Coming off a rough loss to a rival, Seattle went to Nashville midweek and took 45 minutes to get started. By that point the team was down a goal. A halftime pep talk and tactical adjustment helped the Sounders look much better after the break. It wasn’t enough, though, as Nashville was comfortable to sit back and absorb pressure and failed to concede, with the final score a 1-0 loss on the road. Seattle has now lost three of their last four matches, as the team tries again to rebound on a short week cross-country road trip.
[Ed. Note: Someone forgot to put together a community ratings form following the match, so there are no community averages in this edition. Apologies. It was one of those weeks. We’re only human.]
Stefan Cleveland – 6
Cleveland got another start for a protocol Frei and did fine, saving everything he should, a few he shouldn’t, and only conceding a single goal on a breakaway. He had three saves on the evening.
One thing I liked: In the 14th minute star DP Hany Mukhtar put an excellent free kick into the top corner for what looked to be a goal, but Stefan was up to the task. He took a fantastic slide step to close ground and leapt full to his left, denying a goal.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s hard to blame Cleveland for much this match, although several times his usually steady passing from the back was a struggle. He only completed two of his longer clearances forward, and 74 percent passing indicates he lost possession too often.
Going forward: Cleveland didn’t have a lot of say in how this game ended.
Nouhou – 7 (MOTM)
Nouhou was excellent in this match, starting as a centerback and moving wide as the tactics dictated. He ended with a shot, a key pass, 87 percent completion and (mostly) rock solid defending including seven recoveries.
One thing I liked: He was the offensive spark in the second half, constantly driving the ball forward, finding creative runs and passes. Nouhou nearly scored in the 68th minute by nicely following up a play and putting a strong shot on frame that somehow opposing keeper Joe Willis kept out by a fingertip. Nouhou also set up Bruin with a huge chance in the 75th minute that sadly, Will put wide.
One thing I didn’t like: The first half tactics spread the centerbacks very wide, and with Nouhou trying to offer an option for Nico Lodeiro right before halftime, he was caught on the wrong side of his man. He recovered well centrally, but the damage was done, allowing Mukhtar an easy 1-v-1.
Going forward: Nouhou desperately misses consistency in the center of the defensive unit, and he is committing errors outside the defined tactical setup. The re-addition of Xavier Arreaga and Danny Leyva centrally helped immensely in the second half.
Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 (off 76’ for Chú)
Another young player was plopped into the center of the defensive back line, and again Seattle struggled in the back. AB worked hard to defend but was lost in some big moments, and the entire defense lacked the tactical cohesiveness to run the setup desired.
One thing I liked: For most of his shift Cissoko tracked runners well through the middle and defended to the width, ending with two tackles, two interceptions and two clearances defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: Abdoulaye’s positioning was okay in a vacuum, but as a whole, the back line was a mess. The back three were flat, and that communication and direction needs to come from the central CB. This allowed Nashville to hit one over-the-top ball, expose AB’s lack of recovery speed, and score directly behind a lagging Cissoko.
Going forward: I love the confidence in starting AB centrally, but he and Jackson Ragen both seem to need more experience before being responsible for driving the defense from the center.
Yeimar - 7
With the backline again changed, Yeimar started out on the right of center and was a stout defensive presence. He was aggressive forward, consistently bodying Nashville attackers and, especially in the second half, pressing high and utilizing the space given.
One thing I liked: Defensively, Yeimar was excellent, racking up stats by being a dominant physical presence on his side of the field. He ended with an incredible six tackles and 10 clearances, completely shutting down attempts by Nashville to come down his wing.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar spent a lot of time centrally, with most of his time supporting Cissoko and overlapping positions with him. This often left him without a mark, and when he didn’t have someone, there was often another player sliding behind. The one time in the first half he got disconnected high and wide, Nashville created a turnover and attacked behind Yeimar for the only goal of the match.
Going forward: Arreaga returning helped the defensive shape a lot and opened some opportunities for Yeimar to be more aggressive.
Jimmy Medranda – 5 (off 57’ for Leyva)
Medranda started on the left and played very high, pushing Morris centrally in the first half. Jimmy was fairly effective, offering consistent width and pressure to the corner, but was sloppy on the ball and didn’t have the impact you would have expected from him.
One thing I liked: With 39 touches, 93 percent passing and a shot, it was a fine shift from Medranda, who showed he can be a part of an effective depth role.
One thing I didn’t like: He looked to be stuck in between attacking and defending and so only did a little of each. Seattle needed a direct attacking threat or defensive stalwart to release a teammate to be that threat.
Going forward: Jimmy still hasn’t found a set role in this team and needs to produce more to not get passed over by others.
Nico Lodeiro – 6
Nico dropped a line next to Rusnák, and for the first time in this setup, looked lost in how to unlock a deep defensive team that invited Seattle to press high. Lodeiro did his usual work, getting a team-high 87 touches, matching that with 88 percent passing, and earning a key pass for his efforts.
One thing I liked: Especially after some tactical and formation adjustments got him higher up the field, Nico was the creative driving force for Seattle. He never stopped poking and prodding and trying to find a creative way through a team that revels in sitting back defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: Lodeiro was trying to do too much in this game, especially in the first half. Caught in possession right before half time, Nashville picked his pocket and scored the only goal of the match. This was a case of an offensive player not recognizing his defensive assignment.
Going forward: Three matches in a week is a big ask for a guy who runs as much as Nico, but I’m guessing he makes that decision for himself.
Albert Rusnák – 6
Rusnák started out next to Nico and had limited effectiveness. He was his usual clean self on the ball, showing off a sparkling 92 percent completion rate and getting 67 touches. Most of those touches were controlling play through the middle and link up.
One thing I liked: Time and again, Nashville attempted to press centrally to gain a turnover for a counterattack, and nearly every time a calm Rusnák dribbled out of trouble or found the possession-saving pass through defense. His role organizing the team from the center is vital.
One thing I didn’t like: Both Nico and Albert can make smart vertical runs from deep starting position, but in this match, they were disconnected and both over-eager to do so. This led to gaps in the defense and zero cover in the event one of them was dispossessed.
Going forward: Seattle found something successful with a second half partner switch for Bert, and it’s likely we see where this one can take us this weekend.
Alex Roldan – 6 (off 76’ for Arreaga)
Alex was mostly a nonfactor in this match. He and his brother were double- and triple-teamed as Nashville made a conscious choice to limit the Broldan wing of Seattle. Alex wasn’t bad, but his 54 touches, 83 percent passing, and minimal defensive actions were just okay.
One thing I liked: Understanding what the defense was giving him, Alex did a nice job connecting from outside in, using square and give-and go-passes to attack centrally instead of forcing overlapping runs into a strong defense or repeatedly crossing into Walker Zimmerman.
One thing I didn’t like: Nashville shut down Alex, who had zero key passes and only attempted a single cross into the box all match.
Going forward: Seattle gets a lot of offense through the combination play on the right side, and when it is ineffective like this, the team struggles.
Jordan Morris – 5
Morris was quiet against Nashville, unable to find space to get in behind a reluctant Nashville defense. In the first half, he played high and centrally, almost as a second forward, before sliding inside with an overlapping Nouhou after the break.
One thing I liked: After moving parts around, Morris read the game excellently, consistently running into space behind, just not getting the ball he needed. His movement opened up the space for Leyva and Nouhou’s shots, and he was wide open at the back post on Bruin’s miss.
One thing I didn’t like: Only 22 touches. One shot. One key pass. Morris is better than this.
Going forward: Jordan needs to find relevance against teams that don’t leave gaps in behind for him to run into.
Cristian Roldan – 6
Roldan did a lot of work without much to show for it. He was active on his side, covering both wide and centrally and even making runs in behind Fredy Montero in the first half. His 79 percent passing was a combination of long balls, crosses, and short one-twos.
One thing I liked: Even double- and triple-teamed, Cristian led the team with two shots, had 55 impactful touches, and four recoveries, including a save off the line on defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Nashville shut down his connection with his brother, and the right wing failed to create many coherent attacking sequences. When not allowed to underlap his brother, Cristian must find a dribbling or central option.
Going forward: Cristian has these matches where he seems tired and unable to impact the game, but he usually excels immediately after.
Fredy Montero – 5 (off 56’ for Bruin)
Montero again started up top and was clean on the ball but unable to create much offensively. He only had 28 touches, finding little success in connecting wide, and he spent most of his time dropping into the central gaps.
One thing I liked: Even matched up against the giant Zimmerman, Fredy was stout in holdup and did a good job to facilitate bringing the deeper players centrally into the attack. He had an 87 percent passing clip and a key pass, from slipping teammates through the gaps.
One thing I didn’t like: Without a strong offensive midfielder directly underneath him to play off, Montero was forced to play with his back to goal. When he did get involved, he was often too far from dangerous attacking areas and unable to get there in time to impact the play.
Going forward: This formation didn’t flatter Fredy’s abilities, and he will need to bounce back as well as he did after the last time he struggled.
Will Bruin – 6 (on 56’ for Montero)
Will came in and, along with Leyva, changed the aggressiveness and attacking shape for Seattle. He was great at pushing vertically and was able to connect into attacking areas more consistently than Montero.
One thing I liked: A 68th minute turn in traffic got behind two and Will was splendid, charging into the attack with the ball before finding Morris, then Nouhou, then the post.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 75th minute Nouhou played an excellent ball into the feet of Bruin who was alone at the six. Will put his shot wide, not possessing soft enough feet to redirect it into a wide open near post.
Going forward: Bruin showed excellent game awareness and was a directly impactful sub, an outing that may have earned him a weekend start.
Danny Levya – 7 (on 57’ for Medranda)
Leyva came in and instantly changed the entire match, injecting urgency, attacking verve, and defensive bite. He was everywhere, pushing Nico high, winning the ball, shooting, creating, with a dynamic performance that bodes well for his future.
One thing I liked: This was one of Danny’s best outings as a Sounder ever, completely dominating through the middle. He had multiple tackles in a strong defensive showing while also leading the team with two shots, adding a key pass, and unlocking Seattle’s potential in the second half.
One thing I didn’t like: Leyva crushed a shot just moments after arriving and put it just wide, the kind of goal that may have pushed Seattle to win away.
Going forward: Leyva has looked excellent in his last few appearances and must be high on the list of potential central starters this weekend.
Léo Chú – 5 (on 76’ for Alex Roldan)
Chú came in for Alex to try to inject more pace and direct play on the width.
One thing I liked: 100 percent passing.
One thing I didn’t like: An “impact” sub with 15 minutes to play only got six touches and did nothing to positively impact the match.
Going forward: Since the Toronto start, Chú has been invisible in sub appearances, but he may get a chance to reprise that role this weekend.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 (on 76’ for Cissoko)
It was great seeing Arreaga back and he immediately solidified the center of defense, taking control and seeing out a final 15 minutes that was dominated by Seattle.
One thing I liked: He completed 100 percent of his passes and was great at organizing a team pushing for an equalizer.
One thing I didn’t like: Only eight touches was a side effect of Seattle pushing high, but Arreaga was clearly tentative after returning from injury.
Going forward: Arreaga has been a very good defender for this team and the most consistent. That is exactly what Seattle needs moving forward.
Rubiel Vazquez – 6
After the last ref group pulled down the average, I thought Vasquez was fine. He called 25 fouls and kept the play mostly under control. There were no huge reviewable moments, and the referee kept play running smoothly for most of the match.
One thing I liked: When a referee is almost invisible in a match, that usually means they are doing a good job.
One thing I didn’t like: With only two cards (both for time wasting) there was too much leniency given to CJ Sapong, who committed four whistled fouls and a handful more, taking advantage of being an aggressive striker without being penalized.
Going forward: This referee should get all of Penso’s games, IMO.
Next up: We should beat a struggling Chicago team.