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Seattle Sounders at LAFC: Player ratings

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Sounders suffer worst defeat of season as they limp towards playoffs.

Seattle had a rough match at home and immediately flew to LA to fall on their face against the FC’ers. Although the match was close at some points, the final was a 3-0 win for LAFC, and Seattle is reeling from the last few weeks of poor results. Starting off under pressure, the Sounders again gave up an early goal, but were poised to head into halftime only down one and ready to regroup, when they inexplicably fell asleep in the waning moments of half and gave up a second. Seattle had some resurgent play early in the second half but failed to score on two golden chances before LAFC put the game away by scoring a third. The Sounders lost at least one more player to injury, but on the positive side Nico Lodeiro returned, and other stars are rumored to return next week.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 5.1

Frei gave up the most goals in a Sounders match this season, conceding three in a lopsided score line that was clearly frustrating for all involved. Credited with three saves, Stef and his defense faced constant pressure, allowing six shots on goal from 14 attempts.

One thing I liked: LAFC had a well-crafted free kick in the 58th minute to add to their lead and Stefan came up with a sprawling save on a deflection to his right.

One thing I didn’t like: Three goals against. It’s hard to lead from the back, but Stef is a captain and Seattle completely lacked leadership in this match. The team lost all midfield composure and didn’t adjust tactically until too late. That includes Frei playing short into pressure multiple times.

Going forward: Frei may not have been to blame for the goals against, but seeing his counterpart prevent three or more Seattle goals leaves me yearning for the magic we know he can bring. On both the second and third goals Stef was wrongfooted and a little slow to adjust to potential deflections. Yes, that is asking a lot for a keeper who saves almost everything he can be expected to save.

Defense

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.2

While nobody on the defense played well, Nouhou led the team with four clearances and had two tackles. His 76 percent passing came on a Sounders-third-most 74 touches which is clear evidence of how much the team struggled to get the ball out of the back.

One thing I liked: Nouhou’s 1-v-1 defense on the left was excellent for much of the match, as he ushered wide most attacks that were in front of him.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 45th minute Nouhou got his head on a perfect Kelyn Rowe cross and headed the ball into the back of the net for his first goal, bringing Seattle right back into the match off the crossbar and out. So close.

Going forward: The spacing and defensive issues that allowed opponents in behind were again apparent when paired with Brad Smith, and Nouhou must compensate for crossing gaps in front of him if his wingback is detached.

Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.1

Xavi did what he could while faced with constant central pressure due to a severely out of shape midfield. Often asked to rescue the center after LAFC broke through, he did on a few occasions, or this game would have been even more lopsided. His 88 percent passing led the starters, and he was one of the few players to keep possession for Seattle.

One thing I liked: In the 34th minute Arreaga had tremendous 1-v-1 defense that was a combination of awareness and aggressiveness as he stepped across to save a break by LAFC.

One thing I didn’t like: Other than three tackles, Xavi didn’t show up on the scoresheet much, due to having to frantically race forward and back to support the central midfield. That limited his ability to support the center-width channels, which is where goals came from.

Going forward: Seattle is still searching for the early season defensive magic that saw them go 13 matches without a run-of-play goal against. They desperately need to get everyone on the same page, and should not look this bad with a single player (JP) missing.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 4.9 (off 68’ for O’Neill)

Yeimar had a tumultuous match, at times playing amazingly and at others getting directly beaten for big chances. In 1-v-1 situations he remained incredible, with a massive eight tackles. Positioning was where he struggled, with a leaky midfield offering passing lanes that he couldn’t out-athlete.

One thing I liked: Matched up wide with Brian Rodríguez, Yeimar did a great job of limiting the dangerous LAFC winger from dribbling inside and getting penetration through the left of the LAFC offense.

One thing I didn’t like: The first two goals came with YGA watching from behind the play. The first, due to a direct run in behind him, caught him flatfooted. On the second he was caught in no man’s land trying to defend two players and having a deflection go right to the more goal-dangerous option.

Going forward: When allowed to attack the game, Yeimar is phenomenal, dispossessing players and using his speed and size to limit incursions. When caught on his heels, he is mortal and susceptible to vertical runs. The midfield must limit these gaps and relieve pressure on Arreaga so he can support the channels.

Defensive Midfield

Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 4.5 (off 56’ for Chú)

Brad looked pretty good for spurts, but upon re-watch there were a lot of the same issues that have been so frustrating this season.

One thing I liked: A vertical 17th minute run was a nice field-stretching exercise desperately needed by Seattle, and he earned a 27th minute corner on a similar play. He fought and earned a 49th minute corner in the most physical shoulder tackle I have ever seen Brad Smith offer.

One thing I didn’t like: A second look showed just how disconnected Smith was in this match. He was completely lost and unable to mesh with Nico Benezet, which forced all the first half Sounders possession onto the Roldans. LAFC’s demoralizing second goal saw the return of “Brad Smith, walker;” seeing him jog back into defense after leaving Nouhou to defend two and point to where the ball was going to score was infuriating.

Going forward: My excitement that Smith was healthy and back on the gameday roster was tempered when I saw he was fit enough to start (but didn’t play against SKC?). He remains a guy who needs someone to pump balls into the corner for him to run onto and little else.

Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 4.4 (off 68’ for Leyva)

The Rowe and Atencio midfield pairing was abysmal. They looked terrible on several occasions and at best were treading water. This combination was ineffective at defending in front of the backline, allowing gaps that LAFC took advantage of. Rowe hustled, but his aggressiveness was often victimized as positioning support wasn’t there from teammates.

One thing I liked: Kelyn did a lot of good in this match, including earning two key passes, having five tackles, two interceptions, and 78 percent passing. He should have had an assist from a great pass to Nouhou right as the second half started.

One thing I didn’t like: This entire midfield band was dreadful, with Benezet and Smith doing zero defending and forcing more pressure in the middle than the defensive pairing could handle. Kelyn tried to “outhustle the tactics” and failed.

Going forward: Rowe tried hard but was on such a different page from Atencio it didn’t work for either of them. He looks tired, and that’s understandable since he’s played in more MLS games than any other Sounder this year.

Josh Atencio – 4 | Community – 4.5 (off 67’ for Lodeiro)

Atencio was paired with veteran Rowe and the combination was a mess. Tasked with mostly supporting a non-defensive left side, Josh was consistently drawn wider than necessary, leaving giant gaping holes in the midfield and spacing errors for LAFC to victimize.

One thing I liked: Atencio had his most tackles of the year with five and showed a few attempts to be more physical in space.

One thing I didn’t like: While Rowe was playing angry and losing shape chasing the ball, Atencio was playing scared and didn’t look like he wanted the ball. Tentative defending combined with one-touch passing in the direction of the nearest teammate screamed “I don’t want to mess up, here you take it” hot potato soccer. This game needed midfield composure and leadership and it was absent.

Going forward: Atencio has played a lot of minutes, and this match showed a young, tired player on the road on short rest attempting to raise his level on a desperate team and failing. That is not a failure of the player, and he should grow and learn from it (and get some rest).

Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 4.9

In the first half, the only thing that worked for Seattle was “kick the ball toward the Roldans and hope they make something happen.” And it nearly worked, with these two combining well up the side and using their attacking energy to pull Rodríguez back and force him to defend. Alex had four tackles and two clearances but was also a consistent threat to combine up the right for the only meaningful possession Seattle managed before intermission.

One thing I liked: Alex looked sharp, finding incisive passes, first to Will Bruin in the 7th minute. Four minutes later he combined with his brother to get up the right. His first-time left footed cross in the 46th minute hit Fredy Montero in the head about six yards from goal and should have brought Seattle one back.

One thing I didn’t like: Alex’s dreadful 64th minute central pass was nearly an assist to LAFC. For all his effort in the first half, the team conceded right before halftime when Yeimar was caught trying to defend multiple players, one of which Alex should have been marking.

Going forward: The second half of SKC and first half of LAFC games were okay for AR. He has an ability to combine up the wing instead of just recycling possession back around the horseshoe, and that is great news for a team looking to add more refined attacking options.

Attacking Midfield

Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 4.7

Montero started at attacking midfield before moving forward with the injury to Bruin. He was much more effective in the second half when more quality pieces were added to the match, but struggled to support a team that was constantly pressured in the first half. He had a key pass and nearly scored on a few occasions, but was missing that little bit of touch.

One thing I liked: Fredy led the team with four shots and showed excellent holdup, setting up Alex in the 80th minute with a great layoff. His movement worked well when Lodeiro entered, allowing Seattle to be more vertically dynamic.

One thing I didn’t like: Montero struggled to get his teammates involved in the first half. His inability to combine with Smith and Atencio forced the ball to the other side of the field. On several occasions, he forced a shot when there were better options with teammates.

Going forward: Seattle is likely getting Raúl Ruidíaz back soon which is important, as injuries and ineffectiveness from the forward position are putting too much pressure on quality bench options like Montero to shoulder the entire holdup/creativity/assisting/scoring/serving orange slices load.

Cristian Roldan – 6 (MOTM) | Community – 5.9 (MOTM)

Cristian came out with energy and Seattle desperately needed it. His first half effort tilted the match to his and Alex’s side, as this was the only offense the Sounders could muster. He ended with two shots, 77 percent passing and a lot of hustle without any positive result.

One thing I liked: Combining up the wing with his brother in the 11th minute showed just how great these two communicate. Nearly everything good that happened in a poor first half was because of Cristian doing it. He had four tackles, two interceptions, a clearance, and was second on the team with 16 duels.

One thing I didn’t like: There were several chances to put Cristian in the central defensive midfield position, but for some reason he was left on the wing to run himself into the ground.

Going forward: With Jordan Morris returning, Léo Chú playing excellently, and some Lodeiro guy, there are many non-defense, attack-minded pieces. Roldan is a defense-minded attacking piece. Is it time to move him back a line?

Forward

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.4 (off 37’ for Benezet – injury)

Bruin got another start up front and was unable to do much, as Seattle was packed in defensively for most of his time, unable to get the ball through midfield and seemingly uninterested in kicking it long to Bruin. Will had 16 touches before suffering a reoccurrence of an earlier knee injury, forcing him off in the first half.

One thing I liked: In his short time on the field Will did manage a key pass, and an inside-out 7th minute run earned a corner for his team.

One thing I didn’t like: In the box in the 19th minute with a quality chance Will completely flubbed it.

Going forward: Will suffering another knee injury is rough. He likely doesn’t have a ton more soccer time left, and this season must be a monumental disappointment for a player who expects more out of himself. Hopefully it’s minor and he can factor in a long playoff run.

Substitutes

Nicolas Benezet – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 37’ for Bruin)

Asked to come in for an injured Bear, Benezet offered hustle and not much else in the first half. The second half he gave much more, mostly because the guys setting him up did a better job. He had a shot on goal and multiple key passes.

One thing I liked: When he arrived into the match, Nico2 brought instant energy, which had been lacking for Seattle. In the 80th minute he made an excellent drop pass to Nico1 who had his goal-bound shot saved by a great dive from the opposing keeper.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 73rd minute a beautiful Chú pass slipped Benezet in behind the defense with a 1-v-1. He was stuffed.

Going forward: Benezet is a luxury player, a skilled, tactical attacker who can join an effective offense and be a catalyst for higher performance. Asking him to be the focal point or high possession creator is asking too much.

Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 5.3 (on 56’ for Smith)

Léo Chú again featured off the bench and again made his presence known, getting involved in a number of excellent chances and showing off a bit of creativity that we had yet to see centrally.

One thing I liked: Drifting centrally while reading the game flow, Chú found a ball and just as quickly found a through pass into the streaking Benezet in what should have been a 73rd minute goal for Seattle.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 94th minute he got demolished in a tackle that could easily have blown his knee out. I have no idea why this play was ignored by most everyone. (Okay, yes I do: it was the last few seconds of a road blowout, but WTH, ref).

Going forward: All Chú does is nearly everything right. He is less a burner and more a silky-smooth glider who has good speed and impressive natural creation ability. I don’t know what more he needs to do to earn more playing time, but his play is consistently excellent.

Nico Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 67’ for Atencio)

After what felt like years, Nico Lodeiro was back on the field in the rave green and looked excellent. He fit in to the shape of the lineup, was accurate, showed his usual excellent touch, and provided quite a lift to the team.

One thing I liked: Thirty-eight touches, a shot, two key passes, 90 percent passing. This was vintage Lodeiro, who looked fantastic. Goal-dangerous for himself and teammates, Nico also showed he is already the guy who can control possession for his team.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 80th minute he got a Benezet cut pass and first timed a near perfect shot that somehow the opposing keeper saved.

Going forward: A healthy Lodeiro is a huge boost for a Sounders team that clearly was missing field intensity and leadership. Getting the captain back with two matches to get control of his team and integrate is huge for our playoff hopes.

Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 68’ for Rowe)

Leyva came in to relieve a beleaguered midfield and acquitted himself well, showing nice composure entering a rough match.

One thing I liked: Ninety-three percent passing and a shot on 21 impactful touches. Loved seeing him get the ball and know where to put it, moving the ball quickly but with a purpose, not being afraid to hold it looking for the right spot.

One thing I didn’t like: Danny’s speed was exposed a few times in the middle, and Seattle was lucky that runners who got past him didn’t penalize them for trailing the play.

Going forward: Leyva reminded everyone that Atencio isn’t the only young central talent, and he only enhanced his resumé going forward. Unfortunately, there are multiple players returning that likely push him down the bench, but he did exactly what you want someone to do in this position.

Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 68’ for Yeimar)

Shane came in, ostensibly to give Yeimar a break and prevent him from getting a card.

One thing I liked: Twenty-one touches, 80 percent passing, and he pushed Cristian Arango around some.

One thing I didn’t like: He conceded a random corner late in the match when he could have given a throw, and that’s the third or so time he’s made that choice this year.

Going forward: Shane remains at the ready for when and if the team needs his brand of solid defending. Although Seattle gave up three in this one, it wasn’t the backline that was to blame for much of it, so it’s unlikely he has jumped anyone in the starting lineup.

Referee

Kevin Stott– 5 | Community – 4.4

Every Stott game looks the same. He allows a ton of physical play, sometimes allowing advantage, sometimes not, and then gives a confused look to players when they question him.

One thing I liked: The Arango and Diego Palacios cards were well deserved, and it was nice to see a quick card for time wasting.

One thing I didn’t like: Chú is lucky that he didn’t have his knee torn apart. The 94th minute tackle by Mamadou Fall was a horror show and should have been an instant red card. He leaves his feet, misses the ball, scissors the legs, and then twists his body. How are referees in this league missing this stuff? You CANNOT use “well, it’s the end of the match” as an excuse. What are the VAR guys watching?

Going forward: MLS needs better refs. Stott was bad, but that’s basically average these days.

LAFC MOTM

Rodríguez comes away with MOTM in this one, thanks in large part to his tone-setting opening goal. But such an even dispersal of votes highlights that this was a complete performance by LAFC as a whole, filled with numerous standouts.


Rest+Raul+Nico+Morris = wins? The new math.