The Sounders returned on Friday evening to play soccer under pandemic conditions in a 90-degree swamp. A predictably sluggish game, Seattle and San Jose battled to a mundane scoreless draw, getting a few chances and conceding some. This game had few highlights and showed the rust of teams that were forced into a tournament after months off. The Sounders struggled to find an identity to play through, and their actions were stunted and disjointed. San Jose had a huge possession lead in both halves, but the second half had only 30 percent as many passes attempted as the first half as both teams really slowed down. Seattle seemed to want to play counter-attacking soccer, but that was tough when they sat back and were too tired to create the turnovers or make the runs necessary to play that way.
Stefan Frei – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.0 (MOTM)
Frei wins MOTM due to eight saves and displaying no rust in the goalkeeper position. While most of the shots were directly at him or weak and off target, San Jose forced Stefan into a couple of tricky saves and deflected shots that he was able to parry.
One thing I liked: He made some important saves, but I was most impressed with Frei working with the defense on the ground, making many defensive sequences easier with good control. Stef continually got back passes from defenders and cleanly moved the ball to the other side and out of danger.
One thing I didn’t like: A clean sheet was great but there was at least one save that wasn’t clean. A 41st minute stop was the worst, with the shot fumbled a bit; Stefan was quick to dive forward onto the ball prior to a San Jose attacker who was lurking.
Going forward: Frei was good; he saved everything he was asked to save, worked well with his defense, and earned a clean sheet.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 76’ for Ibarra)
Now the incumbent left back starter, Nouhou was very strong against San Jose. He showed very strong defense with 18 actions highlighted by eight recoveries. Nouhou also showed improved attacking instincts, getting into good position early and finding strong passes into the box.
One thing I liked: While fresh, Nouhou was dynamic on both sides of the field. He was immediately into the box, delivering dangerous passes while shutting down his wing, forcing San Jose into speculative wide crosses. His two-way play was the best Sounders action for much of the first half.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou dropped off his attacking support in the second half, and judging by his sub in the 76th minute it may have been due to fatigue. His passing faded too, ending with a team-worst 63 percent. Seattle certainly wants their left back to be dangerous after the first 10 minutes, but our offense shouldn’t depend so much on Nouhou (at least not yet).
Going forward: Nouhou did his job, playing against a very good winger and shutting him down while getting into the box and creating some offense. The next step for him is to gain more consistency with this level of two-way play and then increase his impact.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.7
Xavier had a strong defensive match, leading the team with seven clearances and displaying his usual physical positioning.
One thing I liked: Arreaga was part of a very cohesive defensive unit, continually keeping his man in front of him and forcing repetitive long shots that Frei easily handled. His positioning and his work with both Nouhou and Yeimar Gómez Andrade were solid.
One thing I didn’t like: Xavier is a very physical player, and at times this ventures into recklessness. A clumsy 82nd minute tackle in the box could have been a penalty and there were other borderline actions. I would love to see him clean just an edge off his play, to prevent stuff like this as well as his every-match yellow card.
Going forward: Arreaga and Andrade looked strong together. I expect they’ll only get better as they play together more.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 6.8
Yeimar turned in a very enigmatic performance. His stats were boring: three clearances, a tackle won, an interception — but stats belie just how quietly effective he was. He has great size and quickness, and San Jose had zero luck getting in behind him. Using his strong body to push off attackers, Yeimar effectively disrupted the Earthquakes from attacking through his area. He also quietly had 88 percent passing and the second most touches on the team.
One thing I liked: Everybody loves when a center back makes a long, lumbering run upfield, but I was surprised at how polished Andrade was with his head up going forward. Several times San Jose gave him space and he not only took it, his tactical awareness of where to attack was spot on and he created chances. He even earned a key pass, one of two defenders to do so.
One thing I didn’t like: Communication was good in the back, but Kelvin Leerdam was babysitting the wing and this side of the offense was very weak. It all starts with Yeimar’s positioning and support, and he will want to facilitate those around him a bit more.
Going forward: Yeimar’s combination of size, speed, athleticism, and tactical positioning is incredibly exciting for the future.
Kelvin Leerdam – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 95’ for O’Neill)
Kelvin always struggles when tired and he looked tired about 15 minutes into this one (as did most players). I was impressed that he gutted it out, even turning in a few late runs and effort that should have created a goal. He had 85 percent passing and a few defensive actions in a ponderous outing that was okay with a couple of high points.
One thing I liked: Leerdam struggled in the first half, did a little better in the second, and yet in the 83rd minute popped up in space on the right side and put an absolute gem of a first-time cross into Raúl for what should have been a game winning assist.
One thing I didn’t like: For much of this game Leerdam and the Sounders right side was ineffective. He still handled his defensive duties, but failed to provide any consistent overlap option and Seattle had no attack on the right side for long stretches.
Going forward: In the first two matches of this season Leerdam was bombing up the right and combining with Cristian Roldan to create chances. Seattle needs much more of that.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 5.6
Svensson looked like the most fit person on the field, running his ass off for 110 minutes and doing his darndest to shield the defense and provide attack. He only missed on three pass attempts all night and had 10 defensive actions from a deep midfield position. His pairing with Jordy Delem created a log jam in the defensive midfield and helped contribute to Seattle sitting way too deep and inviting San Jose to own the ball and the attacking spaces.
One thing I liked: Svensson’s defending was excellent, continually cutting off angles, hustling back to support and prevent counterattacks, and slide tackling authoritatively when needed. His organization and clean play were a team highlight.
One thing I didn’t like: Goose had a few mis-clears or bad touches, but what was missing was his shape-breaking ability to switch the field and stretch defenses. We saw almost no vertical passing in this game, and he attempted only a handful of passes in the attacking half!
Going forward: Svensson is a very strong player but looks his best from a deeper position defensively and dropping in between center backs. In this game he was forced to play directly in front of YGA for most of the match, limiting his effectiveness.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 56’ for Jones)
Delem statistically was okay, with three tackles, a clearance, two interceptions and two important blocked shots. His 87 percent passing was good, the few times he touched the ball. This was the issue, though, as Delem was a near-nonfactor for most of his time on the field.
One thing I liked: Delem didn’t make many mistakes and did make the key pass that put Roldan in a 1-v-1 with the keeper in the 35th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: Jordy failed to show any range going forward, instead just roaming from side to side. This is fine defensively, but he ended up stacked on top of Svensson constantly, removing one or both from being able to join the attack. To compound this, Delem failed to show any ability to pass or dribble Seattle into advantageous positions resulting in a deep, immobile defensive shape.
Going forward: If Delem is unable to be anything more than a deep, defensive stopper, Seattle will likely need to find more creative options in the middle to pair with Svensson, as in this match their skillset and location were too similar. If only we had a DP defensive midfielder that could create from deep lying midfield positioning, join attacks with finishing quality, and dribble into attacking spots to create counters.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 77’ for Hopeau)
This was not the Morris we are used to seeing. Usually an MVP candidate, Jordan put in 76 minutes of effort with little to show for it, managing only 63 percent passing and one shot, creating little for teammates or himself.
One thing I liked: It only takes a second for Morris to completely change the match and there were at least five times where a better decision or execution from Morris or a teammate would have led to a massive chance on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Where was Jordan? He isn’t the kind of player who needs the ball a lot to make an impact, but he was absent against San Jose. Twenty-four touches aren’t enough and having Morris try to backheel in the middle of the field running away from goal is not an effective use of his skills.
Going forward: Morris was creating chance after chance at the start of this year and is likely to have much more impact in future games, but Seattle must figure out a way to get him involved.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.1
It was nice to see Nico back on the field for the Sounders, after a lengthy break. He showed a lot of rust and had a very up and down match. At times he was the only person creating anything towards goal and he wasn’t quite in form enough to carry that immense burden solo. Still, his moments of class shone through and nearly every good Sounders play involved Lodeiro.
One thing I liked: Nico was still getting into some good spots but missed chances. Someone who can have an “off” game like this and still manage three shots, three key passes and near 80 percent completion when getting the most touches on the team sets an incredibly high bar.
One thing I didn’t like: The rust was there, and Nico missed some passes he typically completes — passes that could have changed the match. As a result of fatigue, I am guessing, Lodeiro went to ground a lot to earn some breaks. This backfired, with the referee blatantly ignoring some more legitimate shouts after some early speculative appeals.
Going forward: Nico Lodeiro is one of the best players in the league and doesn’t play average very often. With so much of the creativity burden on his shoulders, he will need to get back to normal quickly.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.3
Roldan was just a little off in this match. He didn’t do anything egregiously wrong, but also wasn’t able to find many dominating moments where he could show his skill level. He did a little of everything, with 82 percent passing, three shots, a key pass, and even three aerials won.
One thing I liked: Seattle looked better when Cristian dropped back in the second half and improved the offensive shape, but it was Roldan who had one of the best chances of the entire match in the 28th minute. ESPN was busy showing the crowd or something, so we were unable to tell exactly how the buildup occurred, but it ended with Roldan and Morris running at the keeper and Cristian forcing a very strong save.
One thing I didn’t like: The offensive right in the first half stunk. They didn’t touch the ball, create offense, or get Roldan into positions to even attack. In fact, Roldan got one strong run deep into the corner and it wasn’t until the 99th minute of the match coming from defensive midfielder. He must stretch the defense high and wide to create the space for the Sounders.
Going forward: Roldan has shown the ability to be a strong wide attacker, but it was clear in this match he looked better when coming from a midfield position. Seattle desperately needs creativity from the middle and he might need to play there until Joao Paulo gets healthy or Danny Leyva earns a start.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.8
This was very similar to Ruidíaz’s previous game, against Columbus. He still looks rusty and seems to be pressing too hard. This led to poor decision making and a lack of consistent play from Seattle. With the team dropping so deep, it was a big ask for Ruidíaz to both stretch the field and defend 70 yards from goal.
One thing I liked: Even struggling, Raúl has a ton of soccer class. His runs and creation led to a game high five shots and he added a key pass. He also had a legitimate shout at a penalty kick, after controlling on the edge of the box and being fouled. He was the only consistent attacking threat.
One thing I didn’t like: Ruidíaz was pressing badly in this match, so much so that he was forcing shots and missing teammates. Early hopeful shots were wasted opportunities and Seattle depends on him to be much, much crisper. It was tough watching a full speed Morris head up field for a potential 2-v-1 with Lodeiro on a simple Ruidíaz pass up the line until Raúl inexplicably decided to try an ineffective and wasteful overhead pass to Lodeiro behind him. Particularly egregious was an 84th minute pass from Leerdam that needed little to be redirected into goal and Raúl was unable to find the right shot.
Going forward: Raúl hasn’t looked clean finishing yet this year and if Seattle wants to win this silly tournament, they are going to need him to figure it out.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 56’ for Delem)
Jones came on and played passively. With fresh legs playing against exhausted players Joevin came in and made little impact. He touched the ball 18 times.
One thing I liked: Bringing Jones in helped the shape out by strengthening the center of the field, and Joevin was 14/14 passing.
One thing I didn’t like: Jones didn’t do much. Not a single pass of his could be considered “towards goal” and while he was okay in possession, he never made the Sounders more dangerous.
Going forward: Jones had an opportunity to show what he could do against tired legs and prove his worth off the bench. He will need to do much more than he did in this one.
Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 76’ for Nouhou)
Ibarra came on and struggled. With fresh legs playing against exhausted players Miguel came in and made little impact in either direction. He touched the ball 12 times.
One thing I liked: Miguel tried to get in the match and his lack of impact wasn’t for lack of effort, as he ran around a lot trying to make something happen.
One thing I didn’t like: Like Jones, Ibarra didn’t do much. Only a single 90th minute pass could be considered “towards goal.”
Going forward: Ibarra should be a quick, attacking sub that can come in and show a different look against tired defenders. If he doesn’t show that soon, he will get passed on the depth chart.
Shandon Hopeau – 6 | Community – 5.2 (on 77’ for Morris)
Only a few weeks after signing his homegrown contract, Hopeau came into the match and brought exactly what was hoped: energy and desire. He was a nice bright spot for Seattle late, consistently getting into dangerous positions and being close on several occasions to making a big difference.
One thing I liked: As an instant impact sub Shandon was great, immediately getting onto the ball and creating small potential tactical wins for Seattle. His 84th minute pass from inside out to an overlapping Leerdam likely nets him an assist if Ruidíaz could have put the finish away.
One thing I didn’t like: Shandon is raw, and it showed when the ball wasn’t in an obvious spot to attack or defend. Hopeau got stuck a few times watching or moving naturally to a disadvantageous position as he was a little lost on how to work with the intricate movement of the starters around him.
Going forward: With Harry Shipp retired and other sub players not taking advantage of the opportunity, there is a lot of potential for Hopeau to be the wide speed option for Seattle in the short and long term.
Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 95’ for Leerdam)
The last sub of the night for Seattle was bringing on O’Neill for Leerdam and moving Roldan back to right back (I think) for the last few minutes of the match.
One thing I liked: Seattle earned a clean sheet with Shane on the field and he was a stupendous 1 for 1 (100 percent) completion rate in a perfect passing night.
One thing I didn’t like: Yes, you can attack with a five-man backline, but this sub felt like a park the bus move to kill time and leave with a tournament point.
Going forward: O’Neill can see where he is on the depth chart based on this appearance and adjust his expectations accordingly.
5th Sub – Unused
Having five subs is potentially a big deal in a match with such hot and humid conditions and the players’ level of fitness.
One thing I liked: #5 sub always kept his cool, social distancing himself so far from his teammates that he wasn’t even used.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam had a cramp in the 65th minute and played another 40 minutes. Roldan got a knock, Morris got a knock, Lodeiro was getting pushed around. It was 90 degrees and humid and the team is not fully fit. Fresh legs can offset so much talent discrepancy. Why not use this sub?
Going forward: It’s a pretty big indictment on the Sounders depth if they don’t take advantage of this chance to bring in fresh legs. I know Will Bruin and João Paulo were out for this one and hey, Minnesota only used two subs in their first 98 minutes and won so what do I know?
Drew Fischer – 5 | Community – 4.4
I watched other games in this tournament and have been completely underwhelmed by the referees. Fischer wasn’t necessarily bad in this match, but there were many opportunities for him to control the match better. He often let things go too far and then people got knocked. He also seemed to have his mind made up well before plays happened, which I noted on several occasions. Two yellows in the first 25 minutes and then nothing after was surprising.
One thing I liked: This referee was less of a story than in most of the other matches I saw. A few casual VAR shouts but mostly just a bunch of tired people running around kicking a ball, sometimes towards the opponent’s goal. Drew was a referee that let the play dictate more than the whistle (20 total fouls, 10 each team).
One thing I didn’t like: There was too much restraint. When Tommy Thompson kicked twice extra into Lodeiro’s chest, I thought he could have more severely admonished him. A warning to Lima early was followed by two more “final” warnings when just giving the card for his 59th minute foul was warranted. He decided Lodeiro was diving early and then never adjusted for when Nico was fouled, which was often.
Going forward: Seattle needs to be prepared to play against physical teams, and while they didn’t back down in this one, they were pushed around a lot, and Fischer could have done more to protect everyone’s safety.
San Jose Earthquakes MOTM
Daniel Vega claims Man of the Match on the back of six saves, including a point blank Ruidíaz effort that typically finds the back of the net.
Welcome to the MLS IS BACK tournament. Let’s hope it improves for Seattle, because that wasn’t super entertaining to watch. The biggest things to fix are the central midfield shape and transitioning quicker. The first is something they can solve with tactics but the second requires a fair amount more fitness than they currently have. Let’s hope that this experience and their familiarity (and prior win) against Chicago come in handy early Tuesday morning.