A rollercoaster season for the Seattle Sounders remained so on Saturday as the team came off the high of a quality home win and hoped to translate that into a road win in Georgia, but they were unable to earn a much-needed result. Seattle played fairly well throughout the match, yet they conceded once early and once very late in a demoralizing 2-1 loss. By the end of the weekend, they were back below the playoff line. At times against Atlanta, the Sounders looked excellent, passing the ball with precision and showcasing quality movement. However, that coordination in the final third and small defensive errors — which domino into chances that opponents always seem to finish — were again the difference.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.6
Seattle needed a win in this match and Frei did everything he could to get one, making several big saves. Unfortunately, he was beaten by a deflected shot he would have likely saved, and a banger. He also had multiple big saves on plays that were ultimately called offside.
One thing I liked: Even though Seattle looked strong through the middle of the match, it was Atlanta in the 53rd minute that had a chance to take a two-goal lead. Luiz Araújo snuck past two Sounders defenders on a break and got a shot on goal that Frei eínfach’d with a beautiful kick save, keeping the Sounders in the match.
One thing I didn’t like: It was an unfortunate deflection that prevented Frei from saving Atlanta’s first goal, and although he was fooled and slipped a bit, the second was a good shot. Seattle is not making their own luck, and Frei isn’t getting chances to keep clean sheets.
Going forward: Frei must be frustrated with the number of attacks that are coming through the same zones, and his GAA is suffering for it.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.7
Nouhou was good against Atlanta, limiting almost all their attacks down his side and finding some success passing forward. He led the team with four defensive tackles, adding two clearances and an okay 82 percent completion rate from his 64 touches.
One thing I liked: The Cameroonian didn’t charge forward as much this match but still found himself in the attacking third on some key moments, the biggest in the 68th minute when he got into the box and put a nice pass into the run of Raúl Ruidíaz that was eventually cleaned up by Cristian Roldan for the Sounders goal.
One thing I didn’t like: I don’t have any issue with Nouhou’s defensive positioning on the first Atlanta goal, but it’s a shame that the weak, central shot was redirected by a sprawling Nouhou into the goal instead of saved by Frei.
Going forward: Seattle still isn’t creating a lot of great chances and it’s still not all Nouhou’s fault.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 6.1
Xavi had a solid but unspectacular game for the Sounders, for the first time in a few weeks not being as active in distributing the ball. Against Atlanta he had only 36 touches and was clean, passing safe and finding teammates in the central midfield while going 5/8 on long balls.
One thing I liked: One of the few times Arreaga had a forward impact came in the 14th minute, as he created a turnover with solid defense. His vision and distribution jumpstarted a counterattack.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 58th minute, Xavier misjudged a header, finding himself beaten and out of position as Atlanta broke with numbers behind him.
Going forward: The defensive central pairing has limited attacks down the middle that were a problem, but now teams are taking advantage of the gaps in between lines and Seattle needs to adjust.
Yeimar – 6 | Community – 5.9
Yeimar did a good job defending next to Arreaga, getting 42 touches and completing 85 percent of his passes. He filled up the stat sheet with multiple tackles, interceptions, and clearances.
One thing I liked: Atlanta was stymied through the middle, and on the rare occasion they did manage to break through, it was usually Yeimar who stuffed their momentum. When Arreaga missed a touch in the 58th minute it was Yeimar who casually stepped up and stopped a 3-v-1 break solo.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar was danced around for a huge chance in the 53rd minute, as Araujo got past him and created a chance that only a sprawling Frei’s toe denied.
Going forward: The gap on the right of the defense is being victimized by opponents; this must be addressed.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.6
Alex played a different role in this match, getting forward and showing up in the offensive third more often than in the several matches prior. He turned 74 touches into 89 percent passing and a team-leading four key passes.
One thing I liked: Jordan Morris found some early success via Roldan: first in the 2nd minute in behind, then nearly scoring off another excellent pass from Alex, this time a headed chance in the 31st minute.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex continued to leave gaps looking for support from teammates, and against Atlanta these moments led to both goals and the 53rd minute big chance. When Alex isn’t perfect, it feels like opponents score.
Going forward: He had some early success linking with Morris but then faded, and the defensive lapses on the backside cause concern.
Cristian Roldan – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.7 (MOTM)
Cristian played all over the field in this match and had some very high highs as well as a few concerning lows. He was a complete two-way player, leading the offense with five shots and a goal while adding multiple tackles and a half dozen recoveries on the defensive end.
One thing I liked: Always with a nose for the goal, it was again Roldan who found himself in the middle of the box with a loose ball, and upon having his original shot blocked, found the corner on try number two to tie the match up in the 68th minute with a calm finish.
One thing I didn’t like: On the first goal, Cristian completely ignored the vertical run of Araújo. He must either follow the direct runner or effectively communicate that to Yeimar. This communication deficit showed up several other times, and Seattle needs to work on direct runs through defensive midfield.
Going forward: Roldan showed he can score when given the chance, but asking him to be the best attacker and best defender on the team at the same time is a heavy lift.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 89’ for Atencio)
Rusnák again paired with Cristian, and they combined well to cover the field and push the match forward. Albert had 61 touches and even moved to a more advanced position in the second half, leading to him combining on the Sounders’ goal and earning two shots of his own.
One thing I liked: Albert is a one-man counterattack when he plays aggressive defense like he did in the 58th minute. After hustling to win possession, Rusnák quickly turned the ball forward and found a streaking Morris on a great Sounders opportunity.
One thing I didn’t like: With the match tied and Seattle on the front foot, Bert had a wide open look at a volley that he put into orbit. He hasn’t been clean on big opportunities in the box; if he was even a little better, matches like this would have different outcomes.
Going forward: This defensive midfield combination did well, limiting Atlanta to few cohesive chances, and while the changes late finally saw Albert pushed forward, the defensive midfielder pairing is still very much in flux.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 6.0
Morris moved around the field in this match, playing right wing and left and forward and attacking positions, getting a key pass and two shots for his efforts. Always a risk to get in behind, Jordan was inches away from some big chances, just unable to get the last touch or enough separation from opponents to impact the score sheet.
One thing I liked: In the 31st minute, Morris made a beautiful striker’s run, getting on the end of a pretty A-Rold cross, forcing an excellent save from a combination of keeper and post after a strong header looked poised to tie the match.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 46th minute Atlanta had a good offensive chance and Morris did some pathetic defensive work, clearly already mentally in the locker room for halftime.
Going forward: Jordan continues to be a game-breaking talent for Seattle who hopefully gets some help from the rest of the team soon.
Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.2
Nico has had mixed results on shorter rest cycles this year, but against Atlanta his effort was immense. He managed to get on the ball a massive number of times, controlling the match. But like his teammates, he struggled to get the ball into dangerous areas or create big chances. Although he had three key passes, Lodeiro was held without a shot and had minimal impact defensively.
One thing I liked: In the 67th minute, Nico had an excellent cross that nearly scored. He found overlapping runs all match, and he even had a beautiful 90th minute free kick. He worked extremely hard to be a fulcrum for the team.
One thing I didn’t like: Lodeiro was good in this match, but it’s an issue when he gets 111 touches and the next closest number on either team is 36 fewer. Seattle needs to improve that ratio.
Going forward: Getting Raúl back opened space for Seattle’s attack, but it was still too reliant on Nico.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 4.7 (off 55’ for Leyva)
Chú again started on the left of the attack, combining with teammates to get some sustained possession and pressure, but he was unable to directly impose his will toward goal. With only 14 touches, Seattle couldn’t get him the ball with any regularity, and his movements and attempts were unable to unlock the defense.
One thing I liked: A nice 1-v-1 dribbling move in the 30th minute earned Seattle a set piece and the direct play was needed.
One thing I didn’t like: Multiple attacking players didn’t show up in this match to make an impact, and Chú was one of them.
Going forward: Chú was a non-factor as Seattle fumbles around the roster looking for someone to seize the open opportunity at winger.
Will Bruin – 4 | Community – 4.2 (off 55’ for Ruidíaz)
Bruin had a quiet outing where he struggled to get involved in the match in any positive fashion. In 54 minutes of action, Will only had 15 touches, registering a single shot.
One thing I liked: Right before subbing out, Will received a throw in and had a nice turn to create space and find Morris forward.
One thing I didn’t like: Will got a shot like the one Morris had that went off the post, and Bruin cut some corners on his off-ball movement. He did nearly everything right, drifting back to create space and then running near-post; however, he didn’t create enough separation because he didn’t go away enough. This is a tiny thing that makes a huge difference in these moments. I don’t know whether he’s slowing down or not confident in his pace, but another step away from the service angle would have made his attempt mid-goal. Instead, it was wide of the frame, forcing a much harder and ultimately missed shot. This is something that strikers do multiple times every match, and an example of Bruin being ineffective in a big moment.
Going forward: Raúl hopefully starts from here on out, giving Will an opportunity to be an impact sub.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 55’ for Bruin)
Raúl entered early in the second half and was part of an effective sub combination that put Seattle on the front foot for much of his time on the field. In 23 touches Ruidíaz was a direct threat, as he had two shots, completed 75 percent of his passes, and forced a big save.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz immediately improved the attack, finding spots for himself or opening space for others. Two minutes after entering he showcased perfect hold-up play before spinning and launching a beautiful switch to create a shot.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 59th minute a loose touch cost him a chance at a shot on goal, and moments later he had another uncharacteristic turnover. Missing a streaking Morris in the 83rd minute was another indicator that Raúl isn’t quite back to normal.
Going forward: This team depends on Raúl to score and open space for others, so his health will be of paramount importance down the stretch and into the playoffs.
Danny Leyva – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 55’ for Chú)
Leyva entered the game and completely changed the defensive spacing, allowing Seattle to push players forward and tactically putting the match in the Sounders’ hands. His work rate and coverage of the back combined with a deeper Lodeiro, unlocking both Cristian and Albert to move forward and impact the offensive shape.
One thing I liked: Danny was all over the field, hustling from sideline to sideline to defend and urge the team into a more offensive posture. It was his excellent play that started the Seattle goal sequence.
One thing I didn’t like: For all his activity, it was a small error in occupying the same space as Josh Atencio in the 94th minute that allowed Atlanta defender Andrew Gutman room to fire home a winner.
Going forward: Leyva showed he can unlock teammates, and he offers another option for juggling parts through the midfield to find desired outcomes.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 89’ for Rusnák)
Atencio returned to the field late as Seattle went with another midfielder addition instead of the usual fifth defender. It was a mixed bag as the Sounders had great chances to take all three points but ultimately ended with none.
One thing I liked: Josh was active and had a beautiful stop and control in the 90th minute, and another fun display of skill with a chest pass to Leyva.
One thing I didn’t like: Atencio missed the same hole teammates have been leaving open for a while now, and by covering similar space as Leyva, was part of the spacing issue that Atlanta scored from.
Going forward: It’s great to see the younger players still being relevant late in the season.
Armando Villarreal – 7 | Community – 5.8
Both Seattle and Atlanta played a muted match, with 20 fouls called and three cards. For the most part, Villarreal was an invisible presence who made calls when needed and wasn’t involved in many controversial decisions.
One thing I liked: The yellow cards to Alex Roldan and Lodeiro were both spot on, and it wasn’t necessary to card anyone until after the 80th minute due to a clean match.
One thing I didn’t like: If anyone deserved an earlier card it was Aiden McFadden, who picked up multiple early fouls without a talking to, and who got away with a lot of physical play down the Sounders’ left side.
Going forward: Villarreal reminded us that not every game has to be about the referee.
Atlanta United MOTM
Substitue Andrew Gutman scored an absolute wonder strike in the dying embers to turn this would-be draw into a win for the home side. Credit to Gonzalo Pineda for putting his players in positions to change games.
Next up: Everyone keeps waiting for Seattle to stop giving up low percentage shots against and start finishing the high percentage ones they create. No time like the present.