What a difference a few days makes! Seattle played old rival Vancouver on Sunday night and thoroughly trounced them. The result was a 3-0 win, but the game was never in doubt, as Seattle created big chances early and often and cruised to a relatively easy win. Gone was the lethargic, pre-season-form team we saw in the first two matches, replaced by a lethal squad looking to score on nearly every possession, using a creative mix of buildup and counter attacks. This was the best the Sounders have looked all season, and it remains to be seen whether this is the new normal or if Vancouver is as bad as they looked.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.1
Frei was exactly what was needed against an overmatched opponent: steady and calm. Of the eight shots against him, he was forced into only two saves, but he made those look easy. He was strong in holding a revolving door of defenders in front of him accountable to the shutout.
One thing I liked: Stefan’s two saves came in the 24th and 91st minutes and as we have come to expect, he made these look comfortable. Frei’s positioning requires much more from an opponent than what Vancouver had to offer, and his communication with the defenders helped force everything into easily managed game states.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 7th minute the Whitecaps had a corner kick that Stef slightly misplayed, awkwardly watching it go right over his head and Seattle was lucky that Vancouver also misjudged this cross.
Going forward: Frei is a consistently great goalie who makes things look easier than they often are, and with two shutouts in three games, he’s shown he is in midseason form.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.2
Nouhou has been one of, if not the best player for Seattle in this tournament and he is realizing his potential in front of our eyes. Sixteen defensive actions were part of a virtual blockade, forcing Vancouver to all but abandon attacking Seattle’s left, which was evident by Xavier Arreaga recording zero defensive actions in the left half of the field. Offensively the train had 90 percent passing including a key pass that should have been an assist via a wonderful cross in the 3rd minute. His ability to seamlessly work with Jordan Morris in front of him to completely dominate the left was excellent.
One thing I liked: Nouhou was great all over the field and his pressure in the 14th minute set up the first Seattle goal by earning possession, but there was a glorious Nouhou play in the 22nd minute I absolutely loved. With Vancouver clearing the ball high and long after defending a corner, our hero left back saw Xavier Arreaga in a 1-v-1 against a bouncing ball and took no chances. Nouhou put his head down and sprinted from near the 18-yard box all the way to the center circle to back up Arreaga. Little things like understanding your teammate struggled in a similar play the previous match and not taking for granted the eventual Arreaga header clear are things this refined and mature Nouhou brings.
One thing I didn’t like: One time Nouhou didn’t close quickly enough which led to an okay look from Vancouver, and he will want to improve that against a better opponent.
Going forward: This is a new-Hou and he is utterly dominant, playing well on both sides of the field and making excellent decisions. His consistent positioning pays off for everyone around him.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 68’ for Delem)
Xavier shrugged off a rough outing in the previous match and was a solid central defender against Vancouver. His nine defensive actions complemented a tidy 88 percent passing rate, comfortably defending and transitioning the ball into the midfield without any issues.
One thing I liked: As mentioned, Arreaga had no defensive actions on the left due to the dominance of Nouhou and the defensive midfield. He did have nine in total, though, coming from the middle and the right. His actions on the right were excellent coverage behind both Shane O’Neill and Kelvin Leerdam, often sweeping across with strong decision making to eliminate threats in behind.
One thing I didn’t like: Xavier still tends to charge in, and when he does, his aggression is his undoing. There were a few times when Seattle had the game in hand, and he hadn’t adjusted his physicality level to the game state.
Going forward: This version of Arreaga is terrific and has huge potential, although that potential might have to wait a bit, as the nasty shot to his head may limit his play in the knockout rounds.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 6.2
Due to injury, O’Neill was thrust into the starting lineup against Vancouver and responded excellently. He touched the ball 36 times and used 85 percent passing to move the ball to attackers, while never being badly beat, supporting the right side where the Whitecaps focused their attacks.
One thing I liked: Shane is not flashy or prone to drawing attention to his play, which is exactly what you want from a backup defender. He has a remarkable knack to do the right thing based on excellent positioning and reading of the play. He follows that up with physical challenges and can do everything right if he’s in his comfort zone.
One thing I didn’t like: O’Neill isn’t going to make anyone forget YGA, and that meant Arreaga had to do some babysitting for a lack of pace next to him, but Seattle adjusted well. Shane was badly beat on two set pieces, and the Sounders cannot have a center back losing their marks in those positions.
Going forward: O’Neill looked hurt but played it out and hopefully he’s okay because Seattle needs him. His steady, predictable play is a perfect building point for a defense that just needs to do its job quietly and let the suddenly rejuvenated offense work.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.2 (off 67’ for A. Roldan)
I’ve been waiting the whole tournament for Leerdam to show up and in this match, he did. Defensively he was solid, combining with multiple defenders and midfielders to hold the Vancouver strong side from breaking through. Offensively we finally saw Kelvin join the attack, often with devastatingly good results.
One thing I liked: Three key passes from Kelvin Leerdam! Suddenly this weapon got into the attack with his head up and space and he made the opponents pay, consistently finding teammates in good spots. A slipped through ball and a nifty cross were two of these, but the third was a beautiful over the top ball to Morris in the 7th minute that showed how dynamic he can be when picking out vertical runs.
One thing I didn’t like: Kelvin only had 65 percent passing (by far the worst of the starters) and they were often deep in Seattle territory. Seven stolen/misplayed passes in your own half of the field puts your team in a tough spot.
Going forward: Leerdam can be dominant from a wide position both offensively and defensively, and against Vancouver we saw a path to Seattle leveraging this into success.
Gustav Svensson – 7 | Community – 7.1 (off 90’ for Atencio)
The Goose has been excellent all tourney and this match was more of the same. He completely dominated the midfield, with an astounding seven tackles. These were part of a map dotted with 16 defensive actions that covered most of the field. His passing was on as well, as he roamed the width and breadth of the field and looked to play vertically on many occasions, completing 85 percent.
One thing I liked: In the 19th minute his recovery run saved a Cristian Roldan error, and this was just one example of these two working fluidly together the entire match, making everyone around them successful with their movement and combination.
One thing I didn’t like: There were several chances for Goose to push higher into the attack and lock Vancouver into their own defensive third, and he held back. This was fine from a defensive point of view but the ability to press high is a tool he shouldn’t be afraid of using.
Going forward: With injuries around him, Svensson became a center back for a bit and he looks to be there again Monday. He can do the job well, but this eliminates some of his biggest strengths.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.8
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 — a lot of running with little to show for it.
One thing I liked: The Svensson-Roldan combination in the defensive midfield is an endurance nightmare for all opponents. The Whitecaps couldn’t match their fitness and Seattle just squeezed the life out of the midfield due to these two. Their ability to play off each other’s strengths allowed Cristian forward, where he contributed a shot and a key pass with brilliant 93 percent passing, only missing six all evening.
One thing I didn’t like: I am so used to seeing Roldan look for his buddy Morris that it was jarring when he completely missed a charging JMo in the 52nd minute. Cristian failed to pull the trigger on the long ball to put Jordan into space and Seattle missed out on a chance.
Going forward: Cristian should expect to start in the defensive midfield if Joao Paulo remains out, as his combination with Svensson has been the best so far this season in the middle. He will need to figure out how to balance his defensive responsibilities and assisting the Sounders’ attack.
Jordan Morris – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.9 (MOTM) (off 79’ for Leyva)
This was a dominant match for Morris, who seemed to create chances at will against Vancouver. He led the team with five shots, had two key passes, created a penalty, had an assist (and should have had at least one more), and scored a goal on his own. He made the most of nearly all his 42 touches, and whether it was diving at goal and releasing passes back to teammates or running off the ball and collecting passes to smash into goal, Jordan was fantastic.
One thing I liked: Jordan’s goal shows how far he has come. While he has struggled with all these things over the years, we’ve seen glimpses of a player who can combine in tight spaces with teammates, the guy who can get behind with insane pace, the guy who can shrug off physical challenges casually, and the guy who can finish cleanly when in on goal alone. Now he can put all these together at the same time and it is thrilling.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle had an insane thirty-three pass sequence (told you I would count, Eliot) in this match, and it unfortunately ended with Morris missing a Nouhou overlapping run. ☹
Going forward: This Morris is a player that should strike fear into every guy he plays against and terror into every executive that sees top DP level production from a homegrown guy.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.8
After a few good games the great Lodeiro showed up against Vancouver and was a pure attacking monster all match. His energy and pressure completely befuddled the Whitecaps midfield and Nico was the guy pulling all the strings to create chance after chance for Seattle. He had team highs in touches (90), shots on target (two), and key passes (four), while attempting 11 passes into the box.
One thing I liked: The Lodeiro we have come to expect arrived with authority. Contrary to some wild thoughts from fans that he was on the decline, Nico showed he is nothing of the sort. His passing map is a giant arrow pointing at the Whitecaps goal and he set up chance after chance and popped up to crack off multiple shots as well.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few wild corner kicks and other passes, but it was a 28th minute long ball he didn’t pull the trigger on that was frustrating. Raúl Ruidíaz made a tremendous over the top run and looked free but Lodeiro was unable to see or perform the pass.
Going forward: Any rust we were worried about looks gone. With the defense dealing with injury, Seattle needs Lodeiro to play increasingly well if they hope to continue in the tourney.
Handwalla Bwana – 7 | Community – 6.7 (off 79’ for Hopeau)
Building off a nice substitute appearance, Bwana got the start against Vancouver and rewarded this move with an excellent performance. He was an integral part of Seattle’s attacking movement and was especially adept at creating chances. Three shots, two key passes, and a more effective physicality shone through for Handwalla.
One thing I liked: Against Vancouver, he wasn’t just active, but productive. This meant his inverted central runs found him quality touches and created space for Leerdam, and his wide runs beat players off the dribble and created for others. He popped up in great spots as well, such as his lovely header off a 51st minute corner kick that found the back of the net after a combination of Morris and Ruidíaz.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first five minutes, Nouhou put an excellent cross into the area that dropped right onto Bwana’s head on the six-yard box and he was unable to put it away. Handwalla is an excellent header of the ball, and this looked to be a misjudged jump that prevented a goal.
Going forward: Bwana’s work and combination with others was better than any we have seen on the wing and it’s likely this has earned him continued playing time.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 7.3
Ruidíaz was smooth and efficient against Vancouver, working hard to get into good spaces to attack goal and combine with teammates. His ability to drop centrally and bring Morris into the attack repeatedly ripped the Whitecap defense apart. When he wasn’t backheeling to Jordan, Raúl was pushing into space, getting off four shots and scoring a goal.
One thing I liked: Seeing a goal scorer score is always a good thing, and Raúl’s was a great illustration of his ability to be in the right place at the right time and put the ball in the back of net via superior positioning and reflexes. Ruidíaz looked more relaxed and his play reflected this.
One thing I didn’t like: Some minor decision making in buildup was off on a number of occasions, and prevented Seattle from running the score up any more.
Going forward: A goal scorer needs to feel that rush of scoring, and now that he’s felt it, Raúl is going to be hungry for MOAR.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 67’ for Leerdam)
It’s a luxury to get Leerdam some extra rest, and Roldan came in and did a good job replacing him without conceding. He had 17 touches and kept possession well.
One thing I liked: Roldan was asked to play a different role up 3-0 when he arrived, and he did well to make smart decisions in the attacking third. Although all six of his passes attempted in Vancouver territory were backwards, they were all completed, retaining possession for his team.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex had two failed passes, both deep in Seattle’s own end, and two fouls committed, both in spots that allowed Vancouver to set up dangerous set piece opportunities late.
Going forward: The younger Roldan has caught on as a backup right back and looks suited to the role.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 68’ for Arreaga)
Added to the game after Arreaga’s head injury, Delem came in and the tactics and formation were likely not what he was expecting. He adjusted well, touching the ball 15 times and adding his physical defending presence to the middle of the field. His 11/13 passing was a nice way to keep the ball and the clock moving.
One thing I liked: in the 81st minute Delem did a snazzy spin move on the sideline, completely juking the opponent and allowing him to dribble up the line and out of pressure.
One thing I didn’t like: An unnecessary foul showed Jordy can still get somewhat out of control, committing fouls instead of positioning correctly.
Going forward: Delem should be on the field if Seattle needs to shuffle the back line.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 79’ for Morris)
It was nice to see Leyva out there in the middle, offering his brand of control on the game and allowing a young player some valuable development time.
One thing I liked: Danny might be the best first-time passer on the team, and he displayed this in the 80th minute, redirecting a pass from the width on his first touch back to Frei, alleviating any stress the defense was having clearing the zone.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s hard to rate the Sounders positioning late due to all the subs, but Leyva got sucked forward a couple of times and had to challenge from the side instead of positioning to attack the opponent vertically.
Going forward: Leyva reminded everyone of all that potential, and 88 percent passing and clean touches on the ball should get him in the discussion for more time on a five-player sub rotation.
Shandon Hopeau – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 79’ for Bwana)
Hopeau went from starter to sub, and this role looked more comfortable for him.
One thing I liked: He was a perfect 5/5 passing in a short time on the field.
One thing I didn’t like: He attempted a cross late that was unsuccessful, and he failed to put up any defensive actions on a team holding a lead.
Going forward: Bwana looks to have leapfrogged him in the winger rotation, but that might be a good thing long term as Shandon appeared more comfortable as a bench option.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 90’ for Svensson)
Atencio got his opening taste of first team soccer in a late substitution for the Goose. He didn’t look out of place in the middle, roaming around and getting eight touches in his short stint.
One thing I liked: Playing his first game in the bigs, Josh looked fine. He has come a long way from when he impressed with his tournament play at age 14/15, and it’s cool to see these young players come up and hold their own.
One thing I didn’t like: He had one 95th minute pass that went right to a defender. I am not sure if he didn’t see him or what, but that was a mistake.
Going forward: Seattle has a lot of young talent coming up and Atencio has been under the radar. He held his own with MLS players and this will only help his development, as he gets these small tastes of game time with Seattle up late.
Robert Sibiga – 8 | Community – 6.5
This was the second well-officiated match for Seattle, as Sibiga did a handy job of running the center. He called 20 fouls, added three cards, and did an excellent job moderating the match.
One thing I liked: Everything made sense and was decisive. When there was a foul, he called it immediately. When a card warranted, out it came. The PK was called immediately and assertively. It was nice to see consistent refereeing.
One thing I didn’t like: A couple of fouls late on both sides could have ended up getting more chippy if Vancouver had more fight in them. While this ref did well overall, it might have partially been because of the score differential and it being a low-impact match.
Going forward: Sibiga was an excellent referee for Seattle in 2019 and this was no different. I would be happy to see him in later rounds.
Vancouver Whitecaps FC MOTM
So, Yordy Reyna, I guess? He did manage three shots, all in the second half, and none of which forced Frei into any meaningful action. For my money, though, it was backup goalkeeper Thomas Hasal, who provided a fantastic double save following a poor back pass. Hasal kept the scoreline respectable right as things were about to get out of hand.
Seattle showed up and played very well against Vancouver. Now they’ll have to repeat that with no margin for error for three more matches.