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Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City: Player ratings

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Disgraceful showings by Melia and Elfath were all that stood in the way of Roldan leading Sounders to victory.

Seattle hosted Sporting Kansas City for the second time this season and lost again, this time a 2-1 affair. To put it mildly, the game was rage fuel for observers who saw a slow start, poor coordination, tactical gaffes, and abjectly horribad refereeing become a veritable Mt. Rushmore of hurdles the home team could not overcome. A strong second half was punctuated by a number of key plays, almost all in favor of the away team, and Seattle will quickly move on to another game and attempt to put this fiasco behind them.

It was hard to write about this match. Peter Vermes’ teams have been getting away with this for more than a decade. It shouldn’t be surprising.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.0

Frei was again only credited with one save and again Seattle failed to win. The defense in front of him was great until it wasn’t, allowing seven first half shots but only one in the second half. Unfortunately, that one went in as the game winner.

One thing I liked: Stefan saved a 19th minute Gadi Kinda shot and did a good job organizing his defense for most of the match.

One thing I didn’t like: Frei might have saved the 4th minute Remi Walter shot had it not been deflected by Yeimar. Would the game have been different?

Going forward: Right now, it seems like Frei isn’t even getting a chance to play, instead facing unstoppable layup goals or easy, right to him saves. I can’t figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but for as solid a year as Stefan is having, the lack of shutouts is frustrating.

Defense

Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 82’ for Montero)

Shane got another start on the left and struggled with the quickness of Johnny Russell. This matchup should fit perfectly into the Nouhou defensive skillset, and trying to use Shane there had predictable results. He was good for most of the match, but with Russell being an inverted winger, forcing him central like O’Neill did was just pushing him to his strong foot. Luckily, for about 50 minutes in the middle of the match, Seattle figured out how to shut him down. Shane had 91 percent passing.

One thing I liked: A nice 12th minute central step supporting an advanced Xavier Arreaga helped cover a middle that was vulnerable.

One thing I didn’t like: Shane had to know the scouting report on Russell and still was beaten by him multiple times, failing to adequately communicate with his wingbacks how to defend goal side first. O’Neill’s tendency to mark space and disconnect from his other center backs was a disaster on the game-deciding goal.

Going forward: O’Neill may have been a better option at left wing back in front of Nouhou late, rather than the other way around, as this combination was a mess. Shane seems to be penalized on his mistakes more than those around him.

Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 82’ for Chú)

Xavi did a good job centrally, in a quiet match. He had 91 percent passing, 55 touches, controlled the ball from the back and added an interception and two clearances. With Kelyn Rowe a more visible option, Seattle was less reliant on Arreaga trying to constantly line-break from the back.

One thing I liked: He nearly scored a header in the 64th minute, four yards out from SKC’s goal, almost eating a high boot in the process. Not getting a call (shocker), he hustled back into the defense and was there to clear away an over-the-top try moments later from his own six-yard box.

One thing I didn’t like: An 8th minute bad clear kinda led to a Kinda shot and was followed up by a foul in a bad spot two minutes later.

Going forward: Arreaga struggles a few times each game defensively, but his consistent control and outlet passing from a central area are essential to Seattle’s possession-based and defense-first outlook. He has been solid, and this match was no different.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 6.1

Yeimar did his job well, forcing most SKC pressure away from his side of the field. His clean 86 percent passing was safe and consistently found teammates. As usual, he won just about everything in the air, added multiple tackles, clearances, and interceptions.

One thing I liked: 11th and 47th minute defending showed great use of his size and pace in 1-v-1 challenges, easily winning the battles.

One thing I didn’t like: The one header he missed glanced off his head and into the net behind Frei.

Going forward: Part of the Sounders resurgence was Yeimar defending the entire right side in the second half, and Seattle needs to better leverage the tactics that fixed their space issues earlier.

Defensive Midfield

Jimmy Medranda – 5 | Community – 6.0 (off 65’ for Nouhou)

Jimmy again had a quiet game against his old team, failing to provide much threat up the left side. He ended with a single off-target shot, and near 80 percent passing without much danger created.

One thing I liked: Medranda had a spectacular switching pass in the 18th minute, but the right side of the offense didn’t start playing until the second half.

One thing I didn’t like: Everyone can be beaten by a give and go, but the way that Shane and Jimmy were torched in the first five minutes by Russell was infuriating. Their communication was horrible, and Medranda just let the runner go. He played it like he expected Shane to cover, but neither are on the same page and ultimately that is Jimmy’s man.

Going forward: Medranda had few chances with the ball and active targets in front of him with the front of the Sounders offense struggling for much of the time he was in the match. Jimmy can’t seem to play a full game, so he needs to maximize his output while there, which may necessitate Brad Smith returning to push him.

Kelyn Rowe – 7 | Community – 5.5

Rowe returned centrally and was very good in the middle, combining through spaces where Seattle hadn’t been getting possession lately and adding his hard-nosed defending to the middle of the park. He had 88 percent passing through the middle, including 75 percent completion rate in long balls, opening the field, and switching play often.

One thing I liked: Kelyn was one of the best Sounders in a lackluster first half, busting his ass through the middle to help many struggling teammates. It started with defense (22nd minute pressure) and transitioned to creation (25th minute shift wide right into space to serve in a cross) and ended with offense (40th minute direct central dive).

One thing I didn’t like: Rowe tried a few risky dribbles, including a 43rd minute one that was nearly stolen in a terrible spot. He tired and lost some of his polish in the second half.

Going forward: Rowe showed excellent defensive work rate in the middle and was part of the reason all SKC’s attacks were pushed wide. His ground coverage might not be as much as Josh Atencio’s, but he offers a different look that Seattle should lean into when tactically allowable.

João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.6

JP did well, combining in the middle to help hold on in the first half and then push forward in waves in the second. He led Seattle with four key passes, got half of his two shots on frame, touched the ball a game-high 104 times, and completed 77 percent of his attempts. He tied Yeimar with 12 duels.

One thing I liked: A 22nd minute clearance isn’t normally what you would expect as a highlight, but it illustrated JP so well. He tracks back, calmly gets a header clearance from Yeimar, chests it to control, and then drops a first-time volley pass to put the rushing Nico Benezet into space for a counter. Everything about this play is executed splendidly.

One thing I didn’t like: Yellow card means no JP next match. Sigh.

Going forward: I don’t look forward to playing without João, the main driver of the sustained Sounders success this year. At least his heart will get a break from almost exploding every time he is forward on the field fearing opponents are just going to walk through his teammates in the middle and score.

Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.8

In the first half Alex was earning about a 5, struggling to do much more than tread water on the right, pinned back defensively. After halftime everyone with the last name Roldan came out on fire, completely dominating the opponents. Alex ended the match with two key passes, three tackles, three clearances, two interceptions, and two blocked shots, with most of that production coming in the second half.

One thing I liked: In the 47th minute the younger Roldan finally introduced himself to the game, beating a man and getting an aggressive cross into the box. This presented an entirely new Sounders team that fed off the Roldan family energy. Alex made emphatic, purposeful runs up the width and dominated the ball and creation from his side.

One thing I didn’t like: For as good as he was in the second half, he was invisible in the first, unable to connect with anyone and the one time he had a nice chance to do something (24th) he put in a very poor pass.

Going forward: Alex should play as well as he did in the second half from the opening whistle. His energy looked a bit missing early on, and he needs to show that ability consistently for Seattle to play deep into the playoffs.

Attacking Midfield

Nicolas Benezet – 7 | Community – 6.5 (off 72’ for Atencio)

Benezet played in the attacking midfield but took a long time to get going. Always active, at times he faded from play as the Seattle midfield bogged down. After halftime, as the game stretched out and the Sounders played faster, Nicolas found more space and was able to redirect an equalizing goal in the 58th to get Seattle back into the match.

One thing I liked: Nico2 was one of the few first half attackers to play well, finding a rare shot in the first 15 minutes and making excellent runs. He also had a high success rate on his 10 duels, showing a defensive work rate from the front that was extremely valuable.

One thing I didn’t like: Benezet’s impact faded as Seattle made some tactical changes around him and limited his touches in favor of off-ball runs before ultimately subbing him out.

Going forward: Benezet has quietly scored three goals for Seattle, the same as Will Bruin and Brad Smith in about a third as much playing time. He’s done this by putting 70 percent of his shots on frame and being willing to get into spots without the ball. He should cycle through the attacking positions as needed.

Cristian Roldan – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)

Cristian was the second Roldan who really struggled in the first half before turning it on in the second. He was even more impressive than his brother, being the catalyst for nearly all the best Sounders chances either personally or from his movement and passing. He ended with a game-high five shots, added a key pass, hit the post, had an assist, and survived a bullshit no-call with frankly more grace than it deserved.

One thing I liked: When Cristian plays like this, he is un-guardable. His offensive impact in the second half cannot be overstated. Whether it was flicking a corner to Benezet for an equalizing 58th minute goal, nearly scoring off a 64th minute header of his own, or rocking the crossbar at the death, good things came from Roldan running at the SKC defense.

One thing I didn’t like: A bad pass in the 71st minute on a break was unfortunate and combined with the latter two points above, he missed three huge chances to earn points for Seattle by the slimmest of margins.

Going forward: Cristian has been playing very well in spurts the last few matches. He’ll need to play even better as João Paolo’s absence will require him to be the team’s engine.

Forward

Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 5.1

Bruin struggled in this match, starting up top and failing to provide much of anything for his team: only 23 touches, 50 percent passing, 0/6 duels, 0 shots on goal, and 0 key passes.

One thing I liked: Bruin had an excellent inside out run in the 53rd minute, recognizing the space vacated by Cristian Roldan and pulling a center back wide.

One thing I didn’t like: After Alex made a great defensive play wide in the 53rd minute and sprung Bruin for an inside out run, Will promptly tried to dribble, got dispossessed, and was left sprawling on the ground. Seattle’s defense hustled back and recovered the ball and found Will, who promptly crossed into a defender. He casually walked forward and watched the ball go by him. Yuck.

Going forward: Will constantly ran into others’ space, wasn’t able to create for himself or anyone else, and didn’t do enough positive to offset this. After a few matches of upswing, he looks to be bench depth at this point.

Substitutes

Nouhou – 4 | Community – 4.6 (on 65’ for Medranda)

After Seattle scored, they appeared to try to park the bus. At home. To preserve a draw. Part of this involved bringing on Nouhou as a left wingback, and he showed that he doesn’t understand the tactics of the position.

One thing I liked: When 1-v-1 with Russell in the 69th minute, Nouhou showed some very nice defending and highlighted how his skillset can defend well.

One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou completely lost the backside run of Russell and either didn’t understand the defensive requirements of wingback play or didn’t care. Either way, neither he nor O’Neill marked a wide open SKC winger and Seattle lost.

Going forward: Oshan put it best: “Nouhou is an elite center back and a bad left back.” This game backs up that summation perfectly. He needs to get fit enough to play full 90s and remain where he plays best.

Joshua Atencio – 4 | Community – 5.0 (on 72’ for Benezet)

Atencio came in as a tactical midfield switch and juggled a bunch of players around. It didn’t work.

One thing I liked: Josh had a nice 73rd minute interception in the midfield and 91 percent passing.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 79th minute Josh got completely beat through the middle by an opponent 22 years older than him, who had as many red cards as he had assists coming into the match (1). Atencio’s defense was so bad on the game-winning goal that you can see JP throw his arms up in disgust behind the play. I feel you, João.

Going forward: Atencio got by with positional defense and work rate for most of this season, but he must do much better if he’s going to play substantial minutes.

Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 82’ for Arreaga)

Chú the savior arrived and managed four measly touches.

One thing I liked: Léo pressured the ball nicely a few times and was a perfect 4/4 passing.

One thing I didn’t like: Chú came on and didn’t save the day.

Going forward: He might already play better wingback defense than Nouhou did, which is annoying. He doesn’t have a set position for Seattle, especially when throwing on bench players and shuffling tactics.

Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 82’ for O’Neill)

Fredy was active, getting eight touches and trying to support some direct play.

One thing I liked: Montero won a header and connected on several late desperation chances for Seattle.

One thing I didn’t like: His 57 percent passing and an inability to find teammates in dangerous positions made this appearance mundane.

Going forward: I didn’t think Montero looked great up top versus Houston, and Bruin had a rough match in this one, so at this point the only solution for which of those two should start up top is: Dammit, Raúl, get healthy already.

Referee

Ismael Elfath – 3 | Community – 1.5

Elfath doesn’t deserve many words here, and it’s emotionally draining for me to write about, but I can’t help it. He (and his team) got that call so, so wrong. It’s not that my team would have benefited playing up a man for 40 minutes and likely won. It’s that it is completely indefensible to allow any player to physically body slam another player. There are rules designed to protect players, rules about what’s legal and what isn’t, and to ignore them so blatantly is just infuriating. Because Roldan didn’t get a neck injury or stay down, it’s not “brutal” enough? Brad Evans got a red for pantomiming a headbutt.

One thing I liked: Elfath spoke to the players in the 45th minute and did a good job of communicating.

One thing I didn’t like: Give you one guess.

Going forward: This ref has been one of the worst for a long time. There is nothing else to say.

Sporting Kansas City MOTM

Seattle failed to deal with SKC’s best player on two occasions. Those two occasions resulted in two goals. Seattle lost to SKC 2-1.


Playing every two days is a thing, I guess. See you next match. Go good guys.