Seattle advanced past FC Dallas with a 1-0 win at home this week. The Sounders gave up 10 shots, but none of them forced a save. A normally potent Seattle offense struggled to find attacking space and was uncharacteristically off on passes and touches that they usually execute, which kept Dallas in the match. Dallas was second best (to Seattle) in the Western Conference in goals against, and the Sounders saw evidence of that, failing to find many clean looks while consistently running into organized, compact defenders. Dallas never took the lead in this match but did find some success after Seattle scored, hitting the post and sustaining some late pressure that forced the Sounders to defend stoutly and see out the win.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.0
Frei didn’t have a single save in this match and did just about everything correctly. The few times he needed to come out and catch a cross, or play one of his 24 touches to a teammate, Stef did well. This was a great example of how having a quality goalkeeper who understands game management and tactics can lead to playoff shutouts.
One thing I liked: Frei and his defense deserved this clean sheet. Dallas had similar defensive numbers to Seattle but much worse offense this season, and Stef and his defense did exactly what they needed to do to ensure that their team proved this out. Although not saving any shots, he kept a very compact defense and made great choices with his distribution.
One thing I didn’t like: Stef dealt well with some errors on the back line, and the most pressure on his goal came via poor back passes from his own team. Shane O’Neill was especially egregious, putting Frei under massive unnecessary pressure in the 13th and 31st minutes with terrible back passes. Stefan calmly cleared the ball out of danger each time but really shouldn’t be forced into these plays.
Going forward: Frei calmly does everything right, and Seattle moves on.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.5
Nouhou had a very different match than against LAFC, but was equally effective defensively. The Cameroonian had a massive 25 defensive actions, blanketing the left side with tackles and recoveries and dropping into the six-yard box for a handful of clearances as well.
One thing I liked: This was a controlled match for the left back who did just about everything right. Nouhou was so strong on his side that Dallas mostly abandoned the position until Michael Barrios entered in the 60th minute. His 74 touches and 87 percent passing kept possession moving up the wing, and he added a key pass as well.
One thing I didn’t like: It was hard to find errors, but on two occasions Barrios got a slight edge over Nouhou, which is a rarity. The first came in the 62nd when a perfect cross saw the Seattle defender miss a clearance and the Dallas attacker put a volley off the post. The second was 20 minutes later when Barrios megged him and Nouhou slipped, requiring Cristian Roldan to support.
Going forward: Nouhou has solidified his starting role and is consistently performing well.
Shane O’Neill – 7 | Community – 7.8 (MOTM)
Shane O’Neill earned another start and produced a very solid all-around match. His usual dependable defending showed up, as well as his brand of square passes accentuated by a few over the top balls that ended with an 86 percent completion rate. O’Neill was especially valuable on set pieces and facing a team that was very good both offensively and defensively against dead balls this season, it was Shane who scored.
One thing I liked: In the 49th minute Shane slipped around the big body of Yeimar Gómez Andrade and found himself some space to rise and head in a perfect Nico Lodeiro corner kick. This was a textbook finish, jumping perfectly and heading down toward the far post; a well-taken game winner.
One thing I didn’t like: Shane’s defensive positioning remains incredibly frustrating, and it negatively impacts the team’s tactical shape. While not a slow player, his positioning consistently shows a fear of such, and this forces him far out of sync with his teammates. Seattle hasn’t been directly penalized from this, but the spacing in the back and central midfield is a mess when he plays, forcing others to play off him.
Going forward: Xavier Arreaga is ostensibly the starter, but Shane has shown the ability to come in and play steady, consistent soccer in spot starts. Maybe more importantly, the coaches seem to be reluctant to change up lineups when winning, which is good news for Shane O’Neill.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.8
Yeimar is a player who adjusts amazingly well to whoever is next to him, and he again had a great game. His 16 defensive actions were mostly around the box as he defended deep, but he paired that with 80 percent completion up the field and five won aerial challenges, defending well time and time again.
One thing I liked: This was another high level and consistent defending match from Yeimar, who constantly stepped up into passing lanes and denied service to Franco Jara, who he removed from the match. Yet again, YGA was locked in defensively versus a lone striker and dominated.
One thing I didn’t like: The defense wasn’t as strong around him at times as some other matches, and Yeimar was pulled out of position on a few occasions. In the 18th minute he was 15 yards into the Dallas half defending, and a slick layoff pass earned the opponents a counterattack into the massive hole he left in the center of defense.
Going forward: Yeimar will quietly excel no matter who is around him.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 7.0
Coming off his revelatory match against LAFC, Roldan was bound to have a dip in form. This game he wasn’t at that level but remained good. He had 76 touches and 80 percent passing combined with a dozen defensive actions, but he failed to recreate the success of the previous match on offensive distribution.
One thing I liked: Alex still needs to grow into the right back position, but his defense has massively improved from last year. Particularly excellent was a 56th minute tracking defensive play all the way across the field to the left sideline on a corner kick counterattack, as he showed great instincts for reading the play and executing correctly.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle was lucky that Dallas didn’t do more with a 22nd minute cross that caught Alex ball watching and found an open player behind him. This is a recurring issue with Roldan, who keeps getting caught out in this fashion.
Going forward: It wasn’t the fireworks of distribution from the last match, but Alex showed he is able to defend at the MLS level, which is a critical step before showing off his distribution flair.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.5
Cristian shows up in the playoffs and I thought he was the best player on the field against Dallas. While most of the match was a defensive battle, he was dropping 18 actions all over the field, pairing with João Paulo to limit Dallas to few offensive actions. No one is better in the last 10 minutes of a game than Roldan, and he absolutely dominated after minute 80 with five defensive actions, completing all three of his passes, and earning two fouls.
One thing I liked: With Seattle needing extra attackers to break down a nine-man defensive front, Roldan repeatedly dove into the box and created chances or set pieces. He had three shots and set up multiple other chances in the 3rd, 11th, 40th, and 49th, each time crossing back from the end line after direct runs that overloaded the defense. This was spectacular tactical awareness to attack a weak spot, and Seattle scored as a direct result of this pressure.
One thing I didn’t like: Cristian hasn’t had as much crispness in his first half play so far in the playoffs. While in this match he created an early chance, he also missed some easy passes and struggled in the first half to connect with teammates going forward.
Going forward: Roldan is playing incredibly well in the middle, and I’m guessing he will be up for the next opponent’s midfield challenge.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 7.2 (off 87’ for Torres)
Like Cristian, JP was excellent defensively, finding 20 actions of his own in the middle, with range from sideline to sideline. His 93 touches were second only to Lodeiro and he completed 85 percent of his attempts. For much of the game he patrolled the backline in front of the fullbacks, leading to a surprising four aerials won.
One thing I liked: It didn’t complete, but he tried an over the top pass to Jordan Morris in the 19th minute that was excellent. After finding the ball in central midfield, he got his head up to track the diagonal run from Jordan and this is the kind of midfield distribution that will make Seattle unstoppable.
One thing I didn’t like: João Paulo seemed to be frustrated in the second half, fouling multiple times until he earned a 69th minute yellow. He probably deserved one before, and it was indicative of a match where JP was just a bit slow in the second half.
Going forward: Minnesota has never played against João, and if he bounces back with a match more characteristic of his skills, watch out.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.5 (off 91’ for Smith)
This was one of Morris’ quieter matches this year, and yet he still created multiple chances. He got the ball 52 times and turned that into a single shot and key pass, but was also very close to breaking the match open with his few opportunities. Dallas did well to cut off his space, with Matt Hedges taking up near-permanent residence on Jordan’s side, double-teaming him all night.
One thing I liked: In the 25th minute Morris cut into the box on his right foot and drove through traffic, barely missing a chance to cross after beating four defenders. This direct offensive play was excellent, and he could stand to be selfish like this more often.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 43rd Jordan had the ball in the box and tried to lay it off instead of shooting, and he also misplayed chances in the 65th and 86th. Each time he got into space, but a bad touch ruined very promising positions.
Going forward: Morris didn’t score or assist, meaning he is due for two of each against Minnesota.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.5
This was another typical Lodeiro match: 103 touches, three key passes, 75 percent completion, eight defensive actions, and six fouls suffered. He was absolutely pummeled by Dallas and yet kept coming, repeatedly finding the ball and a teammate and constantly pushing Seattle forward.
One thing I liked: Everything goes through Nico and he was perfect in the one moment Seattle needed him to be. His corner kick set up O’Neill in a great spot and that was all it took. Lodeiro continually pressures teams with his play until they make a mistake.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico’s touch was slightly off; other than the corner service, many of his passes seemed to be a bit wayward. Little things like backheel turnovers, miscommunications going forward, missing wide runners to force the ball centrally; there were a lot of small errors that are rare from Lodeiro and he was just not clean in big moments against Dallas.
Going forward: Lodeiro was good in this one, but we have seen great and he is rarely only “good” two matches in a row.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.8 (off 68’ for Leerdam)
Joevin again started on the right and this time, his underwhelming play accentuated many of the Sounders struggles. He had 39 mostly ineffective touches and a just-okay 80 percent passing rate. He tried to get into attacking positions, but they never materialized, leaving him and his teammates frustrated.
One thing I liked: A nice 54th minute long shot was his lone highlight. This well-taken attempt was deflected and forced the Dallas keeper’s only save.
One thing I didn’t like: Unlike other matches where Joevin’s possession outweighed his ineffectiveness on offense, this match had Jones consistently in others’ way and making poor decisions. It seemed every time he got the ball, he took too many touches, ruining Seattle’s speed of play, creating possession without a purpose, and culminating in an unnecessary turnover or mistake limiting those around him.
Going forward: Jones needs to stretch the field and create space for others much better than he did in this match to remain relevant.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.7
This was a very quiet match from a guy who is averaging a goal per game in the playoffs. He didn’t do anything wrong per se, with 36 touches and 90 percent completion rate and two shots, but he failed to put either on frame and for much of the match was an afterthought. He did work hard to hold up the ball and contribute to the chances Seattle created with valuable hold up play and connecting passes.
One thing I liked: In the 20th he nearly scored from nothing and in the 41st was again nearly the one to open the scoring off a nasty deflected shot. He only needs a sliver of a chance, and that kept Dallas back all night defending him.
One thing I didn’t like: Zero shots on goal and only two shots is an off night for Raúl. Most of this was due to a very stout defensive effort from Dallas, but on a few occasions he made the wrong choice going forward, which stunted attacks.
Going forward: Raúl should score two against Minnesota. That is how averages work, right?
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 6.1 (on 68’ for Jones)
Leerdam came in after a hamstring injury and added some excellent experienced play on the right. Nearly all of his 21 touches were clean, and he was a calming influence up the wing. His 75 percent passing included a few desperation clearances in a frantic period around minute 85, and Seattle could have been more composed as a unit.
One thing I liked: This was veteran play from Leerdam, who entered the match and connected with teammates, supported the width and Seattle’s shape on the right, and was pretty much the anti-Jones.
One thing I didn’t like: He had an 87th minute chance to ice the game on a tricky volley, and he put it over.
Going forward: Leerdam was able to show his class on the ball and defensively in just twenty minutes, and he likely starts any games when he is fully healthy.
Román Torres – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 87’ for JP)
Torres came in to keep JP from the possibility of a second yellow, and he took up space for a few minutes.
One thing I’m not sure about: Zero touches. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Going forward: Torres got a bit of exercise and remains fresh should he be needed next match.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 91’ for Morris)
Smith came in to end the match.
One thing I liked: He touched the ball twice and won a header.
One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t complete a pass.
Going forward: Smith should be well-rested and ready to sub in if needed.
Robert Sibiga – 4 | Community – 5.3
This was a poor refereeing job from Sibiga, who let way too much go. Nico was fouled eight times (with two being played advantage) without a repetitive foul card shown. João Paulo deserved a yellow on his first foul, (as did Nouhou,) but didn’t get a card until he committed fouls in the 60th, 61st, 65th and 69th minutes. Not using the cards to adjudicate the match and allowing too much physicality led to a very choppy, stop-and-start match.
One thing I liked: There were a few excellent advantage plays and you could tell this referee was trying to not allow the cynical foul behind the play to stop a team from breaking. This is a good idea as long as that foul still exists in your mind for stuff like … oh, I dunno ... persistent infringement.
One thing I didn’t like: This is the same ref who allowed a blatant kick to the groin last match, so it’s not surprising that Bressan wasn’t booted out of the match in the 74th minute. On a yellow, the Dallas player deserved a second on a bad foul. While he reached for the card, it was clear that Sibiga was refereeing the game state and didn’t want to put Dallas down a man. This was awful refereeing.
Going forward: The referees seem very reluctant to kick people out of the match and are allowing a lot of physicality so far this postseason. Good thing we don’t know anyone coming into the Lighthouse who walks that fine line of physicality.
FC Dallas MOTM
Ryan Hollingshead and his fantastic mustache provided FC Dallas with their best chances of the night. This started with a shot pulled just wide off a quick counter in the 18th minute. He then played the cross to create Dallas’ best chance(s) of the match for his right wing replacement, Michael Barrios.
Seattle continues to ride the home fan support all the way into another Western Conference final.