Seattle did pretty much what they have been doing all season against San Jose in their last game in 2022. The play was similar to prior games, but the result wasn’t. A team that barely tied all year managed their fifth of the season, bravely stealing a draw from the clutches of a win. Seattle ended their 2022 season with a 2-2 tie with San Jose at home. Against SJ it was, surprisingly, the Nico Lodeiro offensive show, paired with the same tired defensive errors that conceded each time the team captain scored. The season finale was a fun match that capped off a season with incredible highs and the unfamiliar taste of failure to make the playoffs for the first time in the MLS era.
Stefan Cleveland – 5 | Community – 5.8
Stefan Cleveland got a rare start, and he faced 12 shots and made two saves. This was a chance for Cleveland to make a statement and the statement he made was similar to the rest of the team: Meh.
One thing I liked: Cleveland was strong at attacking the ball in his box, making several advances to the edge of the area and beyond to support a defense that was at times vulnerable to a counterattack. His passing was an extra outlet.
One thing I didn’t like: Graciously handed a first minute lead, it was San Jose’s first offensive push that leveled the match, and a save pushed right into the middle of the box by Cleveland helped a lot, as it went to the only opponent in the box who put it away easily.
Ellis: “Why do the referees and goalies wear the same color — are they on the same team this game?” Great question, bud.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.0
Nouhou played his usual fine 1-v-1 defense on the width and offered some energetic if not particularly effective runs up the wing in a solid effort against San Jose. He touched the ball 54 times and turned in 88 percent passing.
One thing I liked: Nouhou understood that with Jordan Morris playing very high and central, he had to try to utilize the space on the wing. He took up a suitably high position on the left, consistently finding space, but also making smart decisions to mostly hand it off to better attackers quickly. Defensively, he shut down wide service nicely.
One thing I didn’t like: Recovery defense was a mess all year, and this match was no different. Nouhou hustled back after the early turnover in midfield, but trailing the play allowed San Jose to capitalize on a simple mistake well up field.
Emery, playing as Nouhou in the yard post-match, wearing one shin guard upside down: “I’m Nouhou. I am a ninja.”
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 5.5 (off 69’ for Ragen)
Arreaga got the start centrally, and for much of the match Seattle defended well while also controlling possession and creating better chances. Xavier did well to step up and distribute, and his 92 percent passing was mostly to Josh Atencio or Yeimar — very safe and predictable.
One thing I liked: Three tackles, two interceptions, and two clearances were highlights of a solid defensive job centrally, shunting all the San Jose attacks wide and pushing into middle areas to help the defensive midfield.
One thing I didn’t like: Subbing in the 69th minute for a younger version of himself, there were opportunities for Arreaga to be more aggressive in passing; instead he made passes around the back with opportunities wasted.
Ellis: “Are these guys going to the World Cup?” “Yeah, Nouhou with Cameroon and Arreaga with Ecuador, maybe some Americans.” “Is Ecuador by the Equator?” Yes.
Yeimar – 6 | Community – 5.9
Yeimar had another strong statistical match and showed off his excellent athleticism, matching up well defensively with the left side of San Jose’s offense.
One thing I liked: Two tackles, a league-leading three more interceptions, and 11 clearances displayed excellent defending throughout the match to limit San Jose to very few concrete chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Eleven clearances! Needing to kick the ball away that many times inside your own box means the defense is scrambling way too much, and Yeimar struggles when put in these positions. On San Jose’s first goal, as he was hustling back to cover defensively, he inexplicably defended wide back post, completely ignoring the central run of the guy who was about to score his 17th goal.
Emery: “Yeimar is SO big. What does he eat? Can I get some Skittles?”
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.4 (Off 83’ for Teves)
Alex did some of everything in this match, showing decent attacking skills and some problematic defending in an effort that seemed a bit tired.
One thing I liked: With 87 percent passing on 80 touches, a lot of the match went through Alex on the right. He had a nice shot and a key pass, both of which nearly ended in goals.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively, Roldan continued to struggle with wide spaces, and Cade Cowell, playing an inverted right-footed winger in front of him, was allowed to cut onto his preferred foot and take a reasonably uncontested shot in the 75th minute to tie the match.
Boys: “Hey boys, what do you think of Alex Roldan?” (During “fight … and WIN” chant) “Are they saying Fries and wings, dad?” “Yeah guys, we chant ‘come on Seattle, Fries and Wings’.” They proceeded to Fries and Wings chant ‘til it was over.
Joshua Atencio – 6 | Community – 5.7
Atencio found a full 90 against San Jose and displayed what he can do in a clear audition for next season. Paired with Albert Rusnák centrally, Josh was the more defensive of the two and responded with good positioning but without the strong physical presence that may be necessary to offset the lineup.
One thing I liked: Josh led the team with 90 touches and did an excellent job of controlling the match, finding safe passes (86 percent) and getting the ball moving quickly around the field. His control in tight places and decision making going forward was strong.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 4th minute, Atencio thought he was fouled and lost possession in the midfield, something you can’t do with the Seattle defense behind you. San Jose scored immediately, as once again transition defense failed to counter a small mistake up field.
Ellis: “You should rate him a 10 because A-TEN-cio.”
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 69’ for Chú)
Albert was again pushed back into defensive midfield and had an average outing, doing what he could to support teammates defensively but finding little success opening up others vertically from a deep lying position. He had 63 touches in a very active 68 minute shift and turned in 91 percent passing.
One thing I liked: Rusnák was aggressive around the box, nearly scoring multiple times by shooting direct, the closest in the 21st minute as he unfortunately was denied by the post.
One thing I didn’t like: Zero defensive actions for a defensive midfielder just accentuates what the eye test tells you — Rusnák makes good positional defensive plays and covers a lot of ground, but he doesn’t defensively impact the match when playing this position and that puts stress on a beleaguered back line.
Emery: “I like Rusnák. His name is like snack. Can I get some skittles? That guy on TV called him Rooshnak. Don’t they know his name?” No one knows, buddy.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 46’ for Leyva)
Morris returned to the left side and struggled to get integrated into the match, unable to get space on the wing to get in behind, and while putting a lot of effort into the match, couldn’t create chances. He had 26 touches before being subbed at halftime.
One thing I liked: Morris had a shot in the 43rd minute off some excellent Cristian Roldan work and pass on the right. This shot was a pullback cross and found Jordan making an excellent unmarked run. This understanding of where to go to make a passing lane and create a chance was great. Unfortunately, it was blocked.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris knocked knees with an opponent seconds into the match and never really looked okay after, although it’s often hard to tell whether Jordan is hurt or not.
Ellis: “George Morris looked like he got hurt. But we scored. Was that on purpose?”
Nico Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.6 (MOTM)
I am not sure if Nico was playing for pride or team future or what, but he looked like a different player in this match than for much of the season. Active and available, his passes and connections with teammates were crisp, and he joined the attack in a way that had been severely lacking all year. He ended with only 79 touches, showing that he can be impactful without dominating the ball.
One thing I liked: Four shots, two goals, a key pass. This activity from Lodeiro was needed, but even more so, Seattle needed that extra bit of quality to crash the box and get numbers, and for the first time all year, Nico showed that. The finishes on both goals were perfect.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico only had a single run of play goal prior to this match, and it illustrates how uncomfortably reliant we are on his ability to make or break the team.
Emery: “Hey Emery, who is your Man of the Match?” “NicoBadero.” Chants “NICONICONICO” with a mouth full of skittles.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.5
Cristian finished off his season on the right, and was the main creator for the team, continually poking and prodding and sending in strong crosses for teammates. He had 68 very impactful touches, combining with Alex and Nico to find space before pushing the ball into the box.
One thing I liked: Roldan led the team with three key passes and his linkup ability with his brother immediately after kickoff helped create a dream start.
One thing I didn’t like: A beautiful connection up the right in combination with his brother and Lodeiro got Cristian into the box for a perfect cross to Morris right before half that deserved a goal, not a “deflected out for a corner.”
Ellis: “Hey Ellis, do you still want to play soccer with your brother like the Roldans?” “Nah, he wants to be Black Panther, so when I play for the Sounders it will be just me.”
Fredy Montero – 7 | Community – 6.4 (off 69’ for Bruin)
Fredy got the start in the final game of the season and again showed how much he can still do. He was excellent at combining with teammates and popping up in the box over and over to pressure the goal. He didn’t score but co-led the team with four shots and added a key pass on 36 touches.
One thing I liked: Montero, Lodeiro, and Roldan created much of the offense, and Fredy nearly scored a number of times due to pure effort. In the 21st minute he fought for the ball in the box after a scramble and found Rusnák, who was unfortunately denied by the post.
One thing I didn’t like: For all his effort, Fredy didn’t have enough polish on a couple of big chances, missing that little bit of class that maybe age has worn down some.
Mom: “How come you never take me to Fredy’s coffee shop?” Oops.
Danny Leyva – 6 | Community – 5.3 (on 46’ for Morris)
Perhaps unexpectedly, Leyva was a halftime sub, dropping into central midfield and showing a more aggressive vertical passing plan that fit his mentality well. He was direct, strong on the ball, and turned 35 touches into 92 percent passing and some quality creation.
One thing I liked: In only a half he had the second-most key passes for Seattle (two) and consistently put others into great spots to attack San Jose. He also added three tackles and two interceptions defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: Leyva missed a number of passes that would have broken the match open. He does a lot that doesn’t result in tangible stuff (i.e. goals).
Ellis: “There’s a Dani in my class but she’s a girl. Hey, maybe she could play for the Reign!”
Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.5 (on 69’ for Montero)
Bruin came in for the last half hour and had 12 touches.
One thing I liked: Eighty-six percent passing kept the ball for Seattle and this forward had two tackles in a defensive masterclass.
One thing I didn’t like: Zero Shots. Zero key passes.
Jackson Ragen – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 69’ for Arreaga)
Ragen got a chance to show what he could do as an end-of-year addition and displayed what he brings to the team.
One thing I liked: He attempted some vertical passes and showed off a desire to switch the ball quickly over the top in lieu of passing around the back.
One thing I didn’t like: With only eight touches, Ragen wasn’t part of the match enough.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 4.6 (on 69’ for Rusnák)
Chú entered the field with a chance to make a big impact in the final 30 minutes of the season, but he wasn’t noticeable.
One thing I liked: He completed all his passes and added two tackles as he was cognizant of defensive duties down his wing.
One thing I didn’t like: With only 11 touches, Chú wasn’t able to show he’s worth investing more in.
Ellis and Emery: “CHÚ?” Yeah that’s his name. “CHÚ CHÚ CHÚUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU CHÚCHÚ” One-and-a-half-year-old Perry joins in: “CHÚCHÚCHÚCHÚCHÚ”
Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 83’ for A. Roldan)
Teves ended his first professional season on the field for the Seattle Sounders, getting a few minutes at the end of the match to show off his ability at a right formidfender position.
One thing I liked: Teves is always smiling, and I appreciate that.
One thing I didn’t like: I know he played, but one touch, zero passes, zero impact is underwhelming.
Marcos de Oliveira – 5 | Community – 4.9
This was a newish ref for the Sounders, and they struggled early to understand how he was going to ref. Once the teams settled into the style of the game, calls were generally understandable, with 25 total fouls called and a yellow to each side.
One thing I liked: Both yellow cards were defensible, and carding Rodrigues early in the second half did an excellent job to curb what had been a persistent, overly physical playstyle from the Earthquakes player.
One thing I didn’t like: It took a while for Seattle to feel out the ref, and by that time SJ had already taken advantage of a no-call to score. Atencio and most of Seattle thought Josh was fouled in the 4th minute, and while the home team hesitated waiting for a nonexistent whistle, the away team was tying the score.
San Jose Earthquakes MOTM
Typically burly (and newly fuchsia-haired) Cade Cowell subbed into this one and made an immediate impact. He scored the final goal of the match, drawing San Jose level, by doing typical inverted winger things. Allowed to cut in on his stronger right, he unleashed a long-range strike and that was that. (Oh, and he had a chance at the winner late on, ripping through the box, drawing Cleveland off his line, but in the end only finding the side-netting from a tight angle.)
This was the first time all three boys attended a Sounders game. I think Ellis and Emery preferred the last times they went, wins over Kansas City and Houston. I have to agree. Sigh.
Next up: I will compile end-of-year ratings on each player, with some brutally honest takes on their play and their potential future with Seattle. Stay tuned :D