Back in the “regular” season, Seattle played one of their 27 matches against Portland and came away 3-0 winners. The Timbers got to enjoy their MLS IS BACK win for exactly zero matches. The game was close for much of the match, although Seattle had consistently better chances and was able to snowball them into a rout. This clean sheet, multiple-goal, away win against our biggest rival was an incredible start to a schedule that has the Sounders playing six games in 19 days, and vaulted Seattle to second in the Western Conference.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 8.0
Frei had a very busy match, with five saves and 40 touches. Portland has two guys, Sebastian Blanco and Diego Valeri, who shoot somewhat speculatively from anywhere and Stefan did well to stop these and most importantly, prevent any rebound or deflection.
One thing I liked: In the 75th minute Portland had a golden chance to tie the score when Sebastian Blanco got alone behind the defense, but Frei was excellent, sliding to cover the angle and parrying away a hard-struck shot right at him. This was massive, as it was the Timbers’ best chance all night and a goal could have been a huge momentum shift.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei’s distribution was rough, putting Seattle in poor position to move the ball into the attack on several occasions. The 29th and 65th minute kicks went straight into the stands, while 67th and 76th minute passes were worse, directly to Portland.
Going forward: Frei again struggled with footwork and distribution out of the back, even though he wasn’t pressed a lot. This is something to work on, but the important stat is that Seattle conceded zero.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 6.6 (off 81’ for Bruin)
Jones did a nice job controlling possession, showing off an 89 percent passing completion rate. He had seven recoveries, nearly all in the first half, in a defense-and-ball-control heavy shift at left back before moving to a wide offensive position.
One thing I liked: After being shut down and passing backwards in the first half, around minute 55 Jones turned it on, showing his silky-smooth service into the box in the 55th and 62nd and earning an assist in the 72nd. His ability to create from the wing was instrumental in providing Raúl Ruidíaz enough chances to force one in.
One thing I didn’t like: Jones earned a start by playing well for 20 minutes in the MLS IS BACK tournament and followed that up with another solid 20 against Portland. Unfortunately, that started about 55 minutes into the match, when Joevin was finally able to get forward and influence the game offensively. Prior to that he was continually victimized by giving too much space on defense for inverted wingers and mostly contributed to the offense by passing back to Shane O’Neill.
Going forward: Jones seems to play if he is healthy, and he is healthy.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 6.7
O’Neill was pressed into another start this season with the injury to Xavier Arreaga, and he did a good job filling in. His 10 defensive actions came in a variety of ways including: two each tackles, interceptions, clearances, and blocked shots.
One thing I liked: On numerous occasions Shane snuffed out promising attacks that had bypassed Jones and gotten in behind. In the 22nd and 25th O’Neill had excellent plays behind Joevin, each time sliding across to cut off the ball, bypass the attacker, and clear forward. This showed excellent vision and anticipation in critical moments, as well as a confidence in his speed and positioning.
One thing I didn’t like: The lowlights might be his missed defensive headers (this is a repetitive issue with Shane), but I was much more disappointed in his positioning throughout. He isn’t a fast player, but he was constantly two to three yards behind the rest of his line, and even in possession, Yeimar Gómez Andrade had to consistently drop the ball to his center back compatriot. This positioning error manifested itself again and again, from keeping people onside in the 38th minute to slowing attacks for most of the match. It was a mess and there was clearly a communication issue or lack of confidence to be on the same page as the rest of the defense.
Going forward: O’Neill had some poor play surrounded by a lot of solid but unspectacular defense, which is an excellent tool to have as a depth piece but nothing exemplary. He will need to shore up his positioning and team communication to be a long-term fix.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.1
Seeing how strong Andrade played against Portland shows what a big loss his injury in the prior tournament was. He was consistently strong on defense, recording 14 defensive actions and supporting a ton of area, ranging forward but remaining capable of recovering quickly. He had five clearances, three interceptions, two tackles and two aerials won in a very comprehensive defensive display.
One thing I liked: I struggled to find errors in his play, which is exactly what you want to see from a defender. His ability to recover quickly for a man of his size is impressive.
One thing I didn’t like: Communication was a little off, at least once getting mixed up with Frei charging out and on other occasions being on a completely different line than O’Neill.
Going forward: Everything I’ve seen in his brief Sounders career to date is holding — Yeimar looks like he has Jamison Olave+ potential in a similar size, speed, and strength comparison to another standout MLS player. That is incredibly high praise and we will have to see how it goes, but the potential is clearly there.
Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 7.1
Leerdam seemed to be having a quiet match, with five defensive actions and no tangible results on a few offensive forays in the first 80 minutes or so. He completed 75 percent of his passes and did a good job helping YGA limit Portland to a few speculative long shots. Then Kelvin found another gear, popping up on the offensive side of the ball and eventually scoring a goal, again proving he has an impeccable nose for the net.
One thing I liked: Leerdam consistently looks for the early over the top line-breaking pass to Ruidíaz, and he repeatedly found excellent windows for attempting diagonal passes into the center forward. They weren’t successful but were so important to keeping the Timbers’ center backs honest in defending Ruidíaz, which paid off late for Raúl and Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: Shortly after Seattle took the lead Leerdam almost gave it all back, misplaying an over the top pass to Blanco, who (to his credit) trapped the long ball perfectly and was in on goal with only Frei to beat. Spoiler: he didn’t beat Frei :D
Going forward: Leerdam is one of the players who has struggled on short rest, so it was a bit of a surprise to see him go a full 90 with another game up soon. If the Sounders can limit his wear and tear over the fixture congestion, look for him to keep popping up on the backside in great spots for goals.
Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.5
For the second straight game I thought Svensson looked rusty. Playing his second match with João Paulo this season, Goose looked a little off, finding himself in some difficult positions and not imposing his will as much as we are used to. All that being said, he was still very effective, settling in with 68 touches, 91 percent passing and a few timely defensive plays.
One thing I liked: Once Svensson and JP were on the same page, everything centrally for Portland dried out. They were excellent in forcing everything wide and into less dangerous areas, and this greatly influenced the lack of good chances for the Timbers.
One thing I didn’t like: It took some time to get into sync in the middle and there were a number of big whiffs defensively that Seattle was lucky not to be punished by. Oh, and he missed a six-yard half volley that could have been a goal. ☹
Going forward: Svensson was much better than against LAFC, but still didn’t look to be the dominant force he was last fall. This is important to fix as the center defensive mid pairing is still in flux and it’s essential that the team finds consistency there.
Joao Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 74’ for Nouhou)
Perhaps overshadowed by the game flow, Joao Paulo had an outstanding game. From a pure stats perspective he was monstrous, with 12 actions across the defensive side of the field, multiple dribbles and fouls created, and 85 percent passing all over the pitch.
One thing I liked: While he was quietly racking up defensive stats, I was most impressed by JP’s vision. He consistently connected in various ways, from quick short passes through the middle to spraying wide looks over the top. One was his 43rd minute curling ball from the deep left defensive corner to Leerdam up the right width. This wasn’t just a diagonal ball that switched the point of attack, it was a curling ball into the run of the right back that cut out the left defensive flank and created a break in the defensive line that led to an immediate cross into the box.
One thing I didn’t like: It took a while for Gustav and João Paulo to get on the same page, and even late in the match there were still some communication errors. JP having more defensive actions than Svensson likely isn’t how the coaches intended the pairing to work.
Going forward: This was a promising appearance from a player who has pressure to produce. Seattle hasn’t had a playmaker from this position and while it’s exciting to see what might occur, the DP tag and short season mean we will be expecting more as we move forward.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 81’ for Bwana)
Morris never really got his legs under him against Portland. The home team sat back and defended very compactly, failing to be pulled apart for most of the match, and this limited the times Morris could use his speed to get around the edge. He kept working, contributing seven defensive actions and creating a key pass within his stellar 92 percent passing.
One thing I liked: There were so many little things that just ooze class and poise from Jordan. In a sequence of plays he charged forward to stretch the Timbers, then recovered to support Jones defensively and then got forward again to have a deft little first-time touch to Ruidíaz that nearly gave Seattle an early goal.
One thing I didn’t like: His 35 touches were fewer than Frei (40) and half of what Shane O’Neill had. This is a problem for a player as good as Morris. While he didn’t touch the ball much, he was a little too cute when he did, backheeling to no one and in the 68th minute passing up on an open shot in the box to instead misplay a pass to Ruidíaz.
Going forward: Morris again had a match where he failed to impose himself on the game but this time, he was strong in support of teammates, and the consistent pressure from the left side of Seattle’s attack eventually broke through. Seeing him continue to develop is exciting.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 7.0
Lodeiro did a ton of running, at times holding the entire center of Seattle’s shape all by himself. As usual he led the game with 92 touches and he was diligent about getting the ball to others in good positions, but with only a single key pass during his 78 percent completion rate, Lodeiro couldn’t influence the score.
One thing I liked: Throughout it all Nico ran his ass off and worked hard to combine with teammates. Especially exciting were the times that João Paulo got into the attack and combined through the middle, with their obvious skill level shining through as they passed and moved effortlessly together. These two also shared corner kick duty, splitting attempts and showing a nice change of pace in delivery style.
One thing I didn’t like: There were several times Nico just missed passes we are accustomed to him making. One saw Lodeiro miss a full speed Morris up the right wing on a give-and-go and instead recycle possession to the opposite side.
Going forward: It’s Nico Lodeiro and we expect more than average MLS play. The good news is he looks better and cleaner with his touch than the last time we saw him, and that is often an indicator of fitness — something needed with multiple games every week.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 87’ for A. Roldan)
Roldan was quiet out on the right wing and much of what he did was overshadowed by the people around him playing a little better. Cristian wasn’t bad, but he had 84 percent passing and no shots, no key passes, and was unable to create much offense from a wide attacking position.
One thing I liked: Even though Roldan wasn’t doing it on the offensive end, he still had 13 defensive actions from the width, a massive number for a winger and something that clearly allowed Leerdam and JP to explore the right side in attack.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle needs offense from the width, and for much of the game Portland did a good job limiting this. It’s rare that a Cristian Roldan match doesn’t see him break open the field a few times as his superior fitness and desire create opportunity, but there weren’t a lot of highs or lows from this performance. It was a bit surprising to see him sub, no matter how late in the match it was.
Going forward: Roldan is apparently the odd man out in a two-man defensive midfield although there is plenty of fixture congestion upcoming to see where they all land. Cristian is so good at nearly every position he plays that it’s likely he’ll play every game, just unclear where.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM) (off 87’ for Ibarra)
The Portland defense was tight, and they were perfectly willing to stack defenders and hope for a set piece or transition goal. So, you just wonder how this single little forward is going to have any hope of touching the ball. And then Ruidíaz shows you that he only needs the smallest of touches to put the ball on frame, and when he does that five times (easily game high) it’s going to result in goals. This was an example of how good Ruidíaz is at maximizing every run and movement to not only create those few inches of separation needed, but finish within them. He ended up putting three on frame and finished with two goals and an assist while completing 88 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: Raúl’s second goal showed such poise, something he continually showcases in big moments. After getting the ball in behind, there was much work to do and he was up for it. Larrys Mabiala was frantically trying to make up for his mistake by fouling Ruidíaz, who shrugged off the guy 50 pounds heavier to somehow keep his balance (Mabiala rather hilariously fell down) and lifted a perfectly weighted Obafemi Martins-esque finish over goalkeeper Steve Clark to double the lead.
One thing I didn’t like: Ruidíaz missed a couple of shots he usually puts on frame — a 67th minute flick that just missed should have opened the scoring in this match. If I am being greedy, I would have been absolutely thrilled if he had first-timed Morris’s flick in the 15th minute for a goal of the year candidate.
Going forward: We can nitpick Raúl’s almost-goals but he was integral in three real ones and earned MOTM. He looked much cleaner in his touches and movement than in Florida, and having a dangerous bench option means he’ll likely see time in multiple games a week.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 74’ for Joao Paulo)
Nouhou came in and was about 20 miles an hour too fast for the game, although he eventually settled down. His 78 percent passing and 12 touches were part of a rocky appearance.
One thing I liked: Nouhou got into the attack in the 77th minute and earned a dangerous free kick for his team.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou got into the defense in the 79th minute and conceded a dangerous free kick against his team.
Going forward: I don’t know if Nouhou was benched or what, but he was so good in Florida that it’s likely he sees a lot of time in the next few weeks even if not starting.
Handwalla Bwana – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 81’ for Morris)
Bwana subbed on quietly but had a few decent plays to get on the stat sheet.
One thing I liked: A nice line of one shot (on target) and a key pass in 16 minutes was some offense late and nearly all his passes were attempted forward. He was composed to find his shot and linked well with Will Bruin to close it out.
One thing I didn’t like: 71 percent passing from a sub in only 16 touches isn’t great, and at least one was in a rough spot defensively central.
Going forward: Bwana was ostensibly subbed to bring some offense to the game and Seattle scored a couple right after he entered, so that worked excellently. With central defensive midfielders and left backs bleeding into wide midfield positions, Handwalla must keep producing to stay relevant on a deep team.
Will Bruin – 7 | Community – 7.3 (on 81’ for Jones)
Will Bruin has twice subbed into matches since his return and both times has had incredibly positive, instant impact. Portland had no answer for his size and effort, and Will expertly flicked on pass after pass to Ruidíaz running on, which forced mistakes and ultimately goals.
One thing I liked: The connection from Bruin to Ruidíaz was excellent, and those two created dynamic chances instantly upon Will’s insertion. I especially like Bruin combining with both feet and head to keep possession, and every touch had direct, important purpose.
One thing I didn’t like: Bruin had a chance to score in the 83rd and didn’t hesitate, forcing out a nice save from Clark. It’s a shame, as he deserved to be on the score sheet with all the work he did in only nine touches yet ended with no goals or assists.
Going forward: Will Bruin is a tremendous bench option who brings energy and, more importantly, results to this team that desperately needs a spark at times.
Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 87’ for Ruidiaz)
I honestly forgot Ibarra was on the team and didn’t realize during live watch that he played in this game.
One thing I liked: He’s alive!
One thing I didn’t like: Apparently, Miguel played six minutes? He didn’t record a touch or stat of any kind, so I’m not sure it’s true.
Going forward: This guy had about five good chances to score in the season opener eight years ago in March, and since then I don’t know what happened. With fixture congestion, maybe he’ll get another chance to show what he can add.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 88’ for C. Roldan)
I thought Lamar Neagle had subbed in when the younger Roldan entered, as he looks much bigger/stronger than I was used to seeing. He brought a lot of energy, but not much else.
One thing I liked: A 93rd minute trap on a long cross-field pass was just beautiful, and every game there’s a little thing that shows me Alex’s ceiling is creeping up.
One thing I didn’t like: 50 percent passing isn’t great.
Going forward: I’ve been impressed with Alex Roldan this year and I think he’ll get some time backing up Leerdam.
Jair Marrufo – 6 | Community – 7.0
Seattle’s last two matches were refereed by Marrufo, and it’s a compliment to how “mostly” clean Portland played that this one was better. Jair always lets a lot go (too much, imo), and for once a team playing Seattle didn’t completely abuse this style of refereeing by creating a desolate midfield wasteland of hacks and fouls.
One thing I liked: A combination of the AR’s and VAR team made two critical offsides calls that rightly removed goals, and these were great calls from the team of officials.
One thing I didn’t like: As per usual Marrufo let a lot go, only calling 18 total fouls. Does anyone really think Diego Chara only committed a single foul all match? Speaking of that foul, it was a tactical foul after Lodeiro nutmegged a guy in the 40th minute and deserved a yellow. I would also have given Blanco a yellow for a nasty foul well after the play in the 28th and Bill Tuiloma a card for leaving his cleats up after a late tackle on JP in the 30th.
Going forward: It’s nothing new with this ref. When playing teams willing to hack the midfield to ruin counters, there’s nothing Seattle can do and it’s up to them to adjust. In relatively clean (for this series) matches, Marrufo’s style allows teams to play, and this was one of those times.
Portland Timbers MOTM
Diego Chara held the Seattle attack at bay for 70 minutes, and for that, he should be commended. His two way play helped Portland keep things interesting, particularly in the opening half, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
No time to celebrate a victory over our rivals, as we have the big bad LAG midweek, and they are coming off rather soundly beating their crosstown rival LAFC. The Galaxy have looked mostly awful all season, so it remains to be seen whether the team that won last weekend is who they are.