Seattle returned to Lumen Field to play against the Best Team in the World and battled to a 0-0 draw. The Sounders had the better chances for most of the match, but they were unable to break through the LAFC defense and needed some late clutch defense of their own to grab a point. The final score was maybe fair, but Seattle controlled most of the match, and they were no doubt more disappointed in the result, as inconsistent play and refereeing were frustrating.
Stefan Frei – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.6 (MOTM)
Frei is now nine percent toward the goal of 33 shutouts, getting his third in four matches. The Sounders defense has been lights out so far this season, limiting opponents to few chances. When, such as against LAFC, the opponent manages to get a big chance, Stefan has almost always been there to make the crucial save and keep the clean sheet. This defense looks good.
One thing I liked: Unlike last match, this time when Frei was presented with a late chance to ensure a shutout, he made the big save. With a transitioning defense and smart opponent movement, Kwadwo Opoku had a cross-goal shot that Stefan played perfectly. Covering the high side of the near post, he relied on excellent reflexes to kick save the farpost chance, ensuring the result.
One thing I didn’t like: Although LAFC didn’t create many quality chances, there were some nervy moments early where Frei wasn’t clean enough with control in traffic, decision making in his area, and distribution. These were all small things that could use more emphasis to ensure Seattle doesn’t give away easy chances.
Going forward: This defense should be getting more hype, as not only are they churning out shutouts but they are allowing teams almost no quality chances. The defense will again be tested against a Kansas City team that leads the league in shots and shots on target.
Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.2
Nouhou has shown a complete package so far this year, excelling in the Seattle system and playing at a consistently high level. Against LAFC he was his usual lockdown defensive presence, almost completely erasing Carlos Vela from the proceedings. Nouhou had two interceptions, three clearances, and eight recoveries while playing his role perfectly on the left, plus 85 percent passing on 67 touches with the right combination of positional rigidity and connection to teammates.
One thing I liked: The difference in Nouhou’s forward passing is exciting, as every match he’s putting together connecting passes instead of looking lost. Against LAFC he started off in the fifth minute putting Jordan Morris over the top with a perfectly weighted ball to stretch the opponent defense. Another perfect pass in the 51st again got Morris involved in a near goal for Seattle.
One thing I didn’t like: When Seattle pushed up late, Nouhou got caught out of position trying to support forward. This led to an 86th minute defensive foul by Xavier Arreaga after a Nouhou giveaway in one of the few times Nouhou’s aggression got the better of his execution.
Going forward: Nouhou seems to have an excellent understanding of the offensive needs from his position and is playing so wonderfully within himself that it’s almost a surprise when he doesn’t make the best play.
Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 55’ for Arreaga)
Ragen was again strong in this match, standing up to the physical play from LAFC and doing an excellent job of directing traffic around the back while being a big part of Seattle’s possession advantage. His 48 touches came with a fantastic 95 percent passing rate, including 5/7 on long balls. A big part of Seattle’s ability to control the midfield started with the defensive composure.
One thing I liked: One understated part of Jackson’s fast improvement has been his leadership on the field. Stepping up to prevent a counter after a turnover, he had a forceful discussion with Captain Lodeiro and consistently communicated expectations to teammates. Every indication is he takes charge in the back and the results are tremendous.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 22nd minute, Jesus Murillo pushed Ragen into Frei during a free kick sequence and that may have been where he got hurt. Eventually, in the 53rd minute, Ragen couldn’t continue and had to be replaced.
Going forward: Ragen is a big part of the stout Sounders defense and much can be attributed to his decision making on the field. The ability to dribble comfortably in order to complete a higher-reward pass not only helps the midfield but creates game control that shows up in the defensive stats. Hopefully it’s a short absence, as he looks to have earned the starting position.
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 6.8
Yeimar did a bit of everything defensively, highlighted by eight recoveries, and he completed 83 percent of his passes. With LAFC being very active on their left side, Alex Roldan and Yeimar had an increased workload and did well to almost completely contain the high-scoring backside of the LAFC offense.
One thing I liked: Time and again, the difference defensively was Yeimar’s recovery speed. Throughout the entire match LAFC was unable to create any separation on the left side, as every attempt found a bigger, stronger, faster centerback impeding their progress.
One thing I didn’t like: After a few strong defensive plays, Yeimar reverted to some of his passing woes from the past, which was a small disappointment. In the 25th and 77th, immediately after a great defensive stop, he gave possession back to LAFC.
Going forward: Yeimar recognizes the needs on the right side of the Sounders defense and so far is combining smoothly with Alex and Jackson. This allows Alex freedom next to him as well as increased personal presence in build up. His connection with Arreaga and Cristian wasn’t as fluid, and Seattle will want to clean up this positioning if Ragen is out for any length of time.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 79’ for Montero)
Alex had an interesting match. He had the most touches on the field with 86, made a clean 80 percent pass completion rate, and was involved in a lot of combination play with teammates. But he had a muted overall impact going forward and was replaced late for a more offensive option.
One thing I liked: Roldan continues to be very tidy in possession, and his decision-making and smooth transitions out of the press from LAFC were excellent. Alex seems to understand the tactical demands of the team and once again balanced his play to the necessary defensive side.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle has shown they need Alex to be an offensive catalyst, and this was another match where he failed to create any key passes. He seemed to be frustrated by this, resulting in a number of uncharacteristic fouls and a card for a late, physical play.
Going forward: Alex has been very solid as a catalyst for both strong offensive play as well as key defensive actions when need exists. Although his defensive play has been essential for the strong start to the season, the offense rarely flies without his impact.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 63’ for Vargas)
JP continues to be an impressive midfield force. Four tackles to lead the match, three interceptions, and 87 percent passing highlighted a busy afternoon as he combined centrally with Albert Rusnák and Nico Lodeiro to be an oppressive force.
One thing I liked: Ever consistent, it was João Paulo who continually broke up attempts from LAFC to push through the middle. Showing incredible range, JP popped up in each corner to defend, supporting the fullbacks while constantly finding purchase centrally to combine forward passes and move quickly as Seattle showcased the superior midfield.
One thing I didn’t like: With JP out of the match, the defense was still strong but predictably missing that extra oomph he gives. Seattle was perhaps lucky not to concede against the run of play, and it’s notable this happened directly in areas where João tends to reside.
Going forward: This midfield put a lot of pressure on a good team, and that is an exciting point that should not be overlooked. Maximizing the impact that João Paulo provides as well as managing his time is a recipe for continued success.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.1
Albert had a rollercoaster of a match, excelling in the minutia of controlling possession and adding his weight to the pendulum of momentum that swung slightly in Seattle’s favor for most of the afternoon. Rusnák covered an immense amount of the pitch, supporting centrally in defense, flaring wide to link up, and making smart third man runs directly on goal in transition.
One thing I liked: The combination play from the midfield was fantastic, and much of it was due to the massive areas of control they exerted. Albert was beautifully in the thick of things, defending well with position, controlling possession with his 75 clean touches, and adding two key passes in support of the attack. His first-time shot from 25 yards out hit the post and out in the 24th minute, nearly opening the scoring.
One thing I didn’t like: Rusnák did the little things almost flawlessly, but struggled at times in the big moments. A sloppy touch in the 50th minute killed a big counter attack, and the choice to take an 80th minute first-time shot instead of controlling killed an even better chance. His composure in these big moments is lacking.
Going forward: Rusnák was a key member of a Sounders team that dominated possession and created consistently better chances for a majority of the match. His ability to mold completely to what the team needs should not be overlooked, as his workrate and tactical flexibility unlocks opportunity for others.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.2
Jordan continues to be effective in spurts, however, against LAFC, he wasn’t able to directly influence the score as in his first two home matches. He ended with 40 touches, created a shot, and won three headers as he was an unfortunate victim of some of his teammates’ bad luck.
One thing I liked: Morris was consistently in the right places to create for others, but the fluid attack from the first few matches was lacking and some of the passing angles normally available were smaller. Jordan set up others well (most notably Rusnák in the 80th).
One thing I didn’t like: With only a single shot and a failure to connect forward to Raúl, Morris was a hard runner without a lot of stats to show for it. His 68 percent passing completion spoke to an inability to combine going forward and connect on difficult service.
Going forward: Jordan hasn’t gotten the chances he got in the first few matches. Seattle will need to re-evaluate the spaces he was finding and determine if it’s the defensive work from opponents, the connection Morris had with Heber, or the tactical setup that has seen these big opportunities dry up.
Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.6
Lodeiro was up to the task of LAFC’s midfield, and the tireless Seattle midfielder covered nearly the entirety of the pitch. Although he had “only” 71 touches, Nico showcased an excellent all-around match, defending well, completing 78 percent of his passes, including two key passes, set piece delivery, and total midfield control.
One thing I liked: In the 51st minute, Nouhou put Morris over the top into the box on a dead sprint and as usual Nico was hustling to offer a trailing option by running past three defenders in support. When Jordan found him, Lodeiro dropped a nearly perfect first time cross to the back post that Ruidíaz missed by a nose. This was a fantastic play all around, and Nico was fully involved.
One thing I didn’t like: Only two key passes might be more indicative of Lodeiro relinquishing set piece delivery duties than anything else, but Seattle is still running their offense through Nico, and he is good enough to expect more, including directly on goal (zero shots).
Going forward: Nico roams and creates overloads on the width and also ignites counter attacks through his quick movement forward. His passing seems much more well defined and aggressive this season.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.8
Cristian had another frustrating match, doing a ton of hard work in multiple positions and getting not much more than a body full of bruises in return. He had a shot on target, two key passes, and a ridiculous six won headers, as well as three won tackles defensively. His 60 percent passing indicates a high level of difficulty on many attempts as well as some sloppy choices.
One thing I liked: In the 67th minute Roldan nearly won the game on personal force of will alone. First, he fought off three defenders, pushed the ball down field under duress, won a lost possession back, and earned a corner kick for Seattle. Then, on the ensuing set piece, he won a near post header, flicking on to Arreaga for a golden chance.
One thing I didn’t like: Cristian got the crap kicked out of him for most of the match, with nary a yellow card shown to dissuade the “hack a Roldan” tactic. The number of times he was hit behind the ball or was fouled but kept his feet to try to continue play at no benefit to himself was too damn high.
Going forward: Roldan played a Levesque style formidfender late in the second half as Seattle leveraged his incredible fitness and range to add another attacker to the field. While not perfect, the tactical flexibility and earlier subs allowing a different look is a building block.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 63’ for Chú)
Raúl started and got 60 minutes of fitness. Able to quickly get up to the speed of this intense match, Ruidíaz showed zero signs of physical duress and led the team with four shots.
One thing I liked: Ruidíaz knows how to get into dangerous places and get shots on goal, and did exactly that. After seeing him hit that sort of shot in practice, I really wanted his 29th minute scissor kick to find better contact. Even failing to score, it showed an incredible amount of dynamic scoring potential.
One thing I didn’t like: Raúl seemed disconnected from the rest of the team. Nineteen touches were a low number that may highlight a point of emphasis for the future, and Ruidíaz looked to be forcing it when he did get the ball.
Going forward: Raúl needs to continue to work his way back, and nothing from this match against a good team demonstrated any hesitancy or fatigue issues. The potential to have multiple consistent scoring options on this team is too exciting to deny.
Xavier Arreaga – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 55’ for Ragen)
Likely not how he saw his Sounders season going, Arreaga was well prepared to enter on short notice. He performed okay in his part of a team-earned clean sheet. He had 19 touches and 73 percent passing, but seemed more inclined to pass horizontally after entering early in the second half.
One thing I liked: Clearly the most offensively dominant of the centerbacks, Arreaga somehow earned three shots, more than anyone but Ruidíaz. Although he missed a close header, it’s encouraging just how much chaos and chance creation Xavier exudes in set piece offense.
One thing I didn’t like: Rust or recent familiarity aside, there is no excuse for the mistake in the 89th minute as LAFC snuck a player in between Arreaga and Nouhou and should have scored. This should be a point of emphasis: falling asleep for that one crucial moment must be left in the 2022 season, thanks.
Going forward: Arreaga showed the highs and lows of his skillset in a single match, and it definitely contrasted with Ragen’s unspectacular but consistently solid play so far. If Jackson remains out for any length of time, Xavier will need to find a balance that fits in the team’s tactical setup.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 63’ for João Paulo)
Welcome back to the pitch, Obed! After being out much of last season with a broken back, Obed subbed into this match with 30 minutes to go and was a solid distributor.
One thing I liked: His 21 touches and 85 percent passing combined with solid defensive work showed a productive return to the field.
One thing I didn’t like: Right after entering the match, Obed was pushed off the ball rather easily, forcing Alex Roldan to foul (on a yellow, no less) in order to stop the ensuing break.
Going forward: Adding a fit and dynamic Obed Vargas to the center of the midfield has many potential benefits, including taking miles off the guy who he replaced. Having options centrally in a long and packed season should be a positive for the seven or so players immediately impacted.
Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 63’ for Ruidíaz)
Chú had 17 touches and made a lot of good things happen down the left, driving towards goal with pace and offering fresh legs on the wing.
One thing I liked: After winning an 80th minute header defensively, Chú then outraced everyone before getting in behind and serving an excellent cutback ball to Morris near the penalty spot.
One thing I didn’t like: A 71st minute mistouch ended a hopeful Sounders attack.
Going forward: Chú has had a lot of “near” impact plays, creating some space and finding teammates but hasn’t broken through into goal creation. He remains diligent on his defensive duties and is showing some flashes of offense to reward the increasing minutes he’s getting.
Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 79’ for A. Roldan)
Fredy got in late and had a shot and seven touches.
One thing I liked: It was Montero who linked up well in the 80th minute to put Chú in behind.
One thing I didn’t like: His first touch was a turnover. A weak chip towards the back post was his only shot.
Going forward: Montero hasn’t looked cohesive in his 2023 matches, seemingly out of place in an offense more energized than his current pace. He will need to match the intensity of his teammates and find a role where he can accentuate his still strong distribution ability.
Ismail Elfath – 4 | Community – 3.5
Elfath started this match like he wanted to prove that the referees doing the first few matches deserved higher ratings. This entire match was a mess. It started with LAFC lobbying for calls as early as minute three as Carlos Vela flopped in the box. It degraded from there with 28 fouls and eight cards handed out. As the game got more intense, Elfath was continually late to the decision and forced to referee via punishment not collaboration. Some of this intensity could be attributed to two very good teams who don’t like each other, but that doesn’t excuse the consistency issues.
One thing I liked: Ignoring the Vela dive and a Roldan fall in the box in the 33rd minute showed some surprising restraint from a referee who loves a red card. Like not carding Alex off the field in the 65th minute, there were opportunities to adjudicate with the whistle and not the book that were used infrequently. In theory, a lot of Elfath’s decisions would have made more sense in a less combative match.
One thing I didn’t like: Ismail Elfath wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the match, and he didn’t protect players appropriately. Standing back as Aaron Long took three kicks at Frei and then randomly giving Nouhou a yellow for the play and Rusnák on the ensuing free kick for an innocuous header showed he had lost the entire plot: the match was too escalated for him to regain control. Cristian Roldan was victimized because he refused to roll around on the ground to demand a card, and Kellyn Acosta was maybe even luckier than Alex Roldan to not be shown the exit. Perhaps most egregious was a stoppage of play, ball brought back, and foul called for a cynical Acosta foul behind the play on Morris, yet no card given cause ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Going forward: Elfath has rarely been a good referee for Seattle; he’s been one of the worst rated referees of all time in this column. This performance was not unexpected, yet somehow was still disappointing.
Well, hats off to Timothy Tillman for just edging past Aaron Long and (we can only assume) Ismail Elfath in the voting! I’ll be honest, I just rewatched the highlight package, and Tillman’s main contribution seems to be defending against either João Paulo or Lodeiro as they repeatedly create almost goals for Seattle. Does the fact that they were almosts instead of actual goals earn you a MOTM award? Yeah, I guess it does! TIMTILL!
Next up: Still waiting on that SKC red card for the body slam on Cristian Roldan.