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Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Player ratings

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Sounders drop points at home to their biggest rival.

The Sounders returned to Seattle and brought some heavy legs. Playing their biggest rival, the home team looked exhausted and played rather uninspiring soccer, ultimately losing 2-1. The game had few exciting parts, but Seattle definitely had chances to win or at least split points. Instead a few key defensive breakdowns and offensive ineffectiveness led to their first loss since the season restarted. This match resembled some of the poor showings in Florida in July.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)

Frei was fine in this match, although Seattle lost. Portland plays the completely mundane counter-attacking style that has been so successful in MLS, and they are proficient at maximizing their few chances. As usual the Timbers created three to four good attempts all match on eight shots and Stef was unable to deny enough to help his team’s anemic offense.

One thing I liked: A 50th minute save was the highlight for Frei as he denied Portland on a point-blank shot after Yeimar Gómez Andrade had a mis-control deep within his own area.

One thing I didn’t like: Distribution, especially early, was a complete mess as Frei looked short and to guys wearing the wrong jersey twice in the first 10 minutes. There were too many back passes that Frei had to struggle with, and against a team that gives you possession to the degree that Portland does, Seattle should not give it right back.

Going forward: Frei was amazing a single match ago, but even he can’t be asked to save the kinds of shots that Portland scored on.

Defense

Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 5.4 (off 81’ for Nouhou)

Jones was much improved from his last few matches but was still unable to do much more than be a wall to pass the ball off of. His passing completion rate was a fantastic 99 percent (64/65) on passes short, square, safe, or backwards. Of the six he attempted toward or into the box, he completed only one.

One thing I liked: Joevin had a great dribble to the middle of the field in the 40th minute that showed his ability to drive to space with pace and get past defenders before laying off the ball to a teammate. I wish we could see much, much more of this.

One thing I didn’t like: When Jones gets into an advanced attacking position, he should be more involved instead of chunking in hopeful crosses. More importantly, after Sounders lose possession, Joevin must hustle back defensively, as the number of times he walked back and watched was infuriating. He had a massive 13 recoveries from these wide positions, showing how often he’s trailing plays.

Going forward: This was an adequate possession and defensive job from Joevin, who will likely continue to start.

Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 89’ for Bwana)

O’Neill got another start but this time struggled to do much more than fill space, and with a little more help that might have been enough. It wasn’t, though, and Seattle seemed quite limited on the defensive left. He completed a single vertical pass all match, and all his 88 percent completed passes were around the horseshoe or back to Frei (or both!).

One thing I liked: In the 41st minute O’Neill stepped up nicely around Jeremy Ebobisse to steal the ball and keep possession in the attacking half. Joevin didn’t do Shane many favors defensively, and O’Neill did a good job drifting over to support. He ended with nine defensive actions.

One thing I didn’t like: Both goals against were times where Shane had a chance to get tight and mark a player but dropped off. One way to offset his foot speed issues to is be in better position and use his body more, both things that he struggles to do.

Going forward: Clearly Schmetzer prefers a consistent, methodical player on the back-left and Seattle needs to have strong positional defensive midfielders to support.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 5.6

Yeimar was again strong, showing a plethora of skills on both sides of the ball. His defending was stout, and he had 15 defensive actions all over the field, showing his great range from sideline to sideline as he supported nearly everywhere in the Seattle half.

One thing I liked: YGA defended well and converted his defense into offense by looking vertical with passes in the 5th, 16th, 42nd, and 66th. His ability to step up to deny counters and make good decisions immediately after is superb.

One thing I didn’t like: He has a bad habit of diving in on defense with no (or slow) support. This has happened a few times this year and while his aggressiveness is great, he must make better decisions when players around him are caught upfield. There is too much risk to jump passing lanes, and he would be better off playing defense first on those occasions.

Going forward: YGA is the rock on the back line and his impact is being felt across the defense as his range and instincts are allowing others greater mobility.

Kelvin Leerdam – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.6

Leerdam got some rest last match and looked lively against Portland. He had a ton of touches (78) and most of them were in the attacking half. He turned this aggressive positioning into a team-high three key passes and when others failed to do it, shoved a goal into the back of the net himself.

One thing I liked: Leerdam strikes a half volley well, and he got all of the ball in the 42nd minute. Steve Clark had no chance and it’s nice to see Kelvin again having a nose for the open space, finding the ball, and most importantly finishing cleanly.

One thing I didn’t like: The backline defense was again out of whack and an 83rd minute offside trap failed in multiple ways, with Leerdam holding Felipe Mora on for the winning goal. The defense must be better in key moments like this.

Going forward: When he plays like this, Leerdam is one of the few Sounders who can find the 48th minute over the top pass that nearly put Raúl Ruidíaz in alone. Rest made a difference.

Defensive Midfield

Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.4 (off 62’ for Bruin)

Delem had an actual defensive midfield partner in this match and did well staying deep and covering the back line. He didn’t touch the ball much but did a lot of positional defense, continually denying Portland’s central players to push into the gaps behind Nico.

One thing I liked: His job was to defend and let João Paulo roam and I thought he excelled in exactly that. Seattle needs creativity from the middle and Delem sat deep and patrolled in between the Sounders lines of confrontation.

One thing I didn’t like: Jordy is a defense first guy and it’s rare to see him make an adventurous pass. This led to great 92 percent completion rate but there were too many times he had a chance to make an incisive or attacking pass and chose to go safe and square. He didn’t complete a single attacking pass and only attempted two.

Going forward: This is what you get from Delem when he plays — strong defense that denies the opposing team much of anything but limited lethal offense.

João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.1

João Paulo was very strong for much of this game but had some large mistakes and struggled to connect when it mattered most. He ended up with a massive 99 touches, 87 percent passing and a single shot attempt. Leaving much of the defense to Delem, he had six notable actions, mostly recoveries as he came back to support.

One thing I liked: The variability he brings to the team is dynamic and refreshing. Simple things like corner kicks are now multi-faceted attacking chances, with JP and Nico both able to take them or combine on short corners to constantly change the point of attack in ways we have never had here in Seattle.

One thing I didn’t like: On multiple occasions JP lost vertical runners, which directly led to Portland scoring. This has been an issue with Seattle in the past so it’s hard to blame him alone, but especially on the first goal João was caught diving in on defense and the team paid when he missed.

Going forward: Seattle needs his creativity and strong attacking mind. There seems to be a large learning curve as he and the team figure each other out, similar to when Nico arrived.

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 81’ for Ibarra)

Morris was active this match but still struggled to get the ball in good spaces, and again wasn’t on the same page as Jones behind him in any sort of combination play. Jordan ended with a few shots and a key pass and won a surprising four aerial challenges.

One thing I liked: Morris fades into the background sometimes, and in the 79th finally got the ball in space and immediately forced Chris Duvall into a yellow card foul as Jordan RRBH. Also notable was a fantastic 58th minute recovery; Jordan sprinted back into his own half for a crucial play defensively.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 40th minute Nico put Morris in free on goal needing only a first-time pass or control pass to Ruidíaz for a tap-in. Jordan trapped a bit long and then shot on goal himself, only to be saved by Clark.

Going forward: Jordan appeared to be heating up, having several strong offensive plays immediately prior to subbing out. This was a confusing sub, as Morris usually looks hurt/tired but this time he looked completely invigorated and active, yet was replaced.

Nicolás Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.0

Lodeiro did all the things he usually does. He had by far the most touches on the field (113) and completed 86 percent of his passes. He converted three of those passes into key passes and had a shot as well. Lodeiro had a surprisingly strong four tackles, to go with eight recoveries defensively in a well rounded match.

One thing I liked: He is again finding those masterful passes that unlock defenses, like his 33rd over the top to Ruidíaz and a nifty ball in the 40th that split Portland apart and saw Morris and Raúl through on goal together.

One thing I didn’t like: Other than the passes mentioned above, Nico failed to get his team into the box, and he was unable to complete any other passes into the area.

Going forward: Nico looked tired, like many teammates. It’s hard to call his effort low, as he still runs a ton and creates most of the Sounders attack, but this whole team needs a break.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.3

Speaking of needing a break, Roldan looked exhausted nearly all match. He didn’t complete passes that he is used to completing, and he was unable to affect the match as he usually can. This showed in his actions, as Roldan was visibly frustrated. Somehow, through all this he still impacted the game positively.

One thing I liked: Even tired, Cristian managed two key passes, two shots, two aerials won, and eight defensive actions. His effort level is incredible, and he should have had the game winning assist with a ridiculous chest-trap-spin-1st-time-back-post-pass in the 82nd minute.

One thing I didn’t like: A 28th minute pass directly to Portland showed how concentration and execution lags when you are fatigued.

Going forward: Roldan has earned a break.

Forward

Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.6

Raúl had a tough ask against a team that sat back deep, defended and hoped a counter would work out. Ruidíaz had 29 touches and made the most of them, earning three shots and a key pass from his hard work.

One thing I liked: Even though he wasn’t getting a lot of touches and creating, he was always an option for Seattle, had anyone managed to get him the ball. I counted three times a player looking for him would have had an assist. He is always creating opportunity off the ball.

One thing I didn’t like: Raul’s touch map is rough. Every single pass he had in the attacking half came within 20 yards of midfield, showing just how hard it was for him to combine with others further up the field against Portland’s effective deep block of eight.

Going forward: Ruidíaz needs to get the ball in the box to make things happen.

Substitutes

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 62’ for Delem)

Bruin subbed on and was not effective as a hybrid wing/forward.

One thing I liked: He took up space for a while and earned a yellow card supporting defense and denying a counterattack, the kind of play that robs Portland of so much value from their attack.

One thing I didn’t like: He only had six touches in over 30 minutes of playing time and completed only 60 percent of his passes. He created nothing and did little offensively.

Going forward: Bruin was hot for a few games but may be returning to earth.

Miguel Ibarra – 4 | Community – 4.4 (on 81’ for Morris)

I don’t want to penalize Ibarra for replacing Morris but … why?

One thing I liked: Ibarra gets into good spots.

One thing I didn’t like: I DON’T UNDERSTAND. I have watched his miss dozens of times and I do not understand how he missed the goal so badly in the 82nd minute. His motion of sliding to kick the ball took him out of bounds, and the shot was taken maybe a few feet from goal. How do you miss from there? Scoring this likely means Seattle wins the game.

Going forward: Like Herculez Gomez, Ibarra may be unable to physically follow through on the good positions his brain knows about.

Nouhou –6 | Community – 5.4 (on 81’ for Jones)

Nouhou was extremely active in 10 minutes. He had 16 touches, 89 percent passing, and six defensive actions in his short stint.

One thing I liked: Nouhou was sweeping across the back which allowed Seattle to put numbers forward and rely on his speed to cover the entire defense during their attempt to come back and tie.

One thing I didn’t like: He gave up a free kick in a bad spot in the 89th minute which allowed Portland to kill a lot of time.

Going forward: Nouhou did well, but his lack of playing time is a mystery.

Handwalla Bwana – 5 | Community – 4.3 (on 89’ for O’Neill)

Bwana came in for a few minutes to try to help steal a point. He completed all his passes.

One thing I liked: He touched the ball as many times as Bruin did in 20 fewer minutes.

One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t complete anything going toward goal.

Going forward: Bwana remains enigmatic, and his playing performance is varying greatly from match to match. He hasn’t grabbed meaningful minutes and held onto them, which is concerning.

Referee

Ismael Elfath – 7 | Community – 5.4

This was a bit above an average MLS referee job. Maybe that was because chief instigator Sebastian Blanco went down in the first minute with an injury. There were some good and bad things from Elfath, but other than a few clean tackles that got called and maybe shouldn’t have, I thought the match was refereed well.

One thing I liked: His quick yellows for Jorge Villafana, Will Bruin, Chris Duvall, Diego Chara, and Eryk Williamson all made sense.

One thing I didn’t like: Diego Valeri got away with three straight fouls without a talking to, and Diego Chara did his usual thing where he “accidentally” elbows someone in the face. Elfath seemed to handle professional fouls poorly.

Going forward: Elfath is a known quantity and this was neither his best nor worst Sounders game reffed.

Portland Timbers MOTM

Eryk Williamson controlled a Seattle clearance, beat João Paulo off the dribble, then laid the ball off before running past about three more Sounders to score. Oh, and he played a well-timed (and well-weighted) ball to Felipe Mora for the game-winner. That will get you Man of the Match most days.


Other than a possible LA Galaxy reschedule, there’s only one more match on the Sounders’ schedule, this Thursday against San Jose. Seattle will be looking for revenge from their last match against the Earthquakes in Florida, and a win would put us into first place in the Western Conference. That sounds great.