The Vancouver Whitecaps came into Lumen Field on October 7, and Seattle remained unbeaten after a testy 0-0 affair. The visiting team didn’t seem too interested in attacking, and the Sounders were happy to translate their near-60 percent possession into a 17-4 shots advantage. Unfortunately, this dominance didn’t result in goals, as there were only a few quality attempts, despite the home squad being the better team. With Vancouver bunkering in, Seattle should have made them pay for their defensive posture, but the Sounders were unable to take advantage or translate their opportunities into more than one hard-fought point.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
Frei tied his team shutout record with another outing that depended on an outstanding defensive posture in front of him, which limited the opponent's opportunities to few and far between. Stefan did his part, keeping a clean sheet and covering the few half-chances that Vancouver created.
One thing I liked: Frei had a minuscule number of touches (only 14!) as a dominant defense in front of him was allowed to control possession and rarely needed to involve Stef in the play. He covered the one Ryan Gauld half-chance.
One thing I didn’t like: When he did touch the ball, Frei mostly booted it long, rarely being a factor in possession.
Going forward: Frei has one more chance to create a new team record in shutouts. Perhaps no goalie in the league is better than Stef at combining with a defense to create results.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.8
Nouhou did a ton in this match, leading the game with 99 touches. Not usually known as the guy you want on the ball a lot, he did well to maximize his impact without attempting too much. He had a strong 85 percent completion rate, a key pass, and two shots as part of a measured offensive impact. He added three clearances, two tackles, and two interceptions in his usual strong defensive work.
One thing I liked: It wasn’t obvious during the match that Nouhou had that much of the ball, as he made good choices and moved it quickly forward and to teammates. This decision making was excellent, often leveraging an interception (such as in the 16th minute) into a quick counter in an attempt to probe the defense before it had a chance to set.
One thing I didn’t like: A rare defensive miscue saw Nouhou juked badly in 1-v-1 defense in the 10th minute but the watchful Josh Atencio was there to clean up.
Going forward: Nouhou is still growing his game, and this was a great example of how he can be a strength even with plenty of touches by playing within himself and knowing when to feed teammates.
Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.8
Ragen didn’t have a lot to do in this match defensively, but he found 80 touches in possession. He had 94 percent passing, mostly controlled balls to the midfield, as Seattle continually held possession and probed through the middle. Vancouver was often left chasing as Jackson took the right angle to create safe passes to teammates and hold tactical shape through the entire defensive third.
One thing I liked: In the 35th minute, Ragen lulled the defense to sleep, then dropped a beautiful over-the-top switching ball to Léo Chú, which briefly opened the defense with space for Seattle. Vancouver immediately dropped their line even further after this.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 22nd minute, Vancouver ran right by Ragen, as his lack of straight line speed was victimized, allowing a cutback pass and open shot from the top of the box.
Going forward: This shutout was due to the defense being tremendous and suffocating each of the few chances Vancouver attempted.
Yeimar – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.8
Yeimar was a dominant defensive force who constantly rebuffed Vancouver. With 89 touches and 83 percent passing, he was a consistent part of the possession game. Combination defense down his side consistently released opportunities for Roldanery.
One thing I liked: Yeimar was a beast in the air, winning an incredible eight aerials. He added five clearances and four interceptions; this performance boosted his league lead to a mind-boggling 14 over the next closest defender.
One thing I didn’t like: Gauld had Vancouver’s best chance in the 62nd minute; he snuck in behind Yeimar, controlling a cross that went right over his head for a chance.
Going forward: Yeimar would be in a much better league if his passing improved.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.5
Like his defensive compatriots, Alex saw a lot of the ball (82 touches) and did well in distribution (83 percent passing), but he wasn’t able to break through on the offensive end. He continually pressed high and supported his brother but was unable to find room in a compact defense that sat back for the entire match.
One thing I liked: Roldan continually followed up his brother’s pressure, chasing with Yeimar as a combination as they throttled the right side time and again. Alex found the right pass on a number of occasions and was stymied by others’ inability to finish.
One thing I didn’t like: On the few times that Vancouver got forward, Seattle missed their assignments. A 54th minute bad pass lost possession. With no pressure from Alex on the passer in the 62nd minute, the Whitecaps were able to create a chance.
Going forward: Seattle needs Alex Roldan to be an extra offensive piece.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 7.0 (MOTM)
JP did everything in this match, with 91 touches and 87 percent passing. He held the center well, combining with Atencio to push attacks through the middle channels. He was able to push himself or release Josh as an extra attacker as Seattle attempted to break down Vancouver. He had 10 duels and a shot.
One thing I liked: In the 14th minute João got into a great spot, first-timed his volley chance, and nearly found the net in a shot that we’ve seen him score before.
One thing I didn’t like: JP attempted 10 passes into the Vancouver box and only completed one.
Going forward: This defensive midfield duo has shown an ability to control the match on both ends of the field.
Josh Atencio – 6 | Community – 6.7
Atencio got another start next to JP and again showed his value in the middle of the field. Whether it was defensive cover or offensive push to release teammates, Josh was a pure two-way force, continually connecting with teammates and pushing Seattle forward on the attack. He ended with 63 touches and a shot, while dominating the middle of the field with his size and range.
One thing I liked: Josh rightfully gets his due as an attacking force with his vertical runs and passing forward, but he can still defend. He dominated the middle of the field with an incredible seven tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance as Vancouver had nothing all night in the middle.
One thing I didn’t like: With Seattle having a lot of the ball, there were times when Atencio tried to spring others or connect but missed the last pass. An awful 42nd minute cross that was airmailed over everyone was part of a disappointing 67 percent passing clip.
Going forward: This defensive midfield pairing created a lot of attempts into the box but very few completions.
Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 72’ for Héber)
For much of the game, with Nico Lodeiro starting, the field tilted to the left, and that meant a heavy dose of Léo Chú. He responded by leading the team with three shots and added two key passes during a 28-touch match with plenty of vertical runs but limited space to get in behind. Chú was an active defensive worker but had a muted impact in a match that didn’t need him to track back a lot.
One thing I liked: On multiple occasions, Léo got in behind the Vancouver defense, found room to work, and picked his head up to find the right pass. This offensive maturity created chances for Jordan Morris and Lodeiro.
One thing I didn’t like: Chú needs to recognize when making a run for others is more valuable than making a run for himself, as Morris was stagnant and cut off too many times.
Going forward: It's important to remember he is still learning. Chú making good decisions more consistently will continue to pay off.
Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.2 (off 72’ for Rusnák)
Nico slotted back into the attacking center and as usual shaded left and looked to play Chú into the corner. He pulled all the strings, turning a mere 46 touches into two shots on goal, and three key passes for offensive creation. He was excellent in tight areas and repeatedly sprung Léo up the wing.
One thing I liked: In the 12th minute he nearly found Chú through. He consistently found the right pass to push Seattle through Vancouver’s very congested defensive posture.
One thing I didn’t like: Both of Nico’s shots were similar, cutback passes from the end line that found him near the top of the box. He took both attempts first-time, but both were weak and right at the keeper, not threatening the goal.
Going forward: It sure looked like a farewell from Nico as he left the field, and that's sad.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 7.0
Cristian did his usual bit of everything against the Whitecaps, but unlike the previous match, was unable to impact the score. His effort was there, but a muted 58 touches saw the ball focused on the opposite side of the field for much of the first two-thirds of the match. He started to cook late, ending with three shots and a key pass.
One thing I liked: Roldan is the glue that holds the team together, and the team makes late pushes on the back of his full-match effort. He makes great runs on the back side, and only late does Seattle seem to find the service into the box to use it.
One thing I didn’t like: Cristian’s four aerials won still makes me cringe a little, even if the last one was a near game-winner in extra time.
Going forward: Seattle will go as far as Cristian can take them, as long as they can find a scorer before it's too late.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.7 (off 87’ for Baker-Whiting)
Morris started up top but was unable to revisit his prior success with Chú out wide. Although he often made the right runs, the team wasn’t able to find him, and as Vancouver sat back for much of the match, Jordan found little room to work. He ended with a paltry 19 touches, but created a key pass and had 93 percent pass completion as he supported when able.
One thing I liked: Jordan posted up right in the middle of the box and found the ball in the 30th minute, and created enough havoc that a Chú shot through traffic seconds later nearly opened the scoring.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris wasn’t on the same page as Nico, who continually released Chú but didn't find any of Jordan’s deeper runs.
Going forward: Seattle has to use Morris vertically or he's wasted standing still.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 72’ for Lodeiro)
Rusnák came in to spell Lodeiro and showed some good connection play as Seattle pushed hard at the end of the match. Instantly creative in a new way, Albert turned 20 touches into three shots and two key passes while connecting on 93 percent of his attempts as Seattle switched gears with the incoming subs.
One thing I liked: Rusnák consistently slithered into dangerous spots and wasn’t afraid to strike the ball at a time when the team needed someone to just mix it up.
One thing I didn’t like: Only one of his shots was on target and didn’t trouble the keeper much, as Albert continues to be sporadic in goal creation.
Going forward: The ability to bring in a completely different look via Rusnák was refreshing.
Héber – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 72’ for Chú)
Stop me if you heard this one before: Héber did a lot of good stuff, got in good spots, but was unable to score in another solid but ultimately unfruitful sub appearance. Replacing Chú on the wing, Morris played wider and Héber connected through the central areas for Seattle.
One thing I liked: A 92nd minute turn and snap shot near post showed the goal scoring instincts that made Héber such an enticing off-season signing.
One thing I didn’t like: As has happened all year, Héber got in good spots and made good things happen, but the end result continues to elude him.
Going forward: Eventually the dam will break. Or it won’t.
Reed Baker-Whiting – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 87’ for Morris)
With Morris flagging, coach Schmetzer opted to bring youth and energy off the bench in the form of RBW, who was active as Seattle pushed waves of attacks forward.
One thing I liked: Reed provided instant offense, turning nine touches into two key passes via smart crosses. His ability to cross with either foot allowed him to drive to the end line, pull the ball back, cut inside and look far post.
One thing I didn’t like: Still not on the same page as his teammates at times, Reed makes good soccer plays but can be slow to recognize the dynamic movements of others on his team.
Going forward: Reed shows well every time he steps on the field now.
Nima Saghafi – 4 | Community – 4.6
Saghafi struggled for much of this match, inconsistently making calls, and annoying both teams who felt hard done by multiple decisions. An even 12-12 split on fouls was matched by an even 3-3 in yellow cards for what appeared to be a parity of lousiness for each team.
One thing I liked: In the 37th minute, advantage was played perfectly as Nouhou was fouled but allowed to move the ball forward. The play was whistled and brought back for the foul only after it was determined there was no advantage to be had playing on.
One thing I didn’t like: The inconsistency was dreadful. Cristian Roldan was hacked badly behind the play in the 34th minute without a whistle, then immediately got booked in the 35th on his first of only two fouls committed all night. JP was called for two phantom fouls, there was no stoppage time in the first half, and Chú was fouled but given a simulation yellow: this match was all over the place.
Going forward: Saghafi’s insistence on being inconsistent was consistently persistent.
Vancouver Whitecaps MOTM
Yohei Takaoka was stellar throughout, ensuring that his side left Seattle with a point in hand. Having more to do than his goalkeeping counterpart, his first bit of action came off a solid strike from Léo Chú in the 31st. Early in the second, he cleanly saved Lodeiro’s two first-timed efforts. As the Sounders continued to turn up the intensity, Takaoka remained on hand to parry away, turning Seattle’s 1.1 xG into zero actual G. Even a patented last-minute Roldan winner was dealt with.
Next up: Final regular season match at St. Louis with seeding on the line.