The Sounders came off the break into a road match with a handful of starters out and a bench with only six subs, while the LA Galaxy were at full-strength, ranked third in the division, undefeated at home, and boasting the top scorer in the league. Most reasonable predictions had Seattle lucky to get a road point. Twenty-one minutes in, after conceding a soft penalty, even a draw looked hopeful. What happened in the next 70 minutes was a massive demonstration of grit, determination, and resilience from a deep team that continues to exceed expectations. Seattle fought back for a deserved 2-1 win, again showcasing phenomenal defense and opportunistic offense. The Sounders allowed few opportunities and seized the chances they created to remain undefeated this season.
Stefan Cleveland – 7 | Community – 7.6
Cleveland has done so well this year, and against LAG he was again excellent. While only credited with a single save, he made several big stops on plays called offsides. They don’t hit the stat sheet, but they show his skill and shot stopping ability. Stef’s passing dropped slightly this week (74 percent) but that was likely due to Xavier Arreaga being gone, so he was forced to go long more often. Stefan’s distribution and choices from the back were outstanding, and he showcased excellent range and mobility, getting outside his box on a few important occasions to limit plays in behind.
One thing I liked: His one save was a big one and kept the winning score line. An 85th minute Jorge Villafaña strike was low and to his left, and Cleveland parried excellently, displaying strong diving form and necessary arm strength to push the ball far out of the area. That kind of shot stopping hasn’t often been needed with the stout defense in front of him, but when necessary, Stefan has shown the ability to make these saves.
One thing I didn’t like: There were the expected communication errors with a new backline, (like Shane O’Neill constantly passing to his right foot) and what seemed to be less control in the back. Cleveland has shown excellent ability in a possession-based backline, so not utilizing that as much did limit Seattle.
Going forward: Another excellent keeper created in the Tommy Dutra laboratory, Cleveland worked exceptionally hard during Covid and it shows. He’s doing everything right and adding confidence to a group that is already playing phenomenal defense. I have never felt this good about a Sounders back-up keeper, and it will be hard for Seattle to hold onto him if he isn’t enamored with backing up Stefan Frei when he returns. Until then, this goalie is talented, and the team still has yet to concede from the run of play.
Abdoulaye Cissoko – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 87’ for Leyva)
Nou-who? Everything Cissoko was doing well in Tacoma translated to MLS level, and while we still love Nouhou, this was a fantastic debut from AB. He had 58 touches, 83 percent passing, and 14 defensive actions in a very busy and impressive first start for Seattle.
One thing I liked: Stepping into the shoes of the DPOY in your first start is a big ask, but by midgame it looked like Cissoko had been playing at MLS level for years. His composure, decision making, and passing accuracy were all very strong and he barely put a foot wrong all match. He stepped up and tackled hard, made good passes, and fit in seamlessly.
One thing I didn’t like: An early clearance in the 16th minute was blocked and kept in for LA to pressure Seattle, but this was one of only a handful of occasions where the speed of the game snuck up on AB before he adjusted.
Going forward: No one can replace Nouhou, but AB did a great job filling in and answered the big questions about whether his performances with Defiance could be replicated in a better league. His composure was the shining attribute, and Cissoko looks like a capable MLS-level player for rotation or injury need.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 6.6
Shane came into the lineup after being on the bench for a few games and it was a seamless return. He manned the middle and was a solid manager of the defense, for the most part keeping the back line connected and doing well to win his individual battles. He had nine defensive actions and stellar 92 percent passing, showing steady control and safe passing from the back.
One thing I liked: O’Neill clearly had a game plan which was “pass safe, square, and get out of the way,” and he did that almost perfectly. He completed every single short and wide pass, and the only times he didn’t hit a teammate were on his four tries remotely attacking or long. It was a very conservative choice but kept him out of trouble.
One thing I didn’t like: Whenever Shane is forced to run toward his own goal, he loses shape, and the domino effect pushes other teammates into bad spots. He wasn’t directly responsible for the PK, but this play was an example of O’Neill running back toward his own goal, losing his mark (Chicharito) and guarding space instead of a man, creating gaps in the defense.
Going forward: Shane O’Neill displayed again how deep Seattle is on defense, as he showed well after being gone for a while and kept the goals from the run of play at zero. There wasn’t anything exceptional about his play that would demand starts on a full team, but his outing was solid and the kind of confidence-instilling presence that makes him perfect to fill in when needed.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.3 (MOTM)
Yeimar keeps somehow improving his performances, adding more ways to impact the match each time out. Six clearances, three interceptions, a tackle, and eight recoveries defensively led the way. His ability to change the game with dominating defense was partnered with above-average offensive insight and positioning, combining to make YGA an obvious choice for MOTM.
One thing I liked: His defense is maybe best in the league, but this match showed an attacking energy that was spectacular. It started by getting in a great position in the 27th minute back post and forcing a great save after a nice Fredy Montero cross. Fifteen minutes later he put a thundering header past the keeper to tie the game up and send Seattle into the break level. Finally, in the 49th minute, an acrobatic heel flick in traffic pushed the ball to Cristian Roldan on a play that saw Seattle take the lead. Yeimar’s ability to be goal-dangerous is a bonus to a player already crushing defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: The obligatory bad pass from YGA came in the 5th minute and was repeated on a poor 46th minute switch attempt. For all the amazing things he does, Yeimar is just going to have a heavy touch every match and pass the ball poorly a few times.
Going forward: Yeimar is playing incredibly well on the right, intermixing with Alex Roldan, and covering centrally as needed. With him and Nouhou, Seattle has incredible size, speed, and range on the wide center back positions and each is still growing into his game. Right now, it’s hard to think of anyone who’s playing better defense than Yeimar.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.8
Smith had a quiet match against the Galaxy, touching the ball 34 times and not having any luck on either side of the ball. He finished with 68 percent passing, four defensive actions, and a single successful cross. Outside of these moments, Brad supported Cissoko on his side a bit and didn’t have a lot of impact on the match flow.
One thing I liked: In the 8th minute he pushed a ball in behind for Cristian Roldan to run onto, one of the few offensive actions he had. A 35th minute pull-back cross stretched the field a bit.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith dove in rather comically on defense against Julian Araujo in the 42nd minute and missed badly, allowing an unmarked cross to Chicharito for the Galaxy star’s biggest chance of the night. This could have been a heartbreaking goal conceded mere moments after equalizing.
Going forward: Brad Smith isn’t playing great, and his big mistakes are hurting the team. More than most, he needs service and the players around him to put him into opportunistic spots, and without that Smith looks very mundane.
Kelyn Rowe – 7 | Community – 6.5
Rowe worked incredibly hard in the midfield, showing up all over the pitch during his shift and getting 56 touches. He turned these into 85 percent passing (two key passes), also chipping in 14 defensive actions across the entire field. Kelyn was excellent playing off JP, working through the middle to force attacks away from Seattle’s goal, and running constantly due to LA’s possession advantage.
One thing I liked: It was Rowe’s smart vertical run from deep midfield that forced the Galaxy to concede the throw-in which started the game-winning play. Not just that, but Kelyn took the throw and got a touch in the buildup, working a give and go with Alex Roldan to start the play.
One thing I didn’t like: A 51st minute midfield turnover was a rough give away, and Kelyn clearly tired after the 75th minute which limited his effectiveness.
Going forward: Rowe has been one of the most surprisingly fruitful signings Seattle has made in a long time, solidifying the midfield, and providing high minutes from a guy thought to be a backup. His ability to offset and enable JP has been excellent, and his tenacity in the middle is important. I didn’t think he would play three games in a week last time, but he did, and we will have to wait and see if his minutes are regulated this week.
João Paulo – 8 | Community – 7.4
João Paulo did so many good things in this match, and much doesn’t show up on a stat sheet. His positioning was great, and also everywhere. Somehow, he managed to pressure from sideline to sideline and box to box while also getting 62 touches (81 percent passing) and providing an assist to boot. Many of the Galaxy issues transitioning into the attack were because of Seattle’s midfield duo clogging everything up.
One thing I liked: JP is second in the league in assists with five, and it’s not just because he serves an excellent dead ball — it’s because he is remarkably consistent with that service. Providing a predictable ball has enabled the Seattle attackers to repeatedly find success on set pieces, and consistency in knowing where the ball is going is huge.
One thing I didn’t like: The penalty was soft for sure, but JP must know that opponents are looking for contact against Seattle. In the 20th minute of a tied game with five defenders versus two attackers, the last thing you want to do is give opponents a chance to flop and get a cheap one. There was enough contact and clip of the leg for that to be a foul, and JP bears responsibility.
Going forward: It would seem surprising that Seattle has multiple players that look league-best in their role, but seeing our results and goal differential, maybe it shouldn’t be. João Paulo is playing at an extremely high level but also showcasing the sort of consistency you want and expect from a DP. He is a joy to watch.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.0
Cristian was better than his last few games, this time in a hybrid attacking role split with Montero wide and Raúl centrally. It was a mixed bag of success for Roldan, with 44 touches and rough 67 percent passing, but he also led the team with four shots, had two key passes, and four won tackles defensively.
One thing I liked: Roldan was directly goal dangerous, with a shot in the 4th minute preceding another 10 minutes later. He also set up Kelyn to get forward in the 48th with a nice holdup play. This play ended with Roldan putting a great shot on goal that was blocked, and Ruidíaz pounced. Cristian also earned an uncalled penalty in the 24th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: Cristian was part of most of the good Seattle chances, but was also the reason the Sounders didn’t have more, missing a few big passes. Of note was a 69th minute slip pass that missed Raúl who would have been in on goal to seal the game.
Going forward: Cristian will likely play three games in a week and will need to continue this level of effort for Seattle to be successful. His combination of attacking and defensive work across the front and underneath Raúl is elite.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 87’ for Bruin)
Alex did his job quietly against LA, defending stoutly and enabling Yeimar to roam and support the middle and manage Chicharito duty. Alex also did admirably in defense on the wing, limiting LA to few (if any) viable crosses from his side of the field, shutting down Efraín Álvarez and Kévin Cabral as they drifted wide to make central space.
One thing I liked: It was Alex’s perfect pass to his brother in the 24th minute that should have earned a penalty, and his cross in the 49th minute into a dangerous area that ended in the net.
One thing I didn’t like: A 54th minute central header was a bad choice, and Roldan the younger had little luck in creating consistent wide pressure through the LA possession game.
Going forward: Alex needs to find more of the ball in attacking areas, instead of ceding the entire offensive third to his brother’s diagonal runs. The younger Roldan has great tools for distribution and early crossing that are going underused. His defensive combination with Yeimar is excellent, and the right looks comfortable and settled in possession.
Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 76’ for Medranda)
Montero played a central winger opposite Cristian Roldan with limited success, and added some defensive support for a midfield that had to do a lot of chasing. His wide position had little cohesion with Smith, and Fredy tired from running around trying to support multiple areas.
One thing I liked: In the 27th minute Seattle nearly equalized off a smart control and cross from Montero after a corner kick, with YGA missing a short finish due to a great save by the LA keeper.
One thing I didn’t like: Fredy’s passing and connectivity with teammates was poor, and he had a dismal 45 percent passing completion rate. What he wanted to do was evident, but Montero struggled to get the ball to teammates, often caught in possession or seeing wayward passes from his usually trusty boots.
Going forward: Fredy showed the last time out how skilled he can be in bringing others into the game offensively. In this game, with the defensive line pressed back and failing at distributing from deep, Montero was forced into a role he was ill-suited for. If Seattle is missing dynamic players from the back, Fredy may be a better sub addition than starter.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 7.4
Raúl seemed invisible in the match until he wasn’t, popping up and scoring the game-winning goal as he tends to do. This was his only shot, but he also had 80 percent passing in a more possession role, dropping centrally to get touches with Roldan and Montero wide of him.
One thing I liked: It only took an instant, but the guy on the field with the best reaction time in minute 49 was Ruidíaz. Always in the right place, he poked home his league-leading 7th goal. It may have seemed easy, but being there and reacting faster than anyone else to get to that ball is a skill he leveraged perfectly.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl only got one shot in this match and didn’t see the ball in advanced attacking areas much. All his touches went toward the wrong goal, and when teams hold that much possession without wide Sounders attackers showing up, Raúl’s service dries up.
Going forward: Raúl now leads the golden boot race, won’t be gone for the summer, and just steadily goes about his business no matter who is around him. There are more goals for him this week.
Jimmy Medranda – 6 | Community – 6.5 (on 76’ for Montero)
Jimmy was great against LA, showing off two-way play and being part of nearly everything positive for Seattle in the last 30 minutes.
One thing I liked: In only 10 touches, Medranda got three shots and put Smith in excellently up the wing once. Jimmy’s cut back and shot in the 93rd was exquisite, showcasing an attacking skill and confidence we haven’t seen from the left this year.
One thing I didn’t like: An overly excited shot in the 95th into the stands was probably better as a safe dribble to the sideline to close out the match.
Going forward: Medranda keeps giving tantalizing views of wide pace, creation, and maybe most importantly direct goal-dangerous play. His health seemingly fine, look for Jimmy to keep getting minutes, hopefully wide left so we see what he can offer.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 6.2 (on 87’ for A. Roldan)
Bruin arrived off the bench to close out the match and did that.
One thing I liked: Will brought the hustle in the 97th, coming to the near sideline to earn a foul and see out the win.
One thing I didn’t like: Will had eight touches but only completed half his passes. Seattle needed a bit tighter possession as they attempted to close out the road win.
Going forward: With as tired as the Sounders looked at times, it was odd Bruin didn’t see a longer run out. He should factor more in this congested week. Will likely gets the next start up top due to fatigue, and he will have a chance to show his creation abilities next to Raúl.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 87’ for Cissoko)
Leyva came on late to play centrally and got four touches to help preserve the win.
One thing I liked: This was a complicated few minutes for Leyva (10 after stoppage) and he did well to navigate whatever formation Seattle was forced into. He completed 100 percent of his attempted passes.
One thing I didn’t like: There were a few moments Leyva didn’t know where to go, although I can’t really blame him for that.
Going forward: With as tired as the Sounders looked at times, it was confusing why Leyva wasn’t brought on earlier. He should get more playing time in this busy week.
Drew Fischer – 4 | Community – 4.2
Fischer was very frustrating, as he apparently left his cards at home. LA committed 17 fouls (Seattle eight) and yet LA had 60 percent possession. This meant that in the little time when they didn’t have the ball, they fouled a lot. Zero cards were handed out in this match, and while it didn’t have too many egregious fouls that immediately warranted a card, there were plenty of persistent fouls that went unchecked, or professional dives and obstruction uncalled. The biggest example of this was Chicharito, who was credited with committing six fouls in the match without so much as a warning (and had a number of others go uncalled). You can’t allow this sort of persistent infringement by a striker attempting to create turnovers in the attacking third who is repeatedly trying to bait multiple PK calls per game.
One thing I liked: I personally would have liked to see that PK call get played on, and then allow VAR to correct it if he made a mistake. Instead, Fischer had a rough angle and got played by a bit of a dive and there is no way for VAR to intervene. Once he figured out the diving was happening, Drew started to ignore it on multiple occasions. A card would have immediately limited this, but at least Fischer wasn’t suckered into any second half penalties and adjusted to the devious tactics from LAG.
One thing I didn’t like: VAR couldn’t do anything about the Chicharito penalty call since it was made on the field, but VAR Kevin Stott certainly had a chance to award the PK to Roldan in the 24th minute and didn’t. This lack of consistency on PK calls was mirrored by the lack of foul consistency, making for an ugly match.
Going forward: Soft PK aside, this game needed more control, instead of allowing certain guys to run around hacking and diving and creating their own reality in game. With little control, the game was choppy and unnecessarily physical.
LA Galaxy MOTM
Jonathan Bond had a great game in goal, (literally) keeping the home side in the match. Most of his saves were routine, but still, they had to be made. His ability to work back across goal to get to Yeimar’s attempt in the 27th minute is of particular note.
Quick turnaround for our next match on Wednesday, and we will have to beat RSL midweek to keep the nine point week on track.