Seattle began a five-match home stand in the friendly confines of Lumen Field last weekend, and they managed a come-from-behind win against expansion team Charlotte FC. Seattle’s return from CCL play has been marked by struggles, as the team has looked uncomfortable in MLS play yet ultimately skilled and able to out-talent opponents while they figure things out. The Sounders had some pretty combination play early, yet they struggled to turn the possession into directly threatening the goal, and by the time they found their scoring boots, they’d dug a deficit. Seattle conceded on a careless set piece, and it took some late-match heroics to rescue a win. This win was not nearly as easy as it should have been, but it puts Seattle firmly back into the playoff hunt with games in hand heading to a break, and then four more matches in Seattle.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.7
Frei wasn’t challenged much by Charlotte, who only forced two saves on the afternoon. These came in the 22nd and 40th minutes, with the second half being more “will Seattle manage to come back and win?” and less “will Charlotte score another goal?”
One thing I liked: The aforementioned saves were nice, and Frei’s positioning for the entire run of play action was solid and prevented any high-quality opportunities for the away side.
One thing I didn’t like: The entire goal against was a mess: An unnecessary foul, a poorly positioned wall, cheating to the wrong side, an unlucky bounce off a sprawling Frei, and no follow up from any of the good guys. Result: Charlotte took the lead. Of those things, Frei was culpable for the wall positioning and for being beaten by a shot that wasn’t particularly close to the wall, to his far post side.
Going forward: Set piece defense as a whole has been shaky this season, but luckily that’s something that can be drilled on the training ground.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.7
Nouhou was good defensively, limiting most anything that was attempted down his side of the field, and releasing Jordan Morris up the wing to play aggressively high. He had three each of tackles, interceptions, and clearances, while adding nine recoveries and completing 76 percent of his pass attempts.
One thing I liked: While he earned a shot and key pass in limited forays forward, in the 71st minute he made an incredibly intelligent defensive play, dropping to the back post to clear what would have been a massive chance. His awareness to defend at all times and stay involved in the play was big there.
One thing I didn’t like: With Charlotte looking outclassed at times, Nouhou and crew were overzealous in attempting fancy dribbles, backheels, and unnecessarily risky plays. In the 54th minute he tried to surge forward with no real benefit, and when the inevitable turnover happened, he was caught out of position.
Going forward: Nouhou remains a lock-down defensive presence who finds smart moments to help offensively; developing consistency in that balance should be his goal.
Xavier Arreaga – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.0
Arreaga was fantastic against Charlotte, defending staunchly through the middle and finding a dazzling array of forward movement. His combination of multiple clearances, interceptions, tackles, and nine recoveries combined with 91 percent passing created offense from his defensive anticipation and distribution.
One thing I liked: With JP out, Xavi has increased his direct aggression centrally and, in this match, it was game-changing. Arreaga had 16 incisive passes into the Charlotte half (more than Alex, Obed, Jordan, etc.) His ability to step up and be a deep distributor, bypass lines of defense, and push vertical passes directly to Nico Lodeiro and the other attackers contributed again and again to big chances for Seattle. He consistently found Morris over the top after breaking the defensive lines, and his passing forward was phenomenal.
One thing I didn’t like: With the amount of pushing forward Arreaga did, there were inevitable gaps behind him, and one side effect of bypassing the midfield is the potential impact on midfielders being displaced by his positioning.
Going forward: If Xavier can pick his spots well, his ability to create turnovers and instantly convert them into attacks provides a huge opportunity for Seattle to victimize teams’ spacing in transition.
Yeimar – 8 | Community – 7.4
Yeimar had a massive defensive match, piling up numbers by leveraging his anticipation skills to the tune of eight interceptions and eight recoveries. He combined this with solid (86 percent) passing that got the ball to teammates soon after.
One thing I liked: He is rounding into his dominant defensive form, and as evidenced by his startling stats, is getting more and more aggressive as the defense counter presses. This fits his assertive playstyle, allowing Yeimar to impose his will on others and be proactive defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: An unnecessary Cruyff turn in Frei’s goal box was eye-opening, and Yeimar had two late turnovers that looked to be fatigue creeping into his play, with him slowing down considerably.
Going forward: Yeimar is capable of defender-of-the-year level play, and the only thing stopping him right now is consistency.
Alex Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.2
Roldan continues to be a key element of the Seattle attack, getting the second most touches on the team and finding multiple key passes on the evening. Defensively, he had a lot of tracked actions and was strong in denying Charlotte much purchase down the width.
One thing I liked: In the 72nd minute, Alex eschewed an early cross, instead cutting back to his “off” foot. Creating a window, he lofted a perfect left-footed cross onto the waiting head of Morris to tie the match and finally bring Seattle onto the scoreboard.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle dominated early and yet were wasteful with a number of opportunities, such as an 11th minute overlapping cross that Alex missed.
Going forward: Alex Roldan is often the key to the Sounders attack, creating much-needed width and opportunity for teammates.
Obed Vargas – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off 62’ for Montero)
Obed started another game in the defensive midfield and showed tantalizing glimpses of his talent and potential. Although subbing early in the second half, his impact was felt early and he left with an excellent 87 percent passing, a key pass, a shot, and three tackles.
One thing I liked: Early on Vargas was spectacular in the middle, creating a break in the 2nd minute after a strong challenge, getting a shot for himself in the 7th minute, and moments later creating a counter attack, again off strong defending. His ability to possess and transition vertically via the pass or the dribble is excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: Vargas faded from the match, and fast. After forcing turnovers and creating positive transitions in the opening minutes, things took a turn. He was dribbled badly in the 15th minute, and followed that lowlight up with a fairly innocuous 47 minutes, before his early substitution.
Going forward: Vargas wasn’t bad in this match, but he struggled to continue his early period of success. He was subbed out early in the second half, and the team played better after he left. It will be up to the coaching staff to determine why this is.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.3 (off 87’ for Rowe)
Rusnák has turned into mister Mr. Dependable for Seattle, showing up defensively while still supporting the offense and impacting large facets of the game. Although he only had 65 touches against a more defensive Charlotte squad, his 87 percent passing remains excellent.
One thing I liked: There is almost always a “pass before the pass” moment in Seattle’s success that has Rusnák involved. A great example was in the 37th minute when he dropped back to the deep right defensive position, got the ball and found Cristian Roldan on an inside out diagonal run. Snack’s over-the-top through ball was perfect.
One thing I didn’t like: Albert isn’t an overly physical defender, and it showed in the 20th minute when his attempt to body up an opponent was a little clumsy and resulted in a free kick that ended as Charlotte’s only goal.
Going forward: Albert Rusnák is doing all the little things you need a midfielder to do. He’s the glue that’s linking a strong defensive unit to a volatile offensive one.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.3 (off 87’ for Medranda)
Morris had an up-and-down match, both creating and flubbing some of the biggest chances of the game. He had only 36 touches and a lousy 59 percent pass completion rate but co-led the team with three shots, added a key pass and multiple aerials won, and scored the tying goal.
One thing I liked: After missing a number of massive chances, it was a difficult one that Jordan put away. When Alex dropped in a perfect cross in the 72nd minute, Morris had a lot to do. The ball traveled over three players, was hard to track and see from his angle, yet Jordan used his entire body to guide a diving header into the net. It was a much harder finish than it appeared.
One thing I didn’t like: Speaking of harder finishes, one that was not as difficult came from a ridiculous Cristian Roldan centering pass in the 37th minute. Morris found the ball on the six-yard box with only the keeper to beat and put his shot wide. Ninety percent of this goal was getting to the right spot, but the 10 percent, actually kicking the ball into the net, was lacking.
Going forward: Morris is still creating big chances. Had he made the easier one and missed the difficult one, it’s unlikely anyone would have noticed. I suggest he start making both, and we can move past this silliness.
Nicolás Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 6.3
Nico was back to doing some of everything in the middle, although it still looks like he needs to figure out the complex movement paths of certain teammates. Against Charlotte it was again Lodeiro with his customary “most touches” award with a whopping 101 (30 more than any Charlotte player). His passing was aggressive and he added some defensive work rate later in the match as Seattle switched up personnel.
One thing I liked: Even not clicking precisely with everyone, Lodeiro dropped three key passes, and his consistent movement and prodding of the defense did its customary job of pulling the opponents way out of position — space utilized well by teammates.
One thing I didn’t like: Seventy-three percent passing was just okay, and we saw Nico miss a number of important passes throughout the match. Part of this shows up in his set piece delivery, which has been underwhelming at best.
Going forward: Nico is still recovering from a tough offseason, but he looks better physically as each week goes by. His connections with teammates will be key to how much the offense can unlock its limitless potential.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 6.8
Roldan was the most consistent creative force for Seattle, again and again getting into good spots and finding teammates or himself to directly influence the attack. Four key passes, three shots on 72 touches were sparkling attacking stats for this wide player who added 11 recoveries defensively.
One thing I liked: Although it didn’t end up with a goal for Seattle, Roldan’s inventive inside-out vertical run in the 37th minute was almost as awesome as the pass he managed from the end line. The run pulled the entire defense back and wide, the pass cut out three defenders and set up Morris for what should have been a simple tap-in.
One thing I didn’t like: With a lot of offensive push, Cristian was oddly not on the same page with his brother behind him for much of the match, most notably missing a simple pass to Alex in the 27th minute.
Going forward: Cristian heads off to the USA bench to be underutilized.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 8 | Community – 7.7 (MOTM)
With his team struggling and unable to create many chances, Raúl still managed to create two of the biggest in the entire match, both out of sheer talent and will. His four shots led the match, and he added a key pass on a beautiful chip to Fredy Montero late that put him 1-v-1 with the goalie.
One thing I liked: One of Ruidíaz’s best traits is his ability to not only be better than anyone else on the field, but to showcase it with a moment of individual brilliance. This moment came in the 80th minute, and it’s impossible to describe how someone can get so much topspin and torque on a ball to hit it with the angle he did. Raúl never looked up, just hit the ball and ran to his teammates. (Speaking of, Cristian started celebrating as soon as the ball was hit :D.)
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl spent too much time with his back to the goal, forced to drop into midfield and play holdup forward. He should be doing less of this, as well as fewer silly backheels in the Sounders’ defensive third.
Going forward: Raúl continues to be a devastating striker who will score if the team can find him an opportunity. If they can’t, he might just make one himself.
Fredy Montero – 6 | Community – 6.5 (on 62’ for Vargas)
Montero came into the match and substantially changed things, being the catalyst for late success and ultimately for earning all three points. Dropping into the middle, he linked up with teammates and pushed the Sounders forward.
One thing I liked: Fredy made the most of his 22 touches, constantly creating for others by opening up the middle of the field, getting two shots and winning two aerials while making two tackles in a momentum-changing appearance.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 89th minute Fredy almost got a goal, as Raúl found him unmarked at the far post; only poor control kept him from getting a shot 1-v-1 with the keeper.
Going forward: The Montero sub as a central force in the attacking third was a great one, allowing him to show middle and push teammates higher and wider forward.
Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 87’ for Rusnák)
Rowe arrived to help close out the match and brought some calm control to the middle of the field.
One thing I liked: Two touches, 100 percent passing, and a number of nice controls kept the ball firmly in Seattle’s possession.
One thing I didn’t like: Rowe didn’t have much to do, and he missed at least one opportunity to calm the match down late.
Going forward: Rowe got a few minutes in the match and yet another appearance.
Jimmy Medranda – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 87’ for Morris)
JM replaced JM and added some late energy to a match that was winding down by the time he arrived.
One thing I liked: In the 89th minute Medranda charged forward after finding a nice pass to Raúl, and was a great option for Ruidíaz, who instead went to Montero.
One thing I didn’t like: Medranda ran himself offside after the ball went to Montero, and wouldn’t have been an option for a pass.
Going forward: Medranda has a lot more to offer, but still struggles to impact matches when he is on the field and pressing.
Rosendo Mendoza – 7 | Community – 5.0
Mendoza had an active match and did a good job for the most part. He called 17 total fouls with only seven on the home team, and he produced two cards for each side. Almost all of the calls made sense and with both teams playing nice, the referee wasn’t an active part of the match.
One thing I liked: Early on, He stressed talking to players rather than carding, but when Joseph Mora fouled on the break, Mendoza displayed the appropriate yellow card.
One thing I didn’t like: The late time-wasting card for Morris was a bit odd, and the calls were slow to be called, which disrupted play on a number of occasions.
Going forward: It helps when teams aren’t interested in actively hurting each other, and referees who understand that and get out of the way are appreciated.
Charlotte FC MOTM
A shot came in, hard and low, from Charlotte’s free kick sender.
The ball, it took a fortuitous bounce off Seattle’s last defender.
The man on hand, the Man of the Match, was the one and only Ben Bender.
Next up: Seattle has an international break to figure out how to be more cohesive, and then more home games to prove they learned something.