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Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Player ratings

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Bear dances through defense as Sounders clinch playoff spot.

Vancouver entered Lumen Field on a great run of form and got to enjoy that feeling through warmups and not much longer, getting completely gobstomped and conceding within five minutes and again before 20. The Whitecaps worked hard and got a goal back before half, but Seattle was in full control, adding two more goals and missing several others in a dominant performance. Perhaps most encouraging was the tremendous play, despite the players who were gone. Playing with upwards of seven starters missing from the lineup, the bench depth was on full display. Seattle put out a squad filled with reclamation projects and bargain buys who showed just how silly their previous teams were for letting them go.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.4

Frei didn’t get another shutout, sadly, conceding on a frantic play just prior to halftime. He came up big on a few occasions to keep his team in the match, offering a bit more time for the offense to convert on their big chances. Stef had two saves credited as Vancouver threatened but were largely denied by the Sounders defense.

One thing I liked: With Seattle cruising in the 75th minute, Vancouver broke through on yet another frantic lucky deflection play, and Stef said “Einfach.”

One thing I didn’t like: Two minutes after making a spectacular save, Frei fumbled a routine cross right onto the head of an opponent and was lucky that his reaction time was too slow to direct it on the open goal in front of him.

Going forward: It takes multiple defensive breakdowns, a very unlucky deflection to an offside player, a post, etc. to score against Frei. He is having an incredible season that adds to an already stout defensive unit.

Defense

Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 5.9 (off 85’ for Chú)

Cissoko got a start with a few teammates out for international play and had a rough go. His usual dependable defense was shaky at times, and his distribution was a struggle. He did have 82 percent completion and added multiple interceptions and clearances.

One thing I liked: Cissoko is a presence on set pieces, continuously finding the ball in good spots to attack goal. He had an excellent header in the 63rd minute, and another in the 68th forced a save. He was also called for a foul challenging a header versus a goalie that looked fair to me.

One thing I didn’t like: While his passing percentage wasn’t awful, when Cissoko missed he missed badly, and Vancouver took advantage. His 18th minute poor ball led to a shot off the crossbar, and his turnovers were the biggest reason the Whitecaps stayed in the match as long as they did.

Going forward: AB struggled with some mistakes, but as a deep bench guy he continues to be a solid option. He is young, clearly still developing, and can learn in instances like these where he struggles but is supported by his veteran teammates.

Shane O’Neill – 8 | Community – 7.2

Shane was fantastic in this match, offering two-way impact as both goalscorer and stalwart defender. Playing centrally, he was rock solid in the middle of the pitch, making smart (safe) choices and keeping improved shape defensively. Eighty-five percent passing was mainly short and to teammates, although he sprinkled in speculative long balls as needed.

One thing I liked: O’Neill is excellent in the air, and his goal was almost perfectly taken. Fading off the back shoulder like any experienced striker, he found amazing service and replied with a textbook cross-goal finish. The keeper had no chance, and Seattle had an important lead.

One thing I didn’t like: Short passing and finishing open headers are strengths, but dealing with 1-v-1 situations (like in minute 11) is not. Poor Shane was shaken like a near-empty ketchup bottle, and luckily the only thing punished was his pride.

Going forward: I mentioned in comments last ratings that each defender is raising their game; I specifically included Shane because he has been playing like this lately. His output has been very consistent and strong. Using him in the center allows him to be the furthest player back which assists his natural positioning tendency, and he’s proving to be tremendous depth.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.1

Yeimar had different players around him but as usual set up shop on the right central channel, and he stopped almost anything from happening down his side. He led the team with four tackles, added to his league-leading interception mark with three more, and had three clearances and two blocked shots as well.

One thing I liked: With both his winger and the other center backs prone to wandering, Yeimar covered a lot of ground against Vancouver, often coming all the way across the field to save the day. His backside defense was especially stout in the 8th and 86th minutes.

One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar got a yellow card and is out of the next match. The card was a little soft but was called for putting his hands near the head and neck area, something YGA has a bad habit of doing.

Going forward: Yeimar gets some an extra rest and resets his accumulation count against one of the worst teams in the league (two wins in their last 10 matches). He continues to be an absolute monster defensively and should rest up for a busy run to the end of the season.

Defensive Midfield

Jimmy Medranda – 7 | Community – 7.0

Jimmy was quiet for Seattle, turning distributor rather than direct goalscorer, but he added a lot of necessary defending down the left and was continuously involved in the buildup. He had 61 tidy touches, contributed multiple key passes, and connected on 79 percent of his passes, which included a stellar 6/8 on long ball service.

One thing I liked: In the 52nd minute Jimmy took all the space offered him on the wing, and it was a perfect recognition of game state and how to improve his positioning. Consistently getting into advanced spaces on the left opened large gaps for a withdrawn Montero, slashing Benezet, or diagonal Bear run.

One thing I didn’t like: A defensive header directly into the center of the field in the 84th was dreadful, gift wrapping a ball to the Whitecaps in a dangerous area.

Going forward: Medranda has been a needed option on the left, offering steady defensive presence, a cultured service when he gets forward, and the occasional spectacular goal-direct play. This combination fits well with the movement and positioning of the Sounders.

Josh Atencio – 6 | Community – 6.7

Josh got yet another midfield start next to João, and again it was a great central combination for Seattle. These two have an excellent connection in the middle, consistently covering for each other and allowing free-flowing movement of the ball through their domains. Atencio had 55 touches in a mostly defensive effort, using his size and work rate to keep excellent defensive shape.

One thing I liked: In the 27th minute Josh pulled out an absolutely incredible pass to transition from his deep defensive possession directly to Will Bruin at the striker spot. Atencio’s outside of the foot 40-yard bomb cut out no fewer than four defenders and put his teammate into the back of the opponent’s defense with a single pass.

One thing I didn’t like: Most of Josh’s defending comes from positional play and not physical tackles, and he was beaten for speed/agility centrally on several important plays. On at least one (36th) he was forced to foul after whiffing on defense.

Going forward: Atencio remains a great option next to omnipresent João Paulo. Together they prevent easy access to the back line and still combine well with teammates getting into attacking areas. Josh and Kelyn Rowe each have their advantages depending on matchups.

João Paulo – 8 | Community – 8.1 (MOTM)

João Paulo followed up his last excellent match with yet another dominant performance. As usual he had the most touches on the field (99). He paired this with 85 percent completion, spurring the team forward with nearly every chance. Two shots, a key pass, three tackles, two interceptions: JP was once again tremendous.

One thing I liked: JP doesn’t dribble a lot but does dribble exactly when needed. I noted his nutmeg and dribble in the 13th minute igniting a counterattack. In the 21st minute he again took the space offered him up the wing, finding Nico through Will for a shot that was barely pushed away from goal.

One thing I didn’t like: I expect him to score every time he lines up from outside the box and was brutally let down in the 61st and 74th minutes.

Going forward: When João Paulo loses possession in the middle it’s often catastrophic for Seattle, but that happens so rarely that the Sounders look unbeatable when he plays this well. Heading into the end of the season and the playoffs, the staff will have a tough job picking a lineup, but this is one position that’s locked in.

Kelyn Rowe – 8 | Community – 8.1

Rowe started on the right wing and looked spectacular on the offensive end, combining up and down the width, and terrorizing the Whitecaps with inch-perfect service again and again. Whenever Seattle had the ball on the width, there was Rowe, charging forward and dropping perfect crosses to waiting teammates.

One thing I liked: Rowe was the fifth Sounder to ever have a hattrick of assists, and he actually had four passes that were put in the back of the net on the evening. His service all night was nearly perfect, but none better than his first — a perfectly weighted first-time back post ball that was nodded home by Shane for the early lead.

One thing I didn’t like: Although he set up a handful of goals, Rowe was conspicuously absent from his defensive duties on a few big occasions. Of note, Kelyn was slow to defend in the 18th minute (crossbar) and in the 45th (goal). His three tackles were great, but he needs to remember how much defense the wingbacks are expected to provide.

Going forward: This was Seattle’s most productive offensive display from wide right all season, and that is something to think about as the Sounders game plan for the future. Alex Roldan still offers the best combination play out there, but this match provided some fuel for the competition.

Attacking Midfield

Fredy Montero – 7 | Community – 7.1

Fredy did a little of everything for Seattle in this match, dropping back centrally to support and springing runs up and down the width. His 45 touches included four shots, and he was excellent in creating for others as a withdrawn playmaker, offering up multiple key passes for teammates.

One thing I liked: I noted when he was signed just how incredible of a passer Fredy is from the forward position and he showed exactly that while earning two assists and playmaking all evening. The first was a tidy touch from a great Rowe cross before deftly playing Bruin in alone behind. Similarly, Montero set up Léo Chú late, playing an effective give and go by chipping the defense and giving his new teammate a chance to outplay them.

One thing I didn’t like: A few bad touches and speculative shots with better options dampened a strong outing from Fredy.

Going forward: Fredy showed how smart he is tactically, drifting around to combine and create for others. He remains a great starting option when the team needs dynamic playmaking and control from a withdrawn central area.

Nicolas Benezet – 8 | Community – 7.4 (off 71’ for Leyva)

Benezet returned from injury with a vengeance, showing up absolutely all over the field offensively. He was relentless at pushing the ball into attacking areas, combining with teammates and being goal dangerous. Nico2 ended with a team-high six shots, two key passes, a goal, and nearly multiple others in a stellar performance.

One thing I liked: Nicolas was excellent in understanding the tactical needs of the Sounders formation and adjusted flawlessly. Instead of making the Cristian Roldan run into the right channel and suffocating Rowe, Benezet instead connected to enable those runs, either playing give-and-go or running away and creating space. He also recognized nearly every dangerous opportunity, charging in to score when he saw Bruin with deep possession, taking a quick setup touch and finishing true.

One thing I didn’t like: Benezet had a toe punch (the goal scorer’s touch!) in the 17th minute that was stopped by the face of Florian Jungwirth, and another goal-bound shot set up by JP and Bruin in the 21st was saved. Nico created an incredible amount of pressure and didn’t have as much end result as he deserved.

Going forward: Add Benezet and his terrific creativity into a team already playing at a high level and there is an embarrassment of riches. While still behind the elder Roldan on the depth chart at attacking mid, Nico2 gives yet another look for the coaches to add to their tactical designs in what is a ridiculously deep team.

Forward

Will Bruin – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1

Bruin has been excellent in the last few weeks, adding energy and volume to each match. Against Vancouver he added precision, completely dominating the Whitecaps backline, immersed in a plethora of Sounders opportunities. While “only” being credited with an assist and a goal, it was the dancing bear who was, well, dancing through the defense in surgically precise runs and touches to set himself and teammates up for goals.

One thing I liked: Four shots and four key passes is a massive improvement on Will’s level of play from earlier in the year, and he is heating up. The confidence he showed to run perfectly off the ball, receive a pass from Montero, and casually finish top shelf in the 55th minute was awesome to see. The goal put Seattle up 3-1 and completely deflated a Whitecaps team that had closed the gap going into half and was hoping to draw level in the second.

One thing I didn’t like: There was a lot to like from Bruin, whose holdup play and distribution made sense most of the match. It could have been an even bigger scoreline had Will been a bit more precise on a few passes that just missed teammates for huge chances.

Going forward: Will is surging with confidence. He may have been hampered earlier this year by fitness or injury rehab issues. I hope that’s behind him, as the player who has shown up in the last few matches is a valuable weapon for a team with long postseason intentions — able to run the channels, hold up the ball, combine with others and most importantly, finish his own chances.

Substitutes

Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 71’ for Benezet)

Danny entered and was quiet, which is what you want when you are up 3-1 and insert a midfielder for control.

One thing I liked: One hundred percent passing. Leyva didn’t miss a pass and did his job.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 82nd minute Danny overcommitted on chasing the ball defensively, leaving a giant gap that Vancouver took advantage of.

Going forward: Leyva continues to nibble around the edges of some bench playing time. Helping see out wins like this gives him valuable experience, adding to his resumé as part of a winning culture, and shows a coaching staff that has confidence in him.

Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 6.9 (on 85’ for Cissoko)

Léo Chú entered to help run out the clock and hold onto a 3-1 home win for … Chú talkin’ about? This guy is here for ONE THING.

One thing I liked: After fighting for possession on the right, Léo found a central pass to Montero and then opened up a beautiful diagonal run directly at goal. Adjusting well to the return pass, Chú finished clean.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 86th minute Léo missed a diagonal forward pass that might have earned him an assist to go with that goal.

Going forward: “He’s 21, he’s a development project, he is only going to get garbage time, he’s got to learn the system/work on his English/get some exercise.” While those might have made sense a few weeks ago, Chú shows that given the chance, he’s a dependable direct option now, that could play a role in the playoffs.

Referee

Ted Unkel – 7 | Community – 5.9

Seattle again came out with an inspired attack and amassed a quick early lead. Unkel did a good job preventing physical retaliation by either team as frustrations mounted throughout the first half. This match didn’t have any big calls that could be overturned, and the few that were close were quickly checked and the game moved on.

One thing I liked: Giving smart cards in the first half helped keep control, and each card made sense in the moment. They also did a good job to paint a picture of the match that prevented escalation tackles or animosity.

One thing I didn’t like: I thought Ryan Gauld deserved a 30th minute card well prior to his 72nd minute one. Jungwirth stopping a break in the 52nd is usually a professional foul caution. I disagree with Cissoko being called for a foul in the 53rd when the keeper went through him to catch a ball they both have a right to.

Going forward: Soccer is much easier to ref when the teams aren’t fouling much (17 total) and there aren’t many controversial plays. I’m not sure whether Unkel was the cause of that, but he did well to adjudicate accordingly.

Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM

White was in the right spot at the right time on two occasions for Vancouver. On one of those occasions, he converted a scramble drill into a goal on the stroke of halftime. On the other, he nodded a reaction header wide, letting Frei and the Sounders off the hook, and allowing for a chill final 15 minutes that could have been decidedly less chill.


Playing in Houston is a slog no matter what time of year. Seattle is the better team and should play like it.