Heading to Minnesota United after a lifeless performance and promising some changes, Seattle made a single revision – benching Léo Chú and starting Obed Vargas. This perplexing lack of significant adjustments resulted in a similar format: Seattle looked mostly okay defensively but terrible offensively. The Sounders did manage to score through a recycled set piece; a header from a still-forward defender put them in the lead. This wasn’t to last, however, as a resolute defense gave up one too many chances and the Loons equalized via a forced own goal. The Sounders made it to half time after being pressured late in the first half, but any hope that they would regroup and improve on their declining play was dashed early in the second half. Even with a midweek game upcoming, subs were not used for changing tactics or energy levels, and Minnesota was on the front foot for most of the match. Seattle was lucky to leave with a 1-1 tie, but this performance did not showcase a team turning a corner or creating anything original and sustainable for success.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.8 (MOTM)
Frei had a few saves and was otherwise okay on the evening. Credited with four saves, the defense did a good job limiting Minnesota’s big chances during the run of play for the most part. Seattle struggled with set pieces, as the defenders consistently lost their marks, and Frei’s conservative play allowed plenty of opportunity.
One thing I liked: Frei didn’t allow a single Loon to score on him, earning a shutout of Minnesota players, and an exceptional 39th minute save kept the lead into halftime.
One thing I didn’t like: This was one of Stefan’s worst matches of the year with his feet, as he continually either fumbled touches, launched the ball out of bounds, or played a hopeful pass in the vicinity of Jordan Morris and hoped he would bail the team out for possession.
Going forward: The defense seemed much improved in some ways but porous in others.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.5
Nouhou improved on his previous outing, which wasn’t a high bar to clear. He had 75 touches and 85 percent passing, including a key pass, to go with six clearances and two tackles. He is still making some uncharacteristic errors and hasn’t been sharp or up to his standards for months now, concurrent with the team’s swoon.
One thing I liked: A 75th minute curving through-ball cross was perfect, hitting a streaking Morris in stride on an absolutely majestic pass that deserved an assist.
One thing I didn’t like: A terrible ball in the 27th towards Morris was an awful attempt, and Nouhou was soundly beaten on at least two occasions in spots we aren’t used to seeing him lose individual battles.
Going forward: This match was closer to what the Seattle defense was doing earlier in the year, but there are clearly some cracks showing.
Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 6.7
Ragen did a good job of controlling the tempo in the back, finding safe passes and defending through his zones. His 64 touch, 84 percent passing game was fine, but lacked some of the more adventurous passing and control that he is capable of.
One thing I liked: A 49th minute physical tackle of Emanuel Reynoso was paired with a beautiful over-the-top 58th minute free kick finding Alex Roldan behind the defense as Ragen had a few good moments.
One thing I didn’t like: Usually clean with the ball, Ragen had awful passes in the 47th and 73rd, either of which could have been instantly scored against Seattle as they went to Minnesota in dangerous areas.
Going forward: Ragen looks to be a product of the stability around him.
Yeimar – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.3
In perhaps the most indicative stat of the Sounders struggles, it was Yeimar who led the team in shots (two) and co-led the team in shots on target (one). He was particularly dangerous on set pieces, scoring off one and nearly finding a hat trick via other late opportunities. Besides scoring for both teams, he also supported them both, with six clearances defensively in a strong effort, and some glaring errors that the Loons nearly capitalized on.
One thing I liked: Seattle had life in the 17th minute as Yeimar took a Nico Lodeiro cross and put a fantastic acrobatic header into the net for a Sounders lead.
One thing I didn’t like: A poor 69th minute clearance went directly to Minnesota and was converted into a Hassani Dotson shot, nearly giving the home team a game-winning goal.
Going forward: It’s hard to blame Yeimar for the goal against, but it was an indictment of the team as a whole, who did nothing but accept pressure to the point they conceded.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.1
Roldan was good, taking up the entire right side of the field as Albert Rusnák left him alone for much of the match. Alex converted that to 72 active touches and co-led the team in shots on goal (one). He was massive on the defensive end, recording an enormous seven tackles along with three clearances, an interception, and a blocked shot in an end-to-end effort.
One thing I liked: Roldan consistently made smart runs, even if the team didn’t use him. A nifty cut inside led to a strong left-footed shot that forced a save in the 63rd minute. He added 23 defensive actions on a full evening’s work.
One thing I didn’t like: A 58th minute gorgeous Ragen quick restart found Alex in behind on goal and unlike his brother, he couldn't convert.
Going forward: Alex did his best to do some of everything and helped balance the giant spaces, but without targets in the box was constantly forced to recycle possession.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.4
JP was again reunited with Vargas centrally and the two took up very different roles, with João trying to get forward and support the midfield gaps with Obed behind. Although he had 81 touches, JP – similar to the rest of the team – struggled to create cohesive chances, and with tired looking players in front of him, was often forced to move the ball horizontally.
One thing I liked: The central spacing seemed improved from the last match. A second minute over-the-top ball that put Morris into space showed that JP understood where the team should attack.
One thing I didn’t like: The chemistry in the middle looked fractured, with people on multiple different books, let alone pages. João missed a few passes he normally makes, and he was brutalized by Reynoso in the 27th minute in one of the few times an MLS player has made him look bad.
Going forward: This pairing added some balance but no impetus or direction.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 6.0
Obed returned to the center of defensive midfield and had one of his better outings of the season, doing many small things well and creating positive stats for himself. Unfortunately, he added very little attacking impetus, and his tentative nature doomed numerous moments. Statistically he stood out, with 94 percent passing on 56 touches and three tackles.
One thing I liked: Obed started well, with 11th minute defensive work, and 15th minute strong direct play on a counterattack, daring to dribble forward into space.
One thing I didn’t like: Time and again Vargas dribbled to nowhere, passed sideways or backwards, stepped up aggressively then stopped, or just failed to be anything more than “pass-back-pete.” His defense still isn’t particularly good, and it’s notable that his foul directly led to the own goal.
Going forward: Please. Someone tell Obed it’s legal to pass the ball forward.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.7
Morris had an exceptional match where he did many effort things that helped out teammates. Asked to stretch the field, he repeatedly ran forward to get on the end of through balls and find crosses. Not content to stay high, he also recovered defensively and was active through the midfield, even dropping into the box to help clear. One shot and one key pass on 43 touches was all he managed offensively.
One thing I liked: Morris had a few moments on offense but his defensive work rate was absurd. He had 12 noted defensive actions as it was end-to-end play for him. His desire to come back and support the defense was unparalleled, as he frequently recovered to help clear danger or win a necessary challenge. A 33rd minute sequence started with a defensive header in the Sounders’ box and ended with him with the ball sprinting into the Minnesota area.
One thing I didn’t like: Asking your best offensive player to also track back and save the defense was a wild requirement. The effort of running after poorly hit through balls, then coming back to clear from sustained defensive pressure, as well as being the only target Frei ever kicked to, likely played into his mistouch on Nouhou’s beautiful pass in the 75th minute.
Going forward: He looked better on the left than the right, but he wasn’t used effectively.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.5 (off 71’ for Chú)
Nico again started as the nominal #10 and briefly looked effective. In the first 15 minutes his movement was coherent and his nose for the ball found space with time to pick out a beautiful cross for the Sounders’ score. Unfortunately, soon thereafter he struggled to do much of anything right, aimlessly running (or not running) and unable to positively affect the match. A dismal 66 percent passing rate did include a team-high two key passes and that important assist, but his effectiveness fell off a cliff early in the match.
One thing I liked: A vintage assist came from a vintage Nico play: he read the ball movement, drifted to his preferred left side, and delivered a great 17th minute cross for the opening goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Bad passes, bad touches, poor decisions, and ultimately slow play in decision-making and execution made Nico’s play tough to watch before he was mercifully subbed out in the second half.
Going forward: This coach will probably start Nico three times this week, but the precipitous drop in performance should lead to considering other options.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.6 (off 90’ for Arreaga)
Rusnák had an odd job against Minnesota, lined up ostensibly as a right winger but doing almost no winger duties. In fact, his touch map covered almost the entire field, as he tirelessly worked to fill in the myriad gaps in Seattle’s formation. Most of this meant being drawn into the center as a sort of “dual 10” with Lodeiro, who was consistently sucked to the left, with Rusnák ceding the right side to support the center of the field. It worked to the extent Seattle wasn’t completely run over, and his 49 touches and 91 percent passing also helped the Sounders with some possession. What he wasn’t able to do was create forward momentum with that possession.
One thing I liked: Albert worked to offset the struggles of the other DPs on the field and held possession well. A beautiful 72nd minute pass to put Léo Chú in behind showed what he could do when given a central chance.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle doesn’t need dual 10s and Rusnák struggled with the defensive necessities of his role, with terrible transition defense in the 24th minute and traffic-cone-esque effort in the 37th, each of which gave an opportunity to Minnesota.
Going forward: Having a glue guy is important, but Seattle has bigger needs.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 4 | Community – 4.7 (off 87’ for Rothrock)
Ruidíaz played almost another full match with the same lack of impact, and has been completely ineffective for months. He worked hard, had a lot of touches, but ultimately a striker’s job is to put the checkered round thing into the giant mesh curtain and he was nowhere near doing that.
One thing I liked: Ninety percent passing and 37 touches were nearly all with his back to goal, but plenty were necessary to help Seattle get up the field. He consistently turned and earned fouls or helped the team counter.
One thing I didn’t like: Zero shots. Unacceptable.
Going forward: There is no excuse for this level of play and at some point you might expect he’ll be held accountable.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 71’ for Lodeiro)
Chú arrived off the bench and showed a few minutes of brilliance but ultimately the same level of success as the rest of the squad.
One thing I liked: Immediately after entering, Rusnák put Léo through and he had a great cross that created one of Seattle’s biggest chances of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Ten touches and 67 percent passing was a disappointingly low output from a guy expected to bring a spark.
Going forward: Chú needs targets and people who can run with him.
Paul Rothrock – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 87’ for Ruidíaz)
Rothrock was thrown on with four minutes left in the match in what appeared to be an effort to hold on to the 1-1 tie.
One thing I liked: Six touches, 100 percent passing, tie successfully held onto.
One thing I didn’t like: Paul didn’t look remotely interested in attacking the goal, instead taking the ball to the corner and holding it whenever he could.
Going forward: This substitution made little sense and had minimal positive effect.
Xavier Arreaga – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 90’ for Rusnák)
Xavi returned for his first action since his injury and managed some late minutes to hold onto a road point.
One thing I liked: Five touches, 100 percent passing, tie successfully held onto.
One thing I didn’t like: Arreaga was plopped into a back … seven-ish? He was not sure of positioning for himself or teammates.
Going forward: Another option in the back who can play in a three-man grouping isn’t trivial.
Tim Ford – 5 | Community – 5.4
It’s surprising this game ever kicked off, as Ford seemed reluctant to blow his whistle, let alone show cards. He called only 15 total fouls all match and showed no cards. This wasn’t a low-contact game either; the ref just allowed a ton of contact and was consistent in doing so. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the adjustment period for both teams to get used to the contact meant for a choppy first half; both sides were confused on what constituted enough to get Ford to exhale into his whistle.
One thing I liked: Fouls called (and the lack thereof) were remarkably consistent and advantage was called every time a play was in this vein.
One thing I didn’t like: The first half took a long time for people to adjust to. Nouhou got away with a blatant 12th minute challenge that many refs would have called, and a minute later Vargas was on the receiving end of a similar foul. Two more fouls deserved cards near halftime in any normally refereed MLS match.
Going forward: As long as players realize Ford will let a ton of stuff go, this style is likely playable as he consistently lets physical play happen.
Minnesota United MOTM
Minnesota’s offense flows through Emanuel Reynoso, and his performance against the Sounders was a reminder of that. Not only did he (first earn, and then) play the free kick that wound up in Seattle’s net, he created several worthy chances either side. In the 36th, he clipped a ball in that Michael Boxall really should have done more with.
Next up: Midweek on the road with the team reeling for months. What could go wrong?