Seattle had a chance to go into Canada for the second time this season to play a struggling team and get a much-needed win. Unlike their previous trip (to Toronto), the Sounders had a relatively first-choice lineup and also unlike that mid-season game, they fell behind in the first half. How many times have we seen Seattle “outplay” a bunkering Cascadia team only to be stunned against the run of play with goals that seem inexplicable, while wasting the few quality chances created against a compact defense? Yet again, the Sounders lacked the creative spark to penetrate an organized defensive setup, failed to find direct or central chances, settled for crosses into traffic, and ultimately fell too far behind. They tried to remedy the situation with some creative changes that increased the number of shots in the second half, including a late goal, but the final was a 2-1 loss to the Whitecaps.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.1
Frei did what he could to keep Seattle in the match, facing 11 shots. He didn’t have much chance to save the goals against, as the defense repeatedly gave up massive counter-attacking opportunities to Vancouver. Because they didn’t press Seattle at all, Frei was left alone for the most part, finishing with a sparkling 95 percent passing rate on only 17 attempts — his fewest passes attempted of the entire season. The Whitecaps had no interest in pushing numbers high.
One thing I liked: Frei gave Seattle at least a chance to come back, making a spectacular “save” in the 61st minute, diving and throwing a ball that looked to have gone over the line back into play. This forced the referees to judge the play, and it worked out for the Sounders.
One thing I didn’t like: A terrible 6th minute clear gave Vancouver a taste of the future, showing them that if they were patient, Seattle would gift them opportunities.
Going forward: Seattle’s defense has somehow given up the fourth fewest goals in the West, even though it feels much worse after games like this.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 71’ for Rowe)
This game emphasized the gaps in Nouhou’s play, as Vancouver dropped back defensively and dared Seattle to overload the field with players, allowing touches in possession from Nouhou, Alex Roldan, and the center backs, but limiting central penetration and spaces on the width. Asking Nouhou to be a creative force to penetrate a compact defense wasn’t viable. He had little impact attempting to support the offense and got caught out in a number of important moments on the defensive end. He had two shots on 50 touches.
One thing I liked: In one of his most successful forays forward, Nouhou won possession in the 50th minute and put in an excellent cross to the far post.
One thing I didn’t like: After his forward pass attempt was stolen in the 61st minute, Nouhou compounded his error by pushing too far forward, getting beat, and then was slow to recover as Vancouver went straight down field and looked to have scored a third goal.
Going forward: When teams defend with 11 players behind the ball, Nouhou might not be the offensive answer.
Xavier Arreaga – 6 | Community – 4.8
With Vancouver forcing the Sounders into possession, Arreaga had a massive 91 touches, over a third of which went to his defensive partners on either side.
One thing I liked: In the second half, Seattle worked the ball through the middle much more competently, and Xavi found Jordan Morris through in the 50th. Seven minutes later, he had a great chance on a Roldan cross, but Arreaga’s header was blocked.
One thing I didn’t like: With so few of his passes going forward, Arreaga became a spectator in the match. Worse was his defense in the 29th minute as he flailed in the box and missed, leading directly to the first Whitecaps goal.
Going forward: There is no excuse for bleeding goals in transition while holding 70 percent possession, and there isn’t much time left in the season to figure this out.
Yeimar – 6 | Community – 5.3
Yeimar was part of a defensive unit that was consistently spread out and somehow caught unaware of counter opportunities, desperately trying to help an ineffective offense. Statistically, Yeimar was enormous, getting 93 touches, winning nine headers, earning two shots and a key pass, while making five interceptions and four clearances.
One thing I liked: Yeimar filled up the stat sheet, both defending across behind the other defenders on numerous occasions, and winning back post headers on offense.
One thing I didn’t like: With as much possession as Seattle had, Yeimar’s passing repeatedly gave the ball back to Vancouver in dangerous positions. Yeimar was victimized on multiple occasions by Ryan Gauld’s work rate, as he earned the ball for his team and then skated around the big Colombian to create chances for Vancouver.
Going forward: Yeimar both excelled and struggled in this match, a situation which describes most of the team.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 71’ for Medranda)
Alex had a nice 69 touches in this match, getting forward early in the match and having some impact before fading after the halftime shape was changed, and ultimately leaving the match in the 71st minute. He struggled to deal with the elusive Gauld, who repeatedly tortured him on both sides of the field.
One thing I liked: In the first half, Roldan was one of the few bright spots offensively, finding an excellent left-footed cross in the 33rd minute and combining this with some crucial desperation defensive work across the box on multiple occasions.
One thing I didn’t like: Vancouver scored easily in the 29th minute, after Roldan was beat upfield and then chased the ball instead of recovering to an appropriate defensive shape.
Going forward: Alex continues to offer some wide creation for the team, but this was some worrying transition defense from the Sounders’ right side.
Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 46’ for Montero)
Danny again started in the middle, but without space offered by the opponents, he struggled to both shelter the back line in transition and move the ball forward effectively. His 46 touches and 93 percent passing were solid numbers, but the Seattle offense struggled to move the ball through the middle at all in the first half.
One thing I liked: Leyva only missed three passes in the half he played, and while his passing wasn’t as incisive and offensive as desired, he still found clean, safe possession to key players around him without conceding the ball to opponents.
One thing I didn’t like: Danny was only able to find Nico seven times and Albert three, being completely unable to navigate a clogged midfield and thereby limiting Seattle’s attack. He also had a great view of Vancouver scoring in the 29th minute, as he failed to recover defensively.
Going forward: This match showed the lack of central playmaking from the starting defensive midfield pair, something that will need to be rectified.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 71’ for Bruin)
Atencio started in the middle and was very active in the first half, offering some of the best transition passing from Seattle while recognizing his defensive role fairly well. His 65 touches and 95 percent passing were similar to teammates: high percentage completion but low risk.
One thing I liked: Josh did a good job dropping back and defending as needed, especially in the second half as he was the main defensive barrier and constantly recovered well to retain possession for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first half the defensive mid pairing lost simple runs in behind way too often, especially in the 6th minute when both Danny and Josh were flat-footed as a runner slipped in between the lines.
Going forward: This match showed the lack of central playmaking from the starting defensive midfield pair, something that will need to be rectified.
Albert Rusnák – 6 (MOTM) | Community – 5.4
Rusnák was the most creative offensive force, repeatedly the only player willing and able to attack the goal directly. He had 84 touches, 88 percent passing, and he led the team with five key passes to go with two shots of his own.
One thing I liked: Dropping Rusnák into the defensive middle unlocked vertical passes and changed the offense in the second half from safe passing around the back to more incisive between the lines and over-the-top looks. This was a major upgrade for the midfield shape and led to most of Seattle’s best chances.
One thing I didn’t like: When Albert got out of position in the first half, it dominoed back through the team and Vancouver scored immediately.
Going forward: Rusnák appears to be an upgrade at the position of defensive mid that he was just moved out of. The staff will have to decide whether they need better passing from defensive mid and drop him back a line again, or continue to keep him forward in an attempt to unlock Morris, etc. We miss you, Cristian.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.2
Lodeiro struggled to find space within a crowded attacking third for Seattle, and he had varying results within these areas. His 100 touches, three shots, two key passes, and 85 percent passing were all tidy numbers, on par with what you expect in a strong Seattle performance. Unfortunately, he was unable to time these positive stats with teammates to create goals.
One thing I liked: Nico was a hard-working midfielder who ran a lot, got a lot of touches, and tried repeatedly to get the ball into good spots. He found multiple unique angles to attack the bunker.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle (and especially Nico) tends to get frustrated very quickly, settling again and again for hopeful crosses and safe passing that is rarely effective in scoring. Lodeiro himself wasn’t precise enough on a number of massive chances where he had an opportunity to make a difference but failed to connect on the essential pass.
Going forward: Cross and pray isn’t a great offensive strategy and Nico is the main culprit.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 81’ for Chu)
Morris had 34 touches, similar to the previous match, but he failed to impact the match as much, being repeatedly shunted aside. When getting central he made runs redundant with Raúl Ruidíaz.
One thing I liked: On another night, Morris gets on the end of a beautiful 12th minute vertical run and the game is very different. The hustle Jordan brought earned a number of valuable corners throughout the game and he kept stretching a compact field as best he could.
One thing I didn’t like: Thirty-four touches, one shot, and a whole lot of Ryan Gauld playing two ways and torturing the Morris-Roldan side in the first half. Jordan also missed a wide open header in the 50th minute on the back post with a chance to completely change the match.
Going forward: Reminiscent of comments about his defensive role last week: when he didn’t get back in the 36th minute, it led to a goal. Seattle needs a team defensive effort.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 5.4
It was surprising to see 37 touches from Raúl, who seemed remarkably absent from this match as an attacking threat. His 92 percent passing showed a great job in holdup, and he linked as well as he could while surrounded by massive defenders within a compact structure.
One thing I liked: A nice 4th minute pass nearly saw Seattle earn an early lead, and a beautiful 54th minute move showed Ruidíaz needing about half an inch to get a quality shot off.
One thing I didn’t like: Expecting Raúl to score an impossibly high percent of his attempts backfired, as he whiffed on perhaps the biggest chance of the night in the 91st, with a point to be had.
Going forward: Raúl and Jordan making redundant runs and being nullified by a low defensive block are problems.
Fredy Montero – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 46’ for Leyva)
Fredy got an early appearance against Vancouver and showed more energy and intensity than almost anyone else before his arrival. His movement and connection were immediate upgrades, and combined with Rusnák’s central passing, opened up the field for Seattle to create many more chances.
One thing I liked: A 48th minute shot signaled a change to a more aggressive, direct offense that was a relief to see. He added multiple headers on the back post and finished with a perfect assist to Bruin in the 89th, giving Seattle a lifeline at obtaining a point.
One thing I didn’t like: For all his effort, there was a logjam up front, and the movement wasn’t effective. Seattle needed more than that shot in the first three minutes of the half from Montero.
Going forward: Fredy has given some impressive minutes lately and has made a claim to being a starter with Raúl gone to his national team.
Jimmy Medranda – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 71’ for Roldan)
Medranda came in as a more offensive option on the wide left and did his part to offer width and service while supporting the ball control style that Seattle wanted. He turned his 21 touches into a single key pass.
One thing I liked: Jimmy was an upgrade in service from the left, ending 3/3 crossing into the box and repeatedly giving his team chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Medranda didn’t show anything outside of running down the wing and swinging in crosses, which is confusing because he has shown more variety in his play before.
Going forward: When presented with a bunkering opponent, having Jimmy’s clear upgrade at offense is likely worth risking his clear downgrade at defense.
Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 71’ for Nouhou)
Rowe came and brought a lot of effort but struggled to retain any cohesive shape with teammates. He had 20 touches.
One thing I liked: Two shots from Rowe was a pleasant addition to a struggling offense.
One thing I didn’t like: His 67 percent passing was awful, as Kelyn gave up possession way too easily. His 84th minute “shot” may still be in orbit.
Going forward: Rowe brings intensity, and in this match that was clearly needed, but it’s often unguided which is why he’s not getting more time.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.3 (MOTM) (on 71’ for Atencio)
Bruin came in and was the big, hustling body that Seattle needed to clog up the middle, take bumps, and give double, and create havoc in the box. He did well to be an agent of chaos within the Vancouver defense and was rewarded late.
One thing I liked: In the 89th minute Will did a fantastic job, first hustling back to midfield to win possession before taking up residence in the box and heading a far post flick to give Seattle a goal and late life. This play was an all-around beaut.
One thing I didn’t like: Bruin had a number of chances, and his near-post flub moments before scoring showed his struggles this season.
Going forward: When Will stops trying to do fancy dribbles and run by people and instead concentrates on holdup, hustle, utilizing his size and aerial ability, he is a guy who demands playing time.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 81’ for Morris)
I didn’t even realize Chú was in the match until I saw a Sounders player dribble by a Whitecap for what seemed like the first time in the match. Chú had 11 touches and 100 percent passing.
One thing I liked: Able to beat people 1-v-1, Léo did this in the 87th minute to earn space for a cross, and again in the 92nd to win a corner.
One thing I didn’t like: His play was very one-dimensional, with head down in the 94th he missed teammates in lieu of trying to beat multiple defenders, losing the ball.
Going forward: Chú made some positive actions in his short time but appears to be completely different tactically than Seattle as a team.
Ramy Touchan – 5 | Community – 4.3
If you wanted to watch a team bunker and counter and frustrate the Sounders with physical play and uncalled off-ball fouls (and numerous on-ball plays as well), then this was the referee matchup for you. After a first half of not calling stuff, seeing rapid-fire multiple cards within minutes late was a rough contrast for both teams to deal with.
One thing I liked: “Whole ball, whole line” was the kind of luck that Seattle hasn’t gotten all year, but they got it on the road down 2-0 in an ultimately irrelevant non-call.
One thing I didn’t like: Starting off with a missed foul in the 2nd minute, it was clear this was going to be a rough match. Raúl was called for a foul after winning a header, Nico got his foot stepped on and crumpled with no call, etc. This was just a mess.
Going forward: Seattle doesn’t adjust well to physical play, and this ref allowed a lot of that for a bunkered defense.
Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM
Julian Gressel was fine. He hit a once-in-a-lifetime shot that turned out to be the game-winner. Good for him. Ryan Gauld, on the other hand, was basically perfect. I just went back and watched the highlights; the first half is all Gauld. He’s heavily involved in everything good that happens for Vancouver, and Seattle’s defense conspires to make him look like a world beater. It was beautiful to see such harmony between a player and a system. Bummer that it was against the Sounders.
Next up: It’s now or never.