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Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Player ratings

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Ruidíaz reminds us it’s a simple game (when your understanding of space and time and your ability to finish from all angles are impeccable).

Seattle came into the weekend match looking to earn their second nine-point week of the season, which is more points than four teams’ season totals, including their opponent, the Vancouver Whitecaps. It wasn’t to be, as a combination of injuries and rotation forced Seattle to field a good, not great, lineup that played down to the level of their competition. Some mixed play led to a mixed result, with both teams scoring twice. Seattle left Lumen Field with a 2-2 draw that they will be disappointed with, but it was an okay result at the end of a long, hot, congested week.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Cleveland – 5 | Community – 5.3

Cleveland has been solid so far this season in relief of Stefan Frei, but against Vancouver he had his worst outing. Not only did he concede the Sounders’ first two goals from the run of play this season, but he showed some cracks in his goalkeeping in a very tumultuous match. He made several questionable decisions but also showed some incredible highlights.

One thing I liked: With Seattle coasting to the first half break up a goal, a major defensive blunder nearly allowed Vancouver to equalize, as a mis-trap allowed a man in behind alone. Forced to defend 1-v-1 versus Deiber Caicedo, Cleveland came up huge, sprawling wide to parry the shot and usher the Sounders into half with the lead.

One thing I didn’t like: Cleveland has shown smart aggression for most of the season so far, but overstepped last match, and this match was again caught trying to make a big play outside the box. An over-the-top ball early in the second half ended with Stefan outside his box watching Vancouver level the score, and the hero play failed in this instance.

Going forward: Cleveland has now had a few big errors that highlight his inexperience. The second goal against had all four backups sharing some of the blame and likely shouldn’t have counted, but there are definite pain points in our keeper’s maturation that are showing. While these goals don’t seem too repeatable, Seattle will need to fix the issues that created the chances and shore up a defense full of reserves.

Defense

Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 68’ for Medranda)

Abdoulaye had excellent performances earlier this week but had his worst outing as a Sounder against Vancouver. While he had two tackles, two interceptions, a clearance, and excellent 97 percent passing, his positioning and decision making directly contributed to goals against. Vancouver victimized the left defense of Seattle, isolating them and attempting to run down that wing with switches and pace before crossing into the box.

One thing I liked: Cissoko was generally strong defensively, consistently stepping up aggressively and physically to lock down attacks through his wing. He supplemented this with smart offensive work, nearly scoring on a 39th minute free kick.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 49th minute with Brad Smith very high and Shane O’Neill central, AB was 1-v-1 versus Cristian Dajome and was beat by an over-the-top pass. Getting beat was bad, but even worse was Cissoko’s recovery run that was wide and outside of the opponent. This angle was awful, and had he recovered to a central area, he might have prevented this poor play from domino-ing into a tying score.

Going forward: AB played fine for three games in a week, but this performance isn’t going to make anyone forget Nouhou, who likely prevents both goals conceded. Cissoko didn’t do anything that isn’t fixable, but he must solidify his positioning when isolated on the wing and recover appropriately if beaten. Everything he’s shown so far indicates he can do this, but he’ll need support from the veterans around him.

Shane O’Neill – 5 | Community – 5.3

Shane started centrally again, and again he showed consistent passing (94 percent). He also had six defensive actions in the center of the pitch, seeing the ball a surprising 67 times, but not doing much other than kicking it wide to his center back teammates. He was dangerous on set pieces offensively, nearly timing a couple of headers right.

One thing I liked: O’Neill again brought his safe passing to the back, consistently passing short and square and then returning to battling with Lucas Cavallini. Shane was up for the physicality battle with the Vancouver thugward, giving at least as good as he got and continually standing him up at midfield before Cavallini could dash into the box and foul someone or try to bait a PK.

One thing I didn’t like: Defenders are judged on their huge mistakes, and O’Neill had a massive one. In the 56th minute he completely misplayed his positioning and yet still had a chance to casually head away a hopeful cross and prevent any danger. Instead Shane inexplicably ducked, allowing the ball behind him to the only opponent in the box who fumbled the ball around, eventually ending in the back of the net.

Going forward: O’Neill by himself is a fine addition to most defenses. When surrounded by two and three other back-up level players, things can and do go wrong. Maybe not too often, as this is an incredible defensive team, but the cumulative issue was apparent a few times this week with the defense lucky rather than good, and is worth watching as the team likely gets weaker before it gets stronger.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 6.6

Yeimar did his job neatly, shutting down everything on his side while concurrently pushing the ball forward to support offensive endeavors. He was especially stout in the back, with five clearances highlighting 15 actions. Vancouver had little luck against his side, with their forwards avoiding him altogether.

One thing I liked: Second in touches behind João Paulo was none other than Yeimar, who had 110 and turned 96 passes into 88 percent completion rate — excellent numbers for a center back. His distribution was often forward, looking to support multi-line cohesion and switching as necessary.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 10th minute Yeimar blatantly missed a forward pass, which at this point is expected a few times a game.

Going forward: Yeimar was strong in support of his side which prevented nearly anything for the Whitecaps. He adds in a few shots a game from set pieces and is one of the top all around players on the team who doesn’t get beaten. He may need to step across more if the defensive midfield in front of him gets as stretched as in this game.

Midfield

Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 6.0

Smith returned to the wing and had an up and down performance. Touching the ball 63 times, he had plenty of opportunity to affect the match, but unfortunately did so both positively and negatively. On the positive side were a few runs and one nice pass, offset by some dreadful defense that saw him only credited with a single action and having continual positioning issues.

One thing I liked: Smith bombed forward in support of a counterattack in the 40th minute, combining directly on the left and then finding a perfect cut back pass assist to Raúl Ruidíaz to open the scoring. Another time he got forward and crossed well but was unable to find a willing run.

One thing I didn’t like: Smith’s defending, which put immense pressure on Seattle and specifically Cissoko behind him. Backside runs were left unmarked by Brad in the 38th and 70th minutes for free headers Seattle was lucky went wide. Worse was his defense on the two scoring plays. On the first he charged into the attack with a nifty 48th minute cherry pick dribble only to cross to no one, lose possession, and fail to either attack the ball (press) or support his defensive wing. Because of this Cissoko was on an island and victimized, with JP also confused who to support. This wasn’t an isolated issue, as Smith put consistent pressure on the defense behind him to play perfectly.

Going forward: Smith has produced on the scoresheet this year, but his overall body of work has underwhelmed and it’s increasingly questionable whether he starts on a full-strength Sounders squad. It’s a good problem to have from a personnel standpoint, but disappointing from a guy who was assumed to be an everyday starter.

Josh Atencio – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 61’ for Leyva)

Atencio returned to the starting lineup for the first time since match two and had mixed results. Ever a willing worker, he ran all over the field attempting to get into the match. Josh had only 43 touches but managed 90 percent completion, finding mostly safe and square passes in the midfield in lieu of penetrating forward looks.

One thing I liked: As mentioned before, Atencio has a startlingly effective reach, and he used this perfectly in the 40th minute on a nifty tackle that not only dispossessed his opponent but jumpstarted a counterattack that resulted in Seattle scoring.

One thing I didn’t like: Running a lot is great, and Atencio was always willing to move to where he was needed. Unfortunately, at times his positioning was off, and he failed to unlock João Paulo as much as he had previously. He seemed to run out of position often.

Going forward: Atencio was fine in his first start in a while but it was clear that he wasn’t as in sync with others as he could be, especially João. With injuries and callups limiting lineup changes, it might mean more starts for Josh, and if so, he should strive to recreate his earlier season play.

João Paulo – 7 | Community – 7.3 (MOTM)

João Paulo was unable to reproduce his incredible run of play from the last three matches but was still effective, marshalling the center of the field and creating chances via strong set piece delivery. He again had by far the most touches (129) and a sparkling 90 percent completion rate.

One thing I liked: JP had four set piece key passes, continually dialing up teammates to attempt shots. They came from varying distance and delivery, with João able to consistently create dangerous opportunities whenever Sounders earn set pieces.

One thing I didn’t like: There was a drop off in effectiveness as he paired with Atencio in the middle, and Seattle wasn’t massively dangerous until a formation change and subs late. Some of this was positioning and perhaps fatigue from a grueling, three-match week.

Going forward: JP couldn’t carry the team, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. His work rate for the entire week was incredible, and if Seattle can find enough help for him, should be back to dominant play. He needs the right combination of teammates in the middle to be the most effective, especially if required to create more than destroy.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.9

Cristian worked hard against Vancouver but didn’t have a lot of results to show for his efforts. Stat-wise he had 47 touches, two shots, a key pass and 94 percent passing in his usual workmanlike play, but other than diving into wide channels and crossing, he struggled to create big chances.

One thing I liked: Cristian had nice instincts to get into the center of the box and nearly scored in the 59th minute, popping up after a blocked shot to strike just wide.

One thing I didn’t like: With Vancouver ignoring Alex up the wing, it almost seemed like Cristian was crowding his brother when making vertical runs into that space constantly. A diagonal run to the left corner a few times would have opened his brother even more and seemed like a missed chance.

Going forward: Cristian ran his ass off for three straight games and deserves to rest this week. With call ups it’s unclear what the Sounders lineup will be, but I still feel that his best spot may be next to JP in some capacity if ever possible.

Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 86’ for Rowe)

Alex had a steady game but couldn’t do much on either side of the ball. Stout defensively and contributing offensively, the younger Roldan was a depth piece who fit in well to the game plan but didn’t stand out positively. He ended with 67 touches and 89 percent passing but only had a single key pass.

One thing I liked: Roldan had nice positioning up the right wing and it’s not his fault that Vancouver didn’t respect him. When given a chance to put the ball in the box late he nearly picked out Fredy Montero with a great cross for a game winner.

One thing I didn’t like: In the third minute of first half extra time Roldan took an innocuous ball and managed to stumble over it, gifting Vancouver a breakaway and massive chance to tie the match right before half. This was a terrible gaffe, and it needed some heroics from Cleveland to prevent a goal.

Going forward: Alex has been solid this year but could use some rest and may miss time due to call ups. There are multiple personnel options who may supplement his outside minutes, and Alex will need to perform above average, before someone pips his spot.

Forwards

Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off 61’ for Montero)

Will started up front and displayed his customary work rate. Making many diagonal runs and trying to check to the ball, Bruin ran a lot but didn’t create much. He ended with only 17 touches before subbing out. He got three shots (none on frame) this match, which is a big improvement for him.

One thing I liked: A nifty touch going forward set up a left-footed half volley right before he was subbed. The shot was blocked, but it was one of the first aggressively direct striker plays he’s had this season.

One thing I didn’t like: Finding space in the 15th minute on a set piece, Bruin was unmarked and had a free header. Somehow he completely bungled this, ending up with a weak header off his neck/back in an awkward failed attempt.

Going forward: Seattle looked more dangerous after he subbed out, but it’s hard to pin that on Bruin, who worked hard to create space and support defensively. Seattle likely settles back into a set rotation with him and Fredy opposite Raúl, but it’s unclear which combines better.

Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.0

Raúl quietly went about his business, getting multiple shots and scoring another goal. Against Vancouver he had 35 touches and 83 percent passing, dropping in to combine before ghosting into the box to find the ball. He set up a teammate shot as well, consistently being active in build up play.

One thing I liked: Ruidíaz briefly claimed the league goal lead after a brilliant goal in the 40th. Although it looked standard, it wasn’t, instead highlighting Raúl’s incredible movement in the box and ability to find separation when surrounded by multiple defenders. Raúl finished clean, slotting the ball through a crowd.

One thing I didn’t like: There were a couple chances that went wanting from his five shots, with an 88th minute volley put tantalizingly over. If he had centered the ball well in the 13th minute, Seattle likely scores.

Going forward: Raúl remains close to the top of the scoring lists in the league and should stay there all year. He continues to get a handful of shots every match, and his movement to turn a small chance into a big one is incredible.

Substitutes

Danny Leyva – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 61’ for Atencio)

Leyva came in and did excellently, combining through the middle and using quick one-touch passing to move the ball around and facilitate Seattle’s late attacking resurgence. He had 29 touches and completed 92 percent of his passing, including a key pass in a terrific sub appearance.

One thing I liked: Leyva did a little on both sides of the ball, with a great 65th minute first-time cross setting up Raúl for a shot and showing excellent defensive range in the 78th to defend behind a bewildered Smith.

One thing I didn’t like: Leyva was lucky that the opponent was called for a handball in the 92nd minute, as he lost possession in a bad spot and got bailed out by a whistle.

Going forward: This was one of Danny’s better appearances as a Sounder, and clearly his best outing this year. Looking polished and confident, he showed that not playing him more in this busy week may have been a mistake.

Fredy Montero – 6 | Community – 5.7 (on 61’ for Bruin)

Fredy entered and was instant offense, with seemingly all of Seattle’s multitude of late chances coming after he created space or facilitated possession.

One thing I liked: In only 16 touches Montero had four shots, two key passes, and 75 percent completion rate as a catalyst for the offense.

One thing I didn’t like: Fredy had a golden chance to tie the match in the 65th minute and didn’t get his hips around the ball, shooting high and wide from mere yards away.

Going forward: Montero showed how valuable he can be creating through a team that was defending with large numbers. While not showing excellently in his starts, performances like this demand more time than spot-sub appearances.

Jimmy Medranda – 7 | Community – 7.2 (on 68’ for Cissoko)

Medranda came in and did a bit of everything on the wide left, again showing excellently. He had 22 very effective touches that led to two shots and a key pass, including the tying goal.

One thing I liked: Jimmy was goal-direct with almost every touch, pushing the ball into the attack. When a ball bounced out to the top of the box on a set piece in the 71st minute, he didn’t hesitate, slamming it through traffic and into the net to tie the match.

One thing I didn’t like: A poor cross in the 76th hurt a promising foray forward.

Going forward: Medranda has shown he deserves to start matches as the wide left winger, continually putting up excellent numbers on both sides of the field. Smith getting an assist shows two good options wide, but based on my ratings the choice is clear.

Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 86’ for Alex Roldan)

Rowe came in for the last push late and was unexpectedly effective from a new position, creating chances and being very active for such a short sub appearance.

One thing I liked: Of his 15 touches he didn’t put a pass awry (100 percent completion) while dialing up one tantalizingly dangerous cross after another.

One thing I didn’t like: Kelyn only had five minutes plus stoppage to get into the match, and there were some tired legs he could have replaced earlier.

Going forward: With A-Rold potentially missing time on the wing, Rowe is an intriguing player to replace him. He looked excellent out there (albeit a somewhat different formation and game state, etc.) and could push for some time wide as central options return. Seattle missed some of his composure in the center as well as his pairing with JP at times.

Referee

Guido Gonzales Jr. – 4 | Community – 5.3

Live I was annoyed at the ref, but not any more so than normal. The rewatch showed an incredible number of missed calls and the entire referee team (VAR included) was poor. This was the first time we’ve seen Gonzales, and he brought a very passive voice to the center of the match. He missed almost all the big calls and seemed overwhelmed at times by the atmosphere.

One thing I liked: This referee listened to his 4th official and carded both benches multiple times while attempting to limit timewasting somewhat with a keeper delay caution.

One thing I didn’t like: This entire referee squad struggled to deal with the big calls and especially what to do with Lucas Cavallini. In the 21st minute Cavallini scissored Cristian Roldan in a horrible tackle that was a red to me and was lucky not to do serious harm. During the time the referee was displaying the card, Cavallini struck Josh Atencio in the neck which is a yellow when Xavi or Nouhou do it, but not here. A goal was given in the 60th minute to Cavallini even though replays clearly showed a hand ball. Not to be outdone, Cavallini clearly and deliberately fouled Cissoko in the 60th minute, changing his stride to strike the defender to knock him down and create space. This was called a foul but should have been a sending off for a second yellow. Cavallini owned this referee crew.

Going forward: We may never know whether this referee is great in non-Lucas Cavallini matches, but he and his crew let one player get away with intentionally breaking multiple rules.

Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM

Cristian Dájome had Vancouver’s opening goal as well as the assist that took them into the lead in a raucous seven minutes early in the second half. His ability to consistently find space against Smith (and befuddle the young Cissoko) was noteworthy.


A week break after earning seven points in three close matches is well earned. Having to go to Colorado and play a solid team will be a tough test of Seattle’s depth.