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Seattle Sounders vs. LAFC: Player ratings

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João Paulo continues to grow into his role in the heart of Seatte’s midfield.

After Seattle’s throttling of their previous opponent, LAFC was expected to put up a tougher test, and they did – but it still wasn’t enough against the division-leading Sounders. The 3-0 final score line was appropriate, as an opportunistic Seattle offense looked dangerous when necessary, and the resurgent defensive unit shut down what had been the top scoring offense in the league. The first half saw the Sounders with some great chances through buildup, but LAFC dominated possession in the second half. This defensive group only allowed two shots on goal, both mundane, to keep a deserved clean sheet. Seattle consistently forced LAFC into suboptimal wide play and low-percentage, speculative attempts, and their possession advantage didn’t matter.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.3

LAFC hasn’t had a hard time scoring this season, and a shutout against them is a definite accomplishment. Frei led the back line in keeping stout, limiting the away team from getting concrete chances, instead forcing play back and into traffic. This clean sheet was well deserved, as the entire back group played compact, organized defense.

One thing I liked: Frei looked very comfortable against LAFC and it showed with his short goal kicks and decision making throughout. Frei’s shown marked improvement in the last few matches and did an excellent job finding comfortable passes to teammates. When needed, he caught the ball in traffic or punched wide and his complete control of his area was evident.

One thing I didn’t like: LAFC scored an offside goal in the 14th minute, which could have changed the game. It was rightly disallowed, but Frei saved the ball right to the middle of the field and an open opponent, instead of shunting it wide. He will want to clean that up a bit.

Going forward: It’s nice to see Stefan get deserved clean sheets. He’ll need to watch for the upcoming opponent’s propensity to shoot often from long distance, which creates plenty of deflections and other shenanigans.

Defense

Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.6

This defensive unit played brilliantly against a team with plenty of weapons. Nouhou did his part by completely shutting down attacks on his wing and freeing Jordan Morris to concentrate on pinching in and stretching the defense. LAFC gave up attacking down his side after switching their wing attackers back and forth probing for weaknesses.

One thing I liked: Nouhou’s defense removed Brian Rodríguez and Diego Rossi from the match when they came to his side, and he was still playing crushing defense in the 90th minute, earning a goal kick with a strong challenge. He ended with a massive 20 defensive actions, stonewalling his side of the field, including a game-high six tackles as well as five clearances. This was a dominant defensive showing.

One thing I didn’t like: With Brad Smith arriving, there is pressure for Nouhou to do more than solid defense. While he did have a great 16th minute pass up the wing to Morris, Nouhou struggled in the big offensive moments. Notably in the 12th, when Nouhou got into space needing only a cross to find Raúl Ruidíaz for a goal, he put the pass behind his striker. It wasn’t an easy pass, but you expect a fullback in this offense to make it, and he didn’t.

Going forward: The defense shuts out teams when Nouhou plays, and that is great for his résumé. With Smith arriving, however, it’s the potential upside of a more offensively-polished player that might push Nouhou to the bench.

Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.8

Arreaga had another excellent outing and is starting to show the defensive consistency that most expected at the start of the season. His positioning was strong, his passing (70 percent) was direct and aggressive, and he had an impressive 18 defensive actions, clogging the middle and denying LAFC time and again with strong tackles and instinctive anticipation.

One thing I liked: This was the player we were expecting, the guy who consistently stepped up to stuff attacks and used his quickness to get into passing lanes and deny anything from the attackers. In the 35th minute he showed off this defense and combined it to release Joevin Jones up the wing, combining some excellent two-way play.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 67th minute he inexplicably gave away a pass directly to LAFC, and he had several passes that were too risky. His vision opens our team to attack more efficiently, but not when he immediately turns over the ball.

Going forward: Staff now trust Arreaga to start, and the last few matches demonstrate why.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.5

Yeimar was his usual dominant self, pushing up high and physically ruling his defensive areas. He ended with an impressive 20 defensive actions, ranging from sideline to sideline and matching LAFC’s speed with speed and strength in an imposing performance.

One thing I liked: YGA showed up everywhere defensively. He started in the 10th minute, popping up all the way on the left sideline to defend behind both Nouhou and Arreaga, and he continued displaying this fantastic range all night to snuff out any pocket LAFC found.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 57th minute he had a handball in the box, but since it wasn’t Arreaga he wasn’t called for a PK and then vilified for weeks and told he should be sold and Seattle play a defensive midfielder in his position. Still, he should be careful there.

Going forward: Andrade is the best center back in the league. FIFA agrees with me.

Kelvin Leerdam – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 88’ for Ibarra)

Leerdam came back to earth offensively against LAFC, failing to score or assist, but played excellent defense to the tune of 18 actions.

One thing I liked: Outside backs can’t be judged purely on their offensive numbers and we should remember that Kelvin can be an excellent defender. He was a big part of the defensive effort that bent-but-didn’t-break. An especially important defensive moment came in the 73rd when Leerdam slid across to clear the ball and prevent a back-post goal for LAFC, displaying excellent concentration.

One thing I didn’t like: In an ongoing struggle, Kelvin is not on the same page with his defensive back line enough. On multiple occasions he kept or nearly kept opponents onside while not in sync with his teammates, and he needs to tighten that up some.

Going forward: I don’t think Leerdam is done scoring, especially if Smith is playing soon.

Defensive Midfield

Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.2

Roldan again got the start in the middle of the field and again showed excellent ability to combine with João Paulo and control the match through the middle. His job was more of a holding midfielder and destroyer combination, as he looked to break up attacks in the left central defensive channel as well as combine quickly through the middle. Roldan’s work rate and combination play were fantastic, allowing Seattle to get numbers into the attack.

One thing I liked: Cristian had one of the quietest 20 action defensive outings I have seen, and he was all over the place. Time and again he showed up to support the right side, and his defensive work rate allowed João Paulo to roam even further ahead and impact both sides of the field.

One thing I didn’t like: Roldan had 74 percent passing but wasn’t able to get into the attack or find teammates going forward much. He usually has a good eye for cross field passes to open up the width but couldn’t find success in this game.

Going forward: I don’t know what this means for Gustav Svensson, but the Sounders have an interesting dilemma on their hands with depth across all lines of the field right now.

João Paulo – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.3 (MOTM)

Pairing João Paulo with Roldan has unlocked his potential these last few games, and it has been an absolute joy to see the Brazilian show incredible two-way play. He is everywhere on the field, dominating the ball with a team-high 75 touches and linking up though the middle to create offensive advantages while still hustling back to provide over a dozen defensive actions. He created a game-sealing goal against the run of play by refusing to give up on a scrum well into the attacking third late in the game. His effort and intensity to be everywhere combined with his technical ability to do everything right is off the charts.

One thing I liked: I never thought we’d see another player with Nico’s endurance and ability, and certainly not on the same team. JP is cut from the same cloth, merging incredible touch and skill with unstoppable desire and a motor that doesn’t quit. It’s amazing to watch. He adds so much to the center of the field and allows us to play through the middle, perhaps our only weakness.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 67th minute João took a first-time shot off a corner clearance that would likely have ripped a hole through the net, it was hit so hard. It’s a shame this didn’t score, because that was an absolute rocket.

Going forward: Our defensive midfielder had a shot, an assist, led the team with three key passes, and an 80 percent pass completion rate while blanketing the field both offensively and defensively. Watch out, MLS.

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.8 (off 87’ for O’Neill)

This was a quiet match for Morris, who is clearly able to drop multiple goal+assist games on just about any team in this league. He did well to combine with teammates and connected on 74 percent passing with two key passes, but he was unable to affect the scoreboard in a performance that for Jordan, was just average.

One thing I liked: No matter how quiet a match he has, you must always account for Morris. When LAFC forgot about him in the 79th, he popped up on a long cross-field diagonal run to get a ball and immediately feed across for Ruidíaz, who should have scored. It only takes a heartbeat for him to change games.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 6th minute Morris found a wide-open header on a corner kick and missed it badly. He doesn’t get a large number of chances and needs to take advantage of the big ones he creates.

Going forward: Jordan did a lot of little things defensively to help his team in a game where he didn’t feature as the star attacker. That’s great news for the future, as he remains impactful when not walking through defenses to score.

Nicolás Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 8.0

Lodeiro did many small things exceedingly well against LAFC. His movement and activity constantly created pockets for Seattle to operate in. He didn’t touch the ball the most on the team, settling for 68 on the night, but he took two penalty kicks and put each one in the net for a lead that the defense never relinquished.

One thing I liked: Nico is now 14-14 in PKs as a Sounder and that’s pretty damn good. His spot kicks have always gone in, not always looking pretty, but his 29th minute penalty to put Seattle on the board was absolutely perfect, an unstoppable blast that went off the post and in.

One thing I didn’t like: LAFC is one of the teams that plays very physical central defense. Their defensive midfield and fullbacks took turns beating up on Nico; unfortunately, a down side of all his movement and touches is receiving a lot of hacks.

Going forward: Lodeiro will need to be in top form to beat the next opponent, and his connection with JP through the middle looks incredibly promising. This combination is also splitting set pieces, which have improved as a result.

Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 71’ for A. Roldan)

Jones had an acceptable letdown from running rampant last week. His game against LAFC was much more possession-based, and he struggled to be a creative spark. He didn’t do anything particularly exciting on either side of the ball. He only completed 70 percent on the night, but his misses were aggressive, vertical passes while his completions were mostly safe, short, square passes.

One thing I liked: Jones’ ability to hold the ball in traffic is perhaps the best on the team. It’s impressive to see him glide around with people trying to take the ball from him, and he used this on several occasions as he slid centrally.

One thing I didn’t like: Only three defensive actions meant Roldan often needed to come over and support on the right of the defense.

Going forward: The idea that Jones would repeat his transcendent prior match was quite hopeful, but we can expect him to perform well in the next match from a wide offensive spot.

Forward

Raúl Ruidíaz – 8 | Community – 7.9 (off 90’ for Bruin)

Ruidíaz had his typical match. Seemingly starved of service, you thought he was marked out of the match. He only touched the ball 21 times in the entire game and didn’t attempt a pass after the 65th minute. It didn’t matter, as he came alive late with a 79th minute shot that nearly scored, followed up by a jaw-dropping goal to put the match away in the 82nd.

One thing I liked: The degree of difficulty on Raúl’s goal was sky high. He touched the ball, controlled, and hit off the half-volley in three lightning quick touches, all with his off foot (does he have an off foot?) while navigating around two defenders to beat a keeper near post. Oh, and he also hit it so hard with his left and all his weight and momentum leaning the other way that the ball sailed almost perfectly straight into the goal. Magix?

One thing I didn’t like: Right before he iced the game, Morris gave Ruidíaz a nearly perfect ball that needed a touch and finish and Raúl fumbled the touch, allowing a defender and the keeper to recover.

Going forward: I’m sure he wants the ball more, but Raúl doesn’t need it to dominate the scoreboard. It’s amazing.

Substitutes

Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 71’ for Jones)

Alex Roldan was the first sub on the field, and he was a defense-first winger who forgot what was second.

One thing I liked: His four defensive actions combined a lot of hustle and helpful defending down his wing. He consistently supported the defense and looks calm and capable.

One thing I didn’t like: Alex’s 33 percent passing was awful. He didn’t have many chances, but needs to be better.

Going forward: The younger Roldan is a trusted wide player who offers some competent, athletic defending, and that’s what he should be expected to bring.

Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 87’ for Morris)

O’Neill came in to show LAFC what five in the back looks like.

One thing I liked: 100 percent passing! (1/1).

One thing I didn’t like: Shane sometimes gets sucked high up the field, chasing checking runs way too far, especially when defending a solid lead.

Going forward: I am not sure why the subs were when they were, or why they were who they were, or why there were four and not five.

Miguel Ibarra – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 88’ for Leerdam)

Ibarra reminded everyone that he exists by subbing on late to give goal-scoring right back Kelvin Leerdam two extra minutes of rest.

One thing I liked: 100 percent passing! (1/1).

One thing I didn’t like: I don’t know whether he knew where he was playing; I sure didn’t. Unless by chance he was put in to play central midfielder, which is where he ended up.

Going forward: Same as O’Neill comment.

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 90’ for Ruidiaz)

Will Bruin made an appearance so Ruidíaz could get a nice curtain call from the zero fans that packed the stands. He did touch the ball once!

One thing I liked: Congrats to Will and his wife for their upcoming baby arrival :D

One thing I didn’t like: By far the fewest passes completed on the team! (0/0)

Going forward: Same as O’Neill and Ibarra comments.

Referee

Joseph Dickerson – 7 | Community – 6.8

Seattle hasn’t had this referee a lot and he was a pleasant change from the usual villains. Dickerson did a solid job. Most of his calls made sense, and his VAR team did an outstanding job as well, which combined to be a well reffed match with a few things that could have been improved.

One thing I liked: Having a good VAR team and using it is a skill, and this referee leaned on his entire staff all night. They correctly called for a penalty on a handball as well as confirmed an offside on an earlier call. When faced with a decision that would give a second penalty in quick succession, Dickerson made an on the spot, assertive call that was completely correct.

One thing I didn’t like: Once upon a time the media told me that LAFC plays beautiful flowing soccer, but that’s a damn lie. Nearly every single time Seattle got through there were off-ball fouls, hacks behind the play, tactical obstruction, etc. It’s telling that Seattle’s defensive midfield and outside backs combined to be called for three fouls, and LAFC’s 11. Especially egregious was Latif Blessing, who had five fouls committed with at least three more that were either behind the ball or advantage no-calls. He never received a card.

Going forward: This was a strong referee who only needed to clean up a persistent fouls issue to be one of the better ones we have seen all year.

LAFC MOTM

Eduard Atuesta subbed in at half and LAFC immediately looked more like themselves. He was able to alter the central midfield dynamics, and Seattle spent the third quarter essentially pinned in their own half.


We play some team later this week. I hope we win.