Seattle traveled to Los Angeles to play the FCers and lost 2-1 in a match that, while competitive, illustrated the differing talent levels of the two teams at this point in the season. LAFC, healthy and deep with a talented attack, controlled much of the match, playing attacking soccer in their home stadium and looking strong for long stretches. Seattle attacked in spurts, and almost did enough to get a result, even though the bench was short, and some important pieces didn’t travel. If this match was designed to see whether the shorthanded Sounders can compete with the current best team in MLS, the answer is Seattle was second-best on the night. But it wasn’t all bad, and had a few plays gone differently, the Sounders might have come away with a better result.
Stefan Frei – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)
Frei showed up big against a strong offensive opponent, garnering six saves and keeping his team in the match with some fantastic plays. LAFC put up many shots (19) but also found quality chances, many of which would have been goals versus a less skilled keeper.
One thing I liked: In the 41st minute Frei made a massive save, stopping a point-blank attempt from Cristian Arango, briefly keeping alive Seattle’s hopes of getting to halftime even.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle was under the gun with overwhelming pressure from LAFC in the last 20 minutes of the first half. Frei was unable to get his defense organized and coordinated, allowing a recycled run to score the game winner.
Going forward: Frei has done his part all season and it’s up to his teammates to create and finish more chances.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 4.6 (off 68’ for Dobbelaere)
Nouhou was fine in this match: not great but not terrible. His 87 percent passing was clean.
One thing I liked: Defensively, Nouhou led a backline that was consistently under pressure, with the Cameroonian having seven clearances to go with multiple interceptions and four recoveries.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou clearly tired and then inexplicably was asked to be a winger as the team dropped into a back-three formation, requiring Nouhou to charge up the wing and provide offense, for which he is ill-suited. Not surprisingly, he didn’t do well.
Going forward: There is a distinct lack of creativity on this team right now, with our most creative players tasked as defensive midfielders, and so the current trend is to blame Nouhou. I’m not there yet.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 6.2
Arreaga was strong on a defense that looked shaky at times but handled a potent attack for long stretches. He forced LAFC into speculative shots or enabled Frei to have clear vision for saves. In a sobering thought for the offense, Xavi led the team in shots.
One thing I liked: Xavier and Yeimar were especially strong in communicating the creative movement of LAFC, and Seattle for the most part stayed compact. Arreaga’s 76 percent passing was just okay, but he was a dominating physical force who had five tackles and four clearances.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 32nd minute Seattle was in the lead and, while absorbing a lot of pressure, looked to double their advantage via a corner. Xavi had a wide open shot from the six thanks to a perfect delivery from Albert Rusnák, and he somehow put it wide, denying Seattle a 2-0 lead.
Going forward: With LAFC controlling the middle of the field, there weren’t as many opportunities for Arreaga to distribute, and this match being close was due to some strong and lucky defense.
Yeimar – 6 | Community – 6.0
Yeimar had an up and down game, clearly finding more comfort later in the second half after Seattle adjusted formation to support the gaps in front of him. Defensively, he filled the stat book with five tackles, three clearances, and 85 percent passing.
One thing I liked: His recognition of the defensive shape was fantastic in the first half, with Yeimar showing immense range to pop up on the left in support as LAFC overloaded zones. On multiple occasions his anticipation denied big chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle tried to attack the tactics of LAFC after halftime by aggressively pushing the center backs into support of the defensive mids, and Yeimar took a long time to figure out the timing and shape this asked for. Several times he charged up to aggressively defend the spots where LAFC had success in the first half, but he was too late and opened big gaps behind, which the home team nearly took advantage of.
Going forward: Seattle was perhaps lucky not to give up more goals, but overall, this defense was stout against an impressive offensive opponent.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.5
Alex has been somewhat lost without his brother in front of him, learning new partnerships up the right wing and unable to attack matches with the consistency he showed earlier in the season. Roldan still had a high rate of touches (60) but only a middling 81 percent completion rate with minimal impact on the match.
One thing I liked: Alex eventually got pushed to the left wing and found Nico in space in the 81st minute; it could have been a tying goal had the backside winger been paying attention. This vision and movement provided creative vertical attacking that was much needed.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle had a horrendous time defending inverted wingers who clogged Zone 14 and dominated the match without any support from the outside fullbacks. The first goal was an example of LAFC dominating that space as Alex failed to pressure the ball.
Going forward: Alex joining the offense seemed to add a spark earlier in the season, and that outside support has lately been missing. Depending on form, it might be a thought to try him on the left more often, as his up-field vision added a new dynamic.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.2
Cristian was good in this match, but both of Seattle’s defensive midfielders got outplayed in several important moments through the pocket in front of the center backs. José Cifuentes and Carlos Vela had a field day attacking into that zone and finding willing runners. Roldan played strong, leading Seattle’s defensive effort with a massive 12 recoveries.
One thing I liked: In the 14th minute with Seattle pressing, Cristian pounced on an opportunity to turn over LAFC, then came up with some nifty dribbling created a personal counter-attack. Driving into the box vertically, Roldan put in a perfect cross that Nico Lodeiro would have tapped home had Jesus Murillo not rudely stolen the goal. This was a fantastic awareness and creation effort from Cristian.
One thing I didn’t like: Match MVP Cifuentes was dominant in the spaces between the half line and the 18, and it took Roldan’s entire effort to attempt to somewhat contain these attackers. This limited his offensive impact after the Sounders goal and still wasn’t completely effective, as the LAFC duo had much success centrally.
Going forward: Roldan looks great wherever he plays, because he is a great player. This team needs him to be great at both defensive midfield and winger, which is a problem.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 81’ for Chú)
Rusnák didn’t play badly, but he failed to have his usual impact on a match wherein Seattle was ineffective combining through the middle for long stretches of the match.
One thing I liked: The underlying numbers were strong: 88 percent passing on 58 touches, two key passes. Albert did as much as he could to set up breakouts for much of the game, finding a few attacking balls that went wanting. His corner in the 32nd minute was a beauty.
One thing I didn’t like: Rusnák and Roldan tried, but of the two, Albert was less effective at preventing LAFC from attacking (two recoveries only). LAFC dominated the spaces that Crusnák was defending.
Going forward: Seattle has had differing levels of success with moving defensive midfielders around, but it might be interesting to give Albert a try at moving forward.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.7
Morris was game-planned well by LAFC and held to minimal impact in the match, often being redundant in shape with Will Bruin. Jordan had 32 touches and 74 percent passing but failed to create the kind of big chances he did as recently as last match.
One thing I liked: Jordan’s speed was an issue early for LAFC, and it was his breakout and attempted cross that kickstarted the play Seattle eventually scored on.
One thing I didn’t like: With only a single shot and single key pass, Jordan was missing from this match.
Going forward: Jordan didn’t have the space or the opportunity to impact this game and must be more consistent for a Seattle team that isn’t creating big chances without him.
Nico Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.9
Nico worked hard against LAFC but was without the midfield support he needed. He led the team with 78 touches and put in a full-effort on defense with seven recoveries in support all over the field.
One thing I liked: Lodeiro was the Seattle offense, creating five key passes and being involved in everything good for the Sounders offensively. In the first half he often ran by Ilie Sánchez and found Morris for break chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Asking Nico to create everything is folly, and when Lodeiro drifted around trying to force something to happen, it left giant gaps behind him centrally and LAFC took advantage. When he tired, his separation lessened, with Seattle’s offense following.
Going forward: Lodeiro needs help up front, especially without Raúl.
Jimmy Medranda – 4 | Community – 4.7 (off 56’ for Ragen)
Medranda started at right midfielder again and was ineffective, fine with possession but unable to turn the ball forward or attack the LAFC defense. With only 33 touches, Jimmy was part of a right side of the field that did very little, offering some decent possession (77 percent passing) but not much more.
One thing I liked: Jimmy did get a shot off and showed that he is best inverted into the middle of the field and looking direct on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: With Cifuentes attacking the gap behind him and Medranda inverting, there was a gigantic open area in the right corner and severe lack of targets for left-sided attacks to find via switches.
Going forward: Medranda has had chances to play right wing, and other than a nifty pass against Colorado, hasn’t had the impact needed.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 4.4 (off 56’ for Montero)
Bruin has underwhelmed for much of this season and was unable to have much positive impact in LA. In 56 minutes of play he had 13 touches and a shot.
One thing I liked: Bruin battled, making runs for teammates in between the center backs and was an always-willing physical competitor with the opposing defenders.
One thing I didn’t like: With Seattle aggressively attacking in the 19th minute, Will missed a streaking Morris, one of several times Bruin didn’t find the pass, killing attacks while the Sounders were still hopeful of a result. He had a dismal 60 percent completion rate.
Going forward: After a great outing last match, Will completely underwhelmed this one, and back to the merry-go-round of forward players we go.
Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 56’ for Bruin)
Montero came in early in the second half for a struggling Bruin and did slightly better. He had 13 touches, dropped in to help the midfield control possession, and had a sparkling 100 percent completion rate connecting with teammates.
One thing I liked: Fredy led the team with two shots off the bench.
One thing I didn’t like: Montero did not try to play the ball in the 76th minute and got a yellow for his troubles on a dangerous play. I would have been incensed with it, had it been against our center backs.
Going forward: Fredy and Will are currently playing worse than the sum of their parts.
Jackson Ragen – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 56’ for Medranda)
Ragen came into the center of the defense, pushing Seattle to a back three and changing tactics to allow more midfield support.
One thing I liked: Ragen looked strong centrally, guiding the team from the back with 87 percent completion on his 28 touches.
One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga has looked so good centrally, pushing him wide in lieu of Ragen removed Xavi’s central passing and Jackson’s long switching balls.
Going forward: Ragen had a few tough outings but again showed he is MLS-level and ready to play when needed.
Ethan Dobbelaere – 4 | Community – 4.8 (on 68’ for Nouhou)
Ethan played on the right and did pretty much what he has done every outing as a Sounder. He was a willing runner up the wing but a complete non-factor offensively. He completed 12 passes, all backwards, while missing his single attacking attempt.
One thing I liked: Ninety-two percent passing kept the ball for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: At some point Ethan must impact a match. With a chance late for Nico on the end line, Dobbelaere completely ignored the back post run he could have made, and which might have tied the match, in favor of a cautious defensive posture.
Going forward: Dobbelaere is providing steady defensive wing minutes, which are only valuable when the team is leading.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 81’ for Bert)
Chú came in and, well, I’m not sure where he was supposed to play. He started as a winger on the right but was redundant with Dobbelaere and settled in centrally with a shade to the right side, but then came back to his left to connect with teammates.
One thing I liked: Seven of seven passing saw Chú active and finding teammates cleanly, including setting up a key pass.
One thing I didn’t like: Although Léo had 15 active touches and some stepovers, his one shot went similarly to the rest of the team’s.
Going forward: Chú was energetic and part of some good chances for Seattle.
Joseph Dickerson – 5 | Community – 5.5
I don’t have anything against him, but I’m getting tired of Joe Dickerson, who must live on the West Coast and keeps getting assigned our matches. We had him seven times last year and this was the fourth this year. He’s been solid for Seattle and his squad did mostly fine in this primetime match, other than a few issues where stars from the opponent received special treatment.
One thing I liked: Using VAR well, Dickerson and crew took away a goal from a cheating Vela in the first half. This referee also did a good job carding Montero for a bad foul, and Diego Palacios for dissent.
One thing I didn’t like: It felt like a lot of “pro-LAFC” calls happening in this match, from Giorgio Chiellini getting away with a stone cold 7th minute yellow card, and another in the 23rd minute, to Arango being a pest all match.
Going forward: If you see JD at his neighborhood bar (which, clearly, must be nearby), buy him a beer and earn the Sounders some goodwill.
Vela lit up the Sounders in this one. Drifting into dangerous spots from a starting point out on the right, he continuously overloaded the Sounders’ defensive midfield pairing to dictate play. When he wasn’t doing that, he was scoring the game-winner (after providing a warning shot that was correctly called back).
Next up: Seattle doesn’t have much room to drop points going forward. Getting right back on the field Tuesday and earning three points is just what the doctor ordered.