Seattle played the Chicago Fire, a team they’d handily beat earlier this year, but they struggled in this match, eventually losing 1-2. Although the Sounders had better possession numbers than against San Jose, they lacked urgency and precision and failed to turn their increased time on the ball into many meaningful attacks. Chicago didn’t do much better, although they took full advantage of their few chances. The Sounders seemed to struggle with cohesion, and standout players have yet to show up for the team in Florida.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
This wasn’t a great game from Frei. Although he only was asked to make three saves against Chicago, there was uncertainty to his play in a few key moments, and he made some uncharacteristic mistakes. He didn’t have to make any spectacular saves yet gave up two goals.
One thing I liked: In the 43rd minute he had a nice punch out from a dangerous cross that he probably could have caught but I appreciated the photo op.
One thing I didn’t like: There were too many sloppy plays that weren’t evident in the prior match, such as playing short to put Xavier Arreaga under pressure in the 32nd minute. The first goal came from nothing, and I can’t help but wonder if it could have been played differently.
Going forward: It’s Stefan Frei, so there’s nothing to worry about here. Nitpicking goals he had very little chance to change is what happens when you are an excellent keeper.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.6 (MOTM)
Nouhou was again a top defensive player for Seattle and barely put a foot wrong. His level of play shows even more improvement in this tournament compared to the 2020 regular season. Although not able to get into the offensive half until Jordan Morris was inserted, I was impressed with the left back’s play. He ended the game on a stellar, team-best 96 percent completion rate after attempting 71 passes.
One thing I liked: Due to Nouhou’s positioning, numerous Chicago chances were snuffed out before they could develop. When he was on the ball, he made smart decisions; this was a very mature performance.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou was completely stifled from getting into the attack in the first half, and he was reduced to being a bit piece of the offense. Confusing from a team that normally likes the outside backs to help join the attack.
Going forward: The defense is there; the offensive support is there as long as he has a competent outside midfielder to play off of. Nouhou is displaying the full package and with any luck will continue to refine his game, because he looks like the long-term left back.
Xavier Arreaga – 4 | Community – 3.6 (off 85’ for Delem)
Arreaga had a very up and down match where the downs were much lower than the ups were high. He completed an excellent 95 percent of his passes and touched the ball 70 times, but his defensive positioning and propensity to lose concentration at critical moments turned this game into a nightmare for the central defender.
One thing I liked: For a moment, Arreaga had rescued his rating somewhat with a fantastic run forward to assist on Seattle’s 77th minute equalizer. This was a play that most center backs in the league cannot do: Xavier stepped up with the ball at his feet, dribbled past opponents into space and put a perfect through ball into the box for Morris. This play is something we’re still waiting on from our midfielders, and was exceptional from a defender.
One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga was directly responsible for both goals against. On the first, he misjudged the bounce of a ball on the field and saw it go over his head. He recovered, but was pushed off the ball and compounded a bad play as he was pushed over to get a view of the goal against. Later, after having contributed to a Sounders comeback, he lost his man for a back-post tap-in on a corner kick, something that should never happen to a defender.
Going forward: Arreaga made a few strong plays, but defenders are ultimately judged on their defensive miscues, and his were massive. He will have to vastly increase his level of play while limiting these errors or he’ll find himself watching from the sideline.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 5.4 (off 62’ for O’Neill)
Andrade has been by far the best of the three center backs this season and again had a steady match. His size and strength allow him a unique ability to impact the match in varying ways. His recovery speed is excellent, and he was especially impressive stepping forward to limit any input passes to the forwards.
One thing I liked: I loved seeing an over the top pass to Miguel Ibarra in the 14th minute. This 40-yard-long ball was perfection, dropping onto the offside player’s foot at the top of the box and the kind of touch and vision not often seen from defenders.
One thing I didn’t like: Andrade nearly recovered and saved Arreaga from embarrassment on the first goal, but 10 minutes later pulled a muscle charging forward to deny an access pass to CJ Sapong. Hopefully it’s not a long-term injury.
Going forward: There might have been a debate over whether YGA should start next to O’Neill in the next match but that looks to have been decided due to Yeimar’s injury. He has been very strong this season so far, and any absence is a huge loss for Seattle’s defense.
Kelvin Leerdam – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 85’ for A. Roldan)
Leerdam played 84 largely boring minutes, staying home on defense and not showing a lot of energy on either side of the ball. He had four clearances and completed 93 percent of his passes, but nothing exciting came out of his side of the field for nearly his entire shift.
One thing I liked: Kelvin did get forward once in the 30th minute to put an offside Raúl Ruidíaz in on goal, and a similar vertical pass in the 59th minute found Cristian Roldan in the box.
One thing I didn’t like: Leerdam and Shandon Hopeau were nonexistent as an offensive threat, and this helped prevent Seattle from getting numbers into the attack with any regularity.
Going forward: Leerdam can be absolutely dominant from a wide position both offensively and defensively, but we haven’t seen this yet in the tourney and we’re running out of time.
Gustav Svensson – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.1
Again, Svensson was a strong presence in the middle of the field, doing some of everything. He had a shot, 90 percent passing on a team high 97 touches, and 13 defensive actions. He did everything he could to protect the backline, and his spacing with Roldan was much improved over the previous match, when paired with Jordy Delem.
One thing I liked: Gustav was great defensively and protected the backline all match. His clean passing made it easy for Seattle to get out of the defensive end, and Chicago failed to produce many chances from building through the middle.
One thing I didn’t like: Svensson was never able to get into the attack and support, with his passing in the attacking half completely horizontal. Without vertical and incisive passes from the central midfield, Seattle becomes a very predictable team.
Going forward: Gustav has been one of the best players for Seattle this tournament and looks to consistently continue doing his job while hoping others around him improve.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.9
Roldan moved back into the central defensive midfield against Chicago and set up shop in front of Svensson. He had 10 defensive actions in the left central channel and 88 percent passing, but this was a quiet match that saw a lot of running with very little to show for it.
One thing I liked: Cristian held onto the ball and did his job supporting both sides of the field. He finally started diving vertically into the box after the Sounders conceded the second goal, and had success using his excellent game-reading skills to find holes in the defense as Seattle pushed late.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan only attempted two passes even remotely approaching the box, and both were failed. He is a dynamic attacking threat from anywhere on the field and his lack of attacking was sorely missed.
Going forward: Cristian should expect to start in the defensive midfield if João Paulo remains out, as his combination with Svensson has been the best so far this season in the middle. This removes his offensive impact, and he’ll need to figure out how to balance his defensive responsibilities while assisting a Sounders attack that is currently struggling.
Miguel Ibarra – 4 | Community – 5.0 (off 58’ for Bwana)
Ibarra played in the first half and some of the second, but failed to have any impact in the match. His stats were mundane: 82 percent passing that was almost all backwards, and five defensive actions.
One thing I liked: Ibarra had two notable good plays: first, a great run that was offside in the 14th minute, and later, a defensive action that created a turnover, resulting in an errant Hopeau shot.
One thing I didn’t like: Miguel did nothing to show he is a valued bench option for the team. He was just sort of there, taking up space. That might be okay sometimes, but in this match he blocked Nouhou from doing anything offensively, and didn’t connect well with anyone in the middle. This was a mess, and we need someone on the wing to touch the ball more than 25 times.
Going forward: Ibarra isn’t expected to carry the team, but he should be better than this. At the very least, he needs to not block other players’ shape so they can positively impact the match.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.4
It’s rare that Nicolás Lodeiro is average, but he was just that against Chicago. He touched the ball a team high 97 times and managed an 88 percent pass completion rate but did little with many of them. He failed to register a key pass and had zero luck with any looks into and around the box. He put in a lot of effort without much help.
One thing I liked: The amount of running that Nico does in these matches is amazing and something we shouldn’t overlook. His constant movement and effort were the only offense in the first half as Seattle had little wide play at all. This forced Nico to cover the entire middle of the field and he adjusted well.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico’s touch has been very off so far this tournament, and his crossing and set pieces are much worse than we are used to. He still makes some good passes, but there are also many that he misses.
Going forward: Lodeiro still looks to be knocking some of the rust off his boots. Unfortunately, we need his magic for Seattle to be successful.
Shandon Hopeau – 4 | Community – 4.5 (off 46’ for Morris)
Hopeau put in a great shift for the Defiance against Chicago. He had 21 touches and a shot well wide of the goal in a half of soccer he is likely to want to forget. He wasn’t bad, just very ineffective and part of an attack that was disjointed and disorganized.
One thing I liked: In the 22nd minute Hopeau made a great run in support of a Sounders counterattack. Unfortunately, his shot wasn’t close.
One thing I didn’t like: Both wings actively hampered the Seattle attack in the first half. With Shandon, it seemed to be uncertainty; he looked lost any time the ball wasn’t at his feet. It was a big ask to have him start an MLS match, and he was out of place.
Going forward: The effort and raw talent is there for Hopeau, he just needs to learn the positioning that Seattle asks of their wide players. With this performance and noting the guy who scored the Sounders goal, he’ll likely make any future improvements from a bench role.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.4
I think this was an average match from Raúl, but it’s hard to tell as he rarely saw the ball in any position to impact the game. Some of this is his fault, but a majority was due to Seattle’s ineffectiveness through the midfield, and nearly every time Ruidíaz touched the ball he was surrounded by center backs. He did well when he managed a touch, with 93 percent passing and a team-leading two key passes, showing a willingness to link and set up teammates.
One thing I liked: It was an authoritative drive at goal in the 22nd minute and layoff that allowed Hopeau an open 1-v-1 shot on goal, and I’m consistently impressed at how quickly Raúl transitions to all-out attack mode when Seattle manages a turnover. It was a Ruidíaz run that cleared out multiple defenders for Handwalla Bwana’s goal. He is struggling some, but still creating.
One thing I didn’t like: One shot. In the 99th minute. That was blocked.
Going forward: I’m not worried about Raúl not scoring every game, even though he usually does. I am worried that he is pressing, forcing things, and trying to do everything up front, which limits his ability to do what he does best without the ball in the box.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.4 (on 46’ for Hopeau)
On only 16 touches Morris came in, created a goal, and was one of the best Sounders on the field.
One thing I liked: Classic Morris assist in the 77th minute came due to his ability to first separate from defenders into the box then look up and find a diagonal pass back to the six-yard box.
One thing I didn’t like: After multiple times having success with Morris diving vertically into the box, Seattle failed to get him into any good positions, and he didn’t have an attacking pass after the 80th minute.
Going forward: Seattle isn’t much of a system team and often depends on simply out-talenting other teams on a 1-v-1 basis. Morris is one of those Sounders who can be counted on to win his individual positional duel. Seattle needs that right now to even get close to goal.
Handwalla Bwana – 7 | Community – 6.4 (on 58’ for Ibarra)
I had almost forgotten Bwana was on the roster, until he subbed in and had an immediate impact in this match. He is a very offensive-oriented player and his insertion was a catalyst for Seattle’s increased success going forward. He touched the ball 27 times and recorded a shot, a goal, and consistent attacks that gave the Sounders their best chances.
One thing I liked: Bwana correctly read the Morris run in the 77th minute and beat the Chicago defender to the spot. His goal was especially nice because it showed superb mental soccer knowledge followed by crisp execution.
One thing I didn’t like: Handwalla struggled at times to do anything with the ball when a defender dropped off him, and he was forced backwards on nearly 10 occasions merely because the opponent failed to allow him to try to dribble by.
Going forward: Bwana immediately jumps back into the outside midfield discussion, and judging by history might have earned a start on the width due to this performance.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 5.5 (on 62’ for Yeimar)
O’Neill is a very boring defender which is exactly what you want most of the time. He doesn’t have the marauding runs or flamboyant tackling and dribbling of the players he often subs in for, but instead relies on strong positioning and smart soccer. He had 28 touches and won two aerials in a very efficient and solid performance.
One thing I liked: You always know what you are going to get with him. He is a low risk player who does his job and doesn’t make many mistakes.
One thing I didn’t like: You always know what you are going to get with him. He is a low risk player who does his job and but doesn’t create many opportunities.
Going forward: With the backline looking shaky and/or injured, it’s likely we see O’Neill starting this weekend.
Jordy Delem – 6 | Community – 5.2 (on 85’ for Arreaga)
Delem took his benching in stride, biding his time before coming in to provide a spark late. He completed all his passes on nine touches.
One thing I liked: Jordy Delem LED the team with two shots.
One thing I didn’t like: Jordy Delem LED the team with two shots.
Going forward: Delem showcased nice offensive mentality, getting into good spots but was unable to convert them into anything on frame. He remains a quality back-up who can be used to change shape and tactics.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 85’ for Leerdam)
Alex Roldan is still on the team and is a right back now. The team has tried a lot of right backs over the years and this looks like a potential sticking point for Roldan, who gave a ton of effort in a short stint.
One thing I liked: Alex had the best wide Sounders service in the entire match, putting in cross after cross with both feet that were dangerous. He ended with two key passes and was a strong offensive presence on the right side.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan attempted eight passes into the penalty area and none were completed.
Going forward: Leerdam has struggled to play in short time frames and looked unwilling to push much in this one. Perhaps Alex earned himself some additional time as a way to keep Leerdam fresh going forward.
Rosendo Mendoza – 7 | Community – 5.6
Compared to some other referee efforts in this tournament, this guy seemed very strong, definitely above average. His fouls made sense, his control of the match was well done, and he wasn’t the focus of the game.
One thing I liked: A 22nd minute yellow card on Fabian Herbers for taking out Nico behind the play was excellent. He allowed play to continue, but then assessed the severity of the foul and gave the yellow after Hopeau sent his shot towards the Gulf of Mexico.
One thing I didn’t like: Mendoza had a very unorthodox diagonal that ended up with him in the middle of the play on a number of occasions, even prompting a drop ball after interfering in play. Easily fixable, but if it’s frustrating me, it’s likely rough on the players.
Going forward: For a relatively unknown referee, I was pretty happy with this guy and think he is a good addition to the MLS referee pool.
Chicago Fire FC MOTM
With a nifty turn and clean finish, Robert Beric made something out of nothing, and in doing so, gave Chicago the lead. Man of the Match for him, then.
Seattle has one more chance to show they belong in this tournament, or just pack up and go home. This team has too much pride to just fail out of the tourney, and I expect an inspired performance. But the transition play from Vancouver looks dangerous and the Sounders have a lot to fix if they don’t want an early ticket out of town.