Seattle went to Salt Lake where they have little success in the past and unfortunately continued that streak, falling 1-0 in a listless affair. A mundane first half was followed by a dreadful second, as the Sounders failed to fix any issues at halftime and were unable to find a spark while conceding several quality chances to the home team. Perhaps the Sounders were looking forward to a midweek cup final, but if they wanted to create some momentum toward their match with Leon, that objective failed miserably.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)
Frei did his best with what he had to work with. Credited with four saves, his composure in the back was a large part of keeping the team close and within striking distance of a result.
One thing I liked: A fantastic kick save in the 57th minute kept the deficit to a single goal, showing he is right back to the form we should expect from our #1 keeper.
One thing I didn’t like: There is only so much a goalie can do. The goal Seattle conceded wasn’t on Frei, but it was the first he’s conceded this year from open play and that streak is broken.
Going forward: Frei showed he can make the big save when needed, but nothing redeemed this team effort against RSL. He will need to play this well going forward as the defense gets rotated and continues to struggle with cohesion.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.9
Nouhou got another run out and was very up and down. His turbulent outing was defined by his own gesticulating and clear frustration, both at teammates and likely himself.
One thing I liked: Again, there were high highs: 91 percent passing, some strong 1-v-1 defending in the second half, and glimpses of a dominant force.
One thing I didn’t like: I am not used to people running by Nouhou, but he was beaten a few times. Even worse, he looked both slow and tentative, which are the antithesis of Hou-ness.
Going forward: Nouhou hasn’t lived up to the incredibly high bar he set earlier this season and it’s likely the fans echo his obvious frustration. The tools are there, but until he is confident in himself and more assertive, his play is erratic and unpredictable, which isn’t going to earn him the trust of his teammates or coaches moving forward.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.5
With an admittedly low bar, Seattle’s standout performer was Arreaga, who was a dominant two-way force. His defense was stellar, as he attempted to hold together a back eight who struggled to limit possession in dangerous areas. Arreaga led the match with five interceptions and four clearances, holding a patchwork defense together. His offensive connection was integral to the few chances the Sounders mustered.
One thing I liked: You had to appreciate Xavi’s passing, which jumpstarted nearly every positive break for Seattle. His ability to bring the ball on the dribble into midfield and distribute was hugely necessary, as the Sounders lacked that from the players in front of him.
One thing I didn’t like: There was only so much Arreaga could do, as the players around him struggled mightily. He unfortunately tried to do it all at times, getting pulled out of position while running around putting out fires.
Going forward: With strong players around him, Seattle should be able to leverage this dynamic passing from the center of the pitch, but this lineup didn’t showcase that. Arreaga looks to be in fine form, defending well and doing his job with little error since his return from international duty.
Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 64’ for Yeimar)
Cissoko returned to the Sounder’s starting lineup after last being carted off the Tacoma Defiance pitch with a head injury, so it was great to see him okay and able to play. His 76 percent passing was fine, but defensively this was a big step back from what we have come to expect from AB.
One thing I liked: A number of last-ditch defensive lunges were enough to keep Justin Meram quiet, and the RSL winger eventually subbed out after an ineffective night.
One thing I didn’t like: Cissoko struggled for much of the match, failing to combine well on the right with Roldan and Rowe, getting caught out of position often, and contributing to the goal against by watching a guy score who was right behind him. He was forced to commit four fouls, often while being beaten.
Going forward: Cissoko played well early in his Sounders career but has faded some lately. He needs to regain the form that saw him pushing into the top four or five defenders on the squad.
Brad Smith – 4 | Community – 4.5 (off 64’ for Medranda)
Brad started and wasn’t great. His combination play with Nouhou was nonexistent up the left, to the consternation of both. He had zero coordination with the central midfielders to create attacking runs up the width and was very ineffective on both sides of the ball.
One thing I liked: Thirty-three touches and 75 percent passing was okay.
One thing I didn’t like: Watching Smith get spun like a top and RSL immediately score makes me question him ever getting playing time.
Going forward: It’s hard to know what the tactical system is that accentuates the positive play from Brad Smith. This wasn’t it.
Josh Atencio – 6 | Community – 5.3
Atencio started in the central mid channel on the left and while solid at times, showed his inexperience. Stats wise he looked fine — 80 percent passing, 62 touches, three tackles — but it was his positioning and ultra-conservative play that combined poorly with the pieces around him to be a boring and mundane midfield.
One thing I liked: Josh did a lot of good defending, and as always, his composure was excellent even as Seattle struggled. He effortlessly moved back into defense and looked strong later in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s easy to take a back seat when paired with JP. This was a match where Atencio needed to do more, and his partnership with Danny Leyva was ineffective.
Going forward: Atencio isn’t a creator, and while he drove into the attack a few times on the dribble, his ability to set up teammates was lacking. This performance calls for combining him with veteran creative teammates who can leverage his strong positioning and defense without conceding any midfield presence offensively.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 4.6 (off 80’ for Bruin)
Leyva got a start next to Atencio and struggled to combine with his midfield partner and to consistently work the ball forward. Although he was a willing runner, the Seattle midfield was forced back nearly the entire first half, working hard to hold without creating any consistent possession centrally or linking through the middle to the width.
One thing I liked: Eighty-seven percent passing, a key pass, and a shot were highlights of the few times he was able to impact the game going forward.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle was unable to exert any pressure centrally, and this young midfield pairing was forced to just defend. They did that okay in the first half, but the Sounders always depend on winning the midfield battle, and this was a struggle.
Going forward: Leyva is not the creative force in the center that many hoped, and his play is more like Atencio’s than perhaps he would like. This likely puts him behind his fellow teen defensive mid, with the combination not yet showing a high upside.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 46’ for Rowe)
Alex split time on the right in this match, getting a half before likely subbing out to keep his legs fresh for the midweek match. Against RSL, Alex was just kind of “there,” without getting too involved either offensively or defensively. His 26 touches included only two cross attempts, both of which failed.
One thing I liked: Roldan was part of a shutout defense that bent but didn’t break in his time on the field. While not connecting on crosses, he was a perfect 3/3 on long balls, each of which found an offensive midfielder in space to attack.
One thing I didn’t like: I keep waiting for Roldan to show the dynamic runs and attacking skills he showed earlier this year and internationally, but I guess I’ll keep waiting.
Going forward: Alex has shown that he can defend with Yeimar next to him and work well offensively with strong pieces in front of him. When he works with rotated lineups, the younger Roldan’s play seems to decline to the level of the players around him.
Nicolas Benezet – 5 | Community – 5.4
Benezet was another attacking tool that the coaches brought in to hopefully stretch the defense and get into areas to combine up front with Raúl Ruidíaz. In theory it should have worked, but the connections were off just enough that Benezet was unable to connect when it counted. He ended with 86 percent completion and a single key pass.
One thing I liked: Nicolas brings a ton of direct attacking skill and effort. He is constantly moving, creating space, and attempting to connect with teammates to get forward and score.
One thing I didn’t like: For all his activity, Nico2 can’t seem to find the final pass or touch that will unlock the defense. At some point all his great effort needs to end up in the goal.
Going forward: Nicolas Benezet is another player who works well on the field, drifting into strong positions and linking up well with others. Unfortunately, he is missing some of the final product and doesn’t seem able to carry the full weight of a team looking for a creative leader.
Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 64’ for Montero)
Cristian returned to attacking mid underneath Raúl but failed to regain the magic he had from that position earlier in the season, as service dried up for him. Drifting into the right channel, Cristian had little success. He had 32 innocuous touches, creating a single key pass, and was unable to earn even a shot for his efforts.
One thing I liked: Struggling to get the ball in dangerous places, Roldan was still excellent in possession. His 88 percent passing showed a desire to connect with teammates and his nonstop effort was as expected.
One thing I didn’t like: With the central midfield struggling to not get overrun, an earlier tactical change to use Cristian’s experience in the center might have helped Seattle create an offensive push.
Going forward: Cristian hasn’t been his dominant self for months now. It isn’t time to panic over his production, but it’s worth wondering how to get him comfortable in a role that gets him back to the player we know he can be.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.8
Raúl worked extremely hard but had little service and was often up against multiple defenders without a way through. Always active, he had 43 touches and completed 73 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: Even surrounded by defenders, Ruidíaz still led Seattle with three shots and added a key pass.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl played a full 90 a few days before a cup final and Seattle didn’t get a result.
Going forward: Raúl will have a short turnaround for Wednesday’s match, and hopefully a stronger and more cohesive team can get the ball to him in dangerous places. Seattle must play around their remaining healthy DPs.
Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 46’ for A. Roldan)
Rowe came in to give Alex a half match off and was active offensively, if not very effective defensively on the wide right.
One thing I liked: A shot and two key passes showed a much more offensive right winger than the guy he replaced.
One thing I didn’t like: Rowe was a defensive liability, combining with Cissoko for disorganized defending on the lone RSL goal and leaving massive gaps on the right side for RSL to probe in the second half.
Going forward: Kelyn keeps getting chances wide and his offensive impact from there is strong, but the defensive issues prevent him from pressing Alex for more time.
Jimmy Medranda – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 64’ for Smith)
Medranda again paired with Nouhou but was largely ineffective vertically against RSL, spending much of his time defending versus Aaron Herrera and not finding the ball in attacking areas from midfield distribution.
One thing I liked: Jimmy’s defense was solid, and I doubt the goal that happened does so with Medranda out there. He had one shot, and everyone assumed he would hit a monster goal, which is fun.
One thing I didn’t like: With little midfield presence, Seattle struggled to get anything going up the wings. 69% passing was not nice, instead showing an inability to connect up the wing.
Going forward: The platoon is still happening, and I have no idea what the rationale is behind who starts which game. Medranda appears to have the better body of work but isn’t being given the free offensive role surrounded by offensive minded players. He may be the “defensive” choice at this point, but I honestly don’t know.
Yeimar Gómez Andrade – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 64’ for Cissoko)
Yeimar came in late to spell Cissoko, who struggled.
One thing I liked: Two clearances, two blocked shots, and mostly steady defense on the right that had been missing.
One thing I didn’t like: I am not sure what burning minutes on Yeimar did.
Going forward: It’s likely this was a planned sub with Cissoko coming off a scary injury, but Yeimar should be ready to dominate twice more this week.
Fredy Montero – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 64’ for C. Roldan)
Fredy came in and was immediately a difference maker, creating for Seattle in ways never imaginable prior to his arrival.
One thing I liked: Two shots, 77 percent passing, three aerials won, hold up play, creativity. This was the offensive creation lacking prior to his insertion.
One thing I didn’t like: Added late to the match, Fredy wasn’t able to be the piece of magic that Seattle needed, no matter how hard he tried. A late shot was from a long distance and speculative, with perhaps other options available.
Going forward: Montero came in, showed he understood what the team needed, and then went and did that. When surrounded with more like-minded (and abled) players, he is becoming an essential starter for a team lacking offensive clout recently.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 5.1 (on 80’ for Leyva)
Will contributed 10 underwhelming minutes as Seattle threw a bunch of attackers on in hopes of rescuing a result.
One thing I liked: Bruin came in and for a moment everyone had to be remembering his sub appearance against Columbus.
One thing I didn’t like: Three touches. Fifty percent passing. Will was completely ineffective.
Going forward: Bruin may never return to his highs prior to knee surgery but his drop-off has been extreme. It’s hard to find nice things to write about someone who clearly works hard but doesn’t appear to be able to positively impact matches.
Ismail Elfath – 5 | Community – 5.7
With Seattle conceding the midfield pressure almost completely to RSL, there weren’t a lot of contentious calls to be made. The home team brought a ton of physicality and the Sounders wilted from the confrontation, through no fault of the referee. He struggled to adjudicate the match in such a way that was even, however, allowing RSL to utilize fouls as a tactic to prevent any forward motion throughout the entire match.
One thing I liked: The five cards given were fine, and I liked that this referee didn’t hesitate to give a first half repetitive fouls card.
One thing I didn’t like: Twenty-one to six! That’s how many fouls RSL was called for versus Seattle’s number. Whenever RSL needed to, they utilized fouls to stop any counters that Seattle even thought to create, and it was effective. Justen Glad, Pablo Ruiz, and Everton Luiz all were constantly hacking anyone even close to attacking. When the foul discrepancy is that large, there is a problem.
Going forward: I don’t know how many times there’s been such a discrepancy in foul numbers per team, but it’s not surprising that it was Elfath manning the middle. He seems incapable of dealing with this sort of thing, content to just call what he sees and not look at the entire game state as a function of his refereeing.
Real Salt Lake MOTM
When both formations feature wingbacks, seeing who blinks first can become a game within the game. No points for guessing who did the blinking in this one. Herrera gave Seattle’s wingbacks an 82-minute lesson on how the position ought to be played before mercifully subbing off.
Seattle plays in Leagues Cup. #hellagreedy