Seattle limped into the 2021 playoffs by earning a 1-1 draw in Vancouver. The game was like most of the Sounders’ play in the last month: long stretches of confused play, interspersed with moments of excellence to give a taste of what could be. It’s hard to hold the team accountable for “what might have been,” as they had the better chances during the match. After exchanging goals in the first half, the match was even and entertaining, with Seattle getting more quality shots but failing to take advantage, settling for a draw. The result was disappointing, but reasonable considering how well Vancouver has been playing, and the fact that the Sounders went to Vancouver with zero designated players. Even with the meh results lately, we are still second in the division and could host multiple playoff matches as long as players are healthy and playing like we know they can.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.5
Frei was good against Vancouver but again failed to register a shutout. The goal against wasn’t his fault, but questions remain about the defense, and that starts with the GK.
One thing I liked: In the 17th minute Nouhou had a hard deflected shot that Frei came up huge on, diving to prevent the mercurial left back’s first goal. A late 82nd minute save on a breakaway prevented any late Whitecap heroics.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 3rd minute Stef whiffed on a corner kick, and the Sounders must fix their zonal set piece marking system or they will leak goals in the playoffs.
Going forward: Frei always steps it up in the playoffs, and Seattle needs that leadership and intensity from the opening kickoff in postseason matches.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.0
Nouhou returned to form against Vancouver, miraculously healed from being forced out midway through the last match. He had 62 touches, converted 85 percent of his passes, and was a staunch defender on the left.
One thing I liked: Nouhou had five clearances, coming across behind the back as a sweeper on several occasions as Vancouver got forward on their attacking left. His positioning and instincts were excellent to drift centrally and follow dangerous runs across the box.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 51st minute he lost Brian White for a chance in one of the few moments the Vancouver striker found a free look.
Going forward: Nouhou was back, seemingly healthy, and held his side down well defensively. I’m not sure what to think, but if he can play like this in the playoffs, Seattle is as good defensively as anyone.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.3
Arreaga continued his consistency, showing strong defensive positioning and combining well with his teammates to keep a strong central core. Four tackles, 10 recoveries, five clearances, and an interception were part of a solid match. He had the second-most touches for Seattle, (69) and converted 84 percent of them.
One thing I liked: In the 70th minute Xavi showed the complete package defensively. He played calmly in 1-v-1 defense against a vertical runner, dispossessed his opponent, and earned a foul. This was a tidy bit of work.
One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga didn’t pass forward a ton but missed a wide-open Cristian Roldan in the 30th minute, ruining a great transition moment for Seattle. A soft 83rd minute back pass made Frei work.
Going forward: Xavier Arreaga has found an excellent run of form for months now, continually posting high defensive numbers while being a fulcrum for distribution centrally. He is also surprisingly good at getting around the goal on set pieces, which may come in handy in the playoffs.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 5.8
Yeimar had another up and down game, continuing a slight dip in form but still being solid. He had 54 touches on the right, and 71 percent passing. His combination with Alex Roldan was muted offensively, but did a good job limiting Vancouver down the wing to attack Frei’s goal.
One thing I liked: YGA had four tackles, tying for the team lead, and added three clearances. His speed and size repeatedly thwarted Vancouver attempts to gain access into the Sounders box.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s rare for Yeimar to lose his mark completely, but that’s what happened in the 20th minute, allowing Ryan Gauld in behind him to score. He fell asleep at the worst time.
Going forward: Although his play has dropped a tiny bit as the entire team has recently underperformed, Yeimar is still in the running for Defender of the Year for good reason. A callup to his national team should be the spark to help him regain his best form heading to the postseason.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 63’ for Leyva)
Smith started off strong on the offensive side of the field for Seattle but faded from the match. He was justifiably subbed out early in the second half after being a nonfactor for a long stretch. He had seven recoveries on the left side.
One thing I liked: Brad had two nice crosses in the first half, the best a 26th minute ball that cut back to find an open teammate in the box. He found more space up the wing than in previous appearances.
One thing I didn’t like: The 53rd minute was indicative of Smith’s recent play. He attempted to get forward, lost the ball, made a halfhearted attempt to recover it and fouled his opponent. Just like that, a promising attack was converted into an opponent’s set piece.
Going forward: Smith showed that if a teammate can kick perfect passes into the corner without center backs coming over, he can get to them and cross into dangerous spots. He remains a solid option on the left when those requirements are met.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.2 (off 46’ for Morris)
Atencio got another pairing with Kelyn Rowe in the middle and had a quiet match. With only 28 touches, he was mostly a nonfactor, completing 77 percent of his passes and having few defensive actions. He was subbed off at halftime.
One thing I liked: Early on it was clear that Josh was going to support defensively into the corners, and in the 17th he was part of an excellent double team in the back. This helped prevent Vancouver’s attempts to cross to Brian White.
One thing I didn’t like: With so few touches and limited defensive impact, Atencio was just sort of there. He seems to be tiring with so many more minutes than he has ever played.
Going forward: Josh has been excellent this year and remains a wonderful building piece for the future. He has looked a little run down and his production has been waning, perhaps opening some of his minutes to others.
Kelyn Rowe – 7 | Community – 5.5 (off 85’ for Chú)
Rowe gets a lot of blame from fans, but this match was an example of him having a quietly solid match that was under-appreciated. He had 63 touches, converted a team-high 91 percent of his pass attempts, and added three tackles, three interceptions, and eight recoveries.
One thing I liked: Rowe was a nice “possession” midfielder, combining safely through central areas and moving the ball forward. He added two shots and was active in the middle.
One thing I didn’t like: Kelyn failed to pressure the cross in the 20th minute, allowing Vancouver to lump a ball that eventually pinballed off a few noggins and into the net. Seattle needs midfielders to limit free crosses like this.
Going forward: Rowe gets a lot of flak for not being JP, but then again no one in the league is. He has been a solid option for Seattle throughout the year and likely is the go-to combination in defensive central midfield for the Sounders.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.8
Alex played well but quietly against Vancouver. He had 55 touches and was active up the right wing, but struggled to be goal-direct, instead conceding space to his brother and other active runners in front of him.
One thing I liked: He had a beautiful switching pass in the 89th minute that stood out, and a few cut back crosses, one of which earned him his key pass.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 32nd minute he lost possession badly, instantly creating a counter chance for Vancouver. He also failed to press crossers several times, allowing dangerous service into the box.
Going forward: Alex continues to play solidly for Seattle. The glimpses of spectacular right-wing play have been fleeting as the weather changed, and hopefully some international play will rejuvenate his attacking instincts.
Nicolas Benezet – 6 | Community – 6.5
Benezet was a very active worker with mixed results against the Whitecaps. His willingness to drop back and support Smith defensively was excellent, also opening some diagonal space for Brad into advanced areas. Nico had the most touches on the team (70) and was consistently poking and connecting and attempting to get the ball into attacking spaces.
One thing I liked: Some clever work on the left in the 16th minute was great, utilizing a backheel and flicked touch to find Smith into space in a rather Víctor Rodríguez-esque combination. Benezet led the team with three key passes.
One thing I didn’t like: A bad cross in the 33rd minute killed a chance for Seattle, and without a vertical threat and consistent central combination play, Benezet got lost a few times.
Going forward: Nico Benezet has produced more than expected and remains a goal-direct and creative player able to connect with teammates and find dangerous combinations.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.6 (MOTM)
Cristian started at attacking midfield and was able to impact the match positively in spurts in the first half before dropping back and playing more of a distributor in the second. He had 59 touches and two shots.
One thing I liked: Out of almost nothing, Cristian earned Seattle a penalty kick, flicking a corner near post run into the defender’s arm and giving Seattle an early lead.
One thing I didn’t like: No key passes from Cristian, who failed to get others involved. He had a huge chance in the 34th minute and did nearly everything right, cutting his man and finding a sliver of space — only to miss a huge chance.
Going forward: Seattle desperately needs Roldan to play about five positions right now, and it’s hard to tell where he would be most effective. If testing him out at defensive midfield for a half was part of a look at playoff tactical positioning, okay, but I would be surprised.
Fredy Montero – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.3
Montero was an excellent forward against his previous team, finding chances and being consistently goal dangerous. He led the team with both four shots and three on target, completed 81 percent of his 37 touches, finding teammates and holding up the ball, and was clean on his PK attempt for Seattle’s lone goal.
One thing I liked: Perhaps lost in all his offensive work was a stellar defensive play in the 83rd minute. His alert header off the line saved a goal and a point for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: A few choices on offense were too slow, including a 29th minute poor pass on a break that denied the Sounders a great chance.
Going forward: Everyone knows a healthy Raúl Ruidíaz starts at striker, but Fredy has shown that he can create and score when asked to play there. He has also been a key contributor from attacking midfield this year, with his passing opening spaces for teammates. He may be a backup only at these spots in the playoffs rather than a starter.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 46’ for Atencio)
Morris got a longer runout against Vancouver, finding a half to get some fitness in. He wasn’t hugely impactful, failing to find his positioning within a crowded midfield.
One thing I liked: In the 65th minute there was a glimpse of the Morris that terrified the league pre-injury. He dove to the end line past a player and got a vintage left footed cross into the box.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle struggled to get Jordan into space, limiting his ability to make the darting runs he is so effective at.
Going forward: Morris is a potentially huge addition to the team late in the year, but the coaches must figure out how to get him the ball in space and let him work.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 63’ for Smith)
Leyva came on and looked strong and confident, which was excellent to see. He found the ball 32 times and converted 85 percent of his passes. His positioning was good, and he linked up well with teammates, showing a willingness to get on the ball and be a central facilitator.
One thing I liked: Leyva was all over the field, linking up centrally, drifting left to find passes to Morris and Montero, and being part of some strong connections with teammates going forward. He earned a smart free kick in the 67th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: He had very little defensive presence, with three recoveries the only noted actions.
Going forward: Leyva has been somewhat forgotten behind Atencio in the midfield but showed here that he has excellent control and vision and offers a unique midfield option for the future.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 85’ for Rowe)
Chú came into the match and played … somewhere. Supposedly a left sided player, he was credited with five touches and was 2/3 on passing.
One thing I liked: Although he didn’t see the ball too often, each touch from Chú was aggressively forward, completing two passes into the box and recording a shot in his short time on the field.
One thing I didn’t like: Léo seemed (rightfully) confused about where he fit into the match tactically. He drifted left looking for the ball instead of being a focus to attack through.
Going forward: Chú has earned praise for his attacking job throughout his short time as a Sounder, but we haven’t seen enough to indicate how he fits into a long-term Sounders formation.
Fotis Bozakos – 7 | Community – 4.9
Surprisingly, this was another well-officiated match. The penalty was called quickly and managed efficiently. The fouls made sense and dangerous play was limited. Advantage play was used and both teams were adjudicated evenly.
One thing I liked: In the 80th minute, Leyva fouled a Whitecaps player and the referee correctly allowed advantage play, returning to show the card after the play was completed.
One thing I didn’t like: I thought Fredy got away with a blatant foul in the 29th minute, and Cristian was hacked in the 56th that helped Vancouver get a chance.
Going forward: Keeping Lucas Cavallini off the pitch for 89 minutes translated to a considerably cleaner match between these two teams.
Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM
Brian and Ryan (or Ryan and Brian, if you prefer) were the main attacking threats throughout for Vancouver. And it was their combination, inverted though it was, that created the goal and got the Whitecaps a point and a playoff spot.
Playoffs! We take those!