It’s hard to watch Sounders matches against Portland. After some nasty interactions with fans, the “rivalry” has soured for me. Add the fact that we have to play them numerous times a year and that Seattle has been awful in nearly every match against Portland for years, and it’s just an unpleasant experience. Last weekend’s home match against a struggling Timbers squad should have alleviated that gross feeling. Seattle came off a strong midweek result, different players were showing signs of cohesion, and there was every reason to be optimistic about a positive result. It started out great, as the Sounders dominated early, raced out to a multi-goal lead, and looked to be cruising to a feel-good home win. Instead, 60 minutes of momentum was derailed by a silly red card and that pit in my stomach reserved for Timbers matches widened. The 2-2 final could have been worse score-wise, but this draw felt like a loss.
Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 6.4
Coming off a strong midweek match, Frei was okay against Portland. He had two saves against a mostly ineffective opponent, outside of ten minutes in the second half. The saves he made were clean and he didn’t have a lot to say about the outcome of the match.
One thing I liked: In the 40th minute the Timbers had their two best chances of the night through Felipe Mora, and Frei was there to force the opponent into a perfect shot to beat him. Mora is not a perfect player and first Frei, then JP, saved his close attempts.
One thing I didn’t like: Evander is also not a perfect player, but he hit a near-perfect shot in the 70th minute that had “game over” written all over it. The second Timbers goal in five minutes meant Seattle was on the ropes and there was little Frei could do.
Going forward: There is massive room for improvement in Frei’s distribution. He should also restrain the overly aggressive back line that pulls the midfield into a false sense of security.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.7
Nouhou played soccer against Portland and was unremarkable, a sentence I didn’t know I’d ever write about the Sounders left back. A key pass, 80 percent completion rate and a strong defensive shift were part of a match where Nouhou facilitated the advanced attacking nature of Léo Chú ahead of him.
One thing I liked: Chú was asked to do very little on defense, as Nouhou hoovered up any chances in behind the left winger, who was free to wreak havoc.
One thing I didn’t like: The epidemic of terrible set piece defending is running rampant through the Sounders, with Nouhou being involved nearly every time. When Dairon Asprilla snuck in behind, there was a miscommunication between Nouhou, Obed Vargas, and Jackson Ragen, with Nouhou getting the best view of the goal.
Going forward: The entire defense is in flux and seems susceptible to being victimized in behind.
Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 6.4
Jackson was part of a solid first half. Outside of a short stretch where they looked awful, this defense was compact and limited Portland to half-chances for most of the match. Jackson was a force on the offensive end, earning two shots and an assist supporting the attackers. He had 88 percent completion rate on the team’s second-most touches (66).
One thing I liked: An imposing figure, it was great to see Ragen assert himself on the offensive end. His early flick on a set piece found Raúl Ruidíaz for Seattle’s first goal of the match and Ragen’s fourth assist on the year (third most on the team).
One thing I didn’t like: Jackson drifted forward, pulling Nouhou and Vargas out of position on the first Timbers goal. He stepped very vertical and was caught retreating on the second. Both of these were small indiscretions with big ramifications.
Going forward: Jackson does so much good that when he puts a foot wrong it’s usually quite obvious.
Yeimar – 6 | Community – 6.2
Yeimar was part of a Sounders right side that was strong in defending, in order to allow the pace on the wing to press higher and combine. He pushed all the way to the sideline to support the width, and utilized his speed and anticipation to defend all the way across through the middle zones. Yeimar was also good in this match at stepping and finding vertical passes, instead of settling for square balls.
One thing I liked: Yeimar filled up the stat sheet with a stellar two tackles, two interceptions, and six clearances, highlighted by excellent decision making. His ability to support Alex Roldan and Jordan Morris allowed Seattle to stretch the Timbers defense.
One thing I didn’t like: When Morris and Roldan push forward into the offensive third, Yeimar tends to get sucked in behind, opening gaps that force him to be perfect with positioning and recovery speed.
Going forward: The other side of the defense is leaking header goals, but the service is coming from the Sounders right. Both groups need to fix their errors in this issue.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.1
Alex started on the right and was active, if not directly impactful. He had 50 touches but failed to convert those into any offensive impetus. Most of his night was spent creating space for others with strong runs and keeping possession offensively. Outside of a sprawling block in the 40th minute when he, JP, and Frei kept Portland off the board, most of his play was cerebral defensive work.
One thing I liked: Having Alex on the right balanced out the offense a lot, allowing Morris to push high in tandem with Chú as Roldan kept width and connection to the midfield. This was very important to close the gaps that the left created.
One thing I didn’t like: Roldan only attempted three passes into the box the entire evening, completing one. His connection with Morris is tenuous at best.
Going forward: Alex Roldan can be a player who unlocks the Sounders potential, but likely needs players more interested in combining with him than running away.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.8 (MOTM) (off 84’ for Baker-Whiting)
As usual, João Paulo did a bit of everything. He was everywhere in the first half, combining through the middle defensively to cover huge swaths of the pitch before distributing forward to release Seattle’s offensive speed. He had the most touches on the team (70) and completed 84 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: JP is nearly always in the right position, as he was in the 40th minute to prevent some Timbers momentum heading into half. With Mora’s header going to what looked to be an empty net, João popped up out of nowhere to head the shot away in a goal-line clearance.
One thing I didn’t like: Obed and JP seem to have anti-synergy, with the latter ignoring the former on multiple occasions. The second Timbers goal saw João forcing high and these two covering the same space and failing to recover after a poor Vargas touch.
Going forward: This pairing in the defensive midfield was fine, but clearly exploited in big moments.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 5.5 (off 71’ for Atencio)
Vargas was back to pair in the defensive midfield and continues to show improvement in some aspects of his play. He also is susceptible to the same issues that have plagued him all year, and it was unfortunately those issues that are most memorable. He completed 78 percent of his passes in another incredibly cautious distribution map.
One thing I liked: Vargas made a few interesting passes, the best of which was a 23rd minute ball from the center circle to the wide left channel. It presented the Timbers defense with a choice in how to cover the onrushing Chú and the direct run of Raúl Ruidíaz in a 2-v-2.
One thing I didn’t like: Almost every big Timbers moment had a Vargas mistake attached. The first Portland goal had Obed marking no one and Asprilla unmarked behind him and Nouhou. A terrible touch led directly to the second goal. Perhaps most indicative of his struggles was the goal not scored in the 40th minute by the Timbers, with Obed mindlessly chasing the ball around in circles and literally spinning around in confusion.
Going forward: JP appeared to deliberately not pass to Obed on a number of occasions, and that is a message.
Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 5.4 (Off 53’ Red Card)
It was the best of Chú, it was the worst of Chú. Depending on how you look at things, you might have been impressed with Léo’s offensive outburst that was at times unstoppable. If you tend to lean negative, then you’d point to Chú’s absolutely ludicrous red card that took Seattle from a dominant gamestate to a “hold onto your butts” final third of the match. Either way Chú look at it, this was a Chú-centric match.
One thing I liked: In the 30th minute, Léo burst through the middle, forced a turnover, got a return pass, took a perfect header control at full speed, and finished clean in a 1-v-1 with the keeper in an absolutely ridiculous goal created out of a single player’s superior ability.
One thing I didn’t like: After the above awesomeness was a less-awesome shirt removal that earned his first of two yellow cards. The second was debatable but the silliness of the first and the out of control play that led to the second meant he was shipped off, giving a lifeline to a team that had been outplayed. Chú’s careless play had an immediate impact on a team that already has a fragile psyche; you can’t overstate how damaging this was to the Sounders.
Going forward: The solution is clearly for him to create more mini-Chú’s, thus using the “ball under the shirt, I’m having a baby” celebration in perpetuity.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 71’ for Arreaga)
Rusnák got the start in the attacking center, spelling Nico Lodeiro, who started midweek. Again, Albert was a facilitator nearly in exclusivity, combining and working hard to find success through others rather than his own incisive runs. His three key passes led the team, and most importantly he completed 90 percent of his passes, finding possession without sacrificing offensive impact.
One thing I liked: Albert set up Chú in the 33rd minute for a shot and put him in behind again two minutes later for another Seattle breakout attempt that nearly scored. This second pass was a typical through ball onto a winger, but came via strong physical control as Rusnák held off multiple Timbers defenders to find the space to put Léo in.
One thing I didn’t like: His defensive contribution from the 10 position is negligible, and while Rusnák can press, he doesn’t do this particularly well. This led to him being subbed off after the red card, and Seattle was without his control for the rest of the match.
Going forward: Rusnák quietly does a lot of positive things on the offensive side but can be redundant with teammates.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 6.0
Jordan Morris played on the right side of the field for most of the match and it was his pace that helped create wide swaths of space for Ruidíaz and Chú to play vertically up the center-left channels. He had a shot and a key pass, while completing 75 percent of his attempts in a quiet, 25 touch outing.
One thing I liked: It may not be readily apparent, but nearly every single time that Chú races forward on the left, there’s Morris right with him, making a far post run that leverages his gravitational pull onto the center backs, creating gaps. Raúl nearly scored in the 35th minute from Chú in this exact circumstance.
One thing I didn’t like: With so few touches and little direct impact, Morris tends to fade into the background when on the right. Seattle doesn’t find him in space and he doesn’t run at defenders on the dribble when on that wing. He also struggles to integrate Roldanery into his repertoire, preferring to run without the ball rather than create mismatches with sharp touches and movement to combine with Alex.
Going forward: Morris can play right, and it might be best for the team in spurts, but it clearly isn’t optimal for his personal success.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.5 (off 58’ for Lodeiro)
Raúl did what he does against Portland: score goals. A consistent menace to the Timbers backline for his entire shift, Ruidíaz looked fantastic. His three shots led the team, and most importantly, he put all three on goal. He added a key pass, 89 percent completion on 28 touches, and was the partner that Chú needed in direct access to the goal.
One thing I liked: This was a vintage Ruidíaz performance, drifting around the goal to find shots and constantly combining with teammates. His 9th minute goal set the tone, as he ghosted into the box and cleanly headed an excellent Ragen back-post flick.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl almost had multiple other goals, and any of them could have put the match to bed. Although this was a much improved performance, there are still some touches and finishes on which he looks rusty.
Going forward: Raúl needs to score a lot of goals to make up for how lousy he has been this summer, but “Good Ruidíaz” is an important piece of Seattle’s success.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 58’ for Ruidíaz)
With a red card unexpectedly changing tactics, Seattle still seemed to use a predetermined substitution to bring on Nico at the 60th minute mark. He was very good in his shift, which had a clearly different set of expectations than he would originally have prepared for.
One thing I liked: With two shots and two key passes, Lodeiro earned the second most of each stat. This is pretty amazing given the game state, as Nico was able to create half-chances, even down a man.
One thing I didn’t like: With only 57 percent passing, Lodiero did not settle into a defensive and possession-first mentality, and it bit Seattle. The team needed to run out the clock, play strong, compact defense, and minimize opposing opportunities, none of which this sub appearance did until well after the match was tied.
Going forward: Nico has looked good, but this was an odd game state to force him into.
Xavier Arreaga – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 71’ for Rusnák)
Xavi came in, and more than anything he took charge and calmed down a fractured and frustrated Sounders back line that had just conceded two goals.
One thing I liked: Fifteen touches. A shot. A tackle. Arreaga brought calmness and passion into the match and shared it with a shell-shocked bunch.
One thing I didn’t like: Seventy-two percent passing accuracy was low, but a function of “clear it out” defense.
Going forward: Arreaga continues to do just about everything right; he’s an excellent asset who is pushing for more time.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 71’ for Vargas)
It was no coincidence that the Sounders coaches yanked the midfield after the second goal, as the team failed to show any defensive cohesion when down a man. That is, until Atencio and Arreaga joined the match, adding more composure and structure through the center. While he had only 12 touches, Josh was a firm presence centrally and helped deny the gaps that had been exploited earlier.
One thing I liked: Eighty-nine percent passing with his only incompletion being a pass into the Timbers area: this showed Atencio’s understanding that Seattle needed to get and keep possession or they would be run off the field.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle actually had a late push, and Josh had a chance at the game-winning assist near the end but was unable to find the right pass.
Going forward: I am not sure what else he needs to do to get playing time.
Reed Baker-Whiting – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 84’ for JP)
Another defensive player added to the mix, Reed subbed in with a few minutes left and a specific role to play. Although he only had two touches, his job was to keep the Timbers from getting any more chances and he did that.
One thing I liked: RBW brought some energy and allowed those around him to coalesce a bit more defensively.
One thing I didn’t like: Coming in with five minutes to play at home in a tied rivalry game should earn you at least a touch, on hustle alone.
Going forward: It’s neat to see Seattle sub off a DP for a young prospect late in a game of this magnitude, showing confidence in at least one of the youths.
Jon Freemon – 5 | Community – 3.5
Honestly, I have no idea how to rate this match. It was completely overshadowed by one easy-to-call yellow and another debatable one. Freemon called 26 fouls quite evenly, and similarly split his five yellow cards. Was Portland going to foul in the middle to stop counterattacks and rely on Diego Chara’s ability to commit a multitude of microaggressions without being penalized? Of course. Was Seattle going to somehow get a red card even more foolish than the last time it happened here against that team? Yes. Is that the referee’s fault? I am leaning to no.
One thing I liked: At least he was consistent, carding Asprilla for half pulling his shirt up after he scored. Again. Against Seattle. *puke*
One thing I didn’t like: I’m never in favor of massive, game-changing calls that can be avoided, and this one clearly looked like a judgment call. If you look at it through the “would I want my guy to get this call” lens, Chú was definitely off balance, but it’s hard to see this as cardable. Léo did commit a foul, but the moment was big and instead of a hand-on-shoulder last warning to chill out, there was no hesitation in sending him off.
Going forward: Since Ozzie Alonso left, Seattle hasn’t been a team that gets the multiple “last warnings” that other teams get, but maybe I am biased.
Portland Timbers MOTM
I did not want to write about Dairon Asprilla, but here we are. Just like when these two teams met in April, he swung proceedings in his team’s favor. This time around, it didn’t even take him a minute to do so. Zac McGraw got his head to a hopeful ball, flicking on to Asprilla who easily nodded home while a consortium of Sounders were late to react. Cool.
Next up: More soccer. Let’s finish out this season with some wins. And hey, I’m on Discord now!