Playing a midweek game on the road with short rest, Seattle came out against the San Jose Earthquakes in a rotated lineup as well as a formation change. All of that preparation was thrown out the window when an early defensive injury forced changes and put the away team under even more stress. Coaches scrambled to adjust formations and personnel and the results were mixed. The Sounders showed immense grit to deal with the fatigue and roster changes, finding an early goal and defending resolutely for a road win. The 1-0 final score came at a high cost, though, as both Jordy Delem and Stefan Frei went down with serious looking injuries.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 7.9
Frei combined for his third shutout in five matches, and was immense in holding the clean sheet. Seattle was faced with 15 shots (six on goal), forcing Stef into five saves. He did a bit of everything, making clutch saves, catching in traffic, having a massive 43 touches, and distributing well to mitigate pressure.
One thing I liked: Frei came up huge in the 37th minute, covering the near post and diving quickly to his right to stop a close shot from Cade Cowell. With Seattle consistently under pressure, it was Stef time and time again who came out to catch or made the secure save on shots to ensure that the Sounders kept the clean sheet. Directly after this save the Sounders nearly scored a second, and Frei and Co. made their lead hold up.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 90th minute Stefan was slammed into by an out-of-control teammate and had to be assisted off the field, clearly very badly hurt. Goalkeeper is one of the only positions where Seattle doesn’t have a proven backup (although both options seem fine), and any injury to a guy who was clear GKOTY so far this season is a massive loss.
Going forward: Between starting this column and finishing it there was hopeful news about Frei’s injury, and if that’s true, it’s possible that Stefan isn’t done for the year. While I have massive respect for the work Tommy Dutra does with the keepers, I’d prefer it if Frei were able to come back as soon as possible. Please send him healing vibes; without him we might be okay, but with Stef we are #hellagreedy.
Jordy Delem – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 9’ for O’Neill)
Delem patiently waited for his chance to start a game and found it at centerback. Unfortunately for him, he was bit by the terrible field in San Jose, twisting his knee awkwardly for what sounds like a bad injury.
One thing I liked: I just like Jordy Delem. Always smiling, his demeanor belies a tough enforcer attitude and a guy who is constantly willing to do whatever it takes to get his job done. He is a clear step up from the level of player he was replacing on the roster, and that’s indicative of the Sounders growth and his ability.
One thing I didn’t like: Seeing anyone get hurt is rough, and that looked very much like an ACL tear. For a guy fighting for minutes, perhaps even for a roster spot, it’s just awful to see him get hurt and lose the season.
Going forward: We never got to see Delem as a centerback, so we don’t know if that is a future spot he can slot into. As a fairly cheap player who has a ton of versatility and is a known locker room bonus, I hope Jordy can return strong enough to remain relevant on a team that is improving and getting younger at the same time.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.2
Arreaga started this match as the center of the back three, but was quickly forced wide due to the Delem injury. This changed his focus, and he was part of a team-wide defensive effort that earned a clean sheet. Xavi ended with 74 percent passing and 13 defensive actions (five clearances).
One thing I liked: If you were looking for an example of the impact Xavier can have offensively, it was apparent early. In the 10th minute Arreaga smoothly navigated up the left and released Nouhou, and it was his fantastic 18th minute dribble and pass that again freed up Nouhou to help create the game-winning goal. Xavi’s ability to create his own space and release players up field vertically is game breaking.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively, Arreaga had a number of mistakes, including diving in on Cowell in the 54th and getting beat, and committing an unnecessary 90th minute foul on Chris Wondolowski that gave San Jose a free kick late in the match and an opportunity to score or injure our keeper.
Going forward: I still want to see what Arreaga has to offer in the middle of the field, as his vision, dribbling ability, and direct passing range look like they could add more dynamism to this Seattle team. He still makes some big errors you don’t want to see from a player on the back line, but flanking him by strong defenders could allow his strong traits to shine.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 7.1
Yeimar had another strong defensive effort, again starting as the right centerback and playing well. With Seattle spending much of the game conceding possession, limiting high quality chances was essential and Yeimar and Alex Roldan worked excellently together to do exactly that.
One thing I liked: YGA was a massive defensive presence. He had nearly 20 defensive actions, with an incredible nine clearances highlighting a no-nonsense perspective from a Seattle team defending a lead for much of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar isn’t going to be confused for a great distributor, and he struggled to get the ball up the wing and completed to teammates to retain possession. Some of this was the depleted lineup around him and the removal of Arreaga’s smooth passing next to him, but much of the time he just cleared long, which hurt possession.
Going forward: Yeimar has now started back-to-back games on the right and been an imposing defensive force, limiting opponents to few if any good looks down his side. While he might still rotate some, his play shows he needs to be on the field whenever fitness and circumstances allow.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 7.1
Nouhou started as a left wingback and results were mixed. He was active up his line and got involved frequently until he tired. This, combined with the injury to Delem and formational changes forced the defensive player into some uncomfortable positions where he struggled and lost effectiveness. Nouhou was instrumental in the Sounders goal, however, getting forward and earning a key pass and showcasing some offensive contributions.
One thing I liked: Even playing “offensive,” he still managed a ton of defensive stats, highlighted by five clearances and two interceptions, dropping back to combine with Arreaga to defend the strong and heavily right-sided Earthquake attack.
One thing I didn’t like: I am not sure where Nouhou was supposed to be after halftime, and he seemed more comfortable dropping in next to Arreaga as left back rather than left wing. As someone who has been the best centerback in the league this year, the question of why he was even out there seems a legitimate one.
Going forward: Injuries and rotation may have forced Nouhou out wide and playing more offensively than he is comfortable with, but I expect to see him back in the position where he’s dominated the league through the first four matches. Seattle will need him to continue this high level of play with an inexperienced keeper behind him.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.6 (MOTM)
Cristian played excellently, showing up all over the field. He had two shots, three key passes, 80 percent passing on offense, and 15 defensive actions, covering the field with highlight plays. After pressing high and supporting the attack, he would suddenly pop up (like in the 30th) in his own box to clear away what San Jose must have thought was the equalizer.
One thing I liked: His entire game was fantastic but I must highlight his 18th minute volley, the only goal in this match. Roldan subtly touched the ball to his left to set up a volley, then absolutely laced it, getting his hips around and smashing the ball through the back of the net. The keeper had no chance as the ball was shielded and hit about as hard as you can hit a shot.
One thing I didn’t like: As a younger brother, I resent that he offered up Alex for tribute as goalie. Such an older brother move!
Going forward: This match illustrated not only how valuable Roldan is to this team, but also that he can still be incredibly productive from a deeper starting position. Being able to find his runs and still get on the scoresheet from a midfield spot should fit nicely with the (hopefully imminent) return of Nico Lodeiro. Roldan has been terrific for Seattle this season.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.8 (off 60’ for João Paulo)
Leyva got his first start this season and underwhelmed. He wasn’t bad and didn’t have any huge glaring mistakes, but he struggled to get into the match and had little positive impact in the run of play. His stats were okay — 75 percent passing, a shot, and a tackle on 42 touches. After a slow start that saw Leyva uncharacteristically give away the ball, the young midfielder settled into the match and found a combination with the teammates around him that did just enough defensively.
One thing I liked: Danny was credited with a whopping five key passes, showing a great ability to get the ball to people in positions to shoot. Three of those were from excellent set pieces that he surprisingly lined up to take.
One thing I didn’t like: Leyva was particularly ineffective defensively in space, with only a handful of recoveries to show for his 60-minute shift. He has to be able to win some tackles, get in passing lanes and intercept the ball, and show better if he wants to play more.
Going forward: Neither of the young guys impressed against San Jose, but they did their job in getting minutes off others’ legs and keeping a clean sheet. I expect bigger things from Leyva going forward, and his growth into the match was a small indication that he might be able to provide this.
Alex Roldan – 8 | Community – 8.1
I gave Alex a high rating even prior to his late game heroics. He was an absolute monster on the right side of defense, supporting excellently throughout the match and showing a level of intensity and toughness that was a welcome sight. He only had a single shot in his 46 touches, but made smart decisions on the width and was one of the best Sounders players at keeping possession. This was integral to Seattle’s success, as they struggled to get the ball and keep it for much of the night.
One thing I liked: As a field player, being asked to play in goal has to be tense, and when the younger Roldan was volunteered by his brother to strap on a keeper jersey three sizes too large, he was clearly a little wide-eyed. Alex was not only up to the challenge, however, he was monstrous in front of goal, spending the next five minutes closing the game out with some of the most heroic goalkeeping I have ever seen. He was immediately tested by a headed cross which he smothered and held onto while being smashed into by an opponent. Another vision-blocked attempt was also saved, as Alex clutched the ball to his chest like like a Sounder at Heart commenter to a pun thread eight comments deep. He ended up with three crucial saves and a clean sheet in what’s likely (hopefully?!??) his only goalkeeping outing.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s hard to say anything negative when your last impression is Alex’s amazing goalkeeping excursion, but he didn’t have a single key pass, something he needs to be contributing from his wide areas.
Going forward: Big players step up in big games, and legends step up in big games and perform. A-Rold should be riding high on his keeper play in this match and needs to channel that into more quality play from his usual wide area.
Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 83’ for Smith)
Rowe got another start at yet another position, this time wide forward. It was a bit of an adventure, with Rowe up for the hustle but not getting the kind of service that he wanted, limiting his effectiveness. Kelyn brought his trademark scrappiness everywhere on the field, contributing three tackles and an interception while jumpstarting the press and defending from the front.
One thing I liked: Rowe seems happy and able to play anywhere you put him, and within his 48 touches he found three shots and two key passes, constantly moving around and looking to attack the goal.
One thing I didn’t like: A 15th minute bad touch lost possession after Nouhou had put him into the box. This was one of a few chances that seemed jinxed, perhaps by tired legs creating a bit of variability.
Going forward: Rowe has played very well and done his job, enabling those around him, and that is exactly what Seattle needs. His energy all over the field was immense, but may mean that he won’t be ready to go a third time in a week versus LAFC.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.3
Raúl didn’t play great in this match, but again produced a ton of shots. He is finding space and the ball in attacking areas with great regularity as well as doing a lot of grunt work in the midfield to support teammates’ runs around him. His 88% passing led the team, and kept the ball in Sounders possession when he got touches around midfield before turning towards goal.
One thing I liked: Raúl was excellent in holdup play, continually dropping into the middle to collect and distribute time and time again. He dropped to midfield in the 40th minute and started a break before following up the play and earning his own shot from the top of the 18.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl was given numerous chances against San Jose and managed a game-high seven shots — but failed to put a single one on frame. Some were forced balls or blocked, but others he just miss-hit and Ruidíaz struggled to be goal dangerous.
Going forward: Raúl is still averaging a goal a game and his ability to get shots so far this year is prodigious. Working with an assortment of players around him, Ruidíaz has continued to create and should remain high in the league goal leaders with the number of chances he’s getting.
Ethan Dobbelaere – 4 | Community – 4.8 (off 46’ for Montero)
Young Ethan Dobbelaere got the second start of his Sounders career but looked out of his depth. He ran around but unfortunately had little positive impact and struggled mightily to get into the match.
One thing I liked: As a wide forward he had five defensive actions, and his 13th minute press forced the ball out for a Sounders possession via throw-in.
One thing I didn’t like: Ethan had 11 touches, but none were very productive.
Going forward: It remains to be seen if Dobbelaere will develop into an MLS talent for the Sounders, but this match didn’t help his case for more minutes. There is definitely some ability there that shows up sporadically, but on a veteran team with big aspirations this year, he will need to be much improved to see many minutes going forward.
Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 9’ for Delem)
O’Neill was rushed onto the field in the 9th minute for the injured Delem, and his entrance changed the game a lot. The coach inserted O’Neill centrally and pushed Arreaga wide, forcing distribution to go through Seattle’s left which worked sporadically.
One thing I liked: Shane had six clearances.
One thing I didn’t like: There is no justification for the manner in which he hurt Frei; Shane played a 90th minute set piece defense worse than bad. He started off by losing Chris Wondolowski, allowing yards of separation before the ball was even kicked. Then he compounded that with one of the most ridiculous flailing header attempts ever. He charged back at his own goal, stumbled, sort of leapt for a ball that was four feet over his head, and off-balance barged into Frei. Stefan, due to his proper positioning and ability to use his arms actually reached the ball four feet away and pushed it wide, only to be obliterated by an out-of-control Shane. This move cost Frei a devastating leg injury that will keep him out for an undetermined period.
Going forward: Shane does a lot of little things in the game that frustrate me with his positioning and those were still there. Then he added a huge blunder last match and hurt an essential teammate in this one. The floor is dropping.
Fredy Montero – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 46’ for Dobbelaere)
Montero came into the match at halftime and gave Seattle some extra possession, holding the ball from a mostly left-sided position and looking to combine with Raúl and create goals through the gaps in the San Jose defense. He drifted all over the field, finding spots to support the defense clearing danger, and turning through traffic to find teammates countering forward.
One thing I liked: Even pressed into their own half much of the match, Seattle still created some strong chances in the second half, many through Fredy’s passing and movement. The best was in the 60th minute when Montero stole a ball and quickly pushed through Raúl into a 1-v-1 with the keeper, but he was unable to finish.
One thing I didn’t like: Fredy didn’t score, which was weird. He also struggled with the chaotic nature of the match and got lost on a few plays.
Going forward: Montero added a nice possession element to the game which was lacking, but hopefully Seattle can utilize his offensive abilities instead of just his holdup play in future matches.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.5 (on 60’ for Leyva)
With San Jose on the front foot, João Paulo was brought in to help solidify the center, and he did that well with six defensive actions and 73 percent passing.
One thing I liked: In the 88th minute João showed his defensive chops, beautifully blocking a shot that looked to be a great SJ chance.
One thing I didn’t like: Oddly enough, he was near-perfect passing from within the attacking half and only completed 40 percent passing in the Seattle half. His 95th minute foul unnecessarily gave a set piece and forced more Alex Roldan heroics.
Going forward: JP was probably hoping to get a rest but was instead introduced to a very physical, tense match and he responded by solidifying the middle and playing very well.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 83’ for Rowe)
Smith came in and helped fix the shape of the formation, but not much else. He didn’t have to, as the players coalesced defensively enough to hold on.
One thing I liked: Brad had a nice shot in the 86th minute, missing over the bar.
One thing I didn’t like: He was one for three on passing and had no defensive actions, struggling to get into the match.
Going forward: This small outing should leave Smith rested and ready for big minutes this weekend.
Baldomero Toledo – 4 | Community – 3.7
When Toledo refs, you know he is going to let a lot go, but this was a terrible effort that was somehow both too strict and too lenient and altogether a mess. Toledo seemed to be refereeing to the scoreboard late, allowing the match to become chippy and frustrating for both sides.
One thing I liked: Baldomero and crew used VAR effectively in the 15th minute, correctly removing a terrible penalty call.
One thing I didn’t like: Ruidíaz got a yellow on his first foul for an innocuous enough knock, and Frei got a yellow for time wasting without a warning that I noted. On the flip side, Nouhou deserved a 14th minute yellow for a cynical knock, as did Yeimar in the 45th. Neither was booked, nor was Eric Remedi for crushing Montero in the 70th or fouling Rowe in the 79th. Andres Rios, after dropping O’Neill in the 96th behind the play, didn’t see a card, and when A-Rold was crushed in the 94th a foul wasn’t even called. Cade Cowell committed six fouls, was called for three, and somehow failed to find the book. Letting all this physical play go saw multiple players for both sides nearly badly hurt. This was a terrible job of game management, even going back and carding Remedi for a clear yellow behind the play after allowing advantage was too much for this referee.
Going forward: Toledo is known for allowing a lot of physical play, but this was dangerous.
San Jose Earthquakes MOTM
The burly Cade Cowell comes away with MOTM after a solid all around performance. He was tireless in his holdup play, continually battling with the various Seattle centerbacks. Additionally, he forced a great save from Frei in the 37th minute, low and across the face of goal.
So far, the mighty Sounders have won two games in their three-game week, and they look to finish it strong at home against LAFC, a team that Seattle played well against in their first meeting this year. #hellagreedy