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Seattle Sounders in Concacaf Champions League: Player ratings

A player-by-player breakdown of how we reached the summit.

“For those asking – no, I’m not doing CCL game ratings posts. I AM rating the players; I just don’t have time to write 5k words multiple times a week rn. I will write a lengthy ratings update/summary including cumulative CCL ratings of games when we win the tourney.” — Realio in March

Well, that was prescient of me. I thought we could win it all and here we are :D

I rated every Concacaf Champions League match, and the following are ratings for each player who played: their cumulative rating and number of matches played in parentheses.

This was an amazing run! Battling plenty of adversity, the Seattle Sounders proved to be the best team in the CCL, never losing a match and finishing with an 18-5 total score line. They were able to earn results away in intense and high-stress environments, and to turn Lumen Field into an absolute fortress. Led by the usual suspects, there were also some new stars born in this tournament. Every single one of the following players was integral to the Sounders’ success. Please enjoy the following words about this amazing team.


Goalkeeper

Stefan Frei – 7.25 (8)

Moment of struggle: Frei was just okay in Mexico against Pumas, allowing two goals and a missed PK save where he stepped off his line with a chance to swing the momentum massively.

Moment of triumph: Stef was fantastic all tourney (.65 gaa), but he was biggest when it mattered most: in the second legs against NYCFC and Pumas. He earned 9s in each performance, both deserving of such high marks. In New Jersey he saved everything, denying NYCFC again and again on the way to a clear MOTM outing in his biggest test of the tournament. A massive eight saves pushed Seattle through to the final. He held a clean sheet Wednesday night with pivotal game-changing save in the second half to keep Seattle on the front foot, again leading by example in the biggest moments.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: It’s Stefan F’ing Frei in a cup final. This should surprise no one, because there is no more clutch goalkeeper in MLS, and Frei would not be denied a title.

Defense

Nouhou – 6.43 (7)

Moment of struggle: Getting injured in the 7th minute of the CCL final and watching the rest from the sideline is likely not the way he wanted to enjoy the match. It’s often hard to tell how hurt Nouhou is, and he at least got a side glance from Schmetzer when asked how long Nouhou would be out.

Moment of triumph: Against NYCFC Nouhou earned an 8 for his stellar defensive performance. His ability to cover from sideline into the box, man-marking as well as anyone in the world, gives the Sounder midfield more range, and frees teammates to be more impactful across the entire field.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: His defensive work when healthy is as good as anyone in the league. Against top competition he wasn’t beat, continually showing up as a strength.

Xavier Arreaga – 6.75 (8)

Moment of struggle: Xavi only got average grades against NYCFC and was part of a defense that thoroughly abused the “bend but don’t break” concept.

Moment of triumph: Going into halftime even against Pumas in the final would have been acceptable. Instead, after a recycled set piece, the ball fell to Arreaga in the Pumas’ box. He made an absolutely brilliant tactical play, which involved laying the ball off to Raúl Ruidíaz who gave Seattle all the momentum and the lead at the break.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Xavi brought strong, steady defense that consistently held down high-octane opponents to predictable chances. Arreaga added good vision and a passing ability that helped distribute through the middle.

Yeimar – 6.6 (5)

Moment of struggle: In the first leg against Pumas, Yeimar was a mess, contributing to the PK against and then misjudging a header to give up the second goal.

Moment of triumph: In the return match he combined with Xavi to completely shut down Juan Dinenno, limiting the most in-form striker in North America to two inconsequential shots as he was marked out of the game.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Yeimar returning from injury and getting his fitness back allowed Seattle to play more aggressively in the middle, relying on the center defensive back pairing to dominate the air.

Alex Roldan – 6.5 (8)

Moment of struggle: In the final, Washington Corozo beat Alex to the end line and put in a gorgeous cross in the 65th minute that offered a tantalizing header chance to tie the match if not for some Frei heroics. Roldan cut this run off for the rest of the match, clearly having learned his lesson.

Moment of triumph: In a split second, Roldan received a pass from his brother and noted a diagonal run from Jordan Morris on Wednesday. Alex’s releasing pass was true, putting Jordan in behind unmarked with plenty of options, one being Nico->Raúl->goal.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: At times, Alex is the most important player on the team — his ability to defend stoutly and then combine in a dizzying array of unique attacks up the wing is truly a game-breaking skill that is indefensible for any but the best teams.

Defensive Midfield

Albert Rusnák – 7.00 (8)

Moment of struggle: In the first match of the year, this newly minted Sounder was good, but not great, leading to speculation of what exactly to expect out of Rusnák.

Moment of triumph: The intangibles came together in the CCL final, and his skillset was on full display. It’s impossible to watch Rusnák for any length of time without being impressed by his calm control, his decision making, and the class he oozes nearly every time he touches the ball. On Wednesday night he quickly made up for a poor set piece by driving into the box and contributing to the first goal. Then, a great piece of composed skill created the space for teammates to score the second. Finally, he released Morris to begin the third goal sequence. If my math is correct, that’s a key contribution to each goal in the decisive leg of the final. His work rate centrally is fantastic, and in the biggest game of his Sounders career he showed up huge.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Especially with João Paulo going down early, Seattle needed Albert to be great in the final. His consistent play in the middle, passing, control, defensive work rate, and possession was transcendent all tournament.

João Paulo – 6.86 (7)

Moment of struggle: Absolutely heartbreaking to see JP carried off the field and directly to the locker room, only to return to the field on crutches. The worst-case scenario of an ACL tear ended up being the diagnosis.

Moment of triumph: Against León in Mexico JP was massive, popping up everywhere in a defensive masterclass. He won 90 percent of his duels, added multiple tackles while being hammered (four fouls against). His resolute and implacable defensive style was essential to withstanding an onslaught of offense from a skilled opponent.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: The worst game of the tourney was the first one against Motagua, and it was no coincidence that it was the only one played without João Paulo. His PK earned against León in stoppage time of the first half ended any chance they had of coming back.

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 7.00 (8)

Moment of struggle: Numerous games saw Morris earn average grades, each time for performances where he was solid, but not outstanding.

Moment of triumph: León came to Seattle in hopes of repeating their Leagues Cup triumph from last year. Morris had other ideas, running all over the Mexican team who had no answer for his speed and direct counter attacks. Only some poor luck and missed finishes stopped Jordan from scoring four goals.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: When on, he is unstoppable. Jordan’s ability to take over games earned him three goals in the tournament, and his attacking runs and distribution in the final against Pumas contributed to two goals, often playing more of a striker role.

Nico Lodeiro 7.33 (6)

Moment of struggle: Against Motagua in Honduras, no one knew what to expect from Lodeiro. Returning from injury, there was some question where he would play and in what formation. Starting centrally, he tired early, exiting after 60 minutes without exerting the pressure we’ve seen from him throughout his Sounders career.

Moment of triumph: Down 2-0 in Mexico with Seattle’s CCL chances hanging by a thread, a potential savior arose with a penalty awarded to the Sounders. Lodeiro calmly strode up and finished clean, an inch-perfect shot, nearly saved, which gave sudden life to Seattle’s chances. Then, at the very death, some Cristian Roldan effort created a second penalty, again converted by Nico. The amount of pressure exerted from the location, the crowd, the elevation, the opponents, the moment was immense. But Lodeiro was bigger.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Five goals and two assists in six games played. Nico Lodeiro wasn’t perfect the entire tournament, but when the moment needed it, he was.

Cristian Roldan– 7.75 (8) MOTT

Moment of struggle: Roldan had his “worst” outing in the CCL in Mexico City against León, failing to get on the scoresheet after having dominated the tourney up until then. Still massively effective, Cristian was contained, instead facilitating others around him to excel.

Moment of triumph: A lesser competitor would have snuck out of Mexico in the away leg of the final down a goal and been happy to escape, saving himself for the home leg. A lesser player would have touched the ball over the end line and accepted a goal kick and likely the end of the match. Cristian Roldan is not that player. The most competitive player in North America, his resolve, drive, and dedication to push to the very last moment earned a pivotal penalty in the 96th minute against Pumas, allowing Seattle to head home with a draw, changing the entire perspective of the final and tipping the odds firmly in favor of the Sounders.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Cristian was the Sounders Man Of The Tournament, earning the highest cumulative rating. He never rated below 7 in any game, in one of the most complete displays of mastery over a tournament I have ever seen. He led the CCL with five assists, added a goal, earned two penalties, and was part of almost every big moment for a Seattle team that dominated for most of the tourney. Just as important as his numbers was his leadership, never better displayed than when after JP went out of the final: Cristian huddled up his team and gave them an impassioned speech, carrying them to a title.

Forward

Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 (6)

Moment of struggle: Up 1-0 against Motagua in the home leg, Raúl was forced off at halftime with an injury. Ruidíaz would miss the León matches, returning to play the last four games of the tournament. His tournament play could have been remembered as two sluggish matches against a Honduran squad.

Moment of triumph: Big players show up in big games, and no match has been bigger for Seattle than the CCL final at home. Fittingly, Raúl led the way, earning MOTM by doing what he does best: scoring the damn ball. His first showed his ability to ghost away from defenders and find open spaces as well as a quick release, powerful shot that wouldn’t be denied by defenders. The second displayed patience, as he understood perfectly the runs around him, drifted to a good angle, and then expertly wrong-footed the keeper to score clean near post and put the game out of reach. A true superstar effort from Raúl, who ended with a massive seven shots and was goal dangerous every time he so much as smelled the ball.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: An early goal against NYCFC completely changed the series. His cross forced the first penalty against Pumas away. Two goals to win the final. In the biggest moments of the tournament, there was always a Raúl impact.

Substitutes

Kelyn Rowe - 5.88 (8)

Moment of struggle: Playing against NYCFC away, Rowe subbed in to replace Nouhou in the 70th minute and was part of a rough final 20 minutes for Seattle. The brave away squad held meekly on to a 1-1 tie and didn’t concede, but it was only luck and an otherworldly Stefan Frei performance that kept it that way. Rowe looked uncomfortable on the left, combining poorly with both central and wide mids alike, and was victimized down his wing multiple times.

Moment of triumph: With Nouhou on the ground after being viciously kicked, Rowe had two minutes to warm up and enter the final. A final where he was matched up against a team that feasts on wide service to a fantastic striker. All Kelyn did is shut his side down for 79 minutes, limiting crosses, controlling the ball, winning the majority of his nine duels, and being exactly the player Seattle didn’t know they needed in that moment.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Rowe has his critics, but he played every single match for Seattle in this tournament, and rewarded the faith the coaching staff had in him with his best performance in the final. A deserved local champion, he was a “replacement level player” in the best sense, and an essential support option for Seattle.

Obed Vargas – 6.14 (7)

Moment of struggle: After a lot of hype and some success centrally, Obed came in to the match in the 77th minute away to NYCFC as an outside midfielder and struggled. Not a comfortable wide player in the Sounders’ system, it was clear that Vargas relied more on physical hustle than intrinsic technical skill, and this was taken advantage of by New York.

Moment of triumph: When Seattle’s team MVP was carried to the locker room with a season ending-injury, Brian Schmetzer had faith in Vargas to replace him centrally, and his faith was justified. He played 60 minutes in a tournament final and showed he belonged there. This was a case where not noting him was notable, as he fit in seamlessly with the team, played his role perfectly (83 percent passing, seven duels) and got the ball to others. Not intimidated by the moment, Obed was a composed and integral part of the championship victory.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Replacing JP in the final was nothing new to Vargas, as he had started multiple matches in this tournament and turned in big performances. He was used to playing that role because he had done it during all of CCL, and he’s found a good place in the roster to excel while growing.

Fredy Montero – 5.71 (7)

Moment of struggle: Against NYCFC away, Montero was passed over for Will Bruin to come in late and help salt away the victory. After having dominated the previous matches scoring for Seattle, it couldn’t have been easy to miss that entire game, but he handled it, showed up the next match, and contributed.

Moment of triumph: Playing a tough León team at home that had recently beat this Sounders squad, Seattle came out and ran the Mexicans off the field. Seattle was led by Montero, who dashed any hopes León had with a ten-minute scoring spree late in the first half. First, he calmly scored a penalty that Cristian earned from nearly nothing. Then moments later he flashed in front of the goal to score a second, and suddenly Seattle was going into half up 2-0 on the way to a 3-0 win.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Fredy ended up with three huge goals for Seattle, carrying the scoring load early in the tourney before handing it off to some of these youngsters to get their share of glory.

Jackson Ragen – 5.67 (6)

Moment of struggle: Against NYCFC away, Ragen was put under the most pressure of his young Sounders career and struggled to deal with the creative and opportunistic movement of the opposition forwards.

Moment of triumph: Starting at centerback away in León as a rookie Sounder must have been nerve wracking, and yet Ragen was immense. Again and again, the Mexican team tried to cross into Jackson and he stoutly repelled each attempt. His passing was on full display, as he showed a dizzying array of touches and switching balls, and fantastic defensive effort in a high-pressure environment.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: With DPOY finalist Yeimar getting hurt in the third match of the tournament, it was Jackson Ragen who stood tall, starting for Yeimar and featuring in six of eight matches. His ability to back up multiple central defensive positions was an unexpected and valuable resource, and he performed well above expectations.

Will Bruin – 5 (4)

Moment of struggle: Bruin was brought in late to get Ruidíaz a break and help hustle up top against NYCFC on the east coast, and he did the former.

Moment of triumph: Seeing Fredy and Will get subbed in late to the final together was perfect. For Will, it had to be amazing to share in a tournament win for a team that he likely had doubts he would still be playing for, as his return from injury has been less than stellar.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Although not what he once was, at every single practice Will Bruin gives his all, and this shapes those around him on both sides of the ball, creating excellence.

Danny Leyva – 5 (2)

Moment of struggle: Coming off more injuries and not playing while being passed over in the midfield had to be hard for Leyva, who only featured twice in CCL.

Moment of triumph: For a player with Mexican heritage, playing in Mexico against León was likely incredible for him and his family. He played both legs against this team, and each time did exactly what you need from a late sub.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: The success of Leyva helped mold Atencio, and then Vargas. Even dealing with the adversity he’s had so far as a Sounder, he’s improving and doing so with a constant smile on his face. This is the attitude of a CCL champion.

Léo Chú – 7 (1)

Moment of struggle: Chú picked up a knock after his single CCL appearance and missed the rest of the tournament.

Moment of triumph: Asked to sub in against Motagua in the 65th minute at home, he made immediate impact, scoring a goal nine minutes later to cap off a 5-0 Sounders triumph.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: Chú’s insertion gave a mental boost to bench players by showing they can contribute, got Rusnák an assist to propel him out of his slow start statistically, and produced a fifth goal at home to create an even more intimidating environment that set the tone for dominance.

Jimmy Medranda – 6 (1)

Moment of struggle: The pairing of Rowe and Medranda was a bit messy, neither looking comfortable with the tactics.

Moment of triumph: Entering a CCL game after a long string of injuries and looking strong provided an added depth option for the Sounders, and Jimmy’s ability to drift centrally and support possession through the middle was helpful.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: You don’t sub off Morris, Ruidíaz, JP, and Lodeiro at the same time in a match against anyone unless you are confident the replacements can hold on. And they did, seeing out a 3-1 home victory against NYCFC and most importantly, not allowing a second away goal.

Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 (1)

Moment of struggle: It took a few moments for Seattle to adjust to getting AB into the León away match along with Ragen, Arreaga, and Nouhou.

Moment of triumph: Coming in for Rowe, Cissoko helped fix the backline into a more manageable formation that allowed Seattle to hold on late.

Why we don’t win CCL without him: León put a lot of pressure on Seattle in the final moments, and the Sounders turned to two former Defiance central defenders to help hold on for the last 10 minutes.

Sam Adeniran – 5 (1)

Moment of struggle: In the blowout home win against Motagua, Sam was given 30 minutes to make an impression, but he faded and wasn’t much of a factor.

Moment of triumph: Adeniran was brought in to get Morris some deserved rest. He contributed a shot on target.

Why we don’t win without him: Even with stars on the bench, Seattle still pushed, and every single player believed they deserved to be there and deserved to win. This included everyone written about above and everyone who made the bench, practiced with, and is part of this organization.


There’s something intangible about the kind of run this team just went on. I can put numbers to it and parse things in a variety of ways, but all that still doesn’t do justice to their collective accomplishment. And maybe that’s okay. These ratings may not add up to what we all witnessed. For a team that perpetually seems to be greater than the sum of their parts, maybe that’s exactly as it should be.