After several fortuitous results, Seattle crashed back to earth with a resounding thud at home against Portland, playing horribly for long spells of the match before pressing forward and nearly rescuing a point. The final result was a massively disappointing Sounders loss to their biggest rival, 2-0. The first half was a morass of listless play, with Seattle getting bossed around the field and showing little cohesion. After halftime, the Sounders found themselves on the front foot and dictated most of the play, but were thwarted time and again by a compact defense and the woodwork. Uncharacteristically poor play in the back gifted both goals to Portland, and the Sounders failed to live up to the hype of an incredible day of soccer in Seattle.
Stefan Cleveland – 4 | Community – 4.1
Cleveland has made a few errors in the past that have led to goals, and the common theme has been field awareness. His biggest weakness is his timing on when to leave the box and connect with defenders to deal with long balls over the top and breakaways, and unfortunately Portland took advantage. Twice.
One thing I liked: The defense was strong, and if Stefan had just stood on his line all match, he may have had a shutout.
One thing I didn’t like: Portland had two shots on goal, and both scored. Although not fully to blame for the first goal, a dreadful clearance attempt in the 54th nearly opened the scoring for the Timbers, and his 95th minute header attempt was an undisciplined flailing attempt to support the team and predictably failed.
Going forward: Cleveland has done a good job this year filling in for Stefan Frei, and he has given us much to appreciate as a backup. Performances like this show he should perhaps remain a backup.
Shane O’Neill – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 74’ for Montero)
Shane was strong in both halves, defending well and doing his job. He had 98 percent completion, making safe and negative passes. He hit the post on a corner header attempt in the 61st minute.
One thing I liked: A defensive leader in a poor first half for Seattle, O’Neill was staunch in the back and even stepped up high in the 29th minute to earn possession and a shot for Raúl Ruidíaz.
One thing I didn’t like: Brad Smith bailed him out in the 18th and he was turned like a top yet again, with a group defensive effort bailing him out in the 34th. He needs the ball in front of him to be effective.
Going forward: Shane’s style of controlled passing back to the keeper with enough power to get to him was a good fit for this match, and he showed his typically unflappable defensive style that gives a predictable output. He remains a solid defender but someone who handcuffs his side’s offense.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.3
Arreaga was once again excellent. He had five clearances, three tackles, and a pristine 91 percent passing rate on 58 touches. His ability to cover horizontal ground was complemented by some vertical movement and pressure, especially in a second half that saw Portland pushed back.
One thing I liked: Many of the best attacks from Seattle originated with creative passing from Arreaga. One was a beautiful over the top pass to Alex Roldan in the 53rd, which opened space on the right and ended with JP hitting the crossbar. Another came in the 94th as Xavi intercepted central, pushed forward, and ignited another big chance that nearly rescued a point.
One thing I didn’t like: While he wasn’t the culprit, there was a communication breakdown on the first Timbers goal that he must take a small bit of responsibility for. (Perhaps he could have said something along the lines of “Patéalo en las jodidas gradas, Yeimar.”)
Going forward: For the second match in a row Arreaga was the best defender on the field, and he is coming into his own as others have faded for injury or performance reasons. Xavi is a great fit centrally, leveraging his passing acumen to add another dimension to the Sounders, and he should not be overlooked within the Sounders defense.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 4 | Community – 4.5
Yeimar has been great this year and has done his share of covering for teammates’ mistakes. In this one, he made multiple giant errors that Portland pounced on. He will want to quickly forget this match.
One thing I liked: Three interceptions, a tackle and lots of strong defense facing forward.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 54th YGA’s weak back pass was nearly deflected back into the goal and four minutes later he topped that with an even worse ball, playing it slowly and toward his own goal for Portland to jump on and score. Another late miscue facing his own goal contributed to the second Timbers score in extra time.
Going forward: Yeimar’s passing has long been documented as a weakness, but this was a perfect storm of poor decision making combined with those mistaken passes, to an awful end. He is such an incredible player; this was definitely the exception to the rule. He will want to forget this one and go back to bolstering his DPOY campaign.
Brad Smith – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 73’ for Medranda)
Brad struggled for long stretches of the first half on both sides of the ball but regrouped after intermission and was able to positively impact in the second half. He ended with a shot and 78 percent passing.
One thing I liked: After halftime, Smith immediately charged forward and got on the end of a nice ball from O’Neill. This stretched the Portland defense out for the first time all match, and he was active for a short while attacking.
One thing I didn’t like: Yet again Brad was unable to hit the running cross into a wide open Ruidíaz, this time in the 22nd minute. Released up the wing by Nicolás Lodeiro, Brad only had to put the ball into the box for Raúl (or even Cristian Roldan far post) to put away. Instead, he passed well behind his teammates and squandered one of the few big chances Seattle managed in the first half.
Going forward: Smith keeps starting and keeps giving us exactly this. His combination with O’Neill is average defensively and offers little attack. Against your biggest rival at home, this is who played, so that appears to be the first-choice pairing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)
João was less than his usual great self, but still solid in the center for Seattle. Once again, he had the most touches in the match (109) and an outstanding 88 percent completion rate. He was the creative engine centrally, in addition to his regular essential defensive work.
One thing I liked: Seattle needed extra offensive help and JP stepped high to offer it. A tremendous first time shot in the 53rd minute hit the crossbar after a keeper fingertip deflection, and eight minutes later another half-volley off a corner forced a second great save. He added two key passes as well.
One thing I didn’t like: Especially in the first half, João’s passing was a mess. I counted five wayward passes and interactions that put teammates into rough spots. The bar is high for JP, and he was uncharacteristically inaccurate.
Going forward: The Timbers midfield outplayed Seattle’s for stretches of the match, and Seattle must figure out how to get all their DPs to play together.
Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 87’ for Bruin)
Rowe got a start next to JP, and in the first half their connection left a lot to be desired. Usually cohesive, these two rarely connected and were forced to scramble defensively several times. With 75 touches, he converted a surprising 88 percent of the time.
One thing I liked: Kelyn worked hard to offset the positioning issues in front of him and earned three shots and a key pass for his efforts.
One thing I didn’t like: He was beaten in the 2nd minute and should have been carded for the cynical foul he committed. He was chasing behind the play on numerous other occasions as Seattle was awful in the first half figuring out midfield spacing.
Going forward: Rowe was the beneficiary in the “How do we play Nico” lottery this week, and also had a bit of a surprising move to right back late. He is a strong central connector but doesn’t appear to mix well with Lodeiro, which may limit his opportunities moving forward.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 73’ for Benezet)
Alex had a 70-minute runout on the right as he was once again subbed out to move Rowe to right back. Roldan couldn’t get forward as much as he would have liked for much of the match, which limited impact offensively. Effective in transition against a deep lying Timbers squad, the younger Roldan struggled to find space and targets for his crosses. He had a lot of touches (75) and 85 percent completion rate in a match where his defensive contributions were minimal and offensive ones sporadic.
One thing I liked: Even on a quiet night, A-Rold still dropped in two key passes, dialing up crosses and making smart passes into dangerous areas. Smith could have done much better on a brilliant far post ball in the 20th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: As Susie Rantz correctly pointed out, Alex’s impact on the Sounders offense has dried up. While most of the attack still came from Seattle’s right side, this game had awful offensive spacing, so Raúl was left on an island and Alex had limited options going forward. Some of this is due to Alex’s poor control and poor decision making, and some due to tactical congestion.
Going forward: Roldan appears to be a platoon player now, which is a little curious. His play has been steady all year, but for some reason he’s been subbed out when chasing a late result. Alex continues to build on a good season but seems to need to produce more to play full matches.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.1
It pains me to write this, but Nico was not that great. Still a talented player, he had a few rusty touches, and his control remains in pre-season form. Perhaps more alarming was his inability to fit the tactical system that Seattle has been playing this season. Although he had 84 touches, he was unable to display any consistent dynamic play, working hard but finding little soccer joy.
One thing I liked: When Lodeiro gets the ball in transition he makes incredible plays, and his connection in the 20th minute saw Seattle’s first early chance (Smith’s missed volley). The second big chance from the Sounders came two minutes later after Nico put Smith in unmarked behind. (Smith missed the cross.)
One thing I didn’t like: Five key passes came almost exclusively from set piece delivery, and we have other options for that. What we need is someone to link up centrally and find connections with teammates, instead of congesting space and at times being in the way.
Going forward: Last match we subbed off Nico and it helped, and frankly it might have helped in this one. Lodeiro needs to be match-fit, but that only matters if he can figure out how to assimilate into a team that was playing well prior to his return. This team can be so much more, as Nico is an MVP-caliber player, but he must gel quickly and find more cohesiveness with teammates.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.9
Cristian was effective for stretches, but also absent and clearly frustrated with his poor play at other moments. Roldan the elder had 56 touches and connected on 77 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: Statistically, he led the team with four shots, and he twice hit the post with headers. For his stature, Cristian is incredible in the air and a dangerous person to give any space to in the box.
One thing I didn’t like: Cristian, after struggling while paired with JP last match, had similar issues linking with Nico, as they often found themselves making the same runs. His passing in the attacking third wasn’t clean enough, and Roldan was clearly frustrated.
Going forward: Pushing Roldan forward to revisit his central wing runs was ineffective in the first half, and Seattle’s inability to leverage the Broldan’s side of the field limited service to Raúl. The problem doesn’t appear to be Cristian, but it’s hard to tell where he will be most effective due to all of the various lineups.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.9
Raúl did as well as he could, starved of much service. He did touch the ball 32 times, but many were in a support role, creating for others and dropping back, desperate to get involved.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz had two shots, both on goal and both forcing strong goalkeeping. The first was a cheeky chip in the 29th minute that beats many aggressive netminders who come off their line. The second, in the 86th, was a fancy elastico that created space for a big hit that was unfortunately stopped from leveling the score.
One thing I didn’t like: On multiple corner kicks the ball was flicked far post and Raúl was tantalizingly close to tapping in for goals.
Going forward: Raúl and Nico failed to connect at all in this match and that is concerning. He is still leading the golden boot race, but Seattle needs to find ways to link with him and find the cross when he makes the perfect run.
Jimmy Medranda – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 73’ for Smith)
Jimmy subbed on late and was again part of a full-throated Sounders attack to close out the match. He had 17 active touches up the left, crossing in the ball and forcing Portland further back into their bus.
One thing I liked: Although he was an offensive asset, his 80th minute defense kept Seattle in the match and gave them 15 more minutes to pound shots off the woodwork.
One thing I didn’t like: An 81st minute cross and 94th minute misplay were mistakes in a frantic offensive push, and he ended with 64 percent completion rate.
Going forward: Medranda was super effective last match but unfortunately sat until late in this one. Clearly the non-starter on the left at this point, Jimmy will need to keep scoring GOTY candidates to get on the field.
Nicolas Benezet – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 73’ for A. Roldan)
Nico Benezet came in for a short shift and found the ball 19 times. He was active in the attacking third, looking for spots to join with teammates and get into the box.
One thing I liked: Immediately after entering he gained possession and earned a foul, which frankly Seattle should have been trying to earn more of, based on their near-success from multiple set pieces.
One thing I didn’t like: Benezet tried to force the ball to his namesake in the 86th instead of crossing into a box full of tall guys waiting.
Going forward: So far this year Nico is an energy player, a quality attacking piece to sub on and link up going forward.
Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 74’ for O’Neill)
Fredy finally got on the field late and was energetic, creating for others and being goal-dangerous in his 13 touches.
One thing I liked: Instantly active, his 84th minute cross was a perfect ball that nearly found Ruidíaz.
One thing I didn’t like: Our known “Timbers killer” sits on the bench and watches the team flounder around for 75 minutes. Did we forget how he almost single-handedly kept us in the match down there?
Going forward: Removing Fredy from the offense pointed out some positioning errors and creation deficits. Seattle will need to figure out how to get all these parts on the field and playing well prior to being down a goal in the 75th minute.
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 87’ for Rowe)
Will Bruin came on late as an offensive sub and didn’t bring any magic this time.
One thing I liked: Did he even play?
One thing I didn’t like: Bruin played 10 minutes and had zero touches, so there is no statistical record that he was ever in this match.
Going forward: The report that Bruin was back may have been premature, although this wasn’t a fair indicator of anything other than poor play by the entire team at home against a rival.
Alan Kelly – 5 | Community – 4.3
This was a prime example of how MLS referees don’t understand how to adjudicate rivalry games. While Kelly was relatively even in whistling fouls, he was way too lax in carding hard fouls, missed a lot of backside stuff, and generally allowed so much physical play as to degrade the match into a fistfight centrally.
One thing I liked: The two cards he did give were correct, and it was nice to see him give Diego Valeri a card for the same crap that guy has pulled five minutes after subbing in every single time we play them.
One thing I didn’t like: Diego Chará could foul eight times by my count, while being whistled for three. He was also fouled a ton himself by the Sounders without a whistle. That goes entirely in his benefit, however, as the ability to slow midfield transition was essential to the Timbers’ success. Smith, Chará, Sebastián Blanco, and others all deserved yellows in a match that was another “play advantage for no reason” one.
Going forward: Just card some of the hard fouls early, especially after allowing advantage, and watch the game open up from whatever the hell that was.
Potland Timbers MOTM
While Portland was waiting around for Seattle’s defense to make uncharacteristic errors, Steve Clark (and the woodwork) kept them in this one. He used that woodwork to deal with one strike from JP, and did well to parry another that resulted from one of Seattle’s many corner opportunities.
Seattle plays again soon, and I guess I’ll watch and rate that one, too.