Seattle left the cozy confines of Lumen Field, traveling across the country to play FC Cincinnati. This game was very different from their first two matches in which the Fighting Hébers casually dismissed two Western Conference teams. On the road for the first time, Seattle struggled with the physicality and compact defensive shape of Cincinnati, eventually being forced into a bad turnover in their own defensive end and conceding the game-winner in a disappointing 1-0 loss. The final score was perhaps deserved, as the home team took their chance well, but there were plenty of opportunities wasted by a Sounders team whose play style was reminiscent of last year’s MLS season struggles.
Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 5.6
Frei is still 40 percent toward his entire shutout total of last season, and will likely rue this result as one that should have been his third clean sheet in a row. Instead, Frei and Co. conceded on Cincinnati’s one decent chance after Seattle’s turnover and some sloppy play. Even with this series of mistakes, Stefan still had a good chance to prevent the goal on a shot that was within his save radius, but the Seattle keeper was unable to stop it.
One thing I liked: Frei wasn’t credited with a single save, meaning other than the goal, Cincinnati was not creating scoring chances. This is a sign of a solid, cohesive defensive unit led by Frei who did his part in organizing the players in front of him.
One thing I didn’t like: Although the team didn’t give up many big chances, Frei was part of a number of nervy moments almost exclusively created by their own mistakes. Stefan’s distribution was generally poor, failing to find safe passes and trying to play unnecessarily out of the back on a number of occasions. Frei had a terrible pass choice just moments before the Cincinnati goal, as the team collectively lost their poise. To then take a short goal kick which led to their goal was completely unnecessary.
Going forward: The dream of 34 shutouts has come to an end, and Frei can concentrate on making the necessary saves and commanding the proper defensive posture to give Seattle the best chance to win matches.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.0 (off 87’ for Rowe)
Nouhou was fine against Cincinnati, getting 63 touches and completing 85 percent. He had 15 defensive actions, highlighted by seven recoveries, as for the most part Seattle’s defense did well to match up against Cincy’s three-man attack.
One thing I liked: A brilliant over-the-top pass from Nouhou put Jordan Morris in as early as the second minute, which seemed like a harbinger of good spacing. He had another nice service in the 46th minute, putting in an excellent cross.
One thing I didn’t like: Nouhou was forced to save a ball off the line in the 35th minute after a hopeful backheel squirted through, and while Seattle was compact defensively, it never seemed comfortable in the back.
Going forward: The defense did enough to get a result on the road, but the self-inflicted nature of the goal conceded combined with an inability to easily create chances will put more pressure on a team that was just okay last weekend.
Jackson Ragen – 6 (MOTM) | Community – 6.4 (MOTM)
Ragen had his best performance of the season, stepping up consistently to shunt aside Cincinnati attacks. Integrating well with Yeimar centrally, Jackson showed good defensive range and wide distribution.
One thing I liked: Ragen was a monster in the air, winning seven headers and combining that beautifully with 90 percent passing in a match where he was a clean passer, and especially good on long balls (10/12).
One thing I didn’t like: An early 11th minute fumbled touch handed Cincinnati a corner kick, and when he was caught upfield in the 67th minute the home team immediately capitalized on the hole he left behind.
Going forward: Cincinnati had earned a single corner the entire season prior to this match, so it was disappointing to see Ragen and the defense concede four in the first half. This sort of game recognition should be an emphasis as Jackson and the team move forward in the season.
Yeimar - 6 | Community – 6.3
Two tackles, three clearances, six recoveries: Yeimar was very busy in the defense as Cincinnati has the talent to leave their forwards disconnected from the midfield and still create chances. This forced a lot more 1-v-1 defending from the fullbacks, who were busy throughout, and mostly successful. Although the Sounders were not under a lot of direct goal pressure, the front three attackers for Cincinnati were very active and counter pressed quickly, giving Yeimar and Co. less time for decision-making and passing.
One thing I liked: Yeimar was solid defensively, combining to win many a spirited aerial battle, ending with seven won headers. For all the action around the box, Seattle once again severely limited the opponent from service into the box and shots were shunted from dangerous areas.
One thing I didn’t like: A poor choice to go to ground and lose shape defensively cost Yeimar badly, as he was beaten at the top of the box on a chop and slid harmlessly by as Cincinnati scored.
Going forward: This match demonstrated that the few teams in the league with three very high-quality forwards and a willingness to play five in the back and foul everything in between is a recipe for a close match with Seattle. Our starting center back led the team with three shots and had a key pass, as Seattle seemed bereft of ideas even after going up a man, choosing instead to chunk long balls and hope Yeimar could head them to a teammate. Expecting Yeimar to be the offensive fulcrum is a tactic from which Seattle should quickly move on.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.9
Alex Roldan remained incredibly active in the Sounders attack, garnering a team-high 91 touches and co-leading the team with two key passes. With only 79 percent passing and a 50 percent completion rate on crosses, Alex missed some golden chances when things went awry.
One thing I liked: While doing most of the ball handling and some of the creation, Roldan also had a brilliant recovery run in the 67th minute, preventing more momentum from a Cincy team that had just scored.
One thing I didn’t like: We have come to expect the BRoldans to have a near-psychic connection on the field, but in this match they struggled to connect. On a number of occasions, such as the 52nd minute, they just were not on the same page and what should have been a completed pass from Alex to Cristian was instead a costly turnover.
Going forward: Alex can be a key piece of an offensive team, but when pressed deep can struggle to have an impact. Seattle’s adjustments need to take this into account, either by freeing him up forward or securing his side defensively, instead of being caught in the middle as he too often was against Cincinnati.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 73’ for Chú)
JP worked hard in the middle but Seattle struggled to combat the two headed monster of a packed, cohesive defense and willingness to foul any time the ball transitioned through the zones. João was active, but couldn’t find any space to work, and Seattle’s dynamic passing seen earlier in the year devolved to a more plodding pace through the middle.
One thing I liked: With three tackles, two interceptions, and two clearances, JP did his defensive work well, preventing Cincy from much more than a few speculative chances.
One thing I didn’t like: Cincinnati was able to disrupt nearly everything for Seattle by dropping defenders and gumming up the midfield, and this negated the midfield strength of the Sounders. Taking advantage of all the free kicks through better service, or playing quicker through the middle was needed but unrealized.
Going forward: JP, Nico, and Albert were unable to create pressure through the middle. That’s something worth figuring out quickly as it’s the best and most repeatable way to transition to quality chances on our offensive end.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.5
Rusnák had another solid match in the middle, shuttling from defense to offense and connecting well with teammates. His 95 percent passing was clean through the middle and he had a shot and a key pass on 78 touches.
One thing I liked: An excellent 41st minute defensive play showed some stout tackling directly in front of the goal, and it was this commitment to central defensive posture that limited much of Cincy’s success.
One thing I didn’t like: A 22nd minute turnover from Rusnák led directly to a shot; whenever the central trio aren’t in sync it feels inevitable that opponents victimize the space immediately.
Going forward: Albert remains a force multiplier who seems content to combine with others instead of forcing individual play. This works when there is some force to multiply and options to combine with.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.9
Jordan had a muted match against Cincinnati, failing to have nearly the impact he had in the first two matches. The opponent played five across the back and even dropped their forwards into the channel at times to limit space for Jordan, who was active, just less effective.
One thing I liked: Even when not dominating, Morris was still part of the biggest offensive chances for Seattle on the night. In the 16th minute he got forward, rounded the keeper, and just missed scoring on the open net while fending off a defender. Then, in the 90th minute, he drove to the right end line and dropped a perfect cross for Yeimar to dunk.
One thing I didn’t like: Morris did not have a consistent impact in this match, either not finding the ball enough or losing out on semi-chances via a poor touch. Thirty-three touches wasn’t enough.
Going forward: There should still be excitement about Jordan’s start this season, as the things he’s doing well are repeatable and he can create chances even against deep lying defenses.
Nico Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.6
Nico struggled against a very physical defense that was compact and happy to sit back and expect three forwards to win individual battles. Faced with imposing numbers, Nico and the midfield poked and prodded for holes, finding a few chances but were ultimately held in check, unlike the first two games this season. Even so, Nico still had 83 touches, 84 percent passing, a shot on target, and a key pass.
One thing I liked: A brilliant 77th minute through ball to Alex Roldan was almost the key to unlocking the Cincinnati defense and Lodeiro continually tried to find dynamic vertical passes.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 23rd minute, Seattle had a break out with numbers and Nico was unable to get the right cross in to open teammates on not just one, but two occasions, killing a promising chance against an unsettled defense. His mistake gifted Cincinnati with possession on their scoring sequence.
Going forward: Nico had success early in the season roaming and creating overloads both offensively and defensively, but needs to find a solution to teams willing to stack lines of defense and dare Seattle to attack.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 87’ for Atencio)
Cristian seemed very sloppy in this match, finding less success than in previous games. Still an active worker, Roldan turned 50 touches into one big chance created and paired that with a lot of great defense from the width inward.
One thing I liked: Roldan has an uncanny ability to find Morris, and they hooked up with the best chance of the night in the 15th minute. Dropping deep and central, Cristian found the ball and a diagonal run from Jordan. Cristian’s pass allowed Jordan a touch and a near finish on the open net in a moment that could have changed the entire match.
One thing I didn’t like: Cristian led the team with five tackles, part of a big defensive effort. While he did a good job defensively, asking your starting winger to be such a defensive force is indicative of a team that is playing on their heels — especially in light of no shots taken.
Going forward: Having Raúl Ruidíaz up front gives more space for the Roldan wing to operate, which looks very important to this offensive setup.
Fredy Montero – 4 | Community – 4.2 (off 58’ for Ruidíaz)
Fredy got his first start of the year in relief of Héber and did not make an argument for increased playing time. He ended up with 17 touches, two shots, and 65 percent completed passes. Much of his struggles originated in the midfield, as Seattle was ineffective combining with Fredy in any capacity.
One thing I liked: A nice holdup chest pass in the 43rd minute brought Seattle into the attack right before half. Right after, in minute 48, he had an excellent through ball opening up space.
One thing I didn’t like: I noted Fredy’s first touch in minute 21 and it was a desert of involvement throughout. Montero wasn’t impactful in the offense, failing to either stretch the field or consistently combine with others, instead frustratingly ambling around with a nice view of the match.
Going forward: One of the best things Héber did in his two matches was pressure the midfield opponents in conjunction with Nico. Seattle must get this pressure from the attack on the opponent defensive midfield — Junior Moreno was allowed to go 42/43 passing with an assist.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.5 (on 58’ for Montero)
Raúl came in somewhat before expected, and looked lively and energetic in his time. He had 20 touches, got off two shots, and was a pest all over the field.
One thing I liked: In the 83rd minute Ruidíaz pounced on a slip from Nick Hagglund in the back and created a giant chance, forcing the Cincinnati defender to pull him down. This play earned Seattle a man advantage for the rest of the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle’s offense late forced the ball to Nico and into the box on crosses, both of which Ruidíaz struggled with, and he couldn’t make an impact.
Going forward: Playing with Ruidíaz is an adjustment that Seattle needs to figure out quickly. When they create chances he should start producing.
Léo Chú – 4 | Community – 5.0 (on 73’ for João Paulo)
Chú had seven touches in his 25-minute appearance, an underwhelming showing.
One thing I liked: Immediately after entering, Chú charged down the field and earned a corner kick for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: Especially after Cincy went down a man, there wasn’t space or a game state that lent itself to Chú’s chosen play style of 1-v-1 attacking.
Going forward: Léo wasn’t in a great spot to shine on the road this weekend, but he needs to find ways to be more than just a one-dimensional player.
Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 87’ for Cristian Roldan)
Atencio got some minutes at the end that were extended due to the long added time. He had 14 impactful touches, completing 88 percent.
One thing I liked: Josh was active, winning three tackles and consistently being a positive defensive force in the midfield.
One thing I didn’t like: Atencio didn’t have much time to make an impact, and judging by his performance, it may have made sense to get him more time since his fresh legs made a difference.
Going forward: Josh has won the backup defensive midfielder position, but there still aren’t a lot of minutes to go around and he continues to be at most a bit-part actor.
Kelyn Rowe – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 87’ for Nouhou)
Rowe made his first appearance of the year, entering late as a more offense-minded left back.
One thing I liked: Rowe was very active, touching the ball 20 times within his limited minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle appeared to have a “get the ball to Rowe’’ offensive gameplan, which went about as you might expect. He had turnovers in the 88th and 89th minutes.
Going forward: Rowe showed some connection in the attack, but like most of the subs, he had very little time to make a difference and … didn’t.
Joseph Dickerson – 4 | Community – 4.1
Dickerson was a steep drop-off from the previous referees Seattle had this year, struggling to deal with the pace and physicality of the match. This match had a half dozen big, game-changing calls and he had an up and down track record with the calls given. There were two red card shouts, two penalty kick shouts, and at least one goal reviewed in a busy night for the referee staff.
One thing I liked: The referee can only look at calls that VAR asks him to and after taking a second look in the 83rd minute, Dickerson found the correct call to red card Hagglund from the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Cincinnati had a clear gameplan of physical midfield play to slow transition and Acosta, Hagglund, Mosquera, and Vasquez all had multiple (up to four) fouls specifically for this purpose without receiving cards. After Barreal had an orange card for a nasty studs-up foul from behind in the 24th minute, he had another similarly violent foul three minutes later that wasn’t even carded. Had that call or a potential hand ball call gone Seattle’s way, this would have been a very different match.
Going forward: Seattle should get used to this sort of performance, especially on the road, as referees aren’t going to penalize this physical play. This match did help inform “league average” refereeing.
FC Cincinnati MOTM
Two of Cincy’s three-headed monster, Brenner and Acosta, ran neck-and-neck for the coveted award. In the end, it goes to the goalscorer. Brenner nearly capitalized moments prior to the goal, then got it right the second time to take the three points.
Next up: Seattle returns to Lumen to play LAFC, who will hopefully be tired from midweek play.