Seattle returned to the friendly confines of Lumen Field and did what they’ve done all year there: got a shutout. Against a Minnesota United team that lacked much forward ambition, the shutout part was maybe the easiest component of their 1-0 win, as the Loons came to Seattle with a plan to pack it in and venture forward only sporadically. The Sounders made sure to stay compact in the back and limit counter attacks, while piling on pressure and eventually breaking through via a late Albert Rusnák goal. This match highlighted the tactical flexibility of a 2023 team that is vastly different from last year, by moving past a bad result and immediately grinding out a positive one.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.8
Yet another home shutout for Frei, who has now equalled his tally for clean sheets from all of last year. Quickly moving past his worst outing of the year, Frei and a compact defense did their job, admittedly without a lot of work necessary (four saves total).
One thing I liked: His 26th and 55th minute saves were both clean, without fumbling the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: There wasn’t much to dissect in this match, as Minnesota rarely pushed numbers forward in the first half and were completely impotent in the second. Frei had an opportunity to move the ball more quickly than he did early in the match when the Loons were still trying to score, and he had at least one errant clearance.
Going forward: While it doesn’t erase the last outing, continuing to win every home game via shutout reminds us that the points count the same.
Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.0
Rowe was a late substitute for Nouhou who was out with migraines, and was fine deputizing the left back role. A consummate professional, Kelyn did his job defensively and supported getting the ball to more effective players forward. He had 72 touches and completed 75 percent of his passes.
One thing I liked: A very nice far post ball in the 3rd minute showed that Kelyn still sees offensive development well, understanding and putting an early diagonal cross we rarely see from the left.
One thing I didn’t like: All of Minnesota’s chances came in behind the gap that Rowe left when he got out of position forward, the worst of which came when he whiffed defensively in the 55th minute and the Loons got in behind.
Going forward: Rowe is the de-facto replacement when Nouhou is out and while it may seem like he struggles, Seattle doesn’t regularly concede through him.
Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.9
Ragen redeemed himself somewhat after a rough road match by being an integral part in yet another home shutout against Minnesota. Four interceptions and six clearances highlighted a composed match that saw the Sounders defense often cut off any opportunity for Minnesota before it even began, and Ragen was clean with his passing (87 percent).
One thing I liked: I liked seeing Ragen go across and cover for Yeimar in the 36th minute. They established an excellent cohesion which was missing in big moments in the last match.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 26th minute Ragen was badly beaten by a quicker opponent, and for the second week in a row was exposed for lack of pace/poor angle.
Going forward: Ragen returned to playing like one of the better center backs in the league. Playing five in the back happened late, but it may be something the staff wants to look at doing more of, especially after last week.
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 6.9
After whatever happened last week, this weekend’s Yeimar was a completely different player, back to dominating. He was once again one of the best defenders in the league, constantly cutting off angles and using his size and speed to deny any possession by Minnesota. He had a tackle, two interceptions, and four clearances.
One thing I liked: Yeimar got the ball a LOT (103 touches) and was smart in passing (87 percent, 1 key pass), but it was his recovery defense in the 70th that stood out. Late second half pressure and dominant physical defense? We like.
One thing I didn’t like: His 81st minute yellow card was unnecessary, booked for a foul that gave Minnesota an undeserved chance.
Going forward: For last week’s performance to be an aberration, Yeimar must continue to churn out these workmanlike, solid defensive outings.
Alex Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.9
Alex was active against Minnesota, recognizing the opponent’s lack of pressure and capitalizing by playing very high. With Rusnák in front of him creating ample space in ways that Morris didn’t previously, Roldan charged into the attacking third much of the first half to create Seattle’s best opportunities. He ended the match with a shot and team-leading four key passes while completing 88 percent of his passes on a busy 116 touches.
One thing I liked: Released by the space in front of him, the first half was the Alex Roldan Show, as he had quality crosses in the 20th and 27th minutes that nearly created goals. He continued a number of nice passes in the second half, attempting to break down a Minnesota team which refused to attack after halftime.
One thing I didn’t like: A pretty Sounders sequence died in the 71st minute after a Roldan turnover, as the team started to ping the ball around only to have him lose it.
Going forward: One solution to Seattle’s struggles last week is to play a team that refuses to attack at all. Alex should find more balance when paired with possession midfielders ahead of him.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 6.3 (off 66’ for Morris)
Obed had another start centrally next to JP before switching wide, and he was a capable fill-in. His underlying numbers were solid: 87 percent passing, three tackles, six recoveries — but he only had 48 touches before subbing out midway through the second half.
One thing I liked: When JP ran forward attacking in the 25th minute, Obed slid behind to cover, something that was completely absent last week. His defensive awareness was much improved as a result, with a 41st minute recovery essential to support a midfield run.
One thing I didn’t like: In the first half, Vargas seemed to be playing too deep, especially against a team that almost completely ceded possession. This slowed Seattle’s play and kept Obed disconnected and inactive on the ball. Making the change centrally for Rusnák drastically improved the tactical shape. In the second half, Obed was somewhat lost on the wing.
Going forward: Although this may be a natural reaction to last week, his spacing and ball watching on defense needs to improve.
João Paulo – 8 | Community – 7.3
João Paulo played splendidly, doing some of everything in a match that saw Seattle often control the middle of the pitch before pushing wide and looking for connections into the box. JP was the engine, getting an enormous 130 touches, adding three shots, two key passes, and completing 85 percent.
One thing I liked: Although he was everywhere, offensively connecting with nearly everyone, it was a beautiful 88th minute recovery in his own goal box that screamed JOÃO PAULO. The do-all midfielder popped up defensively to support his team late in the match and ensure the win.
One thing I didn’t like: João and Obed didn’t seem to gel well for the second straight match, as they didn’t connect through the middle vertically at all.
Going forward: JP is a monster in the midfield and the more quality parts we put around him the greater his impact on both ends of the field.
Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 6.8 (off 79’ for Teves)
Chú was again a menace up the left wing, attacking forward and pushing the ball into dangerous areas via the dribble. He made the most of his 42 touches, creating three shots and only settling for crosses three times, instead attacking the area and connecting with Héber and Nico Lodeiro.
One thing I liked: The first half was dominated by Roldan and Chú, with Chú winning corners and dropping in a beautiful 18th minute cross mixed in with attacking dribbles. A 73rd minute shot forced a big save right before he was subbed out.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 50th minute Chú forced a dribble into pressure, as he was pressing to create early in the second half. Three minutes later he missed a cross that had runners wide open.
Going forward: Léo has quickly shown MLS-level quality and has a unique skillset. His diligence in learning the league and tactics has allowed him an important role in every match.
Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 6.9 (off 91’ for Arreaga)
Lodeiro adjusted his role as the players around him changed, morphing into a free-flowing attacker who was goal dangerous as Héber consistently dropped in and held the ball up for him. NIco ended with three shots and two key passes, creating for himself with more determination against a team that sat back and waited for entry passes.
One thing I liked: With “only” 77 touches, Nico was efficient, whether hitting a great 27th minute shot on goal or creating a big chance in the 53rd with a stellar play and cross. His ability to connect with Héber was consistent and created gaps for Seattle to exploit.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 45th minute Lodeiro had a great press on the defense which resulted in a turnover, but he chose a speculative 40 yard chip instead of other options.
Going forward: This year, Nico has shown his ability to understand what each gamestate needs of him and has excelled in gelling almost perfectly with teammates.
Albert Rusnák – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.7 (MOTM)
Rusnák got a start on the right wing and showed well in the first half, combining centrally and overloading the middle in order to keep Seattle possession and open wide areas for the overlapping Roldan. In the second half he dropped centrally and immediately improved the Sounders’ middle shape, kick-starting a dominant half as the home team sent waves of pressure at a compact Minnesota back line. Albert had three shots, a key pass, 89 percent passing on 88 touches, and the game-winning goal.
One thing I liked: The tactical change to get Snack central paid off huge, as Seattle completely dominated the second half through the middle. It was Albatross himself who popped up at the top of the box and hit a brilliant first-time far post shot to win the match in the 79th minute.
One thing I didn’t like: Although he was fine on the right, it was the move to center that unlocked not only himself, but other Seattle opportunities. A 47th minute forced pass toward Obed on the width was a mistake.
Going forward: The goal was perhaps necessary to remind people how Rusnák can contribute offensively, but the rest of the match was a great example of what Albert brings and how his control and precision improves nearly every Sounders teammate.
Héber – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 66’ for Montero)
Héber returned to the starting lineup and played mostly with his back to the goal, tucking underneath as a false nine and supporting the match through hold-up play. He had 21 touches, one shot, and 82 percent passing amid a very congested attacking third.
One thing I liked: Héber did everything without forcing anything. When the play called for holdup, he did that. When a 20th minute near-post attack was on, he made the run. In the 58th minute he found room to shoot. He fit into the team without detracting from others.
One thing I didn’t like: Early on, a few of his holdup attempts went awry, and while he was good at bringing others into the match, he was almost completely denied any opportunity to score or assist, limiting Seattle’s numbers in the box.
Going forward: Héber is excellent at playing within himself and the team structure, but needs others to create for him to finish.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 6.5 (on 66’ for Vargas)
Bringing on Morris jump-started the match, giving Seattle a different look as he arrived in conjunction with Montero. With Chú and Morris wide, the Sounders had speed to burn on each side of the field, opening up the middle.
One thing I liked: In the 73rd minute Morris had an excellent back-post header.
One thing I didn’t like: He didn’t have as much impact as expected, at times running himself out of the play.
Going forward: Morris played well in both matches this week. He’s being ignored in the best-11 discussion, yet still leads the golden boot race. That’s okay; we know how good he is.
Fredy Montero – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 66’ for Héber)
Fredy came in and assisted on the only goal of the match. He spent his half hour earning 17 touches, a shot, and 92 percent passing.
One thing I liked: After careful slow-motion rewatching, Montero definitely meant to flick his 79th minute throw-in toward the top of the box where Rusnák swooped in to score: a fantastic bit of individual skill.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 84th minute with time and options, Fredy chose a left-footed long shot that was nowhere near testing the opposing keeper.
Going forward: Fredy has struggled some this year, but he is still a quality facilitator. This game showed his veteran ability to understand where the weaknesses in the opponent’s defenses are.
Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 79’ for Chú)
Teves got 11 minutes and nine touches.
One thing I liked: Seattle scored the minute he stepped on the field. Coincidence? Maybe. He added 100 percent passing and some nice runs and control in the corner to see out an important victory.
One thing I didn’t like: At least once after making a smart back-post run, Dylan got lost. For a guy who is usually so smart about positioning off his teammates, this was a surprise.
Going forward: Teves wasn’t asked to do a lot, but he continues to be a good possession guy. His ability to work the tight control on the sidelines is a good sign for continued late sub minutes.
Xavier Arreaga – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 91’ for Lodeiro)
Xavi came in to try out that five-man backline that the coaching staff briefly considered last week.
One thing I liked: Seattle was so dominant he didn’t even touch the ball.
One thing I didn’t like: Was his shirt tucked in?
Going forward: Playing time has been hard to find for Arreaga, who was one of the best defenders on the team last year. The US Open Cup is an opportunity for him to remind the staff about that.
Armando Villareal – 8 | Community – 6.2
Very solid refereeing job from the center and staff against Minnesota, with only 13 fouls total called. Seattle was whistled for only three fouls all match! Most of this was due to the Loons not attacking much; both teams played hard but safe. The referee did an excellent job of using advantage in conjunction with the whistle to make assertive, timely calls.
One thing I liked: A 43rd minute card for stopping a counter was well shown, but a 56th minute card was extraordinary, with this referee allowing play to continue for minutes before going back and giving a card for a late challenge. It is so rare to see this card being correctly issued after an advantage play, and it’s one bit of film all other referees need to study.
One thing I didn’t like: A couple of missed fouls were pretty obvious, and both JP and Rusnák got away with knocking the player before the ball on at least two occasions.
Going forward: This referee protected the players by calling undercut fouls, appropriately gave advantage, and cards made sense. It was an outstanding job that other refs in this league should try to duplicate.
Minnesota United MOTM
Sang-Bin exemplified Minnesota’s clear tactical approach. He simply got through a ton of work, keeping United compact defensively, before springing forward to create or go directly at goal on the counter. As mentioned, he got the better of Ragen in the 26th, and had a worthwhile attempt in the 41st (after first playing in a teammate) that he’ll wish he could have back. In so many ways, he was their attack, and that attack all but evaporated with his substitution in the 70th minute.
Next up: Midweek Open Cup against San Diego, followed by a trip to Utah, means this is a sneakily difficult week, and the Sounders’ depth will be tested.