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Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City: Player ratings

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A scrappy Montero goal couldn’t overcome some sloppy defensive play as Sounders lose a six-pointer.

After one of the more impressive — and fun — victories in Sounders history, they returned home for a boring old match against the boring old Kansas City Sports. It was a hard-fought game, with both teams showing flashes of class and tense midfield play. Each squad had periods of domination, but Seattle created the better chances over the course of the game. Unfortunately, goals require finishing those chances, and Seattle finished fewer of them. SKC took advantage of their opportunities, scored multiple times, and left Seattle with a 3-1 win. Some rough defensive play from Seattle’s ever-changing back group was punished, and for the first time all season they lost at home. Considering this result, that midweek win suddenly looks different in hindsight.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Cleveland – 5 | Community – 5.1

This wasn’t the shutout beauty of an Alex Roldan or Spencer Richey game as Seattle gave up their most goals in a match all season. Stefan can’t specifically be blamed for any of them, but this was the first match where he looked less decisive when attempting saves. With the defense in front of him switching up multiple times mid-match, the Sounders visibly missed Stefan Frei’s calming influence and organization.

One thing I liked: A nice 14th minute save signaled that the Seattle netminder was only going to be beaten by excellent shots.

One thing I didn’t like: A shuffle to his left on a 30th minute set piece was a cheater move showing a lack of faith in his wall. Because of this, Stefan was unable to get back to his right and cover a well-placed shot that opened the scoring for SKC.

Going forward: Cleveland has been strong deputy goalkeeper in the absence of his namesake, but the small differences between good and great are starting to show. These issues can be covered by strong defending, but the current backline shows some cracks that will require better play to get results against good teams.

Defense

Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 34’ for Baker-Whiting)

Cissoko struggled in this match, getting used to a revolving door on either side of him. To add injury to insult, after a rough first half hour he was subbed off, further weakening the backline depth.

One thing I liked: He had several good defensive stops and combination play with Medranda before he was forced off due to injury.

One thing I didn’t like: The first SKC goal came directly after a terrible play from AB. He played a poor ball to Josh Atencio which was stolen, and then he missed defending the turnover. This was an awful decision.

Going forward: Cissoko has shown he has real MLS class, but plays like this remind us how great Nouhou played at this position. With AB injured now, it’s likely his return is to the bench after healing.

Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.0 (off 74’ for Dobbelaere)

Arreaga started centrally in a back three and looked very strong, defending stoutly and distributing well. Seattle utilized his passing to get out of some tight areas, as SKC pressed through the width, outside inwards. Xavier was excellent until the 65th minute, when Seattle inexplicably pushed Arreaga to the right, where he struggled.

One thing I liked: With Arreaga central, Seattle’s passing through the midfield was strong. He ended with 89 percent passing and found many direct links to the players in front of him. When pushed to the left he was strong up his wing, connecting and even getting into the attack on at least one occasion.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 72nd minute he stepped up and was beat on a first-time backside cross, losing his mark who promptly scored for SKC and put the game nearly out of reach.

Going forward: I can’t explain inverted center backs, and it completely changed the way Seattle played. It didn’t seem to fit Arreaga well, so I hope he remains central or left in the future.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 7 | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)

Yeimar was Seattle’s best defender on a day where the group struggled to show consistent cohesion. He had massive numbers: six tackles, five interceptions, three clearances, and two blocked shots. These were forced by some frantic defensive work all along the Sounders team, with YGA covering a lot of ground to support teammates.

One thing I liked: He moved from right to central and was effective in each role covering defensively for teammates. His 1-v-1 defense was constantly tested, and he came out ahead each time.

One thing I didn’t like: In the first 15 minutes he had a few bad passes and some poor angles defensively, allowing Gadi Kinda inside a few times.

Going forward: There has been a ton of movement on the back line, but Yeimar appears to fit in wherever he plays. This flexibility is part of a season-long resumé that shows he’s one of the best defenders in the league. He should start every match, either centrally or on the right.

Midfield

Jimmy Medranda – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 64’ for Smith)

Medranda was fine, but somewhat hidden in the match. He had 41 touches and got into some good places, but always seemed a touch or a run away from having serious impact. In a choppy game that Seattle played up and down, Jimmy had opportunities to be more active and took a muted role.

One thing I liked: In minute 37, Jimmy dropped in an excellent cross and he remained active on both sides of the ball. His connection through the midfield was a source of possession when Seattle was struggling.

One thing I didn’t like: The match could have used more impact from the left. This looked to be a combination of Medranda and tactics. Forcing Johnny Russell and Graham Zusi to defend was something Seattle didn’t focus on often enough.

Going forward: Medranda may have earned the starting left-wing position and has done well there. His crossing is accurate and the kind of service Seattle needs from the left, but it’s more useful when the team can support through the rest of the middle and backside.

Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 64’ for O’Neill)

Leyva has shown incredible growth the last few years, but he took a little step back when confronted with a strong midfield opponent. He couldn’t do enough with his 48 touches, contributing a single tackle and 79 percent passing. His combination with João Paulo and Atencio was a struggle in the middle and this trio never got untracked.

One thing I liked: Danny worked hard through the middle. Although he ultimately gave up a card and foul, his recognition on AB’s poor pass sequence prior to the goal was good. The decision making isn’t perfect, but his instincts are improving, and he reads the game state defensively much better than prior.

One thing I didn’t like: His passing and connection with the midfield showed indecision, and he tried to offset this with intensity. A 6th minute play was indicative of his output: correctly seeing space, he dribbled forward. While originally a strong play, he then dribbled into four players without much of a plan and lost the ball to a counter.

Going forward: Leyva started three matches in a week and had many high points. There were struggles, but he’s still a teenager and developing quickly. The defensive work rate is improving, and he remains a viable option centrally if he is surrounded by strong defenders.

Josh Atencio – 7 | Community – 6.4

Atencio started centrally, moved to right center-back, and then back to midfield. He looked strong at each of these stops, showing stellar play wherever he was shuffled. Throughout the game he amassed 74 touches, 90 percent passing, and 10 defensive actions.

One thing I liked: They thought he was so valuable in the middle that they changed the entire defense to get him back into central midfield.

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle moved him from the backline that was playing well in order to get Shane O’Neill on the field, concurrently moving Arreaga to the right. Lolwut?

Going forward: I still don’t know where Atencio grades out better between midfield and center back. He looks good at both positions, offering some positional flexibility that coaches love. With others struggling around him, starting games somewhere is likely.

João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.5

João was quiet against SKC, failing to show a ton on either side of the ball. He was still strong in possession (89 touches, 86 percent passing) but had few defensive plays and failed to impact the match to the level he’s capable of.

One thing I liked: Even struggling some with carrying multiple teenagers into correct defensive position, JP still managed to earn two key passes. His direct run in the 4th minute showed a glimpse of the tactics needed to excel against SKC.

One thing I didn’t like: His service was rough, consistently putting set pieces into unobtainable spots. This inconsistency added to player confusion and at least contributed to some nervy moments in transition after dead balls.

Going forward: JP can only do so much and needs a vertical outlet for his play. Since he can’t be both making diagonal forward runs and defending centrally (not for lack of trying), Seattle needs someone João can work with on combinations and creating options from the midfield.

Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 3.9

Rowe played outside back for the second time in a week and again struggled to live up to the high standard of international goalscorer Alex Roldan. Defensively, Kelyn was okay for most of the match, but at times looked uncomfortable and hesitant in joining an attack that desperately needed verticality.

One thing I liked: Even struggling to integrate forward, Rowe still led the team with three key passes, showcasing splendid wide service that directly contributed to most of the best chances for Seattle, including the goal.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 42nd minute Seattle had an attacking corner kick, down a goal. A goal would have been nice, but getting to halftime to regroup was acceptable. Giving up a counter-attack goal to go down 2-0 was worst case scenario, and directly attributable to Rowe who carelessly gave away possession as the last man back.

Going forward: Rowe hasn’t looked comfortable as a right wingback, which was his likely spot coming into the season. He has looked great as a central midfielder, pairing excellently with JP, and giving the verticality and diagonal distribution we miss with Cristian Roldan away. With Alex Roldan back in Seattle, Rowe likely moves to the center.

Forwards

Fredy Montero – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.5

Fredy was the best Sounder on the field and created most of Seattle’s offense. His stat line was strong — 38 touches, five shots, two key passes, seven defensive actions, 12 duels, and the lone Sounders goal.

One thing I liked: Montero created so many chances, both for himself and others. Although he didn’t get the ball much, when he did, good things happened. Always poaching in the box, he found a loose ball and cut the SKC lead in half in the 51st minute.

One thing I didn’t like: The soccer gods don’t want me to be happy. When Fredy lined up a bicycle kick in the 25th minute, we fans deserved to see that glorious soccer move from an original MLS Sounder to go in. A lead there would have changed everything.

Going forward: Montero has made a solid case to start at forward even when Bruin returns. Fredy has also shown that having a more impactful midfield helps his effectiveness, so he isn’t constantly asked to be the sole offensive creator.

Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.3

Raúl had a quiet-ish game (translated: didn’t score) where he did a lot of work off the ball and banged around with center backs looking for a breakthrough. Even double-teamed most of the match he still found his usual pockets of space, earning shots and threatening goal consistently.

One thing I liked: Raúl didn’t seem to get the ball a ton, but he was efficient, putting two of his three shots on goal and hitting the post and forcing a big save late. Teams can only hope to contain him.

One thing I didn’t like: Raúl was held without a goal by a combined defensive effort from the back five of Sporting, but it was keeper Tim Melia who did the most damage. Finding space with a chance to tie the match in the 55th minute, Ruidíaz had a beautiful chip that Melia got a fingertip on. That was enough, as it hit the post and ricocheted out.

Going forward: Having a Big Sam Adeniran or Bruin type to stretch the field through physicality might help Raúl until some more creative types return from their various breaks. Even without anyone actively making space for him, Ruidíaz still, like clockwork, gets multiple chances every match.

Substitutes

Reed Baker-Whiting – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 34’ for Cissoko)

Entering early for an injured AB Cissoko, Reed was an improvement to the midfield because of his movement and tactical positioning. His ability to press high and make vertical runs was missing prior to his involvement in the match, and he made a difference on the offensive end for Seattle. He only touched the ball 33 times but had a key pass and did some good things in the middle.

One thing I liked: In the 51st minute Seattle scored, and Baker-Whiting was in the middle of it all. His touch kept the ball live in the box for the Sounders. Being aggressive and attacking the center of the box was an excellent and needed tactical move.

One thing I didn’t like: Although he worked hard, it’s clear that RBW needs to get faster in decision making and execution. He often sees the right play but is too slow to pull the trigger and/or unable to get the pass he wants from his feet to a teammate. He needed to help pressure the passer on their third goal.

Going forward: Seattle missed the elder Roldan’s verticality and runs against SKC, but Reed did an admirable job trying to fill that north/south void. He’s clearly not a finished product, but the 16-year-old already has a defined role to fill on the team, even in a potentially full-strength squad, which is exciting.

Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 64’ for Medranda)

Brad came in and showed his usual straightforward attacking runs without the ball. He was active, with 31 touches, but most were square and drop passes.

One thing I liked: Smith has a great instinct for timing his runs forward and got into the attacking third on several occasions to stretch the field, earning a shot for his efforts.

One thing I didn’t like: Playing hot potato with the left center back and running forward, blindly hoping the 16-year-old can hit a difficult through ball were two choices that frustrated. Brad is a quality player who can make more happen. Failing to pressure the ball on their goal was another choice where he was abjectly terrible.

Going forward: Brad, for all his faults, is good for creating one or two quality chances nearly every time on the field. This isn’t starter level play but is a nice option off the bench. He needs to remember to defend some too when he arrives, but against tired legs, Smith’s speed can be a difference maker.

Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 5.4 (on 64’ for Leyva)

I don’t understand changing the entire team to get Shane on the field, but that isn’t his fault, and he did his job well. His time was action-packed, and defensively he was strong.

One thing I liked: O’Neill had 85 percent passing, two headers won, 29 touches, multiple interceptions, and clearances. He played good defense his whole shift, and I love the intensity he injected into the match, which was sorely needed.

One thing I didn’t like: Putting him on the left inverted the outside backs and forced distribution centrally or to the worst passer in the back three. This allowed SKC to press much higher than they had been successful with prior, and in the 68th minute it was quite evident, as Shane and Co. just couldn’t get the ball out of the back, settling for hopeful longballs.

Going forward: It was nice to see O’Neill back; he offers a veteran outlook and steady presence on a backline that is reeling from injury and cohesion issues. He can play the left center back but needs both a strong passing center back and connecting outside back next to him to be effective.

Ethan Dobbelaere – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 74’ for Arreaga)

Ethan was unable to duplicate his previous impressive output, but as a late energy sub brought a bit of a spark down the right side.

One thing I liked: You could tell that midweek match gave him some confidence, and Dobbelaere was active, using his seven touches to go direct up the wing, cut inside, and attempt to connect vertically. His best play may have been a corner earned in the 91st, mainly via effort.

One thing I didn’t like: Chasing a match with fresh legs, Double Dare needs way more than seven touches. He had a chance to stretch the field and take some pressure off the left side and didn’t.

Going forward: Ethan is a likely casualty of returning players pushing him down (or off) the bench, but he’s now shown a few glimpses of MLS-level play and will want to build on that in future endeavors.

Referee

Ramy Touchan – 6 | Community – 4.6

This center ref isn’t super familiar to MLS fans, as he did a single Sounders match last season for his only appearance refereeing Seattle. For the most part, calls and cards were reasonable. He called even fouls against each team. Most frustrating was the lack of consistency in what constituted a foul, something that clearly confused both teams on a number of occasions.

One thing I liked: This ref was judicious in his card displays, and even though there is plenty of bad blood between these teams, he did a good job of keeping the game under control with his whistle.

Things I didn’t like: Attempting to play advantage when there was none, and penalizing the Sounders at least twice by forcing a play-on when a set piece (and breather) would have been much more advantageous.

Going forward: Diving against the Sounders is now a recognized tactic, and this ref fell for Russell and his antics on multiple occasions. While not a bad ref by any stretch, nothing stood out as particularly special from this performance; it just sort of was. That isn’t a bad thing.

Sporting Kansas City MOTM

Speaking of Johnny Russel, that bad soccer man scored a very nice, very nonchalant goal off a free kick, via the post. Yes, you’d like to see Cleveland play that a bit differently, but credit where credit is due.


Seattle got three measly points from a possible nine last week. Time to improve that with a cleansing massacre of San Jose this weekend.