The Sounders played a much-improved Columbus Crew team last week and it was another close match. Seattle made several small mistakes on both sides of the ball and so a mostly dominant performance ended in a hard-fought 1-1 draw. The home team was on the front foot for much of the game but failed to capitalize on good chances created, and they had enough defensive miscues to allow their opponents to utilize counter attacks effectively. The expected goal differential for this powerful Sounders team has been encouraging so far this year, especially considering the injuries and roster turnover.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.8
Frei had two saves, and for much of the game he had a good view of the Sounders attack as it tried to unravel an organized and resolute Columbus defense. Stef’s main role was to get the ball to his feet and filter it around to teammates, and as a relief valve he did well to find them consistently, ending with a stellar 94 percent completion rate. This shows how short and measured the Sounders tactics were, as Frei had 47 touches and almost exclusively played short and wide.
One thing I liked: I don’t know if the shot was going to go in, but the last play of the match was a 97th minute free kick from Lucas Zelarayan that was very close. Frei was up to the task though, leaping to his right to push the ball wide of frame and protect the Sounders unbeaten record.
One thing I didn’t like: At times Frei still doesn’t look comfortable with the ball at his feet, and in a match where Seattle was using him almost exclusively to draw Columbus out of a bunker, things got nervy on more than one occasion.
Going forward: Frei saved everything he could possibly be asked to save. There are still questions about the defense and sometimes the passing in the back wasn’t great, but Stefan did a nice job as an extra outlet and the communication in the defense looked improved over week one.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 85’ for Dhillon)
I came away unimpressed with Jones, who failed to do much of anything noteworthy in the positive column while having an average day defensively. Three clearances and four recoveries were the only defensive actions recorded for Jones, who had plenty of chances to create a big play on either end of the field and didn’t take the opportunity, nor did he effectively combine with Miguel Ibarra.
One thing I liked: Jones had a shot and a key pass, and although he didn’t get into the offensive third of the field all match, he connected a few times with teammates, helping them get forward, and covered his side adequately on defense.
One thing I didn’t like: The first half with Jones at left back left much to be desired. After failing to step out to the crosser on multiple occasions, he was finally penalized as Columbus scored behind. In the second half he was unable to get into the attack with any consistency, and when he did, he didn’t create anything noteworthy. At times he was way too passive, pulling the ball back and dropping it away from an offensively dangerous position. His key pass came in the 63rd minute after he was pushed into the midfield.
Going forward: Jones was ostensibly starting over Nouhou as a more controlled possession and attacking option, but this didn’t pan out. With the younger player showing plenty of verve and energy, Joevin will need to show he can consistently offset his at times lax defense with much better attacking contributions.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.1
Xavier again had a rather quiet match, showcasing less fancy footwork and more hardnosed defensive positioning and work rate. He used his 70 touches to find teammates, completing at a tremendous 92 percent rate. He wasn’t dynamic with the ball but did consistently put others into space in the middle with a variety of short, square passes.
One thing I liked: Although he was beaten a few times, Arreaga recovered intelligently, especially a 90th minute breakout where Gyasi Zardes looked to be in on goal alone. Xavi smartly understood he wouldn’t catch him, and instead cut off the opponent, forcing Zardes into a very difficult angle on a shot that Frei easily saved.
One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga has a bad habit of getting caught out of position by following opponents, and without proper communication in the defense to adjust, this movement is problematic. The Columbus goal was a backline communication breakdown, and on a few other occasions Xavi was on a different page than the rest of the defenders.
Going forward: The upside for Arreaga is enormous, and you can see it every time he picks his head up with the ball at his feet and finds a 30 yard outside of the off-foot pass to a teammate. The downside is with so much movement in personnel around him, the inconsistencies in his positioning and communication stand out, even though the team is rarely allowing high-quality chances.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.6
I thought Yeimar was the best player in the game, and a huge reason why Columbus had very few chances. His ability to anticipate attacks and subtly adjust his position makes his potential for defensive success much higher; it’s understated but also incredibly important. This led to a massive 20 defensive actions, including team highs with five interceptions, four clearances, and four aerials won. He added a tidy 85 percent passing on top.
One thing I liked: Aside from his defense in general, I was especially impressed by YGA’s closing speed. On at least three occasions he not only kept up with the speedy Zardes but outpaced the Columbus striker before easily dispossessing him.
One thing I didn’t like: The communication in the back was better but still needs work, and he must watch the high elbows in MLS as they aren’t needed; his size and strength will be enough.
Going forward: Yeimar’s combination of size, speed, athleticism, and tactical positioning is incredibly exciting for the future. He’s already doing things in MLS that grade out to dominant level abilities. With more time in the league he has the potential to be an absolute monster.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.5
Leerdam once again was tremendous, showing excellent two-way play and displaying the early season energy he seems to bring every year. He completed 77 percent of his passes and attempted a stellar 12 passes into or toward the box, showing an offensive desire and ability that complemented a dozen defensive actions.
One thing I liked: Kelvin was a tremendous creator from the right wing, consistently swinging in dangerous crosses on the way to a team-high three key passes. He gets up the wing so well and his creation from the width was a Jordan Morris forehead away from a Sounders win.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam had a few bad crosses, and at times trusts his delivery a little too much, forcing aerials in to the diminutive Raúl Ruidíaz and asking him to outleap guys much bigger.
Going forward: There was a point late in the match when Morris nearly dropped a pass to the right edge of the box, and we all know what happens when Leerdam gets a ball in that spot. It wasn’t to be, but Seattle has a very balanced attack utilizing both wings, and Kelvin is driving his side very well.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 69’ for Shipp)
This was a nice 69-minute return from the Goose, who played his first Sounders action in 2020. Although it took some time to get into the rhythm of new teammates, Svensson showed exactly how impressive he can be as a facilitator in the middle of the pitch. He led the team with 96 percent passing, only missing three attempts all night.
One thing I liked: Within his fantastic passing was the vision and ability to hit long, switching balls that immediately made Seattle more goal dangerous from deeper midfield positions. He completed at least five of these, with the best in the 17th minute — announcing to the opponents that they couldn’t ignore the back side of the defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Svensson was clearly exhausted when he subbed off, and although he had a great forward pass moments before subbing out, he was less effective as he tired. All his incompletions came in the second half and his effectiveness waned prior to being removed.
Going forward: This was a great look at exactly the skills Svensson brings to the team. His partnership with João Paulo wasn’t amazing, but there were times when you could see the potential for them to be tremendously dynamic on both sides of the field as they get more time together.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.6
Combining with Svensson for the first time I thought João Paulo was excellent, with an efficient match and doing a bit of everything. He had 89 percent passing completion while touching the ball 93 times. He co-led the team with three key passes, even though he wasn’t into the attack as much as we saw earlier in the season.
One thing I liked: JP’s decision making is exceptional, and he moves to spaces in anticipation of opponents attacks well. This is very hard to track but has the impact on the match of making everything around him predictable, which simplifies the match for teammates. His communication of that movement was a big factor in Seattle’s consistency on both sides of the field.
One thing I didn’t like: It wasn’t needed against Columbus a ton, but better denial through the middle between the defensive mids is something to improve on. They only combined for 17 defensive actions and JP registered zero interceptions and only two tackles. Columbus didn’t take advantage of Seattle being stretched a few times.
Going forward: Gustav and JP both seem interested in joining the attack, and although Gustav had deeper relative position, their passing maps showed both did a good job supporting the middle passing needs. Hopefully these roles get more defined as we move through the season and Nico Lodeiro returns.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.7
Morris was quiet at times in this game, only touching the ball 44 times and having a team-low 58 percent passing rate, but he also created some of the most dangerous scoring chances for Seattle. He ended with two shots and two key passes, won a team high four aerials, and 15 of his 19 incomplete passes in the match were headed into or directly towards the box, showing a fantastic willingness to attack the dangerous areas on the field.
One thing I liked: Almost all the Sounders’ best attacking chances were again imprinted with Jordan’s involvement. He continually pushed into wide spaces on both sides of the field and found crosses and creation. A delicate slip pass in the 53rd minute for an assist was eventually called back for offsides, but it was a magical bit of soccering.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris missed two headers that were golden opportunities to win the match, first in the 84th and then in the 93rd. He may have been offsides on either or both, but I would like to see him put those away and force the referee to make a hard decision.
Going forward: Morris is likely creating more scoring chances than anyone else in the league right now, and Seattle needs to continue to both find him in space and feed off his explosive abilities. Just knowing he is going to beat his man and get a cross in will inform his teammates where to be to capitalize on his hard work.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.1
Roldan once again played the 10 in this match, and it was solid, but not overly impressive. Cristian does a lot of running and coverage in the middle when he plays attacking midfield, but he is lacking some of the playmaking you expect from that spot. He ended with two shots and a key pass for his efforts, which is just okay.
One thing I liked: One thing Cristian does well from advanced central areas is hold the ball and play it wide (usually to Morris). This jumpstarts the offense and gets arguably the most dynamic wing in the league into spaces 1-v-1 to create chances. After making these passes Roldan is also great at following up with vertical runs to support movement in the box, and had teammates looked up, he may have earned himself a goal or assist as a result.
One thing I didn’t like: 77 touches is a great number for a central attacking midfielder, but I would like to see Roldan do more with them. Granted, he’s not a pure playmaker, but if he’s going to play that spot, he needs to be more dynamic and learn to create going directly forward, and not just push speculative over-the-top balls to Morris.
Going forward: The 10 is a hard position to play, and luckily Seattle has maybe the best in the league when Lodeiro returns. While Roldan put in the effort, he is clearly better suited to one of the other six spots the coach has played him this year, and he should show more effectiveness when (if?) he is played consistently at one spot.
Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 59’ for Nouhou)
Ibarra getting this many starts was likely a surprise to everyone, and he has been okay for Seattle. Once again, he got into some good spots offensively, offered very little defensively, and was a decent “glue” guy.
One thing I liked: Although he was offsides, the 53rd minute play with Morris showed a high-level understanding of his teammates’ runs, and Miguel got in 1-v-1 versus the keeper for his efforts. Even more promising, Ibarra put the ball cleanly into the net, which must be a boost for his confidence after the first game of the season.
One thing I didn’t like: Playing on the left for much of this match, Ibarra and Jones were nonfactors. Neither was very effective, with Ibarra having only four defensive actions and 30 total touches, zero shots, and little created.
Going forward: The Sounders coaches clearly enjoy the pace and effort from Ibarra out wide, but he will need to do much more than what he’s done in the first two matches of the season if he wants to continue to see time. With most positions on the field being locked in with apparent starters, he’ll likely fight with a few other bench players for minutes.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.3
Ruidíaz has seemed a little out of sorts so far this season, and he really looked to be pressing against Columbus. He easily led the game with six shots, two of which he put on frame. His 92 percent passing was excellent, and he did strong work coming back and supporting with some essential holdup play.
One thing I liked: In the 80th minute some Nouhou magic created a penalty for Seattle. Raúl stepped up, had it saved, and then made the replay. It wasn’t pretty, but I love his mentality to keep going and there was no hesitation on the second shot. This guy feeds off goals and getting him one early in the season might snowball.
One thing I didn’t like: Ruidíaz was pressing badly in this match, so much so that he was forcing shots and missing teammates. In the 11th and 29th minutes especially, he took speculative tries with much better options. In the first both Morris and Roldan were wide open to his left, but Raúl luckily earned a free kick. In the second, Cristian made a fantastic darting run right down the middle at goal and Ruidíaz took an ill-advised shot.
Going forward: Raúl got off the donut against Columbus and hopefully that adds the confidence he needs to score more as well as find teammates in optimal positions.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM) (on 59’ for Ibarra)
Nouhou came on in the 59th minute and brought an incredible amount of energy and desire to the game, revitalizing teammates and turning the match on its head. In 31 minutes, he touched the ball 26 times, completed 71 percent of his passes, had two shots, and created the biggest moment for Seattle.
One thing I liked: Immediately upon entering Nouhou earned corners in the 62nd and 63rd minutes, pressing high up the field and continuously refusing to allow Columbus comfort with the ball. In the 76th minute an innocuous ball in the box looked to be an easy clearance for the Crew when out of nowhere the HOU-TRAIN chugged into the area, immediately making up 15 yards of ground, stealing the ball and putting a dangerous cross in toward the six-yard box. The Crew were forced into breaking the first rule of soccer and Seattle was back in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: I am not sure what position Nouhou was brought in to play, but his single defensive action (a 94th minute recovery) belied his true impact on the match.
Going forward: This was a “V-Rod in the final”-esque game-changing introduction from Nouhou. His aggression and direct play almost single-handedly brought Seattle into the match. Your guess is as good as mine whether this excellent cameo will lead to more playing time.
Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 69’ for Svensson)
Shipp came into the match against Columbus and was improved from his first outing, showing a great tactical understanding to combine with teammates and neatly serve up some good passes.
One thing I liked: His pass to Morris in the 93rd minute was magical, similar to the one that Columbus scored on. Teeing it up from inside the corner of the box, Harry threaded a ball around the defense, curling away from the goalie and allowing only his man the chance to redirect on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Shipp still looks somewhat hesitant and hasn’t been a huge spark off the bench. He had much more success combining with the ordered right side of the attack than the chaotic left.
Going forward: Harry clearly has the brains to run the offense but hasn’t been getting the ball into places where he can use his vision and touch to put teammates through, instead settling for a supportive role, defending, and combining further from goal. This is good for the team but doesn’t offer the exciting plays that might earn him more playing time.
Justin Dhillon – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 85’ for Jones)
Dhillon came in late, touched the ball five times, and won a header.
One thing I liked: The header he won was in the 87th minute and earned Seattle at throw-in, keeping possession and pressure on Columbus.
One thing I didn’t like: Five minutes isn’t a lot, but one completed pass backwards in the attacking third is pretty meh.
Going forward: Dhillon got a chance to come in against Columbus again and show he could impact the match; unfortunately, this year he didn’t. He will likely be pushed back to Tacoma as soon as Will Bruin returns, which appears imminent.
Jair Marrufo – 8 | Community – 5.9
Marrufo was very good in this match, making consistent calls and keeping the game running smoothly. In the big moments he and his team were quick and made the right decisions without favoring either team or playing to the scoreline. This group wasn’t the story of the match, which is what you want from a referee crew.
One thing I liked: Shout out to Ricardo Salazar, who was on VAR and got every call right, including the penalty kick retake. This team of referees did superbly all night to make quick, correct calls and move the game efficiently without jeopardizing player safety.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a couple of fouls behind the play that could have been called, and there wasn’t a lot of reason to allow advantage. I would also have been in favor of carding after the play ended, as on a couple of occasions people were badly fouled behind the play.
Going forward: This was a good refereeing team who played the game quickly and efficiently. When a player didn’t leave the game fast enough, he was issued a yellow, even if it was only the 66th minute of the match. If all of the MLS referees are this good, the scale will change.
Columbus Crew SC MOTM
Gyasi Zardes did well to get in behind in the 33rd minute, latching on to an immaculate ball from Luis Díaz. Zardes also had a breakaway late that was dealt with by Arreaga (somewhat) and Frei (mostly).
- Special note: this article wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of users Krampus and especially ArikC, who recorded and provided the game for me to review. My thanks to everyone in this community for being so helpful and supportive.
This article was written before the season was postponed, and honestly, I debated whether to even post it. Since we have some spare time now, I will happily create content/answer questions etc., if you would like to keep soccer on our minds as we deal with this pandemic. Let me know if you have any suggestions.