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Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps: Player ratings

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Nouhou opens scoring with inch-perfect assist, claims MOTM for second match in a row.

It took a while for Seattle to figure it out away against Vancouver, but the Sounders eventually turned their overwhelming pressure into a comfortable 2-0 win. After a first half where the home team Whitecaps defended resolutely and limited Seattle’s quality chances, the Sounders broke through with a couple of quick strikes that took full advantage of small weaknesses in a parked bus defense. A strong Sounders defense earned a shutout, limiting Vancouver to only four shots all match, with zero on frame. After halftime, Seattle figured out the defense, scoring their two goals and coasting to the win.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.8

Anchoring a stalwart defensive group was Stefan Frei, who earned a deserved shutout. Frei didn’t need to make a save, but he was excellent at organizing the players in front of him to limit Vancouver to only a few half chances.

One thing I liked: Although he didn’t have a save, Frei touched the ball multiple times in the box defensively, showcasing a punch in the 19th minute and catching the ball in traffic in the 65th and 66th. An 81st minute Ali Adnan free kick was forced wide.

One thing I didn’t like: Frei touched the ball 44 times and he did well to handle the ball around the back, but there were enough risky passes central that Gustav Svensson and João Paulo needed to have perfect control to prevent turnovers.

Going forward: Stefan won’t get considered for GKOTY, which is a shame.

Defense

Nouhou – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7

Nouhou continues to grow and play better almost every match. Against Vancouver, he turned in an absolutely dominant performance on both sides of the ball and was once again the best player on the field. He was masterful defensively, combining up the left side to allow zero incursions from Vancouver while amassing 15 actions highlighted by a game-high five tackles. Offensively, he was all over the place and touched the ball an astonishing 98 times, completing 93 percent of his passes and earning an assist on the first goal. This was a spectacular outing for the left back.

One thing I liked: The Sounders’ key to breaking a press comes from wide, and Nouhou was excellent as a wide creator for the offense. Nouhou, not Nicolás Lodeiro or Jordan Morris, led the team with four key passes. His assist in the 54th after an overlapping run was literally inch perfect. Just as exciting was a 68th minute run into the box when he picked his head up and found a nifty reverse cross to Cristian Roldan, who should have done better. Staying calm and picking out the right offensive pass in traffic is a Nouhou we like.

One thing I didn’t like: This was a great offensive showing from Nouhou, but he can still improve his touch going forward. An entry pass to Raúl Ruidíaz in the 35th was too strong and handcuffed the attacker despite being a good ball. When he got into the box in the 76th minute after an over the top release from Lodeiro, Nouhou’s touch failed him and he blundered a good chance.

Going forward: If you replaced his name with “shiny new generic non-American TAM player,” people would be touting what an amazing player we have at left back.

Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.6

Xavier returned from international duty and immediately slotted back into the starting lineup. He didn’t miss a beat, helping a strong defensive performance earn a deserved shutout and limit Vancouver to few looks at goal all night. His positioning was excellent, and he found clean, safe passes to the tune of 94 percent completion with 96 touches. He did his job well and facilitated a strong left-sided attack for the Sounders.

One thing I liked: Arreaga has great positioning with this backline group and was fantastic defensively. His defensive actions were mostly tackles and interceptions as he anticipated perfectly across the back time and again, limiting any forays for Vancouver. His ability to cover and work in tune with Yeimar Gómez Andrade is excellent.

One thing I didn’t like: The game was clearly in hand in the 85th minute, but Arreaga had a questionable clearance just inside the box where he got a ton of the opponent. It was ruled clean, but it was a reckless challenge that could have easily been called a penalty and changed the match.

Going forward: Xavi has shown he’s the best left center back on the roster and should continue to start for the next seven matches.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.1

Yeimar had Arreaga next to him and looked much calmer on the ball against Vancouver, and his passing improved immensely. He touched the ball nearly 100 times, and had a sparkling 95 percent completion rate, missing on only four passes all night. Defensively, he was part of a shutout-worthy performance across the back that completely prevented the Whitecaps from even sniffing a goal. Aggressive yet controlled, YGA was tremendous in the middle of the field. When not sprinting across to cover behind teammates, he was stepping up to press and win possession in the attacking half, like in the 50th minute.

One thing I liked: Having time to pick up his head and make better passes directly led to a goal, as Yeimar picked out a great vertical run from Ruidíaz into space in the 60th minute, and Raúl and Nico did the rest.

One thing I didn’t like: A 20th minute back pass to Frei was risky, and luckily only forced Stefan into an awkward clearance instead of an own goal.

Going forward: With a first-choice defensive lineup Seattle looked impregnable, and Yeimar was once again unleashed to dominate with his size and speed.

Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 83’ for Alex Roldan)

Leerdam had a quiet match against Vancouver as most of the offense was happening on the opposite side of the field. He ended with seven defensive actions and a respectable 82 percent passing rate in an appearance that got the job done efficiently but didn’t contain many fireworks.

One thing I liked: Even quiet for much of the match, Kelvin found a way to nearly score in the 44th, ghosting into the box for a backside header that was goal bound, only to see it cleared away.

One thing I didn’t like: While the left was racking up chances, Leerdam and Roldan struggled to match it on the right, with Kelvin only touching the ball 57 times and not getting any service into the box or linking up to release Cristian.

Going forward: Even quiet offensively, Leerdam continues to be a rock defensively, allowing others around him to shine.

Defensive Midfield

Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.8

Like the other internationals, Svensson returned to the field after getting back to the country, and immediately had a positive impact on the match. He had 90 percent passing, much of it long, field-opening switches that created space and quickly moved the ball to the opposite sideline.

One thing I liked: Svensson does all the little things that make this team great, and he is constantly positioning himself to influence others. His ability to link up centrally with JP creates attacks through the middle, drawing the defense away from the wide areas and creating space for the attacking players.

One thing I didn’t like: Gustav only had four defensive actions and played a passive, positional defensive role. He will need to take some more of the pressure from teammates defensively.

Going forward: Svensson stays connected to João Paulo and together they cover incredible amounts of space on the field, both defensively and offensively. This connection allows them to trade off and combine well.

João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 72’ for Jones)

João Paulo had a strong match, but it was a quiet one. He had 104 mostly conservative touches, controlling the ball though the middle and funneling it to teammates. A single shot and single key pass complemented his 90 percent pass completion rate as the defensive midfield stayed relatively safe against the Whitecaps.

One thing I liked: JP had 15 defensive actions and every time Vancouver attempted to get forward, he was there with a recovery or steal.

One thing I didn’t like: While his defense was great, this was a quiet offensive game for João, who, aside from a corner kick, didn’t have a quality pass into the attacking third for his entire outing.

Going forward: João got some extra rest this match, and with any luck that will help him be a bit more effective vertically this weekend.

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 83’ for Torres)

Morris had a solid match, combining effectively with Nouhou up the left wing to create multiple chances for each other, and Jordan also added a few of his over the top runs that nearly created goals. He touched the ball 59 times and had 87 percent passing but failed to earn a key pass and was a facilitator to others more than a creator for himself against Vancouver.

One thing I liked: With Nouhou and Arreaga dominating defensively, Morris took up residence in the attacking third. Of his 59 touches, 45 of them were in the Vancouver half and Jordan was constantly up the left wing poking and prodding the defense, with 44th, 50th, and 66th minute crosses just missing teammates.

One thing I didn’t like: Morris had 40 fewer touches than Nouhou, and that is a ratio that we would probably like to see reversed.

Going forward: When the Sounders get Jordan into space to work, they dominate.

Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.4

Lodeiro continues to be an offensive whirlwind for Seattle, creating for himself and teammates for 90+ minutes every match. While contributing to big chances offensively, he also tracks back to support defensively. He ended with a surprising nine recoveries as he came into his own half to help any time Vancouver crossed the midline.

One thing I liked: Nico continues to put Nouhou or Morris in behind on the left, but also is creating shot opportunities for himself when defenses collapse on them (or Raúl). He ended with a team-high three shots, and his 60th minute goal was a difficult, falling-down finish after hustling into a great spot for Raúl to find.

One thing I didn’t like: Most of Nico’s touches were on the left and he failed to help get the right involved, which may lead to balance issues at some point.

Going forward: Lodeiro continues to do all the little things needed to push this team to win.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.4

Cristian found himself in a supportive role against the Whitecaps and did his job well. He wasn’t too successful finding direct attacks from his right-wing position but did well to facilitate others. Late in the game he was pushed back into a defensive midfield role to help keep the shutout.

One thing I liked: Roldan repeatedly made the central inside run in support of Ruidíaz who pushed direct on goal, and it’s a tremendous angle that forces defenses into a no-win situation. Although he missed a nice pass from Nouhou in the 68th, this movement is dynamic and devastating.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 21st minute Morris was wide open for a cross and Roldan, usually a dependable crosser, missed him, instead finding the arms of relieved goalkeeper Evan Bush.

Going forward: Seattle is getting people healthy and back, and it seems right wing is where Roldan is currently best utilized.

Forward

Raúl Ruidíaz – 8 | Community – 8.3 (MOTM)

Ruidíaz returned and dominated in his first game post Covid-19 infection. He only touched the ball 29 times, but it seemed like each one was impactful, either dropping to support the ball out of defense, putting others into good spots, or creating and finishing goals. Raúl is a scarily efficient offensive player who continues to create in multiple ways.

One thing I liked: Raúl made the first goal look easy, although it wasn’t, with a perfect run onside and finish clean. He made the second goal happen out of an innocuous ball over the top, spinning a defender into the box and picking out Lodeiro for a score-doubling tally in a much more complicated and impressive goal that illustrates what an amazing player he is.

One thing I didn’t like: Raúl had a few good chances in the first half to pick out teammates going forward and either missed them or was called offside, limiting Seattle’s success before the break.

Going forward: Ruidíaz showed exactly how valuable he is with a dominant effort that he seems to duplicate nearly every game.

Substitutes

Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 72’ for JP)

Returning from a knock that kept him out of the last few games, Jones helped close out the match as a wide midfielder. His entrance pushed Cristian back to defensive midfield, and Jones was a steady right-sided option.

One thing I liked: Joevin is nearly impossible to dispossess when he has the ball. He was great with the ball and found 12 of 13 completions passing.

One thing I didn’t like: Getting into the match with 20 minutes left should have been an opportunity to push the lead and attack from his wide position; instead Jones only had a single forward pass, which was in his own half.

Going forward: Having Jones back gives Seattle another option in a suddenly deep bench.

Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 83’ for Leerdam)

The younger Roldan came in and found some late minutes on the right, helping hold a shutout. The option of getting A-Rold into the match and Leerdam some rest is a great one, and he rewarded the choice with perfect 100 percent passing.

One thing I liked: A nifty give and go in the 90th minute forced a yellow card on Derek Cornelius as Roldan was clear into space.

One thing I didn’t like: Roldan was brought in to play defense and didn’t have a single defensive action. That might be a good thing.

Going forward: This combination of outside backs is an underrated strength for Seattle.

Román Torres – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 83’ for Morris)

Once again, Seattle went to a modified five-man backline late, inserting Torres in the middle of the center backs to close out the match. Roman was fine, and the team looked more comfortable with the tactics this time around.

One thing I liked: Torres played only a few minutes but racked up a remarkable 16 touches. He had 87 percent passing, looking to push the ball around to wide areas while also utilizing Frei as necessary.

One thing I didn’t like: He only had two incompletions, but a 96th minute clearance was poor and central.

Going forward: Román, not Shane, appears to be the third string defensive option late in matches.

Subs 4 and 5

Unused.

Referee

Fotis Bazakos – 8 | Community – 6.5

Bazakos was great, adjudicating the match near flawlessly, and keeping things calm and under control. He used the whistle when necessary, and importantly didn’t pancake block any players. He also quickly and correctly implemented a VAR check on the first Sounders goal.

One thing I liked: His cards were quick and correct, refusing to hold them just because a guy had just entered (Lucas Cavallini) or the play was inconsequential (Cristian Dajome) or the game was almost over (Cornelius).

One thing I didn’t like: I thought the ref let a lot go early, and there were a few times that a warning was maybe warranted in addition to allowing advantage to play on.

Going forward: This referee was excellent and showed that when one team gets dominated for much of the game and you don’t randomly give out red cards or PK fouls from nothing, there is such a thing as a well-refereed match.

Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM

Center back and former Sounder Andy Rose ekes this one out. Because, with that many former Sounders seeing minutes, it was bound to go to one of them. Rose manned a defense that held Seattle at arm’s length in the first half, but things broke down for the Whitecaps once he was subbed out in the 58th minute (for that other former Sounder).


We finally play the Rivers, a team that has been avoiding the league for much of the season. They don’t appear to be great in any aspect of the game, which means we should go ahead and win.