Seattle played their last home match of the year against the LA Galaxy, and depending when you paid attention, they were either great or lousy. It was a down and up match, starting down when they again conceded an early goal. The team did get their feet under them later in the half and controlled play for stretches into the second half, eventually earning a deserved equalizing goal. A late flurry saw the Sounders exhibit animosity at the goal itself, repeatedly kicking the ball into it but failing to earn the win. The 1-1 draw gave Seattle a slim lead in the Western Conference standings heading into the last match of the season.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.1 (MOTM)
Frei has struggled lately, with an ever-changing landscape of teammates in front of him and a backline that has leaked big chances. They did again in this match, but Stef came up huge again and again to keep the team close.
One thing I liked: In the 47th and 48th minutes Frei had important saves, desperately coming across to make stops at critical times. This almost single-handedly kept Seattle in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle again gave up an early goal, and on multiple occasions looked vulnerable on set piece defense, which is set up by the keeper.
Going forward: It was a nice reminder that Frei is an elite keeper capable of making big saves, especially after weeks of being beaten on goals he had little chance to deny. The set piece defense must improve, starting with how he’s lining up guys on free kicks, and continuing with keeping teammates accountable for their marks.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 46’ for O’Neill)
Nouhou had an excellent first half, being a standout player and one of the few willing to take space offered on the dribble. Unfortunately, there weren’t many forward options, and he was continually forced back as Seattle figured out their midfield spacing. He had 45 impactful touches in his half of play, completing 92 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: In the 11th minute he came across to the right side to defend and his 18th, 30th, and 41st minute defenses were impeccable, followed by an attacking mindset that frankly the rest of the team could have learned from.
One thing I didn’t like: I have no idea what is going on with Nouhou’s health, and I don’t think the coaching staff does either. He is either mortally wounded or fine, but the Sounders don’t seem to have any clue and this must be so frustrating for everyone involved.
Going forward: I love Nouhou, but he either needs to be healthy and play a full match at the level we know to expect from him, or sit and allow someone more dependable to play.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.0
Arreaga continues to play at a high level despite some struggles around him. He led the center backs with 74 touches, completed 87 percent of his passes, and had three clearances, two tackles, and an interception defensively. A bit surprising were his two shots, good for second most on the team.
One thing I liked: In the 8th minute Xavier showed a blueprint for future success, threading a three-line pass forward to Nico Lodeiro. This unlocking pass from deep can be an incredibly dangerous option for Seattle to punish teams.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 93rd minute Arreaga nearly won the match, with his second corner kick header shot caroming off a frantic opposing keeper, into the crossbar, and out. This was a fantastic play from a guy who got on the end of everything on set pieces, and it should have been the game-winner.
Going forward: Xavi has played well even as the team has had a dip in form, and the upside he brings via his passing skill centrally is massive. Seattle does have some team defending to work on, but it should begin with Arreaga being the distributor from the back.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 6.3
Yeimar had another up and down game, but even on a small dip in form he’s still solid. He had 64 touches on the right, and 83 percent passing. A balanced defensive contribution included multiple interceptions, tackles, and clearances, as well as a handful of duels.
One thing I liked: With Seattle pressing for a lead in the second half, YGA had a 69th minute aggressive step forward on the right to keep possession twice, locking in the ball and stealing any LAG attempt to get out of their own half.
One thing I didn’t like: LA forced Yeimar into multiple difficult passes and he struggled, with poor giveaways in the 26th, 32nd, and 61st minutes. The idea of the connection with teammates was great, but the execution was lousy.
Going forward: Although his play has dropped some as the entire team has underperformed, Yeimar was called up to his national team. That is a deserved reward for a player who has been excellent since he joined the team, and he should continue to dominate during a long playoff run.
Brad Smith – 4 | Community – 5.1 (off 73’ for Benezet)
Brad struggled for long stretches of the first half on both sides of the ball, then regrouped after intermission and was ineffective. He ended with 37 touches, 85 percent passing, and a lost duel on his stat sheet.
One thing I liked: A 23rd minute run up the wing was the lone positive note I have about him.
One thing I didn’t like: A 10th minute bad pass forward was a precursor for a terrible corner try in the 31st, another ugly pass in the 45th, awful defense in the 56th, and missing a 63rd minute give-and-go to top off a forgettable night.
Going forward: Smith is just “okay” and at this point he needs to limit big mistakes and get out of the way of the other players to be a net positive for the team. There is a nonzero chance the return of Lodeiro opens him up on the left.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.9
João took a while to get into the match but slowly exerted his influence in the midfield. After he figured out the spacing centrally, he was part of a Sounders resurgence through the middle of the match. JP had the most touches in the match (81) to go with four key passes, three tackles, two interceptions, and a team-high 16 duels.
One thing I liked: JP remains the main creator for Seattle, setting up chance after chance with his set piece service as well as playmaking from deep, like his 49th minute through ball to Cristian Roldan that put him in to earn the equalizing penalty kick.
One thing I didn’t like: The central midfield and defensive line connection was again up and down, with Seattle at times leaving giant gaps in the middle for opponents to attack vertically. While the defensive duo was a little more active physically, many of the positional errors remained.
Going forward: João needs to get on the same page as Nico quickly, as these two are keys to creating big chances for Seattle.
Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 5.2
Rowe got a start next to JP. Their connection left much to be desired in the first half but improved throughout the match as Seattle figured out better positioning. Rowe had strong defensive work with multiple interceptions, clearances, and 11 duels.
One thing I liked: Kelyn was a catalyst for Seattle’s limited first half success, finding a beautiful (and hugely necessary) switch in the 12th minute as well as a great diagonal run soon after. He ended with a key pass and a shot.
One thing I didn’t like: Rowe lost possession in the middle in the 9th minute and overdribbled several times (particularly in the 89th minute), which on a team this talented is quite unnecessary.
Going forward: Rowe gave a different look than Josh Atencio, but the jury remains out on whether he combines better centrally. The big question is how he’ll work with Lodeiro, as Seattle moves from their current form into playoff Hydra mode.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.8
Alex played well, but very quietly against LA. He had a high number of touches (75) and completed an excellent 89 percent of his passes but wasn’t too involved going forward and creating for others.
One thing I liked: In the 13th minute, Alex was 1-v-1 versus Chicharito and dominated the exchange, getting his body in between the celebrated LA striker and the goal and preventing him from possession.
One thing I didn’t like: A 71st minute poor pass forward was representative of an entire match with muted impact from the width. With zero key passes, Roldan failed to get into prime crossing areas to connect with teammates, and instead was a bystander for much of Seattle’s attack.
Going forward: Roldan’s play has been steady all year, but for some reason his fire and aggressiveness is only evident in some matches. This wasn’t one of them. Alex continues to build on a good season but needs to produce more.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 5| Community – 5.8 (off 73’ for Montero)
Lodeiro again looked somewhat lost and perhaps more concerning, uninvolved. He had 54 touches and a shot in his 74 minutes of play, showing glimpses of solid play within some positional ambiguity.
One thing I liked: A nice 6th minute free kick was a highlight. It was also good to see Nico play 75 minutes to get into shape and grow into the match, as the team finds ways to integrate him back into the lineup.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico was badly juked in the midfield in the 17th minute, and his usual defensive work rate wasn’t there as he struggled to find his place on the team tactically.
Going forward: Seattle likely goes in the playoffs as Nico goes, and the Sounders will need better than this in the upcoming matches.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.1
Every time I wonder about Cristian playing further back, he comes up with an incredibly impactful match from his attacking midfield position. He was excellent against LAG, creating almost every good chance for Seattle and making his 57 touches directly goal-dangerous. He had two shots, a key pass, hit the woodwork twice, and earned the lone Sounders goal from a penalty kick.
One thing I liked: A beautiful over the top pass found Raúl Ruidíaz for an uncalled penalty in the 35th minute. In the 49th he stretched the field to earn a penalty of his own. He hit the post in the 68th minute; he hit the crossbar in the 87th minute. Cristian was the offense.
One thing I didn’t like: He hit the post twice and missed an early pass in behind to Smith that might have changed the trajectory of both Smith and the Sounders had he hit it. For as good as he was, there were many small moments where he was just off or unlucky and that cost the team points.
Going forward: Again, I question whether Roldan would be a better fit back a line going into the playoffs, especially with the return of more attacking pieces. Performances like this one make it hard to move him from the advanced position, but he may be needed at both.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 60’ for Morris)
Raúl did as well as he could, making the most of his 22 touches. He led the team with five shots and was a dangerous option whenever he did get the ball. He completed 90 percent of his passes before being subbed with a potential injury.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz was goal direct and continually dangerous. His shot in the 37th forced a save, and he should have earned a PK. He finished Roldan’s penalty chance with flair.
One thing I didn’t like: Dreams of a long Seattle playoff run likely start and end with the most clutch playoff performer in team history. (Sorry, Stef.) Any injury to Raúl is scary heading into the postseason.
Going forward: Seattle needs Raúl healthy for the important games, and he likely won’t factor in the last game of the regular season without a clean bill of health.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 46’ for Nouhou)
Forced into a tough position, Seattle threw Shane into the match cold, and he responded with his usual dependable defense. It wasn’t fancy play, but it was effective as LA went scoreless while he played. Ninety-six percent passing on 31 touches is what you want from a steady emergency sub.
One thing I liked: In the 85th minute Víctor Vázquez got possession centrally with a lot of room to run. With Samuel Grandsir making a run down the wing, Shane did something very smart. Not bothering to look at the central player with the ball, he saw his man making a vertical run, and he put his head down and busted his ass after him. This led to O’Neill being in the right position defensively instead of beat in behind.
One thing I didn’t like: Shane was beat in behind in the 67th minute.
Going forward: With Nouhou having injury troubles, it’s great to have someone dependable like Shane who can slot in and give you consistent defense.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 6.4 (on 60’ for Ruidíaz)
JORDAN MORRIS IS BACK! It was awesome to see Jordan back and on the field. He looked strong and not favoring his body while working hard to get acclimated to game speed.
One thing I liked: Jordan worked hard off the ball and created a nice corner kick with his pace and aggressiveness in the 69th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: With only eight touches, Morris wasn’t able to get in behind and find the ball, instead he was forced into being active without the ball. He looked tired by the end.
Going forward: Depending on the Ruidíaz injury, Jordan may be more necessary as a forward than as a runner on the field at the same time as Raúl. His pace remains game-changing, but his tactical movement will need to adjust to the new systems Seattle runs this season.
Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 73’ for Lodeiro)
Fredy came on late to try to be an attacking creator and struggled to get connected to all the new parts around him. He only touched the ball eight times but did find a key pass in limited chances.
One thing I liked: Seattle needed control in the 78th minute and Fredy showed off excellent hold up play, bringing teammates into the attacking half and opening runs behind him.
One thing I didn’t like: Montero had multiple bad passes in the 76th minute. He had a hard time getting involved on a team that threw numbers forward in disorganized waves.
Going forward: Fredy is an option to play up front, should Seattle want more of a false nine look with runners off him. If not, Montero can be a controlling option late who will create for others.
Nicolas Benezet – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 73’ for Smith)
Benezet came on with Montero as dual attacking options and he brought a lot of late energy to the team. He had 14 touches as he roamed, looking to connect and push the ball forward.
One thing I liked: His hustle was helpful. Benezet nearly earned a PK in the 84th minute, dashing into the box and forcing a perfect slide tackle to dispossess him.
One thing I didn’t like: At times he was too direct, forcing the ball forward without quality options. This led to a dismal 64 percent completion rate.
Going forward: Benezet is an active option for direct play; he struggles to defend but can connect in the intricate passing that Seattle looks to find in the attacking third.
Joseph Dickerson – 7 | Community – 5.2
Much of this game was refereed … well? This was almost confusing, as lately Seattle has had very poor refereeing, and the expectation at this point is quite low. Dickerson did an excellent job in the middle, finding the correct calls and cards to keep the match under control without making himself the main character of the match.
One thing I liked: Immediately starting the game with a correct foul on Alex Roldan in the 4th minute, then an equally correct no-call on a 50/50 ball in the 6th minute set the tone for a mostly well-officiated match.
One thing I didn’t like: The VAR fumbled what I thought was a PK in the 35th minute as the keeper completely took out Ruidíaz’s head. In any 50/50 ball you can’t go through someone’s head, but apparently a goalie can. At the very least, this stuff should be given a cursory look on replay by the center ref.
Going forward: Making the correct calls early and continuing through the match made this about the teams and not the referees, except for a (customary) VAR hiccup.
LA Galaxy MOTM
Yes, Hernández scored a poacher’s goal on a well worked corner routine. But he did so much more than poach in this one, consistently inserting himself into the action, as illustrated by his 19 duels, eight pressures, and five fouls won.
Seattle plays one more game for seeding in the playoffs, the Cascadia Cup, and pride. A win, please.