This past weekend Seattle continued its upward trajectory in MLS, knocking off Minnesota 2-1 on the road. The first two thirds of the game were excellent from the Sounders, who controlled the midfield, built controlled possession into quality chances, and immediately threatened on counter attacks. Getting a multi-goal lead off this quality gameplay, Seattle looked to the future by resting key players and easing others back onto the team. This plan, combined with increased second half effort from the Loons, meant Seattle wasn’t as cohesive as players were switched out and Minnesota took advantage to create many late chances. Seattle’s last-ditch defending was enough to hold on to the full three points, and the Sounders are starting to show the form we expected this season.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.1
It was great to see Stefan Frei back at goalkeeper after missing the Austin match with a minor injury. He was credited with just three saves against the Loons, but had a very active match, especially late as Minnesota threw massive numbers forward and threatened the goal on multiple occasions.
One thing I liked: With Seattle reeling and having just conceded a penalty to bring Minnesota back into the match, Frei came up big in the 86th minute, making a massive save to his right to stop the tying goal from Robin Lod. As the Loons pelted Seattle with pressure, Frei did well to ensure the only goal getting by him was perfectly placed.
One thing I didn’t like: Frei was glued to his line most of this match, preferring teammates to do the work in front of him, and when he did come out, he struggled to make the correct decision. In the 88th minute, a miscommunication with Jackson Ragen ended up with a poor touch that was nearly put into the net, and a punch clear was the safer choice.
Going forward: Seattle consistently struggles with second half defensive subs, and Frei needs to provide stronger leadership when there are multiple changes. His consistent goalkeeping made a difference in this one, allowing Seattle to try out another new cast of defensive characters.
Kelyn Rowe – 7 | Community – 6.8
Utility player Rowe had yet another appearance, this time at left fullback, and he showed well. He had 71 clean touches and connected on 88 percent of his passes. His decision making was strong, staying compact with Xavier Arreaga to his right and creating space for Jordan Morris in front of him while supporting both as needed.
One thing I liked: Asked to play left defense, Kelyn did a first-rate job of defending first and bursting forward at the right times. His backside runs were well chosen, and he had an excellent 22nd minute cross that nearly found Morris. In the 78th minute, it was his dribbling on display, as Seattle escaped pressure due to Rowe’s tight control and maneuverability time and again while holding onto a lead.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 68th minute Rowe got completely shook, and it was a brief glimpse of why he might not be the first choice outside defender.
Going forward: Kelyn Rowe has his allies and critics, but this game illustrated what he can do and what to expect from this mercurial player. Importantly, he showed that he can deputize on the left in a pinch, offering another option for Seattle as they navigate a busy schedule and player availability issues.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 76’ for Nouhou)
Xavier played well, helping a makeshift defense hold a shutout in his time on the field. He was his usual dominant defensive self, leading the team with four interceptions and adding a sparkling 88 percent passing clip. The defense stayed compact and played well until tiring, with Arreaga forced off due to an unknown injury.
One thing I liked: Arreaga’s understanding of when to step forward, steal possession and create quick transition opportunities, while denying attacks from Minnesota, was phenomenal. In the 33rd, 56th, and 73rd he surged past opponents to win the ball and drove into the attacking half with his head up looking for distribution opportunities.
One thing I didn’t like: Several flubbed clearances under pressure (9th, 70th) gave Minnesota more of the ball than they deserved.
Going forward: Any injury to the defense puts Seattle into a rough spot with an important mid-week match, and hopefully Arreaga was just removed as a precautionary measure. This season he has adapted well to the ever-changing lineups around him while playing nearly every minute available. Any long-term injury would put the Sounders in a rough spot.
Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 5.7
Ragen started on the right of central defense and for the first 70 or so minutes was very good. He again showed his strong passing and controlled defensive style, contributing 89 percent passing and 58 touches. He got the ball often in the back and was used for distribution forward. He seemed to tire later in the match, and his play fell off drastically as the game wore on.
One thing I liked: Once again leading the team in clearances, Ragen had a massive eight in this match to go with two tackles and an interception. He was consistently across behind the left side to clear danger, reading the play perfectly.
One thing I didn’t like: A 15-minute span late in the second half was a nightmare for Jackson. He was victimized on multiple occasions, giving up a 71st minute yellow-carded foul, committing the foul in the penalty box to give Minnesota their only goal, and at times struggling immensely to get out of his own way. Another scary moment occurred when his miscommunication with Frei led to a fumbled ball and nearly an equalizing goal.
Going forward: Ragen was destined to have a downturn, and how he will deal with his first adverse play will say a lot about his professional development. The tools are all still there, and being able to shrug off a rough patch and continue his quality play would be the most positive result. His clean feet and calm play are a perfect combination for long term success.
Alex Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.4
Roldan was excellent for most of the match, working hard defensively with a new partner to his left to shut down Minnesota. He had three tackles and four clearances and supported the attack consistently, earning a key pass for his hustle.
One thing I liked: Alex continues to improve his ball handling, adding a nifty central dribble to his repertoire that gives Seattle another option to attack centrally or switch the ball. Defenses are unable to lock Roldan onto the sideline effectively, as he will just cut inside and look for runners both vertically and square.
One thing I didn’t like: One underutilized tool for Seattle is the verticality of Morris on the left while possessing deeper on the right. Alex tried one time to find the killer diagonal over-the-top pass in the 55th minute but missed badly. He should keep looking for those opportunities.
Going forward: Alex keeps adding small pieces to his skillset, continuing to develop and improve, which is an understated asset for the team. Even while playing with a foot injury, he’s become an essential ingredient in Seattle’s success, adding value on both sides of the ball.
Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 7.1 (off 86’ for Cissoko)
Rusnák again moved to defensive midfield to pair with JP and this time it was transcendent. Albert was incredible at connecting passes, earning 89 percent completion (56/63) and a key pass, repeatedly creating through the middle and releasing teammates.
One thing I liked: Time and again, Rusnák showed quality touches, either controlling the middle and releasing defensive pressure in support of the backline, or feathering attacking passes through the opponent lines. His spacing and connection with João Paulo were brilliant, and Rusnák showed an increased defensive bite compared to last match at defensive mid.
One thing I didn’t like: Three interceptions defensively is a great stat for a player who was strong in anticipating opponent attacks, but zero tackles or clearances showed a lack of physicality that you often see in defensive midfield.
Going forward: The Rusnák/JP defensive midfield double pivot may be the best way to get all the exciting attacking options for Seattle on the field, and the first half was evidence that it can work spectacularly at times. It remains to be seen how fluid the midfield will become, but the tactical flexibility that Rusnák offers this coaching staff is awe-inspiring.
João Paulo – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM)
With a more parallel role to Rusnák against Minnesota, João Paulo was everywhere on the field, contributing massively to nearly every aspect of the match. His MOTM performance displayed excellent passing (85 percent on a team-high 97 touches) defense (team-high four tackles) and attacking (team-high three shots, two key passes, and a goal). He did it all.
One thing I liked: Seattle controlled play for most of the first half, and it was a perfect pressing moment in the 38th minute via Morris, Roldan, and Nico that created a turnover and quick counter through a vertical run. João immediately drifted into the open space and was found by a psychic Nicolás Lodeiro. His first-time shot was a blistering outside of the right foot hit from 20 yards out that hit the back of the net before Minnesota knew what happened. Hit so clean that it hit the underside of the crossbar and went into the side netting, it was a completely un-savable curling shot that was much harder to strike than he made it look.
One thing I didn’t like: He was caught well forward in the 14th minute and Minnesota counter-attacked down his channel, getting a hard, deflected shot that beat Frei and hit off the crossbar.
Going forward: JP continues to bolster his MVP candidacy, adding another banger goal and more suffocating defensive work to his already robust résumé. The pairing with Rusnák continues to evolve, adding a vertical partner for João to combine with and incorporating a myriad of tactical looks to the already awesome options the team has.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.8 (off 76’ for Chú)
Morris continues to work back into the team, this time showing an ability to be effective in linkup and possession play as well as showcasing his usual counterattacking verve. He had 30 high quality touches, linking across the front and being both a release valve and a hub of connectivity from his wide position. He had two shots, a key pass, and the game-winning shross.
One thing I liked: Both Seattle goals had a familiar look to them — namely Jordan Morris creating space up the left wing and getting the ball with a head of steam while beating opponents. On the first, he smartly passed diagonally back to Lodeiro, earning an assist. On the second he drove directly at the goal, forcing Minnesota’s defense to collapse. His far post cross likely would have been another assist, but he had to settle for forcing an own goal as his pass was redirected into the net.
One thing I didn’t like: An 18th minute flubbed pass killed a promising attack, and his connection with Lodeiro isn’t quite there.
Going forward: Morris is incredibly valuable for the Sounders, as he is one of the few players who can physically outperform anyone in the league and create goal scoring chances purely by athleticism. He leverages that with refined passing and top notch attacking decision-making, remaining a player that opponents must game plan to stop.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.9 (off 46’ for Vargas)
Getting his first MLS start of the season, Lodeiro worked himself back into familiarity with game speed and teammates, showing glimpses of his old self but also much room for improvement. Forty-nine touches in 45 minutes showed a very active Nico, and he responded with a shot, two key passes, 89 percent completion, and an assist on the first Sounders goal.
One thing I liked: Looking for the old Nico, we got a glimpse at how transcendent his play can be. A 24th minute set piece delivery was fantastic, and he followed that up with a sizzling full volley shot in the 34th minute off a brash JP cross. His best play of the evening came in the 38th minute, as Nico followed up some nice Cristian/Morris interchange up the left by floating into the space to get a diagonal pass from Jordan before laying off a perfect assist to JP for the opening goal. I have no idea how he knew João would be there, but that’s the bit of Lodeiro magic we are used to.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico played a half and looked gassed for periods within. Although he touched the ball a lot, there were moments he looked slow, and a few lost touches early highlighted some struggles to get up to game speed.
Going forward: Lodeiro impacting the scoreboard immediately upon return to the lineup is a great thing for a team that was already strong without him. Adding a player with his talent only magnifies the team’s potential, with options at nearly every position. Seattle’s long-term success will likely be based on its ability to incorporate all these pieces.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.2
Cristian again did everything all over the field, starting on the right, but comfortable and effective drifting centrally, deep, or switching sides. His 82 touches were incredibly impactful, and he amassed three shots, a key pass, two tackles, a clearance, and was again involved in nearly everything positive for the Sounders.
One thing I liked: Seattle was able to keep constant pressure on Minnesota and a lot of it was due to the pressing from the front by Roldan. He popped up all the way on the left side in the 38th minute and combined seamlessly with Morris to jumpstart the goal scoring play from the opposite sideline that he was “playing.”
One thing I didn’t like: In the 91st minute Cristian had a breakaway and an opportunity to put the game away and missed, unable to score from a generous angle. This was one of a few chances Roldan had to directly impact the score line that went just a bit awry.
Going forward: Cristian continues to create and be active from the right wing, and with Rusnák looking increasingly comfortable in a deeper central position, CR may be playing another season on the width. His positional flexibility and game awareness allow him to roam across the attack and interject his skill wherever it can make the biggest impact.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 46’ for Ruidíaz)
Bruin continued his comeback with another solid half of play, working solo up top to create space for teammates and get involved directly when possible. In his 45 minutes he earned a shot, a key pass, and was a consistent destabilizing force among the Minnesota back line.
One thing I liked: Will showed multifaceted gameplay, finding a Morris cutback for a shot of his own in the 27th that rang the outside of the post, and then pulling multiple defenders away from Lodeiro in the 38th to open space for Nico and JP to combine for a goal.
One thing I didn’t like: With only 11 touches, there were opportunities missed by the Sounders and Bruin to score more. He had a rough turnover in the 37th and wasn’t used as an outlet often, either due to need or not creating the right space.
Going forward: Bruin continues to come along in his increased minutes and showed he can stretch the field and move in unison with the multiple attackers Seattle can push forward. It’s likely the starting striker will be Ruidíaz for any healthy minutes, with Fredy Montero and Bruin splitting time behind him as matchups dictate.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 46’ for Bruin)
Raúl returned from injury for a half and looked active, finding the ball twice as much as the man he replaced. His 24 touches resulted in three shots, and he had 87 percent passing.
One thing I liked: Morris was able to force an own goal due to Raúl’s perfect back post run, making the defense react. Any ball that made it through to him was a “simple tap in.”
One thing I didn’t like: There were enough touches that went awry that you could see the rust in Raúl’s play. A 66th minute free kick went harmlessly into the stands, and an open shot in the 74th minute could have put the game away was missed.
Going forward: Raúl is a proven goal scorer and the kind of top-level talent you want up front every match he is healthy. He looks to be very close to full speed.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 46’ for Lodeiro)
Seattle changed up their look considerably in the second half, adding 16yearoldObedVargas to the match. He had 29 touches and completed every single one of his 17 pass attempts.
One thing I liked: In the 72nd minute Vargas got possession centrally and had an open square pass to a Roldan, but instead slipped a nifty vertical ball up field to break the lines and release Seattle into space. This sort of vision and execution is fantastic and shows a willingness and ability to ignore the mundane and find the exceptional.
One thing I didn’t like: Defensively, Obed was a liability as Minnesota started pushing numbers forward. This included conceding free kicks and being brutally nutmegged in the 67th. Minnesota earned a PK after Vargas badly lost his runner, failing to track a give-and-go player who dashed into the box to earn the foul.
Going forward: Vargas has shown maturity and an incredibly high ceiling but remains a young player with plenty to work on. His positioning and defense will improve, and Seattle must find minutes for a player who has a world of potential.
Léo Chú – 4 | Community – 5.5 (on 76’ for Morris)
Chú came in to play wide left with 15 minutes remaining and was a nonfactor.
One thing I liked: Always looking to combine, Chú did well to pick his points to attack centrally and combined well with Rowe to help kill off the game.
One thing I didn’t like: With only 10 touches, Léo didn’t do anything notable and failed to record a defensive action or do more than just exist.
Going forward: Chú has a high upside but remains a niche player who doesn’t always fit well into the game state he is thrust into. His ability to break down a defense individually and a direct attacking mantra keeps him an attractive option off the bench.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.5 (on 76’ for Arreaga)
Asked to jump on for an injured Xavier Arreaga, Nouhou acquitted himself well, showing needed defensive work rate and clean passing. Nouhou went 5/5 passing in his short time on the field.
One thing I liked: His defense in the 88th, 89th, and 95th were vintage Nouhou and essential to holding on to the win.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou looked uncomfortable as a center back next to Ragen and didn’t play strong positional defense until the team went to a back five late.
Going forward: A healthy and fit Nouhou would be a lock to start an essential Champions League match midweek and continues to be a lock down defensive game changer but will be unfortunately missing due to yellow card accumulation. Sigh.
Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 86’ for Rusnák)
AB Cissoko arrived late to help hold on to the match and made a difference, solidifying centrally as a fulcrum for others to defend around.
One thing I liked: Getting Seattle tactically into a back five put much of the defensive line into more comfortable areas and it showed across the entire defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Cissoko didn’t have a single touch.
Going forward: It wasn’t a long shift, but having the personnel to bring on someone of Cissoko’s quality to help hold a fraught lead late is a great thing. Hopefully this solid appearance will help him move past an underwhelming performance in his last outing and turn his play around.
Ismael Elfath – 7 | Community – 6.0
Elfath did a good job in this match, calling 30 combined fouls and issuing seven cards in a contentious battle. For the most part his calls made sense, and while there were a lot of fouls called (18 on Minnesota), I thought the referee was respectful of the game flow and facilitated a cohesive match for the most part.
One thing I liked: A 62nd minute play was allowed to continue, with Raúl Ruidíaz searching for advantage. When it was determined there was no advantage, the ball was brought back and a yellow issued to the offending player (Michael Boxall). This was smart refereeing that others could learn from.
One thing I didn’t like: A 23rd minute foul should have been a yellow on Bakaye Dibassy, as it was a “professional” foul, obstructing Cristian as he turned the corner. That might have prevented him from committing three other fouls later in the match.
Going forward: Elfath was outstanding at keeping the teams honest and only really lost the plot when he seemed to ref the scoreboard a bit late, allowing multiple minutes of extra time and Minnesota chances. Otherwise, he was an improvement on much of the refereeing we see in the league.
Minnesota United MOTM
As per usual, Minnesota’s attack flowed through Emanuel Reynoso. Seattle was effective in controlling his impact for much of the match, but as things started to shift late, it was Reynoso who stepped up and converted from the spot, making the closing minutes that much more frantic.
Next up: Rumor has it there’s a big home game midweek. Let’s do what we did last CCL home match.