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Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United: Player ratings

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Slick interplay leads to only goal Sounders need as stout defense does the rest.

Seattle played Minnesota United for the third time and managed to ride an early goal to a 1-0 shutout win. The Sounders looked good for long stretches, especially in the first half, but once again struggled to score, leaving the door open by failing to finish. The win was in doubt much longer than necessary. Minnesota controlled the ball in the second half and while a “bend but don’t break” defense did exactly that, the away team did enough to force Seattle into a few nervy moments. Fortunately, the Sounders held on in what was ultimately an average performance from the home team.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.8

Frei returned to the starting lineup months after being feared out for the season, and he took up right where he left off. He still hasn’t allowed a goal from the run of play, and in this one his experienced keeping was enough to keep a clean sheet against a team that didn’t test him too strenuously.

One thing I liked: Shutouts, no matter how you get there, are huge in this league. Perhaps more important was the way Frei looked on his return: confident, in control of his box, and sure-handed as we have come to expect.

One thing I didn’t like: I have no idea why he was channeling his inner Stefan Cleveland, but a wild 21st minute venture way outside his box to karate kick the ball away while things seemed under control from Nouhou and Co., was an odd choice at best.

Going forward: Cleveland did a good job filling in, but Frei is one of the best keepers in the league. He showed it not in acrobatic shot-stopping but in the workmanlike way his defense funneled shots in to him, and how his superb positioning allowed him to take it from there. It’s good to have him back.

Defense

Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.5

Nouhou was also back and we got the full Nouhou treatment. While it was clear he was still under some duress (either physical or mental), he played through his issues and seemed to grow into the match after a rough start.

One thing I liked: Most of the things we expected were there — 85 percent passing, five clearances, three interceptions, a stepover, and some acrobatic headers. Just having him there was big for the defense.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 33rd minute he was skinned by Ethan Finlay, and it was clear he thought he had Yeimar’s athleticism but only had Shane O’Neill’s. It wasn’t pretty. This, along with some early decision-making and execution, was brutal.

Going forward: In the second half he blew up Finlay three times in a row and put to bed the issues he seemed to have before the break. It’s clear what an upgrade he can be on the left, but also apparent there are some things he needs to work through.

Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 7.1

Referencing his athleticism wasn’t an insult above, especially when O’Neill himself knows how to play within his abilities. He did this excellently, being a calm and resolute central force who distributed safely wide and didn’t mess with the ball (11 clearances).

One thing I liked: This game set up nicely for Shane, as Minnesota was content to sit back, and thus he saw little pressure. This allowed him to dictate the tempo on the back line, something he did well, combining with his center back partners to force chances wide, or make them predictable.

One thing I didn’t like: The lack of dynamic passing from the center was readily apparent, as Shane played safe but un-exciting. Drops and square passes are fine, but the lack of distribution from the back forced an off-center midfield.

Going forward: Shane’s style of defending was great in this match, allowing no-nonsense clearances and physical battles that he won. He remains an excellent piece who can play effectively across the back line and will feature as the fixture congestion is nonstop.

Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 6 | Community – 6.7

Yeimar did Yeimar things, showing what we have come to expect — five clearances, multiple interceptions, nearly 90 percent passing. He wasn’t beaten very often, but there were several positional errors as he settled into a new partnership on either side.

One thing I liked: His 11th minute step high created a Jimmy Medranda shot on the opposite side of the field, and this ability to win balls stepping forward was helpful to release Kelyn Rowe on the width.

One thing I didn’t like: He got a cheap yellow when O’Neill stepped high and missed, forcing Yeimar to defend flat-footed. The tactical foul after being megged was fine, but the back line needs to be more coordinated.

Going forward: Yeimar put the last game behind him and played as we know he can play. His ability to win nearly every physical battle via either speed, strength, or aerial prowess is unmatched.

Defensive Midfield

Jimmy Medranda – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 64’ for Smith)

It was hard to remember much of what Jimmy did in this match, but on rewatch his pairing with Nouhou was strong. He had 46 touches, two shots, plenty of defense, and an all-around solid but quiet outing.

One thing I liked: With NewHou on the field in the first half getting his legs under him, it was Medranda who was continually in the correct defensive positions to cover any issues, and he was an excellent outlet for any pressure the back line felt.

One thing I didn’t like: At this point we are surprised when he doesn’t roof the fantastic first time shot. When Yeimar tackled a ball that went far post in minute 11, Medranda was unable to score another spectacular goal.

Going forward: Jimmy and Brad Smith are platooning and in this one Medranda was quiet, unspectacular but solid, and looked to be the right choice against Minnesota.

João Paulo – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (MOTM)

Another match that saw João do a little bit of everything — a goal, a key pass, three tackles, 67 touches, defensive positioning, grit, you name it. He controlled the midfield on both sides of the ball and was a skillful warrior in the center of the pitch.

One thing I liked: It’s hard to quantify exactly how good this guy is and what makes him the MVP for this team so far this season, but it helps when he scores an inch-perfect first-time far post game-winner.

One thing I didn’t like: At times he looked to be forcing the ball to Nico Lodeiro, and rarely connecting. These two must get on the same page.

Going forward: JP doing JP things.

Joshua Atencio – 6 | Community – 6.6 (off 78’ for Montero)

Atencio renewed his partnership with JP in the middle and showed his guile time and again, sliding effortlessly through the midfield to support both offensive and defensive efforts. Two tackles and two clearances highlighted a stoic defensive effort accentuated with a few darting central runs forward.

One thing I liked: In the 30th minute he was excellent, showing composure to defend cleanly and run into space for a solo outlet.

One thing I didn’t like: A silly play in the 52nd saw Josh run into the throwing arm of opposing keeper Tyler Miller, and that kind of cheap and dangerous shot would really be upsetting if it had happened to Frei.

Going forward: Atencio showed what he can do in combination with JP — namely how well he supports João and allows his teammates to get into and overload offensive areas. This pairing is one of a myriad looks the team can put out depending on need.

Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.2

I originally thought Rowe struggled, but the rewatch offered a more complete picture of what was his best outing as a right wingback. Although his 76 percent passing was littered with mistakes, there was improvement and many positives that demonstrated a solid match on the width.

One thing I liked: Two key passes, two interceptions, two clearances, and some nice runs into the right channel to support attacks were all ingredients of a solid performance from this position.

One thing I didn’t like: Just like when he’s played elsewhere, Kelyn’s biggest issue was trying too much, eschewing the solid pass to the open man for the spectacular pass that often failed due to degree of difficulty.

Going forward: Alex Roldan likely has a firm hold on this starting position, but it’s nice to know that Rowe can drop multiple key passes and solid play in reserve, and Alex needs to show more offensively than he has lately.

Attacking Midfield

Nicolas Benezet – 6 | Community – 6.6 (off 63’ for C. Roldan)

Benezet got another start, this time at attacking mid, and he was an active force, buzzing around the offensive third, combining with teammates to set up shots or go direct himself. He had two shots, a key pass, and productive work all over the field before subbing early in the second half.

One thing I liked: His assist was gorgeous, combining with the OG Nico to find space in the box before delivering a perfect diagonal pass to JP. Benezet’s ability to read plays with teammates after such a short time is tremendous.

One thing I didn’t like: Bruin flicked Nico into space in the 41st with a chance to likely put the match away, and while he was able to gain separation from the defense, he missed his shot after beating the keeper far post.

Going forward: Nicolas Benezet was a quiet addition, but his play has been impressive, offering another offensive player who can help break down bunkers with tantalizing movement and connection.

Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.6

This was a better effort from Lodeiro, who looked closer to the Nico we know and love. He had a shot, two key passes, and led the team with 75 touches. He wasn’t all the way back, but there was some improvement evident as he works back from a long absence.

One thing I liked: The goalscoring play was vintage Nico, who overloaded the right side and found the killer slip pass to put New Nico into space. Seeing him making these plays is cathartic, signaling improvement as he gets back on his feet.

One thing I didn’t like: Lodeiro still isn’t back. He runs a lot but looks lost at times, not finding his spot in the offense and forcing the ball more than necessary. Having so many new and moving parts attempting to integrate him while he gets back in shape is happening slower than hoped.

Going forward: While not overly concerning, he will need to find his spaces to show his MVP-level skill on a team that had a fairly clear identity midseason. It is exciting how many different styles the Sounders can play, and the tactical flexibility offered by this deep team is amazing, but it’s yet to be seen how the captain best fits.

Forward

Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 88’ for A. Roldan)

Bruin worked hard, but as with most of his outings this season, the few chances created for and by him were squandered. Two shots, a key pass, and a lot of smart defensive work from the front helped his cause. While it seemed that he worked hard with hold up play, his 53 percent passing was evidence it wasn’t as effective as hoped. A nice outlet needs both the holdup and the layoff, and he struggled with the latter.

One thing I liked: The flick to Benezet deserved an assist, but it was his defensive positioning that stood out. Venturing offsides if necessary, Will worked extremely hard to cut down half the field from the front, and this was huge for the team behind him.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 12th minute he got the ball on the penalty spot unmarked and a striker must bury that. (☹)

Going forward: Bruin offers a great change of pace and the ability to both bang with center backs and combine some with his feet. When you forget about it, he drops five aerials and shows he can support others. He needs to take and bury the few chances he is getting.

Substitutes

Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 6.3 (on 63’ for Benezet)

Cristian arrived back from spurring the USMNT into a big comeback win and was part of a workmanlike second half that held on against Minnesota.

One thing I liked: Ninety-one percent passing. Cristian connected everything.

One thing I didn’t like: For a 30-minute outing, Roldan only had 18 touches and struggled to find where he belonged among a bunch of different parts.

Going forward: Cristian didn’t have to be amazing, (and wasn’t,) but brought possession and got a bit of late exercise in preparation for another busy week.

Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 64’ for Medranda)

Brad came in to spell Medranda and had 21 relatively tame touches.

One thing I liked: Seattle immediately attempted to get him forward, and in the 69th he put a nice ball into Bruin who scuffed his shot.

One thing I didn’t like: After getting forward early, Smith struggled to connect, and had 67 percent passing while unable to find teammates.

Going forward: Smith and Medranda have combined nicely to give different looks, and if you want to know who is starting the next match, look back a game to see who got the previous start and it’s likely the other guy.

Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 6.2 (on 78’ for Atencio)

Fredy came in to see out the game and was an instant possession magnet, finding the ball 14 times and managing a shot on goal.

One thing I liked: He stole Ozzie Alonso’s cookies in the 90th, and if you didn’t enjoy that, you hate fun.

One thing I didn’t like: Fredy was great in possession, but looked a little out of position at times, supporting way deep in some uncomfortable spots.

Going forward: Montero came in not to score late but to help hold a lead, and he did well in that role. He is fantastic in possession, but likely better suited for creation than defending late.

Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 88’ for Bruin)

Roldan the Younger came in to run around the midfield and knock the travel rust off from a long international break.

One thing I liked: Five touches, 100 percent passing.

One thing I didn’t like: Alex played in an “energetically run around the middle” sort of way that ... worked?

Going forward: Roldan was strong playing for El Salvador and needs to show the kind of form he had earlier this season to hold off Rowe, who looked better this match filling in for him.

Referee

Alex Chilowicz – 8 | Community – 5.6

I barely thought about the referee in this match, which means he did a good job.

One thing I liked: His cards were warranted, and Chilowicz did nice work in letting the game play without too much physicality.

One thing I didn’t like: Some “last warnings” to Chase Gaspar and Hassani Dotson didn’t appear to be such after they had a few more fouls, and I thought Dotson, especially, deserved a card for fouling Frei behind the play moments after being warned.

Going forward: O’Neill was fortunate not to be sent off for a bad play in the waning moments, but the yellow fit the game that this referee gave us. I appreciate that the reffing mostly made sense!

Minnesota United MOTM

Miller had several standout saves as the Sounders consistently peppered his goal in search of the opener. Ultimately, he was only beaten the one time on an inch-perfect finish from the João.


Seattle took a break from MLS play to brush aside another Liga MX team midweek, etc., etc. #hellagreedy