Well, it was bound to happen. After three months of soccer, the Sounders finally lost a match. This team, which had fought through adverse conditions all year, was eventually toppled from the undefeated ranks after suffering a choppy, 1-0 loss away to Minnesota. Without seven starters and a handful of other first teamers due to injuries and international callups, Seattle was unable to hold on, conceding late and failing to finish any of their own chances. This squad nearly earned a road point against a full-strength MLS team, and while it was disappointing to leave a game without points, the depth and quality of the entire roster is still displaying amazingly well.
Stefan Cleveland – 6 | Community – 6.5
Cleveland did a fine job, setting up goal kicks consistently after Minnesota shot wide. Of the home team’s 11 shots, two were on goal. Since he picked the ball out of his net once, math tells me that Stefan had a single save and nearly earned a shutout.
One thing I liked: Stefan was calm in traffic, repeatedly coming into a crowd to catch (24’, 35’, 67’) or punch (55’).
One thing I didn’t like: Cleveland didn’t make any big mistakes, but a more assertive voice from the back might have helped calm things down late as tension increased. This is a leadership thing that he will want to work on as his career progresses.
Going forward: Stefan Cleveland is a quality MLS-level starter who does a good job nearly every week. Seattle isn’t dropping points from his mistakes, but if he wants to graduate to Alpha Stefan status, he needs to start earning points with above average plays.
Abdoulaye Cissoko – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 86’ for Dobbelaere)
Cissoko got another start and looked both very good and very poor in separate moments of the match. The good moments were some excellent tackling (four) and intercepting (three) as he frequently made strong defensive plays. He combined this with 83 percent passing and some needed intensity.
One thing I liked: Cissoko got out of a bad spot in the 15th minute with a clever dribble and then had the wherewithal to launch a nice long ball up the left wing. This play was born from a desperate defensive position and he didn’t complete the pass, but it’s exactly the kind of coordination and thinking that he will need to continue in MLS.
One thing I didn’t like: He dove in and missed badly in the 23rd minute, and on several occasions his aggressive defending put unnecessary pressure on those around him. Getting megged on their goalscoring play was part of AB being slightly out of position and lunging to defend, something that was common across Seattle’s squad.
Going forward: Cissoko might have thought this would be one of his last starts with Nouhou returning soon, but Arreaga is out the next match, so it’s likely that AB will return at least once more to the lineup sheet. He needs to continue to develop his above average tracking and tackling while working on positioning and quicker decision making.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.9
Arreaga got another start in the center of the three defenders and looked mostly strong. With the midfield overwhelmed in front of him, Xavi was forced into many desperation defensive plays which worked. He had 88 percent passing and led Seattle with four clearances.
One thing I liked: His last-ditch defense was necessary and on point, as Xavier consistently got a foot in to stop dangerous Minnesota attacks. His passing and defensive combination kept Seattle with at least a little bit of possession while overwhelmed by numbers for long stretches.
One thing I didn’t like: He scored a goal but was a half step offside, and then conceded a goal by miscommunication on the backside of the defense. If either of these plays were slightly altered, the game score would have greatly improved.
Going forward: That yellow card he earned against Minnesota means he will be resting in the stands for the Thursday match due to accumulation. This is a terrible time to get penalized a match, and it’s because of the cheap cards earlier in the season. Xavi is still the best Sounder currently playing center in the three back and should use this break to study the passing lanes to utilize on Sunday.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 6.6
Yeimar was stellar in the back, covering from side to side as the Sounders midfield broke down consistently. His stats were just okay — nine defensive actions, 63 percent passing, and four aerials won — but it was his positioning and anticipation in constantly getting his huge body in between opponents and the goal that stood out.
One thing I liked: It constantly looked like Minnesota was going to break through, only to be thwarted by YGA, who stood tall in defense. His range covered for any issues with Kelyn Rowe next to him, and Yeimar was rarely beaten.
One thing I didn’t like: Sixty-three percent passing is awful, and it illustrates an inability to work the ball out of the wing to the right. His connection with Rowe defensively was fine, but moving the ball forward was a disaster.
Going forward: Yeimar clearly missed his connection with Salvadoran international star Alex Roldan, and their ability to combine aggressively on defense opens offensive opportunities that didn’t manifest with Roldan missing. It looks like he will have a few more matches to work on this.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 69’ for Atencio)
This was a very disappointing outing for Smith, who started at left wingback and failed to positively impact the game much at all. He had a nice 89 percent completion rate passing, but most were drop passes back to the defense after making a run vertically. Defensively he was absent, getting a nice view of Cissoko working his ass off against multiple players as Smith strolled back after a run up the field.
One thing I liked: Brad had his best play of the night in the 52nd, as he tracked back to break up a Minnesota attack. Recognizing AB pushed high, Smith correctly slid in defensively and did defender stuff for once.
One thing I didn’t like: Smith appears to only be effective north/south and has shown no ability to laterally affect the match. His runs are consistently full speed up the left wing then a pass backwards if he can’t get behind. He never seems to recover defensively hard after making a run forward, which puts huge pressure on Cissoko behind him. Seeing him run straight up the line, lose the ball, and jog back five-plus times a match is so hard to watch. It completely stressed the Sounder midfield.
Going forward: Seattle doesn’t have the pieces on the field to currently babysit the holes in Smith’s game. Without creative players putting him in good spots or defensive monsters covering behind him, Brad is a liability at both ends of the field, and he doesn’t appear to fit the formation effectively. He has value as a late game change of pace sub but has been playing like a … well, not a starter.
Jimmy Medranda – 6 | Community – 6.2
Medranda got the start on the left winger spot and then moved to right wing to support that side. His move was a smart one, helping to level out the midfield a bit and get Seattle some possession after a nervy first 20 minutes. Jimmy led the team with three shots and had a multifaceted match, including three tackles and two interceptions defensively, along with his runs forward.
One thing I liked: Medranda got into good spots and combined well with Fredy and Raúl, whether it was jump-starting a break with defense (7’) or nearly scoring right before half after a smart direct run.
One thing I didn’t like: Jimmy is an aggressive attacker, and at least once (43’) he made the correct decision to shoot instead of pass to an offside Raúl. Other times, however, he forced the ball towards goal, and he needs to remember that Ruidíaz is leading the league in goals for a reason. Defer to the assassin in the box more.
Going forward: Jimmy and Smith on the left was a mess, and it’s more and more looking like Medranda should start there, and Smith relieve him, instead of trying to force both on the field at the same time. With Medranda creative from deeper and able to cross, the left should be his to roam.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 85’ for Adeniran)
After a tremendous match last week, Leyva earned another start and struggled to match his high output. He had high passing numbers but struggled to cover the ground needed in the middle and offered little defensively. His angles when recovering put pressure on teammates and directly led to his own yellow card and multiple breaks for Minnesota.
One thing I liked: Ninety-two percent is a great passing completion percentage for a high-volume midfielder.
One thing I didn’t like: Although Danny found teammates with his passes, a lot of them were not great balls, instead pulling Sounders players out of their run, or directly into trouble with opponents. It’s not enough to just kick the ball at a teammate, it needs to be the right decision and put into the right spot, and he will want to work on that.
Going forward: This was a chance to solidify himself as the starter in the middle next to JP with international absences, and he didn’t take it. He was fine, but Seattle barely hung on through the middle for much of the time and missed the usual central strength they have displayed this season. Leyva should look at the differences between the last two matches and adjust.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.9 (MOTM)
This was likely João’s worst match this season and he was still MLS average. That is because he had 20 touches more than any other Sounder (83, most overall in the game) and still managed 85 percent completion, two shots, a key pass, and a ton of hard work defensively through the middle.
One thing I liked: Any time anyone was pressured, they launched the ball toward João and he would somehow corral it and find a teammate to alleviate the stress. He is magical in tight spaces and worked incredibly hard to help Seattle tread water centrally.
One thing I didn’t like: JP was not credited with a single tackle, which is a telling example of how much desperation running and recovering the team did, often facing their own goal in defense. He tended towards last-ditch sliding attempts to recover possession in a midfield consistently overrun.
Going forward: João Paulo did a lot of central work but couldn’t connect effectively for long stretches. The combination play he had previously with Leyva was absent against Minnesota, and while Seattle is missing so many players, it is essential to find a partner that can support JP centrally.
Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.0
Kelyn started in another new position and did a fine job. The numbers weren’t overly flattering — two tackles, two clearances, 62 percent passing, one key pass — but he showed he can play a different position and do it adequately.
One thing I liked: Rowe was a defense-first winger and did a strong job forcing all the Minnesota attacks back onto the opposite side. He was positionally strong in combination with Yeimar and was smart about defending the backside of the goal.
One thing I didn’t like: The one time Kelyn put a foot wrong is on the Minnesota goal where he followed an opponent forward, allowing Robin Lod to get behind him for a layup. This was one mistake that is revealed by hindsight only.
Going forward: Seattle missed Rowe in the middle this match, but they have more central midfielders than right-wingbacks, so he likely gets another shot wide against Austin in a few days.
Fredy Montero – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.0
I thought Fredy was the best player on the field, constantly roaming and supporting midfield holdup yet also being Seattle’s only creator. Nearly everything that happened positively for Seattle came from a deft Montero turn in traffic, touch in space, or slipped through ball. He led the team with three key passes, had 89 percent completion despite being blanketed by multiple opponents every time he touched the ball, and even led Seattle with 14 duels.
One thing I liked: Seattle offense started with Fredy. A 25th minute pass put Smith forward into space, his 43rd minute through ball was beautiful and created a shot for Medranda. His 52nd minute holdup and combination through the middle earned another big chance. He was the only player who created anything for teammates from the run of play.
One thing I didn’t like: Montero spent so much time dropping deep and creating for others, he never got into dangerous spots for himself, and thus had zero shots. At the level he was playing and the crispness in his passes, I’d like to think a shot off his foot in this match had a good chance at being a game-winner.
Going forward: Fredy casually dumped Emanuel Reynoso after his BS versus Cissoko in the 67th minute which I appreciated, and he has shown a willingness to do whatever this team needs to succeed all over the field. Had Seattle had a little more precision from finishing off his great passes, we may have earned points from the match. Montero should start, but this match showed that he needs more support from the wide areas.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.3
Ruidíaz worked hard versus Minnesota, often matched up with multiple defenders. He still managed three shots, a key pass, and 95 percent passing. His movement was tricky, and he was unlucky not to have earned a penalty after being tripped in the box on multiple occasions.
One thing I liked: A tricky elastico was fun to watch a pro do, and it earned him a shot on target in the 25th. He had several great runs that forced Minnesota into difficult spots defensively and it was a credit to their last-ditch defending that he didn’t score.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl needed to stretch the defense to try to make space for teammates in the midfield, but he was caught offsides multiple times. With attacks being few and far between, losing out on promising ones because he didn’t get reset was frustrating.
Going forward: Ruidíaz didn’t have any big chances, but he created many small ones (and at least one very credible PK shout). He continues to work hard for the entire game, constantly ferreting out shots, but needs more support up front to score.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 69’ for Smith)
Josh came into the match with a lot of energy but didn’t factor much.
One thing I liked: Atencio was a willing defender and supported a flagging midfield as best as he could. His first touch was a smart switching ball that opened the field and was the kind of pass that had been missing for long stretches of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: A sub with lots of energy entering the match with 20 minutes left should get and utilize more than 12 touches.
Going forward: Josh was a victim of the coaching staff playing the hot hand and couldn’t show as well as he did last time Seattle played Minnesota. With a congested schedule, look for him to start midweek and fight for more playing time.
Samuel Adeniran – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 85’ for Leyva)
Adeniran got his first minutes for the Seattle Sounders and looked hungry to make something happen.
One thing I liked: Three touches, 100 percent passing, throwing his big body around and trying to find Raúl in the box. A good showing from a late sub.
One thing I didn’t like: He played about eight minutes and had three fouls, showing perhaps a bit too much aggression.
Going forward: It’s impossible to make a claim about his MLS readiness in a short sub appearance chasing a deficit, but Adeniran was notable by his ability to do big man stuff. His desire to mix it up physically and draw the defense from Raúl was apparent, and he is an intriguing prospect for the (potentially near) future.
Ethan Dobbelaere – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 86’ for Cissoko)
Dobbelaere got into the match to add some fresh legs and direct play. He brought this, in the form of zealous chasing up the right side.
One thing I liked: In the 88th minute he had an excellent cross toward Raúl that forced the defense to make a strong clearance.
One thing I didn’t like: This was more of the same from Ethan — all energy, little direction. He didn’t have time to do much in this match and didn’t.
Going forward: Double Dare has earned a first team contract and puts forth incredible effort when he is on the field. Unfortunately, this hasn’t translated into success for the team, and at some point, he’ll need to show some technical or tactical aptitude beyond trying hard, at least after teammates return from their various ailments.
Alan Kelly – 4 | Community – 3.7
It is hard to describe how badly this game was reffed, mostly because it was impossible to know what was or wasn’t a foul. This inconsistency was so prevalent that neither team knew what to do. The seemingly arbitrary nature of common foul whistling was combined with a refusal to card most anything, and I think everyone involved was frustrated.
One thing I liked: Kelly was hesitant to get baited by diving from either team.
Things I didn’t like: Seattle committed two PK-worthy fouls and Minnesota at least one, none of which were called on the field. The inconsistency on fouls was maddening, with Yeimar getting a yellow for a hard foul on the sideline that was similar to at least five others in the match that went uncarded, like Robin Lod’s in the 50th. Reynoso was the biggest beneficiary of Kelly’s inability to card, committing four whistled fouls in the second half alone without a card, on stuff strikingly like what Arreaga was himself booked for. Leyva got a deserved yellow after a bad angle and pull back, yet Hassani Dotson had the same foul in the 55th with no card. Dotson wasn’t even warned after three second half fouls committed, apparently never worthy of a persistent infringement foul while running around hacking people. Seven fouls in 45 minutes by two attackers for Minnesota were without repercussion, yet the Sounders’ back line marking those players all got yellows.
Going forward: This was a mess, and the inconsistency on the same manner of fouls was terrible. If Kelly doesn’t want to call PKs and wants VAR to do the work for him, fine. He must control persistent infringement and be much much more consistent with adjudicating the match in front of him.
Minnesota United MOTM
Robin Lod scored a tap-in winner at the back post to rightfully claim Man of the Match. It was what Kasey Keller might refer to as the simplest of finishes, but credit to Lod for working hard to get to that spot. Similarly, Robin did well to chase a clearance into the box that should have earned his side a penalty.
This week we continue even more shorthanded, traveling to Austin for another difficult road match next.