Depending on your worldview, you can get whatever you want out of last week’s Concacaf Champions League match between Seattle Sounders FC and C.D. Olimpia. Glass half full kind of person? Hey! Sounders got two road goals, at times created scoring chances at will, and managed a draw in the heat and humidity against a team in midseason form. A bit more of a pessimist? Ugh, you’re disappointed with the lack of cohesion by a veteran team that, despite going up two goals, failed to come home with a win despite likely having more talent on the field. There is room for both perspectives, but CCL road games are notoriously tough and this was Seattle’s first game in 2020, so the draw and two road goals — without our two best possession players — and I’m leaning toward optimism.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.7
Frei was credited with four saves, and this was a very busy night for him. He had to deal with a massive 16 corner kicks from the home side. For the most part he did well, parrying a few away with punches and catching those close to him. The back line looked shaky and like it was in pre-season, perhaps to be expected, but there could have been more functional leadership from Stefan in-game.
One thing I liked: Frei is tragically underrated; most other MLS goalkeepers would’ve given up three or more goals in that game. His 49th minute dive to his right was fantastic, showcasing a tremendous ability to keep the ball from the net when his team had to have a big save. With his team on the back foot for well over half the match, Frei’s calm confidence and execution was at times the only positive defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: Backup goalkeeper might be Seattle’s weak link, and seeing Stef take a high cleat to the ribs was a scary moment. It was great that he could pop up immediately without any permanent damage, but maybe milking it a minute or two on the ground would have benefited Seattle.
Going forward: In Seattle’s first game of the year, you expect to see some growing pains, but it’s got to be encouraging for the coaching staff to see that Stefan Frei is already in form.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.8
Nouhou was a defensive monster against Olimpia. Nouhou looked to have improved positioning and an eagerness to overlap Jordan Morris and help push numbers into the attack. This was successful in creating gaps in the opponent’s shape, but also contributed to Seattle running themselves out of the game early.
One thing I liked: Nouhou had an incredible game-leading 21 defensive actions against Olimpia, including eight clearances and eight recoveries. Say what you will about the rest of his game, he showed up in Honduras and defended well for much of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou was active early, but when he got near the 18 his deficit in creation was readily apparent. He did so well to get into good positions, but his cross-completion rate was one for six, and his decision making missed the safety valve of Nico Lodeiro.
Going forward: Nouhou played well, yet there were a ton of places to improve. Just having increased cohesion among the back four and the midfield would make a huge difference for a guy who is out of his element when asked to dribble out of trouble.
Xavier Arreaga – 5 | Community – 6.0
Arreaga has the skill set to be a dominant MLS player in the future, but this performance was all over the place. His coordination with Yeimar Gómez Andrade and Nouhou as well as the defensive midfielders was rough, which led to some poor passing numbers. An early yellow card, while soft, was a moment of out of control play that put the Seattle centerback in danger of being shipped off the field for a majority of the match.
One thing I liked: Although Seattle was forced to defend deep, the building blocks of a good partnership were there. Early on Xavier was across to support YGA on the right, and some of the best 1-v-1 defending on the team was done by Arreaga.
One thing I didn’t like: Somewhere Dad Marshall is crying. Sixty-four percent passing is indicative of just how much Arreaga struggled to connect with those around him. His usual slick ball handling was non-existent, and on a number of occasions he aimlessly cleared the ball in between looking around confused.
Going forward: Arreaga has the physical tools to match up with most players in MLS but lacks the chemistry and cohesion necessary for Seattle to succeed with him back there right now. I fully expect much better performances going forward, but he should spend some time watching the film from this match.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 6.1
Yeimar was the better of the two center backs, which was somewhat surprising. Playing his first competitive match for Seattle, he looked solid but not flashy. The decision-making on the right defensive side was clearly a work in progress, but YGA was never beat in behind or physically, with a few communication issues notable but expected.
One thing I liked: For a first match, Andrade showed the skill you want to see from a new addition. He had 11 defensive actions and completed 83 percent of his passes (19/23) with three of his four completions coming from long, probing attempts upfield. He won balls in the air and looked solid, with high upside.
One thing I didn’t like: Almost all of his defensive actions came on the right side, where he was constantly pulled over to support a struggling wing. This led to a number of central holes, and his communication with Xavi has a long way to go.
Going forward: This guy looks like a savvy signing, ready to drop into the starting lineup and do a great job week in and week out. The clear communication issues were to be expected in the first match, and I fully expect a stronger lineup to allow him to concentrate on the ways in which he can excel in his role.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 6.1
Leerdam never looked comfortable in Honduras. Maybe expecting the more defensively-proficient Cristian Roldan on the wing ahead of him, he struggled early and often against Olimpia defensively, but was good at holding possession. His 81 percent passing came mostly around midfield.
One thing I liked: Leerdam got forward once in the 67th minute on an overlap when Joevin Jones tucked inside and he was rewarded with a fantastic pass to open him in space. His decision making was excellent, and Raúl Ruidíaz got a great look as a result. This was an example of how smart Leerdam can be when released into the offensive third.
One thing I didn’t like: While he had 12 defensive actions, they were all either in his own box or near his own end line. Pushed so far back, he was left with desperation defending time and time again, unable to push his line any higher. He didn’t get much help from Jones, but Leerdam was constantly out of position and relying on last-ditch defense. He looked tired early and was visibly frustrated with players around him. He gave up on at least one play, which was disappointing.
Going forward: Leerdam is much better than this, and there isn’t much to take away, specifically for him, from a tired team in the heat on the road in their first match of the season. Leerdam is the kind of guy who excels in being an accessory option, and as the team gets stronger together, he should be fine.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 6.4
Delem has come a long way in his Sounders tenure and is much improved from when he started. That said, he shouldn’t get a pass just because he’s improved, because while he was good against Olimpia, his limitations were also evident. Seattle’s combination play through Delem and Roldan really struggled, and this wasn’t the performance backing up some assertions that he is better than Svensson.
One thing I liked: Delem showed up with his customarily strong defensive effort and it was sorely needed by Seattle. A 35th minute save off the line delayed the Olimpia comeback, and he frequently dropped deep to support the back four. His defensive effort and willingness to cover compact areas in front of the back 4 pushed all attacks wide for most of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Delem struggled in possession, and although his 80 percent passing rate was about team average, Seattle needed the central defensive midfielders to play much better, and with them unable to connect from back to front, the Sounders were under siege for most of the game.
Going forward: Delem is a very important piece of the success puzzle for Seattle this year, but he’ll need to bring a little more for Seattle to compete for all the trophies.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.1
Roldan looked tired, which for him is saying a lot. There were a number of times he was out of position and was very uncharacteristically struggling for much of the match to connect passes going forward. His combination in the middle with Delem was average, with both at times forced into last-ditch lunging defense in support of teammates.
One thing I liked: Roldan sometimes seems to be the only guy on the field willing to force the ball to Morris, and when he did exactly that in the 54th minute, Seattle scored moments later. His ability to find this dangerous playmaker in space consistently creates strong chances.
One thing I didn’t like: This is as tired as we have seen Roldan, who looked gassed about 25 minutes in. While he still had a ton of touches, there were a multitude of unforced errors, bad passes, mis-touches, and downright bad plays. Cristian had a rough game trying too hard to do everything in the middle.
Going forward: The supposed incumbent right midfielder will be fine once he returns to his usual iron-man fitness level. Until then, he will need to clean up some of his positioning issues when playing in the middle with Delem.
Jordan Morris – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7 (off 84’ for Alex Roldan)
Jordan was clearly in pre-season fitness but still showed zero signs of slowing down coming off a fantastic 2019. Even with a struggling team playing on the back foot, opponents have to respect the speed at which Seattle can counter-attack, and this ended up being the difference in a mostly positive and somewhat alarming result.
One thing I liked: Every good attacking moment for Seattle came from Morris, who created the first goal and scored the second (after creating that one too). Jordan has the rare ability to outplay opponents in 1-v-1 situations and create goals, and the Sounders have great success when he is found with space to run at people. Morris being able to just be better than the other team consistently found dangerous chances.
One thing I didn’t like: There were two bad decisions Morris made that were game-changing. The first came after a fantastic run through in the 57th, when Jordan tried to lay off a pass to Ruidíaz. Morris had just run past the defender so he had to know he was there, but still tried to force a ball to a teammate instead of rounding the keeper and scoring. Moments later his bad central clearance decision led to an immediate goal against, and a potential 3-0 scoreline was 2-1 instead.
Going forward: Morris looked dominant almost every time he found the ball, and is poised to have a huge season. A returning Lodeiro will go a long way to utilizing Morris even more. As the lineup gels around him, look for more deep service from central and right channel areas to release him to run at back lines.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 7.8 (MOTM) (off 79’ for Leyva)
Welcome to the Sounders, JP. In what was many Sounders fans’ first glimpse of their new DP, he did not disappoint. He scored the fastest goal by a new Sounder in team history, needing only six minutes to nod home a perfect Morris cross. He tired late and was subbed with 10 minutes to go, but easily displayed his class and willingness to do a little of everything.
One thing I liked: The intangibles seemed obvious. His leadership is readily apparent, as JP was consistently communicating with teammates, and backing it up with a tremendous work rate. The skill is there too, as he showed a dizzying array of smooth touches, tight control, and fantastic vision. The most beautiful moment of the game may have been his 67th minute first-touch through ball to an overlapping Leerdam that showcased his deep-lying playmaker ability.
One thing I didn’t like: He was gassed early, but still tried to do everything. This worked in the first 20 minutes, but eventually his chasing of the game and desire to be a centerback and a forward at the same time hurt the team. I get being amped up for a match, but he ran himself out of the game and was a fading factor as it moved on.
Going forward: Seeing his vision and playmaking ability combined with a willingness to tackle hard and defend is an exciting glimpse of what may be when the entire team is healthy. JP can clearly be a successful attacking midfielder, but his skills being utilized from a deeper originating position are incredibly exciting.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 69’ for O’Neill)
Jones again showed his positional flexibility, showing up as a right inverted midfielder and having a solid game. Seattle might not need it when João Paolo is ostensibly moved back to defensive mid, but Jones did a damn good impression of a deep playmaker, consistently cutting in to his strong foot and looking to attack diagonally.
One thing I liked: Offensive Joevin showed up and he was excellent in connecting in the offensive third. He had two creative highlights, both of which involved crafting individual space and finding Morris over the top. This vision was massive, and helped Seattle stretch the field. A third strong play saw Joevin support and attack and, although he cut back into traffic, he found a great shot that forced a save and rebound that Morris was able to put away.
One thing I didn’t like: The lack of defensive cohesion between Jones and Leerdam was a problem, and Joevin was credited with just two positive defensive actions on his side of the field. This put immense pressure on the rest of the team.
Going forward: Joevin disappeared at times and definitely needs to help Kelvin more if they play on the same side, but there were enough big moments that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jones continue to get play at the right wing.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.3
This was an average rated performance, but it could have been more. Ruidíaz had a stellar six shots and was credited with completing all his passes when distributing. Yet somehow, this match was just okay and there was plenty of tired, sloppy play late where Raúl underwhelmed.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz’ willingness to track back was in strong display, and the runs he makes are still impressive. I have faith that the finishing will return, and it’s awesome to see him continually find space in attacking areas. His 67th minute run across the field was gorgeous.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl could have put this game away a few times, and his holdup was sloppy on a few occasions when Seattle needed him to control the ball and give the defense a rest. His touch also looked a bit rusty.
Going forward: I’m not worried about a striker getting into a ton of great spots and failing to score, at least not in a single-game sample size. Ruidíaz already looks awesome linking up with João Paulo, and as he continues to get into these good spots, he will score goals.
Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 69’ for Jones)
Shane O’Neill subbed into the game, Seattle went to a five-man backline, and not much changed. This was a trend of Seattle subs who came in and, while maybe not as talented, more than made up for it with fresh legs and solid, if unspectacular, play.
One thing I liked: For a guy who played 20 minutes in a match where Seattle was being dominated, Shane looked competent and didn’t stand out as a liability. He even had a shot.
One thing I didn’t like: Shane didn’t stand out as a positive addition. He missed both of his attempted passes and didn’t connect on a header that would have prevented their second goal.
Going forward: This is probably what you want from a backup center back — a guy who comes in and quietly does his job. His play displayed an ability to be a solid MLS backup piece.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 79’ for João Paulo)
It was great to see the 16-year-old back on the field getting meaningful minutes for the Sounders, and Leyva didn’t disappoint. He was very active, helping out around the field and showing that his energy could help Seattle see out a result.
One thing I liked: Leyva was 9/11 passing, including a key pass, and linked up well with teammates. His addition helped calm the midfield some in possession.
One thing I didn’t like: Leyva entered the game and immediately got too far forward, which impacted the defensive shape leading to the equalizing goal. He also forced a cross late when holding for a better option was optimal.
Going forward: Leyva did nothing to limit his potential minutes going forward, as his play and composure were a strong addition to the match. He needs to continue to impress in these cameos, as he tries to push for more mainstream minutes.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 84’ for Morris)
Right back Alex Roldan entered and played … I think on the left wing, although he was central and defensive at times.
One thing I liked: Alex’s strong soccer IQ was on display late, as he effortlessly tucked in behind an overextended Nouhou. This smart defensive switch allowed Seattle to hold on, and Roldan did a good job defending on his wing.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan had a chance to make a statement in the 90th minute on an open pass from Leyva but he hesitated and then had his shot blocked. Alex did everything right but finish the goal.
Going forward: Alex might be a right back on the stat sheet but his positional flexibility gives the coaching staff a lot of options. His ability to slot into midfield or wide defense was a nice benefit late in this match, and like all of the subs, he needs to continue to build off this positive appearance.
Juan Calderon – 4 | Community – 2.7
30 fouls called, 20 on Olimpia and 10 on Seattle. Six yellows in the first 25 minutes, including the benches. This game devolved into a slugfest, which resulted in at least one player blowing out their ACL and countless others being “lucky” to leave the game with only slight rib scarring.
One thing I liked: About 20 minutes into the match I stupidly posted that this referee was doing a surprisingly good job … and he was. He had just carded Jonathan Paz for a dirty foul on Ruidíaz and it looked like he was keeping control of the match well.
One thing I didn’t like: The next 70 minutes were a disaster, but the next five were the worst. It started with a bad yellow on Arreaga for winning a header, and on the ensuing free kick Frei got a rib karate kick from Yustin Arboleda. When that wasn’t given a red card, the rest of the game was garbage as a result, and even though there were a ton of dirty tackles, delay of the match, tactical fouls, no cards were given for the rest of the game.
Going forward: It’s Concacaf. What a moron I am for thinking it would be remotely decently reffed.
CD Olimpia MOTM
Arboleda, he of the karate kick and the two comeback goals, walks away with the award and an honorary black belt.
The good news is we are better than we played, we will be at home, and we should show much better than that first match. Advancing is all that matters, and the Sounders have enough talent to do that, even if it’s ugly.