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Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake: Player ratings

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Sounders’ playoff run ends before it starts.

Roughly 3,845 years ago, Seattle was abruptly ushered out of the MLS playoffs in the first round. The result, the weird way it happened, and some illness by your fearless author combined to make these ratings very late. My apologies.

The patchwork Seattle Sounders hosted Real Salt Lake in their first playoff game and … tied. The 0-0 full time score line was followed by 30 more minutes of the same, ultimately ending in the 6th round of penalty kicks with the away team advancing. The final was 0-0: 6-5, and the game was excruciating to watch as a home fan, as RSL shamelessly refused to show any attacking desire. With a bus parked firmly in front of their clown of a goalkeeper, RSL didn’t attempt a single shot in 120 minutes plus stoppage time, and they were completely disinterested in playing attacking soccer. It was a masterclass in ambivalence, as their game plan of time wasting, diving, fouling, passing backwards, and defending ultimately “worked.” On the flip side, an impotent Seattle squad managed 24 shots but failed to threaten the goal with any regularity and were sent to their locker room with an utterly ridiculous loss. On some level, everyone involved should be embarrassed, and I feel worse for having watched it multiple times. Johan Cruyff wept.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.3

How to you rate a goalkeeper who didn’t have a shot to save, or even an attempt? The defense deserves credit for limiting what few chances the away team had, and that starts with Frei. His stat line was stellar: 0 saves, 0 goals (sorta) against.

One thing I liked: Stef did touch the ball a few times, including easy catches in the 7th, 21st, and 26th minutes.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 30th minute, with Seattle still believing RSL might try to score at some point, Frei rushed a clearance that went long. And, I didn’t expect Stefan to save penalties because that isn’t his strength, but was disappointed when he lived down to my expectations. Frei at least tried and didn’t make a fool out of himself like Steve Clark.

Defense

Shane O’Neill – 7 | Community – 7.3 (MOTM)

Shane was great in this match, showcasing how smart he is on the soccer field. One of the few people who seemed to realize that there was space in the midfield, he consistently pushed into advanced areas, cutting down on the RSL space and creating many attacking chances for Seattle via aggressive forward steps. He had a shot and two key passes from left centerback, leading an at times anemic offense.

One thing I liked: In the 50th minute O’Neill created a great turnover at midfield, charging forward in possession to lead a Sounders break. This aggressiveness was fantastic, showing great game awareness to ignore his non-existent defensive tasks and support the offensive push.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 50th minute O’Neill created a great turnover at midfield, charging forward in possession to lead a Sounders break. He then fumbled through three better options, eventually picking a poor late pass to showcase his lack of playmaking skills. For all Shane’s hustle and effort, it was like Portland in the playoffs: looking flashy and amazing, but falling flat on its face when it mattered the most.

Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 120’ for Cissoko)

Arreaga was outstanding in the second half of the season and this translated into an excellent performance in the playoffs. He was a standout defender, wining nine aerials and adding five clearances while having 88 percent completion on 95 touches. He barely put a foot wrong, consistently stepping up to create chances and anchor the center of the defense.

One thing I liked: Most of Xavi’s play was structured defending that removed what tiny interest in attacking RSL had, but great steps in the 18th and 52nd supported Sounders counter attacks. Of particular note was a semi-chance for Salt Lake in the 76th that saw Xavi casually dispossess the opponent and continue a second half of possession dominance for Seattle.

One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga didn’t push forward aggressively enough after it was obvious that RSL was more interested in resting on the turf than playing soccer. There were chances for him to push forward and spray more attacking passes instead of the conservative defense Seattle chose to play.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.0

Even though this game limited his best attribute (defending … as a defender. Weird, right?) Yeimar had an excellent game. A massive 115 touches saw the right centerback consistently on the ball. His aggression was limited to pressing near midfield and holding plays inside the opponent’s half, and he had four clearances and two tackles defensively.

One thing I liked: Yeimar was never beaten and constantly prevented attacks from even being imagined by RSL. His distribution was solid and safe, getting the ball to creative players so they could work.

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle nearly scored in the 78th minute off a YGA header from a set piece but alas, unless this is your first time reading about the match you know it did not go in the net. While other teams were using their center backs for fouling guys in the box at the end of games to get goals, our big guys were ineffective. With as many set pieces as we had (15 corners) Seattle should have been more dangerous.

Defensive Midfield

Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 91’ for Atencio)

Smith played at or near the level he played all season. He had a number of chances due to strong vertical runs, surrounded by inexplicable mistakes and failures to execute. At times, watching Smith is like the NE Revolution: winning the league with the most points ever and then bombing out in your first playoff match. There’s enough good there that you can’t discount the buildup, but man, the payoff is disappointing.

One thing I liked: Brad had two nice crosses in the first half, the best a 26th minute ball that he cut back to find an open teammate in the box. He found a little more space up the wing than in previous appearances.

One thing I didn’t like: Fifty-eight percent passing on 91 touches! That is just deplorable and illustrates how poorly he was able to integrate into the team’s attack. Sometimes he couldn’t get out of the defense, others he stepped on the ball and refused to attack when Seattle finally had a numbers advantage. He beat the trap beautifully in the 43rd minute and got on the end of an over-the-top pass only to fumble a cross, wasting a great Jordan Morris run that left the Sounders and most fans with their heads in their hands.

Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 6.8

Roldan moved back to the central midfield and looked at home, driving the team into their most dangerous areas and showing incredible two-way play. Nearly everything good that happened in this match came from intelligent movement by Cristian and his distribution from all over the field. He led the team in tackles with three, led the team in shots with three, and added two key passes on 101 active touches.

One thing I liked: Cristian created chances with his defense in the 30th and 36th, put Smith in over the top in the 43rd minute, earned a 60th minute corner with a vertical run, and was involved all over the field. He does all the things his defensive midfield compatriots are constantly lauded for, without all the rampant hacking that seems necessary for their success.

One thing I didn’t like: A dangerous cross-field pass in the 54th was an iffy moment, and his connection with JP was strained at times, with Seattle unable to find much purchase in a packed center of the field.

João Paulo – 7 | Community – 7.0

João returned from injury and put in a quiet (for him) performance. And by quiet, I mean he had a massive 146 touches and led the team with four key passes. He was part of the stellar defensive effort, but like his teammates, he struggled to find the distribution that would unlock a defense that was compact and low-lying.

One thing I liked: For much of the game Seattle’s best offense was through set pieces, which João Paulo delivered with aplomb. RSL looked at JP’s eyes pregame and decided it wasn’t even worth attacking at all, which is my assumption, and thus true.

One thing I didn’t like: While RSL sat back and defended, JP and the rest of the midfield had little luck penetrating the defensive backline. There were opportunities for earlier diagonals and quicker ball movement that Seattle failed to implement, and João missed a few chances to push higher and be an extra attacker.

Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 5.5

Rowe was asked to play outside back yet again, and he was solid, yet boring. With Nico Benezet in front of him, Kelyn had a massive 108 touches but wasn’t involved in the offense a ton. His 66 percent completion rate was also low, but at least resulted from missing attack-minded passes.

One thing I liked: Kelyn is an underrated defender at times and his 37th minute recovery was a fantastic bit of hustle to ensure that Seattle kept pressure without conceding unnecessary chances on the other side.

One thing I didn’t like: With RSL not attacking much, Rowe had to push higher and showcase his offensive skills, yet inexplicably stayed home more than … (checks notes) Shane O’Neill (??). This match was begging for wide players to push high and take space and cross the ball into dangerous areas and overload the box and be a backside presence and there wasn’t enough of that.

Attacking Midfield

Nicolas Benezet – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 83’ for A. Roldan)

Benezet was a very active worker who had some excellent stats, but failed to execute on a number of scoring chances. He had 59 touches from a wide position, switching back and forth with Morris in an attempt to find holes around the parked bus.

One thing I liked: Nico Benezet had three shots and two key passes, at least finding a modicum of offensive pressure, albeit without a ton of success.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 47th minute he got free on a break and put in a weak shot. There just wasn’t enough quality finishing on the night to turn these half chances into something that would get past RSL’s shithousery. When you have fancy touches and get into good places but then choke, we call that “LAFC.”

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 104’ for Lodeiro)

Morris got a surprise 104-minute runout and was clearly rusty. Even not full strength, he had two shots and two key passes and was a clear threat to break through the defense in the few moments that RSL’s backline wasn’t taking up residence inside their own 18.

One thing I liked: Early on the offense went through Jordan, who found an over-the-top ball from JP in the 5th minute and showed off a vintage left-footed cross in the 9th minute. In the 62nd he had a beautiful run through the defense that evoked memories of happier times beating up on LAG and Dallas.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 50th minute, playmaker Shane O’Neill brought the ball into the offensive third and after some Cincinnati-level attacking, eventually saw possession fall to Morris with a wide-open shot. He chose to hit it with the outside of his right boot and slammed it into the stands instead of past cartoon-villain David Ochoa.

Forward

Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.5 (off 46’ for Ruidíaz)

Montero got a playoff start in Seattle and worked hard, but ultimately was ineffective against the opponent’s deep lying defensive block. The Sounders were unable to get in behind, leaving Montero drifting around looking for touches and few spaces to work in. His 20 touches were limited to back to the goal hold up plays and layoffs, but he had some success as a second runner in the few times Seattle found vertical runs.

One thing I liked: Three shots and a number of near-misses showed that Fredy was getting into good spots. A 36th minute header from excellent Cristian Roldan service was a huge chance that Montero put wide from the penalty spot.

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle needed to create space vertically and Fredy isn’t the guy to offer that. Because of this, his runs were often in conflict with Morris, either too late to get on the end of Jordan’s wide play or into space where others wanted to run.

Substitutes

Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 6.2 (on 46’ for Montero)

Unable to start, Raúl came on and was very quiet. Having only 19 touches was disappointing, but they translated into three shots and came with 100 percent completion rate.

One thing I liked: In the 73rd minute Ruidíaz got a half chance at the top of the box and laced a nearly perfect volley that hit the crossbar. The topspin he puts on those shots is incredible, and they show how lethal he can be any time he touches the ball.

One thing I didn’t like: All those chances in the first half where we thought “Raúl would have been there to finish that cross” disappeared after halftime.

Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.1 (on 83’ for Benezet)

Alex Roldan wasn’t able to start but came in late and was all over the ball, ending with 46 touches.

One thing I liked: A 100th minute defensive play was excellent, and he stepped up to his role in extra time and during the shootout.

One thing I didn’t like: A 120th minute backheel was ill-advised and stressful in the last minute of the match.

Josh Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 91’ for Smith)

Atencio came in late and played mostly defense, pushing other midfielders higher into the attack.

One thing I liked: Added to a playoff match, Josh grabbed 21 touches and wasn’t afraid to get involved in a high stakes game.

One thing I didn’t like: Fifty-five percent passing included losing possession in the 95th minute in one of the few nervy moments for Seattle’s defense.

Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 104’ for Morris)

Nico subbed in late as part of a desperate attempt to get offense-minded players onto the field to create chances and avoid going to a shootout. He had 26 touches but looked almost exactly like a guy coming off a year of injuries.

One thing I liked: A shot and a key pass showed glimpses of the Nico we know and love. A 105th minute through ball immediately upon entering nearly pushed Cristian in on goal and was just the kind of verticality the team had been missing.

One thing I didn’t like: His touch was off, his decision making was slow, and it was clear that he wasn’t up to his lofty standards. Missing near-post corner kick after near-post corner kick in the 107th minute was quite frankly “win MLS Cup; miss playoffs the next year” level sad.

Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 6.1 (on 120’ for Arreaga)

Cissoko was subbed in at the death of the match for one thing, and managed a single touch before the end.

One thing I liked: There is something cool about being on a second division team at the start of the year and ending the year by subbing in to take a penalty in the first team’s biggest game of the season. He rewarded the coaching staff’s faith in his ability by casually converting.

One thing I didn’t like: He played better in his one minute than SKC did in the last 75 minutes of their subsequent match. This isn’t “one thing I didn’t like about Cissoko,” but SKC and their coach suck and deserve to be called out.

Referee

Joseph Dickerson – 7 | Community – 5.6

Dickerson reffed Seattle a ton of times this year and this was similar to his earlier jobs: boring but fair. With RSL failing to attack at all and almost completely conceding possession, there were fewer confrontations and opportunities for the ref staff to involve themselves. The fouls were appropriately 2-1 called on RSL, and it resulted in a mostly clean match.

One thing I liked: Rubio Rubin started the game diving and Dickerson was smart to immediately ignore his antics. He consistently allowed advantage as RSL attempted to muddy up the match and bring Seattle to a slow slog.

One thing I didn’t like: Everton Luiz finally got a yellow card in the 72nd minute after deserving one much earlier, and taking until the 50th minute to give Ochoa a card for dissent after watching him rolling around the field and faking injuries after the 7th minute was a travesty.

Real Salt Lake MOTM

David Ochoa, yes, that David Ochoa, won Man of the Match. To be fair, he had an infinitely higher save percentage than his Sounders counterpart. He also did literally everything he could to waste time and devolve the match. Kudos!


If you are a loyal RR reader, you likely noticed the “going forward” parts were missing. That’s because my SUPER SPECIAL END OF YEAR RATINGS RECAPS will be showcasing this more in depth, and anyway, no one cares about going forward from the ugly game that knocked us from the playoffs. I am currently working on these recaps and should get the first ones out soon! Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how satisfying it was to see Portland lose at home. Sorry not sorry.