For the first half of the match against Portland, Seattle looked tired and the same creativity issues that plagued their previous matches persisted. Then some personnel changes and tweaks to positioning opened a few areas and Seattle dominated the latter half of the match. It ended 1-1 thanks to a stoppage time goal, but for much of the game the Sounders created many more and much better chances, just appearing too tired/unable to finish them. Portland was happy to get an early goal and bunker, nearly holding off Seattle in a game that was a struggle for most of the match. The Sounders again fought to penetrate a well-constructed defensive barricade, settling time and time again and again and again and again and (38 more agains) to cross the ball hopefully into the middle.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
After the first 20 minutes, Portland did not have a good look at goal. Unfortunately, they scored in the 10th and nearly again in the 17th. Frei was asked to make three saves, although none were too difficult to make as his defense did a great job limiting Portland to eight total shots.
One thing I liked: The Timbers love to take speculative shots from outside the box that bounce off defenders (or through their legs) and into the net, and Frei did well to save everything that he had a chance at.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei didn’t touch the ball as much as last match, which is a good thing, but his distribution was a mess. The 58th and 70th minute clearances were the worst, landing dangerously in the middle and giving Portland instant possession, but there were plenty of others that put teammates in precarious positions.
Going forward: Stefan is once again the best keeper in the Western Conference.
Nouhou – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.9 (MOTM)
Nouhou has started several times in a row and is increasingly effective. This match was one of his best outings of the year; upon re-watch he filled up the notebook with positive actions all over the field. Sixteen defensive actions complemented a massive five aerials won, 85 percent passing, a shot and a key pass in an all-around performance that was very nice.
One thing I liked: For all the angst about Nouhou’s offensive deficits, he had a ton of positives from attacking areas. His 31st minute defense started a break, and he found Will Bruin in the 57th with a great cross. Will was unable to get on goal, but the rebound came to our left back who slammed a shot wide. A near-perfect cross in the 68th minute should have led to an equalizer, but Kelvin Leerdam put his back-post header just over.
One thing I didn’t like: I believe a little confidence would go a long way to help his play in the opponent’s half and he isn’t getting any favors from teammates finishing the quality chances he’s created.
Going forward: At this point his defense is just part of the cooking, as Nouhou shuts down everyone. The offensive contribution isn’t always pretty, but each week he improves going forward.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off 85’ for Ibarra)
O’Neill had another steady match, rarely putting a foot out of place with his style of steady, relatively safe soccer. He defended well in the center, ranging as far up as midfield to help prevent quick breaks from Portland after struggling repeatedly in the first half to mark players correctly. The second half was better, but the damage was done early.
One thing I liked: He is very consistent and won’t beat himself often. His 93 percent passing led the starters, and his 1-v-1 defense is perhaps a bit underrated, as I was impressed with how he defended when pulled wide alone.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 85th minute Shane had a wide-open header from a Nicolás Lodeiro set piece and he put it well wide. The way Seattle was playing at that point, a goal there likely leads to all three for the home team.
Going forward: It’s a luxury to have a deep enough stable that Shane O’Neill can play these matches and do well. His floor is high, and he plays steady and predictably, which is likely why he keeps starting.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 6.5
Yeimar seems to have cooled off after randomly being assigned a red card for no reason, and while he continues to deny any good chances from opponents, the communication on the backline has shown some cracks. He only had 10 defensive actions, instead contributing to the match via consistent physical and fast defensive work off the ball to limit any break outs from Portland.
One thing I liked: Eighty-nine percent passing, often looking vertically, was tremendous, and he repeatedly denied any forays long and wide with his pace. His 93rd minute flick landed at Bruin’s feet, and we know how that ended.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar takes some risks with passing and dribbling in odd positions. While I appreciate his desire to attack space (Please read this, Shane), his decision making when going forward is not great and at times his execution is worse.
Going forward: Another wild ride defensively yet still a single goal against, and Yeimar is again a big reason why.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 79’ for Hopeau)
Leerdam returned to the starting lineup and was quiet for much of the match. He wasn’t asked to be a huge defensive presence as Portland scored early and parked the bus, and so Kelvin got forward often with mixed success.
One thing I liked: In the 35th minute Kelvin got forward and put in great wide service that nearly found Jordan Morris at the penalty spot. This sort of early, diagonal (not square) crossing was much more effective than many of the looping wide crosses Seattle settled for in most of the rest of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: The goal was there for him in the 68th minute off a great Nouhou cross, but he couldn’t get over it enough to put it away. Leerdam is an excellent ball winning header, but this was a fantastic chance to score that went wanting.
Going forward: Leerdam returned and showed cohesive play on the wing befitting a starter.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.2 (off injured 30’ for Alex Roldan)
Delem started out the first third of the match up and down. He connected passes and helped the team control the ball, but also missed a crucial defensive assignment on Portland’s vertical runners through the midfield, and he and JP didn’t cover themselves in glory on either of the Timbers’ big chances.
One thing I liked: He didn’t miss a pass, connecting on all 11 attempts.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 25th minute Ismael Elfath cleaned Delem’s clock and Jordy is lucky he didn’t break a collarbone. Having been on the end of a stocky referee in a similar instance (Hi, Lew Kittle), all I can say is I feel for you Jordy, get well soon.
Going forward: Delem is a fine defensive midfielder but his limitations hurt the team when there isn’t enough creativity around him, and by the time he returns it’s unlikely his starting position will remain.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.2
João may need a rest soon, as he continues to look tired. Luckily for Seattle, tired JP is still one of the best players in the league and he managed to positively impact the match, even though his struggles were more readily apparent than in previous matches.
One thing I liked: João Paulo turned up the defensive intensity, with 16 actions all over the field and showing immense hustle and tenacity to continually earn the Sounders possession whenever Portland tried to cross midfield.
One thing I didn’t like: A 16th minute great defensive steal was followed by a pass to nobody, and that was representative of his match. JP did the right thing nearly every time defensively, but linking up going forward was a struggle. He airmailed two good looks at goal into opposite stands which is another indicator of fatigue.
Going forward: João Paulo again looked tired and even though he is producing more than many others in the middle, we know he can be better.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.9
Morris again faced a team that sold out defensively to limit any space in behind for him to maneuver, and against Portland, Morris had to find different tactics to impact the match. It took until the second half for him to consistently find space, but he ended with three key passes and a shot to go with 86 percent passing as he never gave up poking and prodding to find ways past the parked Timbers bus.
One thing I liked: Jordan took what the opponents gave him and kept late-game energy to create great counter attacking chances in the 77th and 96th. Both resulted in Jordan crossing on a break from right to left into excellent position, but unfortunately neither were finished.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris looked completely gassed for much of the match, failing to follow up runs as early as the first 15 minutes, and watching a few plays on the opposite side without making supporting movement on the left wing.
Going forward: Jordan at half speed is still better than most of the league but if he’s as tired as he seems, rationing his minutes may be necessary.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.8
Eighty-seven percent passing when you touch the ball 102 times is pretty fantastic. Unfortunately, he was a big part of an overwhelming 45 crosses attempted and Seattle struggled repeatedly to break down the bunker. Lodeiro spent much of the match drifting to the left side with Morris tucking way inside, which left him probing from the width instead of combining in the middle.
One thing I liked: Nico continually attacked the Portland area. He attempted 23 passes into the area and was resolute about getting the ball into dangerous areas. This earned him a game-high five key passes, including a beautiful 45th minute cross that Bruin missed.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico defaulted to chunking in cross after cross and many of these hopeful balls weren’t dangerous and were easily cleared. When on the receiving end of his own chances, he flubbed a 73rd minute shot and a great 77th minute Morris setup, with each landing in the ECS section.
Going forward: Nico misses Raúl Ruidíaz, and the increased workload with guys out of the lineup is taking its toll.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.0
This was another match where Roldan appeared to struggle, not having any signature moments that you readily recalled after the match. On the rewatch, however, all the small things he did to help the team became apparent. Especially after being moved back to central midfield, Roldan was the catalyst for some strong two-way play that spurred Seattle to its comeback.
One thing I liked: A dozen defensive actions. A key pass, and 79 percent passing. Having Roldan in the middle unlocked the field for Seattle as his superior two-way play and ability to pass forward and link up (especially on the left) created opportunities for Seattle that weren’t there early on.
One thing I didn’t like: His wide play from the start was a struggle, especially defensively with Leerdam. Particularly troubling was his failure to mark Yimmi Chara on a 17th minute give and go that nearly put Portland up two goals.
Going forward: With Delem injured, Roldan is likely to move back to the middle and honestly, it’s likely his best spot.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.3
For 92 minutes Will Bruin mostly struggled. His runs were in the way of others, his hold up play was pretty inefficient, and he flubbed the opportunities others gave him. He worked hard, but nothing seemed to come to fruition and the frustration of a few similar performances clearly showed. Then in one magical moment, he floated off the back post, found a deflected corner kick, and finished strong and true.
One thing I liked: His goal was huge (for him and for Seattle) but in minute 57 he had his best play of the night, getting a hold up ball and instead of dropping it off, turned smoothly up field. He split two defenders and charged towards goal flanked by Morris and Lodeiro, and this adjustment to play more vertical and more direct changed how Portland defended him for the next 20 minutes. This was a brilliant display of his strengths on the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: For most of this match Bruin crowded out Morris and Lodeiro and missed chances they provided him. All his passes were away from goal. He is a big reason the offensive space was limited to the corners.
Going forward: Bruin has repeatedly attempted to be a hold up forward and not a poacher, clearly mismanaging his strengths as this game showed.
Alex Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.2 (on 30’ for Delem)
Roldan came into the match and showed one of his most complete performances as a Sounder. He was a strong wide presence and part of nearly every quality chance that Seattle created after his arrival. Seven defensive actions in support of his wing kick-started transitional play highlighted by multiple tremendous passes from wide into dangerous areas.
One thing I liked: Roldan has excellent wide distribution and showed off a multitude of first-touch crosses into great spots including 59th and 73rd minute balls from the right into the area. A nice 69th minute diagonal ball was fantastic as well, nearly releasing an overlapping Nouhou in free on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Like others on the team, Alex turned a 56th minute shot into a souvenir for Brad Evans in the stands.
Going forward: Alex’s improvement and utility this year are evidence of the positive outcomes from giving time to hungry guys off the bench.
Shandon Hopeau – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 79’ for Leerdam)
Shandon finally showed up in the 18 and provided energy and initiative. All he did was go a perfect 9/9 passing, pick up a defensive action, act as a catalyst for Seattle’s late push, and turn 12 touches into an influential substitute appearance.
One thing I liked: This is why you play the kids. Because especially against tired opponents, energy and desire can make a difference against weary legs, even if there is a perceived skill difference. In the 92nd minute Hopeau refused to quit after cherry picking a defender and driving through another to earn a corner. This hustle helped Seattle send the Timbers home disappointed.
One thing I didn’t like: Hopeau was a little lost at times, as Seattle frantically threw numbers forward. A few times he wasn’t sure where to be and remained lost when he wasn’t near a sideline with a man to beat toward goal.
Going forward: This performance puts Hopeau right back in the conversation for wide midfield minutes, and he needs that time to develop.
Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 85’ for O’Neill)
Seattle pulled out a center back and added Ibarra to the game. I was surprised to see that he touched the ball six times as I barely remember him doing anything.
One thing I liked: Ibarra brought energy to a game that was full of exhausted players on both sides. He was the first one to congratulate Bruin on his goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Ibarra went three-of-five passing but both incompletions were the only times he attempted to infiltrate the Timbers’ box.
Going forward: Ibarra did pretty much what he has done all year. It was fine, but was easily surpassed by Hopeau’s contributions.
Subs 4 and 5
Maybe next time.
Ismail Elfath –6 | Community – 5.5
This was an average game from a very average ref. He didn’t make any egregious mistakes but had enough small errors to keep bugging both teams who thought they were deserving of more. Both teams were whistled for nearly the same number of fouls and no one player on either team was particularly egregious. (Although, Giovanni Savarese crying about diving mere seconds before a Timber blatantly dove was rich.)
One thing I liked: Elfath gave only a single late yellow card (I am still not sure what for, as the camera never showed what Eryk Williamson did. It was during the Hopeau play that earned the tying corner kick if you want to look it up.) This was the right amount of restraint, with a 21st minute O’Neill foul among others that was given a second thought but earned a warning instead. Elfath also ignored the 8th and 52nd minute Diego Valeri dives in the box, which was appreciated.
One thing I didn’t like: I watched his diagonal because of the block tackle on Delem, and Elfath has a style that puts him in the middle of the play. He was repeatedly ducking around more fortunate players than Jordy, and he jumped over the ball at least twice. His diagonal wasn’t terrible, but his penchant for being close to the play didn’t seem to help him make calls he couldn’t have whistled from a little further away.
Going forward: Elfath was okay, and depending on who you compare him to, that was fine.
Portland Timbers MOTM
After a year out due to injury, Andrés Flores wins Man of the Match in this one. He picked the right time to spring forward on the counter, and found himself in the right place to dispatch Frei’s parry from Yimmi Chará’s initial strike.
Seattle travel midweek to combat playoff team Vancouver Whitecaps, who have a wild -18 goal differential that somehow isn’t the worst in the league. Let’s make it the worst in the league after the match.