, with his shot through traffic forcing a great save off the line by Jordan Harvey. Every single game the Seattle center back is getting shots on frame from set pieces and continues to find the ball inside the box on offense.
One thing I didn’t like: His 75 percent passing isn’t bad, but again, the misses and decision making on some plays were horrible. A 13th minute attempted dribble through traffic was a near disaster as were 48th and 54th minute cross-field passes that were not only stolen but converted centrally to deep attacks for LAFC.
Going forward: Yeimar’s positives vastly outweigh his negatives this season, but luck has been needed to protect from some disastrous errors that Sounders fans tend to nail other center backs for making.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 74’ for Torres)
Leerdam looked tired and didn’t feature in this match very positively. He was directly involved in a few huge negative plays, and his 77 percent completion rate was mostly unthreatening and build-up play. Kelvin often shows some frustration when tired and struggling, and this nearly boiled over late, resulting in a VAR check that found nothing but was concerning.
One thing I liked: Leerdam had a nice entry cross in the 25th minute that came into the box invitingly, and Yeimar was able to get a shot on goal for his efforts.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first 15 minutes Leerdam was directly involved in two set pieces. In the 9th minute, he missed an open header that would have given Seattle the lead. In the 15th, Kelvin failed to even remotely mark Danny Musovski, allowing LAFC the opening goal and all the momentum.
Going forward: With the congested schedule, subbing in Alex Roldan is a benefit, but the four minutes of extra rest Leerdam got midweek didn’t help much.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 5.4 (off 57’ for A. Roldan)
Delem had an excellent match against LAFC, constantly running the center of the field and breaking up nearly everything through the middle. He covered everywhere, from sideline to sideline, and his 10 actions were across the field before he subbed out early in the second half.
One thing I liked: Jordy broke up plays tracking back and then got the ball cleanly to teammates, to the tune of 96 percent passing (24/25).
One thing I didn’t like: Subbing Delem off to get Alex into the game as a wide midfielder was confusing.
Going forward: Delem isn’t making highlight reel plays, but he manages the game in the middle of the field defensively while cleanly finding teammates, and that should be enough for Seattle against most teams.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 87’ for Atencio)
Another player who looked tired at times was João, who was a bit off on enough occasions to wonder about fatigue. Even if he was tired, he still led the team with 16 defensive actions, crisscrossing the field with tackles and recoveries. His passing was strong, but this was the rare match where he had little success with his forward looks to unlock the defense.
One thing I liked: His 70th minute shot through traffic forced an excellent save from keeper Pablo Sisniega and our defensive midfielder continues to get into great spots and create big offensive chances.
One thing I didn’t like: One reason I thought JP was tired was his clumsiness and timing defensively, which led to several fouls and eventually a yellow card for persistent infringement. He is usually excellent at defending, but enough of the polish was off his play, forcing a few fouls he doesn’t normally commit.
Going forward: João Paulo is a dominant force that is not slowing down any time soon.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.6
Sometimes, watching live, Morris seems on the outskirts of a game, not having much impact. Then I re-watch and realize he created four to five huge chances with his movement and connection with teammates. This game was similar as he made a lot happen. But Jordan was another player who lacked that tiny bit of crispness offensively to finish off one of those great chances.
One thing I liked: Jordan is a big chance creator, and a rough touch and decision in the 51st was all that stood between him and a tying goal after getting in behind. In the 78th he was again in behind, and he continues to torment teams with sweeping diagonal-and-dash runs that will produce more goals.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris struggled to connect with teammates, finding nothing into the box and failing to register a key pass. Since Will Bruin is likely to get more playing time, Jordan must figure out a way to play with him, as currently they struggle to consistently connect.
Going forward: Morris has shown that for him, missing a 1-v-1 is the exception, not the norm.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.5 (MOTM)
Nico nearly pulled the Sounders over the finish line by himself, having a spectacular match despite the final score. He showcased insane endurance to create chance after chance for teammates, and when they failed to capitalize, scored a set piece on his own. Even driving the entire offensive flow, he still found a dozen defensive actions, dropping to support in the middle and doing some of everything.
One thing I liked: This match had by far the best set pieces I’ve seen from Nico, and maybe any Sounder. It started in the 9th minute, finding Leerdam for what should have opened the scoring. He followed this up with a 25th minute ball that was again near-perfect. His half dozen corner kicks were all dangerous and in the 76th minute he got so fed up with people missing his passes that he slammed home one of the best free kicks Seattle has ever scored.
One thing I didn’t like: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make a Bear drink, apparently. There are too many great setups from Lodeiro that Seattle has failed to capitalize on lately.
Going forward: Nico passed the endurance test and now will have a considerably easier opponent on tap to torment with his passing wizardry.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.1
Somewhat lost in the match narrative was Roldan having a very solid game. He played multiple positions, created for others (two key passes) completed 75 percent of his passes, led the team in shots and aerials won, and had 17 defensive actions in one of the most diverse appearances for a Sounders player this year.
One thing I liked: Seattle should have had an equalizer in first half stoppage time via rugged hustle from Cristian, who controlled an over the top ball, beat two, and found an open Bruin on top of the six-yard box with a wide-open shot. This was a pure effort and determination play that deserved a strong finish.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 11th minute Roldan had a good chance, with a header blocked, and in the 50th had an even better chance on the back post that he put into the side net instead of scoring.
Going forward: The coaches pulled him back to defensive midfielder early in the second half, and it’s hard to tell where he is going to line up.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 87’ for Ibarra)
Bruin started up top and had one of those matches where he was a half-step slow or just barely missed the big play. An ultimately frustrating game for the Bear saw him with 28 touches and but a single shot to show for it, while completing 71 percent of his passes (and only a single forward pass all night).
One thing I liked: In the 22nd Will had an excellent cross attempt that was just out of reach of Morris, and his 51st minute dummy left Jordan central with the ball and no outfield defender in between him and the goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Bruin struggled to hold up the ball, create for others, or score himself. Most egregious was an excellent 44th minute play by Roldan to find Bruin in the box only to see Will punt his shot into the stands while a wide-open Morris watched from the far post.
Going forward: Bruin needs to be better for Seattle to win matches, and he can definitely play better than this.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 57’ for Delem)
Roldan came in to play outside midfielder and push his brother back into the middle next to JP. It didn’t appear to change a lot, as Seattle did not register a shot until nearly 15 minutes after he subbed on, while conceding a goal.
One thing I liked: Alex had an excellent 73rd minute cross from a corner that was into a dangerous spot and nearly resulted in a Sounders goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan’s 1-v-1 defense was repeatedly victimized in his wide midfield spaces, allowing LAFC to get in behind on the Seattle right and create chances that they took advantage of.
Going forward: Alex looked better to me as an attacking fullback than as a defending midfielder.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 58’ for Smith)
Relegated to a bench position in LA, Nouhou came on and hustled, but ultimately failed to provide the offensive spark the team needed.
One thing I liked: Offensive Nouhou wasn’t bad and was not a drop-off when he arrived. A 71st minute won header from a wide position dropped into the middle for a Morris shot. In the 90th Nouhou beat a defender with pace wide and got a strong cross into a dangerous spot.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou as the wingback in a 5-3-2/3-5-2 is a tall ask, and as evidenced by his single noted defensive action, severely limits the strongest part of his skillset.
Going forward: Nouhou seems to have lost his starting spot and will need to continue to provide as much as he can in limited minutes.
Román Torres – 6 | Community – 5.3 (on 74’ for Leerdam)
Roman again entered and dropped into the middle of three center backs and was very strong. He has looked lively and energetic since returning to Seattle and has hardly put a foot wrong.
One thing I liked: Five defensive actions included a great anticipation steal in the 79th minute to break up an attack and an 83rd minute header head-started a counterattack for the Sounders.
One thing I didn’t like: I am curious why Yeimar isn’t in the middle of the three-back, as he is faster than the other two. Román has shown to be an above-average passer (and rampaging attacker late) when lined up right of center.
Going forward: Pending fitness, Torres might be pushing for more center back minutes.
Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 4.5 (on 87’ for Bruin)
Ibarra was back for Seattle and got a few late minutes, in which he showed well at a wide position.
One thing I liked: 75 percent completion and lots of hustle up the left side earned Ibarra a 91st minute shot during an active stint.
One thing I didn’t like: Despite his active play, Ibarra pulled his one shot wide. Had he converted, the remainder of stoppage time would have been a little more interesting.
Going forward: He made the most of his seven touches and will want to continue to earn back some of the minutes he was getting earlier this season.
Josh Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 87’ for João Paulo)
Atencio came in late to get some more experience and once again looked like he belonged on the field. It’s unclear where he was supposed to play, but he moved well into space and connected with teammates, finding the ball eight times and completing 86 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: Josh has excellent touch, and showed off more fine first-time passing, moving the ball around, only missing a single pass.
One thing I didn’t like: Adding Atencio to the field late is good for development, but the continuously changing formation and tactics is a lot to throw at anyone, let alone a rookie.
Going forward: The young first year player is starting to get consistent yet short time in each match, and will look to continue to show that he has MLS level talent.
Ramy Touchan – 5 | Community – 5.0
Touchan was a new referee to me, and I thought he was mostly good until middle of the second half, when the game got hotly contested. He missed some big, game-changing calls that you don’t always see called in MLS, but were still immensely frustrating.
One thing I liked: The referee started out strong, ignoring a 3rd minute dive in the box and giving a 19th minute yellow to Francisco Ginella for obstruction. Most of the fouls made sense and he even gave out a persistent fouls card late, a rarity in MLS.
One thing I didn’t like: There were lots of things not to like: Latif Blessing had six fouls (three called) and no yellow, and Delem deserved a card for his 26th minute challenge. I am so over VAR for the non-offside call in the 65th minute; I have yet to see how it’s not offside. Ginella had a professional foul in the 76th minute that 100 percent should have been a yellow and sending off for his second caution. Sigh.
Going forward: New referees, same struggles.
Jordy Harvey cleared a certain goal off the line, and clears this week’s MOTM award ... off the shelf?
A bit of COVID relief midweek means a rested Sounders team will play a tired San Jose team this weekend. That’s a recipe for fun.