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Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids: Player ratings

Sounders start as they mean to continue.

Seattle had a different look pre-season this year and they came out of the gate with a dominant win to start the 2023 MLS season. The 4-0 scoreline against the Colorado Rapids was deserved but also a perfect result for a coach: a convincing win that revealed plenty to improve upon. Led by a dominant Jordan Morris and showing off a suffocating midfield, the Sounders came out strong and showed a veteran team that capitalized on nearly all of their numerous big chances created. Seattle earned a shutout while showing off a plethora of attacking weapons.


Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.5

After only having five shutouts in the entire 2022 MLS season, Stefan Frei earned one in the 2023 opener. He had to work for it with big saves in the 66th and 68th minutes. His work ensured that Seattle fans would leave with a win and a clean sheet. The Sounders dominated on the scoreboard, but they needed Stef to ensure they didn’t concede.

One thing I liked: There were moments when Colorado created legitimate chances against the Sounders defense, and on each occasion, Frei came up huge, making the kind of 1-v-1 saves that seemed to elude him in an unfortunate 2022 season. The lack of shutouts last year was a big reason the team struggled, and even though the win wasn’t in doubt in this game’s second half, keeping the clean sheet was huge for Frei and Co.

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle’s defense had some big letdowns, allowing chances that better teams could find more success with. Frei can’t count on his woodwork to save him, and a number of self-inflicted Sounders defensive miscues need to be cleaned up.

Going forward: Frei showed he remains underrated nationally, but if he continues to make the necessary saves while sprinkling in the spectacular ones, it will go a long way toward getting him more recognition.


Nouhou – 8 | Community – 7.5

Michael Barrios will be seeing Nouhou in his nightmares after Sunday night. To say that Nouhou dominated him is an understatement. Colorado’s plan was to get Barrios isolated in space and look for over-the-top and through balls. Nouhou obliterated this plan so thoroughly that the Rapids player started wandering around the midfield desert looking for the ball, and after only 30 touches and an equal number of passes backward, Barrios was removed in the 71st minute. He had four unsuccessful dribble attempts and one completed pass forward all match. Nouhou wore Barrios around like grandma’s shawl.

One thing I liked: I could go on about the defense, but in addition to the expected, Nouhou did very well in deciding when to go forward. His forays into the attacking third were thoughtful and cohesive with the game flow, and when he got there, he put in solid crosses. This maturity within his game was terrific.

One thing I didn’t like: Some touches were a tad overzealous and there was at least one unnecessary charge forward when the game was out of reach (clean sheets matter), but now I’m just being nitpicky.

Going forward: The idea that Seattle needed to change their entire philosophy was a bit exaggerated as soccer is a very fluid game, but the tactical adjustment looks to better fit the skills of Nouhou and those around him. It remains to be seen what happens when a team doesn’t play a suicidal high line against Seattle and forces Nouhou into more possession with purpose. Until then, he looks fantastic.

Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 7.0

Apparently displacing Xavier Arreaga as starter, Ragen was solid, if unspectacular in the season opener. He did enough defensively to justify his insertion in the lineup, clearly showing MLS+ level positioning and decision making. He had 42 touches, several which were important defensive headers to clear the ball away from danger areas, and an offensive one that eventually pinged around and found Morris for the final goal of the match.

One thing I liked: Three tackles, two interceptions, and two clearances were highlights of a solid defensive job centrally, shunting all the Colorado attacks wide and pushing into middle areas to help the defensive midfield. Ragen did his job well, and with composure all match.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 66th minute Ragen stepped up as João Paulo allowed a runner through and the Seattle defense was caught completely asleep, necessitating a big save from Frei. On a few occasions, his speed and lateral quickness looked vulnerable.

Going forward: Seventy-seven percent passing from a center back not consistently pressured isn’t stellar, especially when the team has removed a lot of the onus on the center backs to be distributors. It’s unclear how much competition there actually is for the starting spot, but the type of passing Jackson brings will likely be more apparent against better competition.

Yeimar – 7 | Community – 7.1

Yeimar had another strong statistical match and showed off his excellent athleticism, matching up well defensively with the left side of Colorado’s offense. Defensively, he led the team with five clearances, added five recoveries, three interceptions, and two tackles. His passing on 53 touches was a strong 84 percent.

One thing I liked: It’s a small sample size, but Yeimar’s passing looked improved against Colorado. He tried (and completed) a number of more complex passes than I’ve ever seen him attempt, such as a second half ball up the wing to Alex that cut out multiple defenders and jump-started an attack. Also, having cohesive options in the midfield made for shorter, incisive central passes instead of longer, recycling balls around the back. Yeimar passed to JP and Albert Rusnák twice as many times as he passed to Ragen and found Alex four times more.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 69th minute Yeimar had a not-so-nice defensive play as Barrios got in behind him for the Colorado striker’s only shot of the game. After being sucked inside, Yeimar was unable to keep up with the wide run of Barrios, necessitating a big Frei save.

Going forward: Yeimar is a perennial DPOY candidate and, especially with the midfield pressure created in front of him, should be able to play more conservatively in the back, allowing him to concentrate more on his incredible shutdown defensive skills rather than being a pressing midfield force.

Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.9

Alex was the biggest beneficiary of Seattle’s position adjustments, in combination with Colorado’s game plan of running their offense repeatedly into the Nouhou wall on the opposite wing. Roldan led the match with 95 touches, 15 more than anyone else on the field (JP). He did well with that much of the ball, finding JP and Nicolás Lodeiro often. What he didn’t find was a lot of direct impact at goal, instead being a key part of buildup play. This resulted in a single shot (that did hit the bar!) and zero key passes.

One thing I liked: Roldan was very clean with the ball, completing over 80 percent of his passes while continually linking up with teammates into good areas. It’s notable was that he wasn’t credited with trying a single cross in the match, instead finding intricate combinations on the width and centrally.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 69th minute, Colorado’s biggest chance of the game happened after they exploited the space in behind Alex following a midfield turnover.

Going forward: Roldan is likely to get more touches this season, and while you might not think he’s the guy you want with the ball as much as others, he makes smart decisions and moves the ball quickly to those other guys, which could be exactly what Seattle needs.

Defensive Midfield

João Paulo – 8 | Community – 7.8 (off 80’ for Atencio)

It’s so great to have JP back on the field. He showed not only his MVP-caliber individual skills, but also how much he can improve Seattle through the middle. While filling up the stat sheet with notable actions, his presence allowed the Sounders to be more aggressive through the midfield than we have seen in years. Combining cleanly with Nico and Albert, this trio roamed around creating havoc, smoothly playing off each other, denying space defensively, and creating attack vectors on offense. This was as active a midfield as we may have ever had, and it was anchored by João Paulo.

One thing I liked: Eighty touches, 80 percent passing, a key pass, two tackles, two interceptions, two clearances, 15(!) recoveries, and a heat map that looked like a warm blanket covering the entire field. This was a dominant, vintage João Paulo performance that should put to bed any worries that he lost skills over the past season.

One thing I didn’t like: When Colorado had their best opportunities, they almost always came because JP wasn’t able to snuff out an attack originating through his defensive midfield area. While he did excellently for most of the match, a miscommunication on a vertical runner in the 66th minute was one example of how the team may lean too much on him to do everything, and the attempt moments later saw João at midfield after a turnover.

Going forward: It will be important to maximize JP’s impact while being cognizant of his continued rehab and the need to take a few minutes off his legs. The most exciting part about his strong return is there is still room for growth as cohesion continues to build between him and his midfield compatriots. Content to stay deeper this time, there will be opportunities for a different game state where JP pushes forward into gaps that will add even more numbers to the attack.

Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 7.0 (off 85’ for Leyva)

With all the talk centered around just about every other player on the team, Rusnák went completely under the radar with a sneaky strong performance. Leading Seattle with 87 percent passing on a fourth-most 63 touches, Albert did nearly everything needed to facilitate the success of all those teammates getting the headlines.

One thing I liked: There was a level of defensive aggression that was almost perfect from Rusnák, as he partnered with JP and Nico to become a counter-pressing force. Together, these three roamed the midfield, cutting off passing lanes and creating counter attacks from turnovers over and over again. The ability for Seattle to exert pressure through the midfield was lights out. The defensive intensity from Albert mirrored those around him and his fantastic touch supported the quick transition moments in which Seattle excelled.

One thing I didn’t like: Without a lot of direct statistics, Rusnák had a number of moments that would have earned them. A slightly missed tackle, a wide touch that wasn’t a lost possession, but a lost chance to hit the killer through ball that went wanting. Albert is missing the killer instinct in the final third that was expected.

Going forward: The most exciting revelation from this match for me was seeing the defensive counter-press and transition created from the midfield. This is the kind of midfield dominance that creates a four-goal win. The amount of ground covered, defensive pressure exerted, and offensive transition and creativity was phenomenal. Having someone like Rusnák who can seamlessly combine and provide controlled play is an excellent fit for this lineup.

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.7 (MOTM) (off 85’ for Teves)

Morris stormed into 2023 with a completely dominating performance, showing off speed, strength, leaping ability, power, and quicker reflexes and anticipation than opponents. He translated this into two goals, an offsides assist, another “assist” on the opener, and yet another perfect pass that deserved a third assist in the 58th minute to Héber. Jordan Morris was practically unplayable.

One thing I liked: The amount of diversity in his play was incredibly exciting, and this match showed that Morris can just be better than everyone else. Defensive intensity? Check. Link up play? Check. Play off the back shoulder over the top? Check. Take the man 1-v-1 down the left wing? Check. Switch sides to the right and drop a perfect cross far post? Check. Beat a man with pace and find the killer angle pass for a near post dive? Check. Opportunistic “run through walls” header? Check. “I’m bigger, stronger, faster, and can out jump you” finish on the goal line? Check. Blonde hair? Check. Dreamy smile? Check. Morris was DEALIN’.

One thing I didn’t like: Last year, Jordan was nearly this dominant at the start of the year and for whatever reason he faded as the team went down the standings. Getting the most out of Morris while not burning his legs will be important, because as he showed this week, he can be one of the best players in the league.

Going forward: Fortified with a new contract, his injury well behind him, Morris looks poised to charge back into the MVP conversation of a few years ago. It remains to be seen how he’ll look against teams that aren’t suicidally running a high line versus the Sounders, but the intensity and willingness to mix it up in the box bodes well for a player who can be a dominant force.

Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.2

Nico had one of his most impactful matches of the 2022 season in the finale, and he looked even better in the first of 2023. Active and available, his passes and connections with teammates were crisp, and he joined the attack in a way that added a dynamic component and directly influenced the massive number of shots from within the box. He ended with only 77 touches, showing that he can be impactful without dominating the ball. He could find areas both central and deeper on the right as well as high on the left width.

One thing I liked: Nico had four key passes and looks to be the most fit player on a team that may run more than any other in the league. Led by Lodeiro’s intensity, Seattle unveiled a defensive buzzsaw through central midfield. Nico seemed to be everywhere, on the right linking with tight triangles to the Roldans before pushing a through ball, then popping up on the left to cross in a far post ball that Morris scored right before half. This was a vintage effort from the captain.

One thing I didn’t like: The only thing missing from Lodeiro’s play was direct goal scoring. While he connected well with teammates and Seattle did manage a close four-goal win, there are opportunities for Nico to get into shooting spaces for himself, and he will need to be a goal threat as teams clamp down on the middle of the field and likely play more defensively than Colorado did.

Going forward: The level of fitness and comfort that Nico showed in this match bodes well for Sounders success. When he’s this active, the entire team plays exponentially better. Even more exciting is that he put in all this effort and achieved results organically, not needing the most touches, but making sure his impact was felt all over the field.

Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.9 (off 71’ for Chú)

My son Ellis got to walk out of the tunnel with Cristian, and as they started out, CR turned to Ellis and said, “you ready to rock?” Both were indeed ready to rock with the Sounders winger cooking from minute 1. Colorado had no answer to the intensity of the right wing as Seattle found Cristian early and often. He switched it up with Morris and the two combined to open the scoring in the 25th minute after a disallowed goal ten minutes prior. Four shots, a key pass, a dozen defensive actions, and a goal highlighted a match where Roldan dominated.

One thing I liked: Although it was disallowed, Roldan scored an earlier goal, and it was important because he established that he would always be an option up the wing. And so he was throughout, perfectly balancing the threat that Morris brought opposite him. Playing through the right often, Seattle found Cristian and his creative movement befuddled the Colorado defense time and again.

One thing I didn’t like: Some sloppy play from Cristian showed a little early season rust, and his goal was originally saved as he headed right at the keeper. These things can be cleaned up, but he will need to be somewhat sharper against other teams he’ll face.

Going forward: Should my kid walk out with the Sounders every game? Is that how you get 4-0 wins? Ellis volunteers as tribute.


Héber – 7 | Community – 7.2 (off 71’ for Montero)

Héber started his first Sounders match and fit in nearly perfectly. His combination of unexpected holdup play and incisive poaching movement was fantastic, combining with the midfield to consistently bring Seattle into the attacking third with numbers and intensity. Four shots and a goal on 27 impactful touches mostly with his back to goal are excellent numbers, and he probably should have had a second goal.

One thing I liked: Making similar poachers runs like we’ve come to expect from Raúl Ruidíaz, Héber was a constant presence in the box, slashing into the six-yard box and putting shots on frame while pressuring the defense into mistakes often.

One thing I didn’t like: Closely after scoring his first Sounders goal, Héber nearly scored a second, following a surging Morris run with a near-post dive. Héber was a half-step behind, forcing a lunging shot that was parried, instead of a second chance to samba after scoring on a wide-open far post.

Going forward: Héber showed more holdup play than expected in a pleasant surprise, but it was his similarity to Raúl and ability to be an efficient finisher that is exciting for Seattle. Instantly meshing with his teammates, Héber looks the part of a player who will score, and often, in whatever role he is afforded.


Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 71’ for Héber)

Fredy entered the match with a 3-0 lead and was tasked with seeing out the match. He did this well, earning 10 touches and playing mostly in a false-9 position supporting the midfield.

One thing I liked: His single shot was on goal and forced a save.

One thing I didn’t like: Only 67 percent passing, and some uncharacteristically bad touches showed a lot of rust for Montero.

Going forward: Fredy has been pushed down the depth chart with the arrival of Héber, but there will likely be plenty of these kinds of minutes for him to take advantage of. As a veteran late in his career, these cameos provide him with the opportunity to bring a spark late.

Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 6.6 (on 71’ for C. Roldan)

Giving Cristian a perhaps surprising early exit, Léo Chú burst into the 2023 season with an excitement that fueled 20 impactful minutes of play.

One thing I liked: Chú may be the fastest player on the Sounders, and he showed it off in the 86th minute. Flying past everyone on a 60-yard sprint forward, he broke down the Colorado defense and created a chance for Seattle. In the 81st minute he returned defensively to win possession, got the ball himself and earned a dangerous free kick in the offensive third after winning a 1-v-1 battle, and this sequence ended with Jordan scoring the fourth goal.

One thing I didn’t like: After some neat movement, Chú had an excellent cross in minute 86 that was too far in front of a charging Dylan Teves, which would have resulted in a deserved goal from excellent play by both.

Going forward: Léo is poised to have a breakout year, looking stronger and somehow faster, possibly adding the wide attacking option that Seattle has been looking for him to develop into. Already looking more cohesive than last year, Chú will want to build off this excellent start by leveraging his impressive physical skills.

Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 80’ for João Paulo)

Atencio joined the match with 10 minutes to play and fit in nicely, completing three of his four passes and seeing out the shutout.

One thing I liked: Watching Seattle sub out the entire defensive midfield and wings without worrying the other team will score 12 goals is an amazing feeling.

One thing I didn’t like: With only eight touches, Atencio didn’t have a huge impact.

Going forward: Atencio has earned the first backup defensive mid position and should continue to offer solid, dependable play that allows Brian Schmetzer an opportunity to give increased rest to the starting pair.

Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 85’ for Rusnák)

Leyva came in for the last few minutes to give Rusnák a deserved bit of rest, pairing with his buddy Atencio in the middle. Together, they saw out the shutout.

One thing I liked: Danny and Josh looked good together in their short time in the middle, with Leyva drifting slightly left, looking to link defense with attack, while Josh provided a solid base.

One thing I didn’t like: This wasn’t enough time to see what the midfield could do; it was more an exercise for Leyva to remember game speed.

Going forward: Leyva and Atencio have a chance to be the midfield of the future and will need to show cohesion and dynamic play in what are likely plenty of substitute appearances.

Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 85’ for Morris)

Dylan joined the match to see out the win and preserve the shutout, both of which he did. Although he got only three touches, his movement was meaningful, and he nearly scored due to his ability to read the play and dart in between multiple defenders.

One thing I liked: Replacing Morris after he had scored his second, Teves nearly got one of his own in the 86th as he looked to be pulled back lunging to poke in a great Chú cross.

One thing I didn’t like: I wish his only touch of the match had been getting a toe on that cross and scoring.

Going forward: Teves is still an unknown commodity and doesn’t have the breathtaking speed that Chú has to bring attention to his play. Dylan will need to keep getting in those impact areas such as he did in this match, as they are an indicator of his high soccer I.Q. which will increase his opportunities.


Alex Chilowicz – 7 | Community – 6.4

Chilowicz looked better on the re-watch than he did live, with the stress of being in the stadium clearly impacting my opinion. On the second viewing, he did a good job of adjudicating a clean match. Seattle only committed nine fouls, and only a single yellow card (to Colorado) was issued. There were still a few inconsistencies in fouls given, but the entire crew did a good job of quickly making determinations through VAR, and their communication kept the match flowing well.

One thing I liked: There weren’t any big moments to look back on, which is rare for a match. Chilowicz did well to let the match be about the players, and not the refereeing, and at times it was easy to forget he was even there.

One thing I didn’t like: It took a while for Seattle to feel out the ref, and some fouls went uncalled on an inconsistent basis. Colorado’s best chance came in the 68th when what seemed to be a clear foul up field on Nico Lodeiro was ignored, and the Rapids transitioned into a near goal. Had that been scored and allowed, this entire grade would have been much different.

Going forward: Chilowicz has been a very good referee in Sounders matches and continues to be one of the best names to find on the gameday preview.

Colorado Rapids MOTM

Darren Yapi provided Colorado with their best opportunities to turn this match into something other than a shutout. His off-ball movement and clever shot off the crossbar could have completely altered the game state in the second minute. His side was down three by the time his next big opportunity came along, but again it was clever movement to force a big save from Frei in the 66th minute.

Next up: Seattle remains at home Saturday for a match against the Lakes (Salt variety), who are coming off their comeback win over Vancouver. Four more Seattle goals, please.

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