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Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake: Player ratings

Alex Roldan and Co. fend off RSL in comprehensive shutout.

Seattle played their second straight match at Lumen Field, and again looked absolutely dominant, this time casually dispatching Real Salt Lake 2-0 in a match that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard suggested. Seattle seemed more likely to score three than RSL was to score their first, as a strong, compact defense earned its second shutout, and a dynamic offense created a multitude of chances. The Sounders are in great form, demonstrating exciting, creative, attacking soccer and pairing it with lock-down defense to lead the league.


Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.2

Frei is now 40 percent of the way toward last season’s entire shutout total, recording his second straight clean sheet. Stef had to make two saves, both from long shots that he had good vision on, and the defense did an excellent job of making the RSL attack predictable for the few moments that were created in Seattle’s defensive third.

One thing I liked: While not requiring any massive saves or big plays, Frei was nearly perfect with decision making in the few set pieces that troubled Seattle. A 17th minute punch and two others showed a clear goal of safety first facing an anemic attack. Right before half there was another chance to try to play short and Frei instead let loose a long clearance, correctly understanding the game state and minimizing chances for errors in the back.

One thing I didn’t like: There was a confusing moment in the 41st minute between Nouhou and Frei on a through ball in the box that Stefan eventually came out for. That was remembered later in a spirited discussion after a similar issue arose. In the 87th RSL managed a nervy moment off a free kick as Stef was caught in no man’s land, forcing a clearance from Jackson Ragen.

Going forward: Two games, two shutouts is good against anyone in the league, but a tougher test is upcoming on the road; this will be a chance to see whether the defense and Frei can remain dominant.


Nouhou – 7 | Community – 7.2

Nouhou looks to be bigger, stronger, and more composed so far this 2023 season, integrating well with teammates and consistently connecting the back to the midfield. Against RSL he had 86 touches and was exceptionally clean, completing 90 percent of his passes. This included a sparkling 8/9 in long balls while consistently finding the correct line-breaking or switching pass and completing it to a teammate.

One thing I liked: Nouhou did plenty of Nouhou stuff, including putting Andrew Brody in his pocket in the eighth minute, and his first touch when attacking central spaces before laying off passes to teammates has been excellent this year.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 41st minute he had a miscommunication with Frei about coming out to cover a through ball in the area and a similar issue in the 83rd minute. These are small things but are good building blocks to continue to improve.

Going forward: Nouhou appears to have a more defined role which limits his “off script” play, and while he is still afforded the opportunity to take space when it’s given, he is choosing his spots very well so far this year. This maturity in the back combined with his undeniable physical tools make him a game-changing talent who Seattle is fully leveraging.

Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 7.1

Ragen lined up between Nouhou and Yeimar and they held RSL to just two shots on goal, both from distance, in a suffocating defensive performance. As noted by Susie Rantz, Jackson’s 83 percent passing was highlighted by a number of quality dribbles into midfield before dropping in through balls or switching passes. This ability of Ragen to take space centrally and draw opponents to him creates gaps in defense and kickstarts attacks at a much higher rate than in previous years.

One thing I liked: Ragen fits what the defense needs to do, and he makes smart choices in the back. This game management has so far removed much of the variability that the backline was prone to last year. Jackson had six clearances and six aerials won, showing a clear dominance without requiring much nuance.

One thing I didn’t like: A 5th minute long ball was missed as it sailed in between Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan and to a defender instead, and I thought a 29th minute pass was a bit too risky for a team with this much offensive firepower. These errors aren’t big, but there are opportunities for Ragen to vastly improve his performance.

Going forward: Jackson earned another start in central defense, and based on previous coaching choices, it looks like he will be the starter indefinitely, barring some disaster. Ragen has not been pressed much this year and as a result, we haven’t seen many of the skills shown in previous years that make him an elite prospect in central defense.

Yeimar - 7 | Community – 7.3

Yeimar continued his strong year with another stellar defensive effort. He led Seattle with seven clearances, added six won headers, and contributed 82 percent passing in yet another match featuring clean distribution from the back.

One thing I liked: Again Yeimar showed off an impressive ability to dribble to space and connect passes from the back that had previously been a weakness. This appears scripted, and he is choosing his opportunities almost flawlessly.

One thing I didn’t like: In one of the few times RSL got possession in the box, Andrés Gómez danced fairly easily around Yeimar in the 71st minute, and he needed the ever present João Paulo to bail him out defensively at a time when the match was still in some doubt.

Going forward: Yeimar is displaying more depth to his already considerable repertoire of soccer abilities. Not only cleaning up his passing but excelling in finding line-breaking forward passes is great news for the team.

Alex Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.2

Once again Alex Roldan featured in the Seattle attack, as the team leveraged his high positioning and quality service to the tune of assists on both goals. Alex continues to remember his defensive role as well, leading Seattle with an impressive six tackles. These defensive actions came higher up the field than most right backs, indicative of the pressure the midfielders are able to exert.

One thing I liked: After some nifty exchanges that saw Roldan miss Morris on a through ball, RSL inexplicably backed off Alex in minute 34, affording him time and space. He used them both, dialing up a magnificent curling cross that found Jordan for the opener. In the 58th minute he popped up at the back post and smashed a volley shot that missed the goal, but found a hungry Héber on the doorstep to tap home the second Sounders goal.

One thing I didn’t like: Alex had a number of errant passes that stood out among a very clean performance for the team. A 31st minute cross may have opened the scoring a few minutes earlier, but Roldan missed the pass. A 78th minute centering pass was a mistake, turning over the ball on a dangerous square pass that was stolen and turned into an RSL attack.

Going forward: I wrote last week about how smart Roldan was on the ball, and his decision making was an important ingredient to the Sounders attack. His wide service and build up play is yet another devastating weapon for a potent Sounder offense that needs to continue to create in different ways.

Defensive Midfield

João Paulo – 8 | Community – 8.2

João showed that last week’s tremendous performance wasn’t a fluke or adrenalin, as he played even better and went the full 90 with no signs of slowing. The epitome of a force multiplier, JP brought the stout defense needed in front of the backline, with four tackles, five recoveries, 17 duels, and two interceptions. He added in a sparkling 94 percent passing completion rate while having the second-most touches on the team with 91. Finally, he added a shot and two key passes on offense.

One thing I liked: JP did a little bit of everything, with a smooth 15th minute recovery cutting out an RSL attacking attempt before finding Morris on a vertical run 20 minutes later. Perhaps most important was an alert defensive play in the 71st minute, rescuing Yeimar in the box and clearing away an attempt that had eluded his teammate.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 88th minute Raúl Ruidíaz hit the post on a shot and the ball bounced right out to the ever-present JP. With a chance to put the match completely to bed and celebrate, he put his shot into orbit somewhere over I-5.

Going forward: It’s a little surprising that by the second match, JP is already playing 90 minutes. He looks great, but I hope Seattle can manage his time and physical wear and tear, especially if the team keeps creating big leads late.

Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 7.5

Rusnák hasn’t gotten the hype, but has been nearly flawless through two matches in 2023. His stat line against RSL was impressive: a team-high 94 touches, 92 percent pass completion rate, three shots, two key passes, 10 recoveries. Albert did some of everything well.

One thing I liked: Again Seattle featured the “pack of rabid wolves mentality” in the midfield, suffocating RSL with pressure and counter pressure, and Albert was in the middle of it all, turning half mistakes by the opponent into full turnovers created via incredible control and turns out of pressure before releasing teammates. His ability to connect 97 percent of his attempted short and medium passes was phenomenal and complemented his burst dribbling and vertical split ball attempts.

One thing I didn’t like: With three shots, Albert was finding the ball in attacking areas but was unable to get any on frame. A high number of his attempts are being blocked, and as soon as he figures out a double move or a quicker release he should be better able to capitalize on his ability to find chances.

Going forward: This midfield group is a ball-dominant, possession-hoarding, creation machine. Rusnák fits in due to his control, agility and ability to play smartly off teammates. He is a total team player and seems to be satisfied flying under the radar.

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 8.3 (MOTM) (off 80’ for Chú)

Morris was again an offensive workhorse, filling up the stat sheet with attacking, goal-direct play. He added to his league-leading goal tally with his third of the season in minute 35, a dominant header through multiple defenders off a tremendous A-Rold offering. He ended with three shots, two key passes, and 88 percent passing on 63 touches.

One thing I liked: Clearly playing with confidence, Morris consistently drove at the defense, created space, linked up with others, and when given the chance, scored. His goal was exciting in that while the service was excellent, it was still a near-blind header between two well-positioned defenders. Jordan simply out played the defense, with superior tracking, timing, and leaping ability to win the header and finish cleanly while being screened. He made a tough goal look much easier than it was.

One thing I didn’t like: I love the Sounders’ intricate movement and passing, and the midfield linking up and one-touch passing is beautiful. In the 74th minute, though, a strong chance was ruined as Jordan tried yet another backheel that was left short, and yes I do hate fun.

Going forward: There isn’t a more dominant player in the league right now than George Morris, unless you want to consider about five of his teammates. Playing with this much energy and impact has always been a hope, but it’s starting to be an expectation.

Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.4 (off 80’ for Atencio)

Nico was fantastic again in midfield, as he looks rejuvenated in a roaming-creator role that suits him perfectly. Again, he led the team with four key passes and again, he didn’t need the most touches on the team to have immense impact. Lodeiro is playing with incredible energy and his ability to correctly pick out transition connections is driving much of Seattle’s success.

One thing I liked: After Yeimar’s 24th minute wonky switching ball towards Nico across the midfield went somewhat awry, Lodeiro casually first time one-touch volleyed a perfect through ball to a streaking Morris, then followed up the play to turn a recycled ball into another first-time cross to Roldan who nearly set up Jordan for a shot. This kind of touch gets forgotten without the end result, but Lodeiro is one that few in this league that will even attempt a pass of this difficulty, let alone complete it.

One thing I didn’t like: In the 79th minute Nico first-timed a through ball into Héber, putting the Brazilian through on goal in a 1-v-1 that was unfortunately not realized. This was the best of many great chances that Nico has created this season without earning an assist, and it’s a shame.

Going forward: When Nico plays at this high level for the second match in a row and also gets subbed off for a deserved curtain call and fewer minutes on his legs, well, it’s a great time to be a Sounders fan.

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 7.3

Cristian showed yet another consistent match on the wing, giving Seattle verticality combined with link-up play and the creative movement we have come to expect from the elder Roldan. He saw a lot of the ball (82 touches) as Seattle again used their superior touch and movement to isolate the right side of the offense and create opportunities around the Broldans.

One thing I liked: In the 56th minute an innocuous ball into Cristian with two men on his back ended up with a nifty turn and first touch past both, then a desperation RSL defensive lunge to prevent a cross. Seattle earned a corner on the play, but this was some incredible body control and just another example of a weapon that the Sounders haven’t capitalized on yet.

One thing I didn’t like: One shot and one key pass were fine contributions but there were a number of opportunities (most notably a 70th minute through ball missed) where Cristian could have had more impact.

Going forward: Expecting everyone to be both amazing and fill the scoresheet is perhaps too much for every match, but knowing there are so many players on this team who have the potential to do so is exciting.


Héber – 7 | Community – 7.6 (off 81’ for Ruidíaz)

Héber fits in quite nicely as a Sounder. Scoring his second goal in two matches, he could easily have double that many, continually getting into good spots and showing the exact nose for goal that this team full of creators needs. He had 31 impactful touches that combined well with the midfield, finding connections and doing holdup actions that released teammates into the attacking third.

One thing I liked: Six shots! Five(!) on target! This is a player who knows how to find the ball in dangerous areas and also knows how to force the opposing keeper to work. He added two key passes as a distributor in a comprehensive offensive showing.

One thing I didn’t like: Nico put Héber in free behind the defense in the 79th minute and he failed to score the 1-v-1 chance. It didn’t change the scoreline, but Nico is going to create those chances and Seattle needs people to finish them.

Going forward: Héber has shown himself to be exactly what was advertised: a player with a nose for the ball in the box and a relentless push into attacking areas. Although he subbed out in this one for a returning Ruidíaz, nothing about his playing seems likely to disappear in a different role.


Léo Chú – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 80’ for Morris)

Léo got another sub appearance in the second match of the year and had less impact than the first. He ended with four touches.

One thing I liked: In the 85th minute Chú had some excellent defensive play, coming back to challenge and win the ball, once again showing the dedication to both sides of the field that had been lacking previously, and he ended with two tackles in his short time on the field.

One thing I didn’t like: In minute 86 Léo tried to play defense again, this time somewhat comically showing he has a long way to go as he stumbled into the opponent and earned a surprising yellow card for his efforts.

Going forward: Léo is getting some promising minutes as one of the first subs into the match and needs to continue to build off his strong start on both sides of the ball.

Joshua Atencio – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 80’ for Lodeiro)

Atencio joined the match with 10 minutes to play and found seven touches and some strong defensive positioning to help see out the shutout.

One thing I liked: Showing off surprising pace, it was Atencio who led a breakout counterattack of half of Seattle’s team in the 88th minute, getting into the attacking third with numbers.

One thing I didn’t like: Unsure of what to do, Josh did the right thing to find a teammate (and eventually Ruidíaz) on that 88th minute breakaway. While there’s no shame in getting the ball to the bigger named attackers, this was an opportunity for Josh to show something more dynamic that went lacking.

Going forward: Atencio looks to have solidified his role as the first midfielder off the bench and needs to continue to build on this role by ensuring the scoreline stays positive while he is in there to close out matches.

Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 6.3 (on 81’ for Héber)

Welcome back, Raúl. Returning from an early season injury, Ruidíaz saw his first 10 minutes of the season and looked lively and active.

One thing I liked: Although he only had six touches, he managed two shots, one of which hit the post in the 88th minute.

One thing I didn’t like: Perhaps a bit too eager, Raúl launched a thirsty 90th minute shot from 30 or so yards out, not testing the keeper with a deflected shot that trickled into the box.

Going forward: Although Héber has scored a goal a game so far in his stead, he is likely just keeping the spot warm for when a healthy Ruidíaz can fully return. Until then, hopefully the total team play is some motivation for Raúl to maximize his rehab minutes.


Victor Rivas – 8 | Community – 6.4

Rivas and crew did a solid job refereeing this match, calling 21 total fouls and showing three yellows. The match flowed well, and with Seattle again controlling much of possession and moving the ball around with fluidity, there weren’t many opportunities for the match to become about the refs.

One thing I liked: The 62nd minute yellow on Braian Ojeda for a grab made sense, and this was a remarkably clean and fast-paced match.

One thing I didn’t like: Cristian got his neck yanked on a foul in the 23rd that may have been card adjacent. Chú getting an 86th minute yellow for being clumsy on his first foul seemed unnecessary and lacking in dangerous enough play to justify a card.

Going forward: Through two matches Seattle has played splendidly and referees have been favorable to free-flowing soccer. It remains to be seen what’ll happen if teams resort to overly physical play to disrupt the Sounders’ creative movement, but so far the referees have not been the story.

Real Salt Lake MOTM

Zac MacMath just beat out Justen Glad for this coveted MOTM award. I guess this means the RSL defense should be given some credit for limiting a potent Sounders attack to only two goals. They combined well defensively in the ninth minute, with MacMath making a great reaction save on Héber’s close range effort, before Glad cleared the resultant trickling ball off the line. Additionaly, the RSL keeper dealt with the Brazilian on a couple other 1-v-1 opportunities. In the end, MacMath finished with five saves, allowing RSL to hang around longer than they might have otherwise.

Next up: Seattle heads on the road for a big test against FC Cincinnati, a team that many picked to do well in the Eastern Conference.

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