Seattle returned home with a chance to clinch a playoff berth and did so, thanks to some amazing play in the first and last 15 minutes of the match. Starting out looking incredible, a fluid, attack-minded Sounders team eviscerated the LA Galaxy, creating chances and scoring in the first ten minutes via Theo Morris’ dad. Seattle remained on the front foot for most of the first half, creating opportunities but unable to add to their lead. This would prove portentous as they returned from the halftime break with some decidedly underwhelming play, culminating in multiple big chances by LA and a tying goal in the 54th minute. With both teams subbing and creating chances, Seattle looked poised to back into the playoffs with another dreary draw against a mediocre team. Until, that is, some Roldanery with a sprinkle of Atencio gave the Sounders a 96th minute game-winner. The 2-1 final was probably deserved based on overall play, but it took that final goal to turn the mood from resignation and disappointment to jubilation.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
Frei wasn’t able to earn the shutout record, due to an excellent play by Douglas Costa to dance through the defense in front of him. This was the only chance that Stefan didn’t have covered all night, as he wasn't credited with a single save in a match where the Sounders limited LA to just five total shots.
One thing I liked: Frei organized the back and had an excellent first-time pass to the width in the 84th minute that was a smart touch to get Seattle out of some pressure.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 47th minute LA dialed up an Olimpico try and it was nearly successful, with Frei eventually pushing the ball over the bar while being challenged.
Going forward: Frei is running out of chances to earn that shutout record.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.3
Nouhou returned from yellow card accumulation and showed everyone why he is the incumbent starter. His 1-v-1 defense was on display throughout, calmly and repeatedly dominating his side of the field and releasing teammates forward after winning possession. His 88 percent passing included a key pass offensively, and he had seven recoveries.
One thing I liked: While not known for his dynamic forward progression, Nouhou was excellent at picking the right times to join attack and look aggressively ahead. An 84th minute pass over the top to Reed Baker-Whiting was a glorious example.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 44th minute, after a strong forward dribble, he ended the play with a bad pass, demonstrating all the potential with none of the end product.
Going forward: This was a vintage performance that illustrates the power of the Nouhou.
Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 6.7
Ragen was the main distributor from the back, as Seattle consistently found him in deep possession, and he returned a lovely 94 percent passing rate. He had 70 touches and a handful of recoveries, which paired nicely with his two shot attempts on corner kicks.
One thing I liked: An aggressive 8th minute pass to Albert Rusnák split the LAG defense asunder, jump-starting a Sounders attack as part of a dominant first 15 minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: Ragen had a number of blunders on defense; getting caught too far upfield in the 13th minute was an example of over aggression gone wrong. A 35th minute turnover in a bad spot was frustrating.
Going forward: The defense and midfield felt less connected in this match.
Yeimar – 6 | Community – 6.7
As usual, Yeimar earned a ton of stats, with 90 percent passing, three won headers, five recoveries, and three interceptions. Much of what he was asked to do was in support of the wide spaces that Alex Roldan vacated to venture further up the field into attack.
One thing I liked: Yeimar’s been consistently excellent in pressing forward, and time and again in the first 20 minutes LA looked to release out of the back up his wing only to run into a Yeimar steal or defensive action that returned the ball to the Sounders.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar had a few struggles, like a poor 21st minute turnover after a spell of 20+ Sounders passes in possession, and being beaten to the back post by Billy Sharp in the 50th minute.
Going forward: Yeimar missed a 13th minute header on a corner and somewhere a solitary tear slowly ran down Chad Marshall’s face.
Alex Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.7
This game started out full of energy from Seattle and much was on the Roldan side, with Alex and Cristian and JP consistently finding purchase up the wing to combine with Rusnák and look forward. Alex led the Sounders with 94 touches and had two shots, a key pass, and one very important late throw in.
One thing I liked: After an early 8th minute shot announced his offensive intention, some beautiful 16th minute dribbling skill deep in his own corner to release pressure was impressive. He followed this up with an essential 46th minute denial of Diego Fagundez after tracking the LA player all the way across the field behind the defense.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex was beaten on the wing in the 17th minute and was absent in the second half until late.
Going forward: Right back continues to be a catalyst for success.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 7.6 (off 80’ for Atencio)
JP played a much different role against LA. Instead of being the offensive catalyst with vertical runs and the central connectivity like last game, he was instead the enforcer defensive player asked to mop up all the errors across the field. João had a massive 13 recoveries to go with two tackles and a full evening of excellent set piece delivery.
One thing I liked: Pure effort in the 9th minute created the first Sounders goal, as JP chased down a loose ball and block tackled an opponent into the Hawks Nest before glancing up and hitting a perfect first time pass to Morris to open the scoring. Somehow he made all that look easy.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle had little center thrust as again this pairing was overrun. Forced to play more defensively, JP had a bad foul in the 35th minute and was woefully trailing Costa through the middle as LA evened the score.
Going forward: Seattle seems to play better when JP is allowed to be involved on both ends of the field.
Obed Vargas – 6 | Community – 5.6
Vargas returned to start centrally next to JP and was part of the early surge in effective attacking. Obed had 53 touches and an okay 81 percent passing rate, but he added some quality defending and even led Seattle with four tackles. Offensively, he contributed a shot and two key passes.
One thing I liked: Some early aggression, as Vargas showed a new desire to attack via dribble in the 7th minute, was outstanding and culminated in a shot on goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Often Obed’s first touch is conservative, and takes him away from attacking areas. One explicit example was a 34th minute control that forced him to pass backwards instead of into the more enticing and aggressive forward space available.
Going forward: Obed and JP’s heatmaps tend to overlap considerably, yet they don’t pass to each other much. This isn’t a good thing.
Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 66’ for Baker-Whiting)
Léo had a muted evening, struggling at times to find the right attacking runs. He found only 25 touches, and his 63 percent passing showed a player attempting difficult passes but being unable to combine well with teammates. He was 0/4 on crossing attempts.
One thing I liked: Chú understands his strengths, and a beautiful 27th minute touch illustrated this. With a ball approaching quickly he first timed the ball to the open width for himself to run onto, jumpstarting a break out in one of the few times he found space.
One thing I didn’t like: After some absolutely beautiful passing and movement involving Chú, Morris, and Rusnák, it was Léo who found himself wide open six yards out with a cross entering. His header left a lot to be desired.
Going forward: While not a direct threat much of the night, balancing out the field was clearly in evidence early as Seattle was dominant.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 66’ for Lodeiro)
Albert Rusnák had the most Albert Rusnák of Albert Rusnák matches. With 28 seemingly innocuous touches it was hard to remember many highlight plays. He had three recoveries. He attempted four passes into the box, but most importantly, he led the team with four shots, all coming from the top of the box as he filled the center well, finding opportunity from a spot that Seattle has long struggled to use. His smooth movement and combinations facilitated others.
One thing I liked: A beautiful control and spray pass wide in the 8th minute was great, but his combination and perfect chip to Chú in the 17th deserved an assist.
One thing I didn’t like: An open shot in the 12th minute off a free kick was hit woefully weak and saveable, and a 49th minute volley ended up in ECS.
Going forward: Albert definitely plays a facilitative 10 when central, and Seattle creates many appealing chances when he's in that role.
Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.9 (MOTM)
It was sunny with a high chance of ROLDANERY and we were treated to it throughout. As usual, Cristian did a bit of everything, from two tackles won defensively to two shots offensively and everything in between as the Broldans played a full 192. Cristian consistently combined with his brother and JP to move a surprising amount of the attack on the right side, with Seattle dominating in spurts.
One thing I liked: In the 11th and 86th minutes, some top notch Roldan work created big chances for Seattle, but of course it's the 96th minute Roldan sandwich with Atencio filling that was the game highlight. With his usual nose for the ball, Cristian found opportunity and slammed home a deceptively complicated volley for the game winner.
One thing I didn’t like: Other than a 50th minute dummy for Morris where it looked like Cristian should have shot instead, the biggest thing lacking from this performance was impact between minutes 50 and 80.
Going forward: Knowing Cristian Roldan is an absolutely vital part of Seattle’s success is nice; seeing him in action to deliver a win at the death is glorious.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 7.4 (off 80’ for Héber)
Morris’ 25 touches and 69 percent passing were good, but it was what he did to the offense in the first 20 minutes that stood out. Stretching the field and balancing Chú’s pace with his own, it was Jordan’s unheralded runs that set up much of Seattle’s success. Jordan ended with two shots and a key pass as he tired before being subbed late.
One thing I liked: With Seattle dominating from the opening kick, they needed someone to step up and actually put the ball in the back of the net. That man was Jordan Perry Morris, who rose up to meet a cross created from the defensive pressure of João Paulo and the finish was excellent, putting the Sounders up in the first 10 minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris and Seattle had a lull in the second half, and the Sounders struggled to replicate the cohesion from the first half as players tired. With little movement late, Morris was rightfully subbed.
Going forward: It’s not hard to debate about forwards when one is in the hospital, one can’t score, and the other guy keeps bouncing them off his head into the net.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 66’ for Rusnák)
Revisiting his off-the-bench role, Nico was inserted to try to regain some of the central possession and momentum and was part of the late Sounders push for a win. He was very active, earning 25 touches and leading the team with three key passes in limited time.
One thing I liked: A beautiful 93rd minute free kick unfortunately didn’t hit the head of either Morris or Atencio, instead ending up out for a goal kick.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 78th minute there was a clear runner up the wing and Lodeiro just missed it, leaving his pass short and wasting a big chance with a lack of precision.
Going forward: Lodeiro has looked stronger as his minutes have been reduced, staying impactful while playing within himself.
Reed Baker-Whiting – 5 | Community – 6.3 (on 66’ for Chú)
Reed entered and was unable to have as much impact as his previous start, but he was still a strong two-way option who helped regain some momentum for Seattle. He had 18 touches and a 90 percent completion rate.
One thing I liked: With Nouhou releasing a 40 yard bomb over the top in the 84th minute, it was RBW who perfectly chested it down to his feet and found a cross.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 68th minute with options, Reed picked the cross over everyone, missing out on a potential big opportunity.
Going forward: Reed’s offense is great for a fullback, but just okay for a winger.
Josh Atencio – 6 | Community – 6.8 (on 80’ for JP)
Atencio arrived to bring some energy in the middle and did exactly that, charging around without a ton of direction. He had nine touches and only completed half his pass attempts, as Seattle scrambled forward. None of that matters because he was a hero.
One thing I liked: Smack dab in the middle of some late game Roldanery was Josh Atencio, who found the ball off a long Alex throw-in and flicked on to Cristian for the game-winning 96th minute tally. Josh tracked the ball beautifully, and out jumped a defender to nod the ball into the path of Roldan. He followed this up with a sprint to hug that man in the corner, outrun only by the superior pace of Nouhou.
One thing I didn’t like: A 91st minute turnover was part of a sloppy passing effort.
Going forward: Atencio had limited time to make an impact but he did so.
Héber – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 80’ for Morris)
Héber arrived and was again active and helpful, but again struggled to find the right touch at the right time to affect the score.
One thing I liked: Although he only had three touches, one resulted in a shot. Héber is still creating chances amidst this drought.
One thing I didn’t like: A 91st minute foul was silly. A 94th minute header for a goal kick wasted a beautiful service from Nico.
Going forward: The story of Héber is depressing, as he’s doing many things right and it’s just not working out.
Victor Rivas – 7 | Community – 5.9
This was an excellently refereed match with little drama. With 23 fouls called, there was an even split between both teams and only a single yellow was given. Fouls made sense and play was smooth. The communication with the players led to plenty of necessary calls but little overly physical play or retaliation, as this referee had firm control of the match.
One thing I liked: Advantage was given when applicable, and a lengthy stoppage for a possible head injury was appreciated.
One thing I didn’t like: Neither a 38th minute foul that looked orangish nor an 86th minute handball seemed to get a second look and maybe should have.
Going forward: Rivas has been good for Seattle this year, and it makes sense that he’s in the running for Referee of the Year.
LA Galaxy MOTM
Douglas Costa showed his immense skill in just two touches, securing the Galaxy’s lone goal of the match. On the run, he takes a midair touch with his (supposedly) weaker right, cushioning the ball into his only path between four Sounders. And with his second, he finds the back of the net via the outside of his left. 1-1.
It wasn’t all sunshine and perfect control for Costa, as it was his attempt at cleverness that kept the ball in play on the Sounders’ opener. So, maybe it was both of his goal contributions that led to his dominant MOTM numbers.
Next up: Final regular season home games should be blowout wins, imo.