A home playoff game against LAFC was a Sounders-dominant, frustrating match that saw the visitors end Seattle’s season with a 1-0 scoreline. The loss was annoying for Sounders fans, as a combination of dominant play without payoff and inconsistent refereeing resulted in a viewing experience only slightly more fun than my kidney stone. We had 70 percent of the possession, outshot the visitors 16-7 (7-2 on target) and played what could have been an excellent match. Instead, the Seattle Sounders gave up one big chance in transition, conceded, and then —like much of the season — were unable to translate domination and creation into goals. LAFC bookended a mundane performance with one single offensive effort and an impressive display where goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau made 145 saves to ensure a shutout. The loss marks a likely turning point for a roster that somehow both over- and under-performed this year. The Sounders will likely be missing some big names next season as the team heads into the offseason expecting a fair amount of roster churn.
I didn’t provide a “going forward” in these ratings, but I plan to do a comprehensive end-of-season breakdown on all players based on their 2023 ratings, sharing my perspective as I have in past years.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.4
Unable to add to his record shutout number, Frei had a mundane match that didn’t require him to do a lot. He only touched the ball 22 times, as a stout Sounders defense thwarted most of LAFC’s few offensive pushes before they could even develop. Stef was credited with a single save, coming in the 96th minute.
One thing I liked: Frei did everything expected of him, completing 88 percent of his few passes, including a nice 24th minute pass up the wing to Alex Roldan that pushed Seattle into a good position. A 10th minute punch was also smart to clear some danger.
One thing I didn’t like: The shot that Denis Bouanga scored on was basically unsaveable, but I’ve seen Frei redefine unsaveable before. It's a shame there wasn’t that bit of magic in this match, as it might have meant a Seattle win.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 91’ for Baker-Whiting)
Nouhou started off struggling with the intensity of the match, and there were moments where we saw flashbacks to his horror show in Dallas. He leveled out, however, and played himself into the flow of the match, ending with 53 touches and 88 percent completion. Nouhou locked down his side with three tackles against an LAFC team not particularly interested in attacking, and was 3/3 on long ball attempts. He took a while to settle down, but showed how to support offense with defense as Seattle pushed numbers forward.
One thing I liked: Bouanga tried to rush out on the left side of the Sounders defense in the 37th minute on a breakaway counter attack, but Nouhou had figured out the right amount of aggression and shut it down with a physical play.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou struggled early in the match, giving up an ill-advised set piece in the 9th minute, committing an ugly central turnover in the 15th, and then compounding another turnover in the 20th minute with a yellow card.
Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.8
Ragen had an excellent, controlled match in the back. The defense was composed for much of the evening, and Jackson translated his 83 touches into 90 percent completion, including eight progressive passes. Always cognizant of LAFC’s desire to counterattack, Jackson picked his spots to attack centrally well, stepping up when necessary defensively but maintaining cohesion across the back line. His seven aerials led the team.
One thing I liked: A nice dribble in the 14th minute opened up the middle for Seattle, and it was decision making on this play and much of the evening that helped keep the Sounders firmly in possession and control.
One thing I didn’t like: On the goal, Ragen’s miscalculation left him as the last man to mark the central space and not force the LAFC goalscorer to pass. In hindsight, with the recovery speed of Nouhou behind him, there may have been an opportunity to force Bouanga into an even more difficult finish or pass.
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 6.5
Yeimar was again outstanding defensively, and even got into a number of dangerous offensive spots as a target man. He had 88 percent passing on 79 touches, and had three tackles, three interceptions and five won headers. He aggressively stepped up and cut out many half chances by LAFC and used his speed to neutralize attempts to push in behind on the right.
One thing I liked: A fantastic anticipation tackle stopped a 26th minute counterattack attempt, as Yeimar understood where LAFC wanted to exploit the space and he attacked defensively to prevent a break out. He nearly scored on a 76th minute shot as the ball fell to him in the box.
One thing I didn’t like: Sloppy passes from Yeimar in the 24th, 47th, and 72nd minutes led to turnovers and created opportunities for LAFC. He was caught by a sneaky dummy run on the goal.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.9
This was a turbulent match for Alex, who was tasked with both being a creative force on the right and with tracking the league leader in goals. Perhaps due to this dual role, Roldan ultimately wasn’t effective at either. He was okay, but the big moments went against him and he was a little unlucky as well. Alex had the second-most touches (101) and 84 percent passing to create two key passes as he tried repeatedly to be a possession creator from the width.
One thing I liked: A 23rd minute pass to Jordan Morris nearly opened the scoring, and he unleashed a powerful left-footed shot in the 80th minute that forced Crépeau to make one of his 319 saves.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex ultimately failed at both roles, getting sucked up and unable to recover on the lone LAFC goal, and going a dismal 0/6 in crossing attempts.
João Paulo – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7 (MOTM)
João Paulo was the biggest impact player for Seattle, and he did some of everything yet again. Leading the match with a mind-boggling 134 touches, JP completed 85 percent. He added seven tackles and two interceptions on the defensive end to completely bottle up the LAFC midfield. Offensively, he had impact all over the field, leading the team with three shots, adding two key passes, and having a team-high 18 progressive passes. He was absolutely dominant and clearly the best player on the field.
One thing I liked: The impact João had from a “defensive” position was phenomenal, getting involved all over the field and doing so much for the team. His impact was felt defensively by limiting LAFC to almost nothing through the middle. He consistently released teammates, like Alex over the top in the 38th. He turned a 45th minute defensive tackle into offense on the dribble and distribution. He went direct for himself in the 81st.
One thing I didn’t like: For all of his effort and creation, JP was a dismal 0/6 crossing and part of a set piece delivery team that consistently failed.
Josh Atencio – 7 | Community – 6.6 (off 71’ for Ruidíaz)
Atencio showed an excellent understanding of the midfield relationship; time and again he combined with JP to cover defensive gaps before transitioning into offensively direct movement. He had 90 percent passing on 78 touches, including a key pass. Continuing the defensive momentum was Josh, who had five tackles, an interception, and a blocked shot.
One thing I liked: Atencio introduced his intention with a 3rd minute shot that surprised the defense and nearly scored. His reading of what the game needed was on point all match, including a 58th minute steal as he found the gaps to slip a through ball forward or dive aggressively forward himself.
One thing I didn’t like: Josh had a few miscontrols and turnovers in semi-dangerous areas. This is rare from a player who usually has smooth touches, and these mistakes ended strong attacking efforts.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 4.8 (off 57’ for Lodeiro)
Chú started on the left but was pulled early in the second half after struggling to make an impact. His overall numbers weren’t great, with 23 touches leading to a single shot and a single key pass, and a dismal 58 percent pass completion. With LAFC dropping off him and supporting defensively with numbers, there weren’t many options for Léo, and he looked incapable of finding good ones. This was a forgettable ending to a promising season for Chú.
One thing I liked: Some hustle in the 54th minute won a corner kick right before he left the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Going 1-v-2 is a hard task. Léo recognized that but didn’t find the options available to take advantage of the holes the defense was allowing. Instead, he seemed lost and frustrated. Even when making the right choice in the 47th minute, his pass was short and weak.
Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 6.5
Albert quietly did everything he has been doing most of the year — connecting with teammates, starting attacks, making the important defensive positioning cover, and just about everything except finding the key game-breaking pass. His numbers showed this: 66 touches, three shots, a key pass, 7/8 long balls and a team-leading four attacking dribbles. Rusnák did a lot of small things well and consistently put others into advantageous spots on both ends of the field.
One thing I liked: A little hustle play in the 14th minute epitomized his effort. It only won Seattle a throw-in, but this was your starting 10 racing behind Chú and Nouhou to defend all the way in the defensive third of the field in transition, earning possession back.
One thing I didn’t like: The little bit of precision Seattle needed from Albert was missing in the big moments, as his touch let him down a number of times just as it looked like Seattle might break through. His corner in the 18th and free kick in the 52nd were part of a year-long crisis of poor delivery on dead balls.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.2
Cristian had less impact in this match than we are used to, as he only found 57 touches, converting that into two key passes and zero shots. The little things were there as he was solid defensively in helping with Bouanga, and his combination with his brother was clean as Seattle pushed forward in possession. The second half saw Cristian burst into the attack with more frequency, as he was a big part of their attacking success after the break.
One thing I liked: Cristian was the one who found Morris in the 4th minute for the biggest chance of the match and again found him over the top in the 68th minute as he was constantly pushing to open up the field and find connections.
One thing I didn’t like: A 49th minute turnover was a big chance-killer and emblematic of a match wherein Cristian was good, but didn’t exhibit that star quality that he can bring.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.2
Morris was excellent against LAFC and nearly great. As the lone point in an attack that dealt with a bunker-and-counter defense, Jordan often found himself blanketed by defenders as he tried to carve out space. He had limited success, finding 27 touches and two shots. The threat of getting in behind, which he nearly realized on multiple occasions, repeatedly forced LAFC into even more of a shell, allowing Seattle to push increased numbers forward. Morris had three attacking take-ons and was aggressive going direct.
One thing I liked: The sheer RRBH audacity of Morris’ movement and aggression in the 4th minute changed the LAFC defensive posture for the entire match, as he took an innocuous pass before splitting multiple defenders, charging into the box, and nearly finishing a glorious individual effort with a deft flick from the outside of his foot back across the keeper’s body.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris missed this shot and every other one in part due to an incredible night from the opposing keeper. After this play, with the space limited, Jordan didn’t show the dynamic holdup from earlier matches and was unable to get on the end of any of the ridiculous 38 crosses attempted by the Sounders.
Nico Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 57’ for Chú)
In what was likely his last appearance for Seattle, Lodeiro played well. Added onto the wing, he was his usual ball-dominant self (41 touches), combining, poking, prodding and ultimately creating a majority of the best chances for the Sounders after his arrival. While his play seemed innocuous at times against a compact defense, the numbers showed a creativity that was lacking prior to his inclusion.
One thing I liked: In a sub appearance, Nico led the team with four key passes. He had twice as many shot-creating actions as anyone else on the team (9) and added a shot of his own. This offensive impact was exactly what was needed.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he created a lot of shots, he didn’t create many high percentage scoring chances, finding players in speculative positions rather than feeding layups to teammates. It's too bad he couldn’t provide something stunning in his last match.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 71’ for Atencio)
Veteran goalscorer Ruidíaz arrived in the 71st minute to add goal scoring, but it didn’t happen. He got 20 minutes which pretty much summed up the second half of his Sounders season. Even while appearing disconnected from the rest of the team, Raúl still looked dangerous on the ball and aggressive, but he didn’t fit in with teammates, make space for others, or take advantage of spaces created. He had 13 touches.
One thing I liked: Two shots in limited minutes showed a goal-hungry mentality.
One thing I didn’t like: It's telling that Raúl’s biggest impact came on the backside of plays, well outside the box, trying to retrieve short clearances before crossing back into the mix.
Reed Baker-Whiting – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 91’ for Nouhou)
Reed returned from injury in time to re-injure himself and be a non-factor. Ending a promising season limping off the field twice is rough.
One thing I liked: His six touches were all aggressive and he attempted two crosses.
One thing I didn’t like: The youngster deserves some good luck in the injury department, and this wasn’t it.
Ted Unkel – 2 | Community – 2.1
A frustrating match was made even more so by inexplicably terrible refereeing. Many times a referee seems one-sided due to game state and emotional investment, but this match was refereed so poorly and inconsistently that both teams were rightfully infuriated with the center. And even then, the match was one-sided as LAFC flops were rewarded, kick aways and deliberate time delays ignored, cards given to Seattle but not reciprocated, VAR not checked, a potential red card ignored, play stoppages during advantage, denying attacks — this was a disaster, and throwing a few late cards to LAFC did nothing to rectify that. One-sided refereeing? Look no further than Bouanga committing SIX fouls without a card.
One thing I liked: Only talking to Yeimar after a high elbow in the 13th minute seems like such a gift in hindsight, given the way the rest of the match was refereed. The 27th minute (Carlos Vela) and 44th minute (Bouanga) dives were ignored as the away team furiously attacked the ground at the slightest breeze.
One thing I didn’t like: All of it. Unkel began by erratically enforcing some rules like advantage, and the amount of allowed physicality varied so much from call to call that there was no cohesiveness. Giving three cards after the 80th minute to even cards out looked good in the statline, but it belied the injustice to Seattle attackers — namely allowing LAFC in defensive areas to foul with impunity with no threat of being sent off. Giorgio Chiellini, among others, should have been forced to adjust to carrying an early card, as he committed enough dangerous fouls to be sent off. The impact of allowing them to continue playing that way against Morris, et al., was massive. LAFC could use physicality to break up anything potential without fear of ejection, and they leveraged this leniency to their (unfair) advantage. Horrible.
As noted in the intro, Maxime Crépeau made approximately 145 saves to ensure a shutout. Sprinkled in amongst those 319 were the deceptive 3rd minute effort by Atencio from the top of the box, the denial of Morris’ clever flick (following his previous clever flick) less than two minutes later, and a parry of Alex Roldan’s left-footer that was dipping. Crépeau got help from teammates, as several Seattle efforts were blocked or scraped off the line before the netminder could latch onto them.
Next up: Season recaps.