Seattle traveled down to Carson to play the LA Galaxy. Depending on when you tuned in, they were either dominating or pinned back and holding on for dear life. The end result was a 2-1 road win for the Sounders, but it was anything but comfortable as a smooth first half quickly devolved into a battle in the second. After utilizing the league-dominant Chú-to-Morris combination to make things look easy, LAG adjusted well and tested Seattle’s defensive resolve in a second half that forced the Sounders to defend as a unit. A midfield adjustment gave the home team priority and numbers, and Seattle’s adjustment was to hold on, which they did — barely.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 7.1
Frei has conceded three goals this year, never more than one a match, and yet he still has an opportunity to learn and grow from the one conceded against LA. Bored for much of the first half as Seattle ran to an early two-goal cushion, Stefan was very busy in the second half and ended with seven saves for his evening of work.
One thing I liked: LA had the better of the ball in the second half, but it was Frei who came up big in the 53rd minute, stuffing a 1-v-1 chance and parrying a close shot wide in a massive stop that held the Galaxy off the scoreboard for another 10 minutes.
One thing I didn’t like: A third goal against on the season and a third one that a perfect keeper may have prevented leaves Frei with some training ground emphasis. While blocked from view, a long shot came into his area and Stefan made the save, but he spilled it into the middle where it was put away.
Going forward: Frei is getting criticism for his errors that are being converted to goals, but he is part of the league’s second-best defense and every metric shows him being outstanding in the other 98 percent of his play.
Alex Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.6
Alex returned from international duty and was tasked with patrolling the left side, and it was not great. Defensively, it was a bend-but-don’t break outing for Roldan, and at times he struggled with the correct angles and connection with Jackson Ragen next to him.
One thing I liked: Even on the opposite side, Roldan was actively looking forward and found Jordan Morris over the top in the 13th minute, stretching the field as part of a dangerous Sounders offense before half.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex was beaten badly in the 56th minute, leading directly to an LA shot. Roldan had a hard time understanding when to press wide and when to stay compact, and as LA overloaded the midfield his positioning problems were magnified.
Going forward: It was confusing to see this Roldan on the left when his comfortable right spot was available. I hope there is less inclination to tinker with the defense and their most comfortable positions going forward.
Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.9
Ragen was excellent at anchoring the middle, winning nearly everything as LA for some reason decided to repeatedly test the tallest player on the field with crosses. Jackson was his usual unflappable self, finding the right clearances and holding together a defense that was thoroughly tested.
One thing I liked: Jackson had 94 percent passing to go with a massive eight clearances, as time and again the home team tried to penetrate the box and repeatedly it was Ragen who cleared clean to a teammate.
One thing I didn’t like: Caught out of position and charging forward in the 61st minute, Ragen was forced into a bad foul and earned a yellow for his efforts.
Going forward: Ragen may have flashy passing from the back but sometimes you just need a big tall guy to clear the damn ball out, and he smartly recognized his role in this match.
Yeimar – 8 | Community – 7.6
Yeimar was everywhere against LA, defending both sides, supporting Roldans and the midfield and repeatedly thwarting the opponents attempts to get quality chances. Six clearances, four interceptions, two tackles, and a won header were part of a dominating defensive performance.
One thing I liked: The Galaxy kept thinking they had broken through and nearly every time it was Yeimar who popped up to stop them. In the 56th minute the home team had a clear break and suddenly it was the Seattle right centerback who outran everyone and tackled the ball away in an incredible effort.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar didn’t look comfortable connecting up the right side and was forced into quite a few “just get it out” clearances.
Going forward: This was another dominant defensive performance from an elite center back who shows up every match.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.3
Cristian returned to the right back position, a bit of a curious decision with his brother back and starting on the opposite side of the field. Roldan was fine as a right back, but ultimately unable to bring a lot of positive movement while forced to defend often in the second half.
One thing I liked: A dogged defender, what he lacked in smoothness Cristian made up for with pure determination. Constantly close to being beaten, Roldan almost always recovered with strong physical play and was a willing counter attack option all the way to the opposite end line.
One thing I didn’t like: Playing right back seemed to get Roldan even more battered, as he seems to get beat up by opponents every match. A 48th minute look at his knee/hamstring was luckily played through.
Going forward: It’s great to see that Seattle has enough depth to deputize Cristian as a right back, but his brother is a better defensive player at this point in their careers, and that’s a good thing.
[Ed. Note/nerdy soccer nerd tangent for further discussion in the comments: The Sounders were actually playing the super-meta 3-2-4-1 in the first half, with all defenders minus Cristian comprising the back three (thus, Alex being pretty stay-at-home). Meanwhile, Cristian basically played at his usual RM spot and Albert Rusnák moved inside with Nico as, again, super-meta Free 8s, and Léo Chú at his usual LM spot. (This also helps explain why the Roldans were on the sides they were on.) That version of Cristian (and that first half version of the Sounders as a whole) was good. The second half version of Cristian as a more traditional right back (thanks in large part to LA’s reshuffled shape)? Not so much.]
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 7.1
João Paulo again was the engine for Seattle and had an incredible statline versus LA: two interceptions, three clearances, 71 touches, 89 percent passing, and a massive seven tackles as part of a destroyer midfield effort.
One thing I liked: With LA having just scored and on the front foot, a massive defensive tackle and intervention in the 68th minute likely kept the Sounders in the lead, as JP arrived to save the day.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle got outnumbered and run over in the midfield in the second half, and the team didn’t adjust to find the open runs to penalize LA.
Going forward: The João Paulo and Josh Atencio midfield pairing was again solid, but as teams adjust to overload the middle, they will need to be quicker and cleaner in transition.
Josh Atencio – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off 69’ for Vargas)
Atencio got his second straight start and was solid defensively. He had two interceptions centrally that he shifted forward but only converted 70 percent of his passes, struggling after LA added a midfielder.
One thing I liked: Josh was often smooth on the dribble against the Galaxy, highlighted by a controlled spin in traffic in the 46th minute that got him out of trouble.
One thing I didn’t like: He missed a few moments to make an impact forward, as Chú was open in the 12th, and in the 66th Josh was in on goal and forced a pass. He does well to pick his spots, but will need to then convert the good chances created.
Going forward: Atencio has shown a nice high floor for possession but will need to up his ceiling somewhat if he wants to get more than just backup minutes.
Léo Chú – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.1 (MOTM) (off 60’ for Ruidíaz)
Léo Chú showed last week wasn’t a fluke as he again linked up with Morris in a dynamic counter attack. Showing off his attacking chops, Chú ended with an assist, a goal, 75 percent passing, and even added some quality defensive effort before leaving with a 2-0 lead.
One thing I liked: Already old hat by now, as soon as Nico Lodeiro put Chú in behind in the 21st minute, you just knew he would make that perfect curling pass to Morris, a dagger of a weapon for the Seattle attack. Perhaps more impressive was a dribble central and finish right footed, going direct at the LA defense and showing another offensive tool in the 35th minute, scoring the game-winning goal.
One thing I didn’t like: There was somewhat of a struggle between Alex and Léo defending the backside of the defense, and it took a while for these two to get on the same page.
Going forward: Léo Chú isn’t a fluke and his play gives incredible versatility to the Sounders’ offense. Seeing him put it all together in back-to-back matches helps any consistency questions, and he should be a fixture in every match going forward.
Nico Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.1
Lodeiro was quiet for a player who had 64 touches, an assist, two shots, and multiple defensive actions. In the first half Nico was more comfortable, finding space and linking up on both sides of the field. As LA overloaded centrally, he adjusted by looking long but had less impact as the teams tired.
One thing I liked: In the vein of past players — Jones, Rodríguez, Smith, etc. — if you are on the wing and run past your man toward goal, Nicolás Lodeiro is going to find you. He did exactly that in the 21st minute, curling a ball around the defense and into the path of an onrushing Chú-Chú train who did what he does with time and space.
One thing I didn’t like: While it isn’t yet a blueprint to beat Seattle, overloading the middle gave the Sounders fits, not that they couldn’t play through it, but that they missed the opportunities to punish the backline. An 83rd minute open shot from Lodeiro had a chance to end the match, and these moments are drastically important.
Going forward: Lodeiro has been a little under the radar this year but seems to be playing as well as he ever has. It’s exciting that he isn’t forcing things, is comfortable with the supporting cast, and is playing the role of a glue player centrally to link up with others.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off 69’ for Nouhou)
Albert started on the right wing again but was an afterthought of a team that focused their attacks in the first half down the left and were under a deluge of pressure in the second. Rusnák did his job competently, completing 84 percent of his passes and again helping possession centrally when Seattle shifted left.
One thing I liked: Whether designed or by feel, Rusnák consistently filled gaps centrally in behind Morris’ runs and was great at maintaining shape when Nico moved across the field. This was especially important to allow Chú the freedom to push high and pull defenders away from Morris.
One thing I didn’t like: Removing Rusnák for Nouhou was a move to get a stronger left defender on, but it exacerbated the possession issues Seattle had centrally. He is still forcing stuff offensively.
Going forward: This match helped illustrate why Albert’s control in the match is important, as Seattle missed some possession and composure after he subbed out. For that reason, Rusnák may be a better defensive midfielder than winger on this roster.
Jordan Morris – 8 | Community – 7.9 (off 90’ for Arreaga)
With only a single goal, Morris had a massive dropoff. He turned in another complete offensive performance with two shots, a key pass, 39 touches and 77 percent passing, and even some defensive recoveries. Jordan did a great job stretching the field and understanding when to pull the defense apart, and he remained a threat as a lone forward.
One thing I liked: In the first half Seattle stretched the field seemingly at will, and it was another perfect “Chorris” combination that put the Sounders up in minute 21. Jordan understands the speed of teammates well and times his runs to perfection, ending up in the most dangerous area at the most dangerous time. His finishing was again clean.
One thing I didn’t like: Jordan missed a chance to return the favor to Chú in the 47th minute as his teammate was open on the back post and Morris missed an opportunity to put Seattle up 3-0.
Going forward: Seattle may be able to get more talent on the field by pushing Morris back to the wing, but it is hard to argue with the results in the two matches where he was up front. The tactical flexibility this team has is exceptional; it’s one of the few times an MLS team can set up for specific matchups personnel-wise if they choose.
Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 60’ for Léo Chú)
Raúl returned from injury/international duty and looked lively, finding 14 touches and attacking the goal with nearly every one. He had two shots and consistently dropped back to support the overwhelmed midfield that needed the help.
One thing I liked: 100 percent passing saw Ruidíaz combining with teammates, holding up, and dashing directly on goal, including a dangerous 76th minute shot.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 70th minute, Raúl was set up for a good chance and sadly missed it.
Going forward: There was at least one chance where Morris’ superior speed may have made a difference and while it’s unlikely Raúl sits, he will be hungry to show he can score goals like teammates have been doing in his absence.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 6.3 (on 69’ for Rusnák)
It was critical to inject Nouhou’s defense into the match, as Seattle was being overwhelmed with one-way traffic. He entered in the 69th minute and helped the Sounders hang on to all the points as they weathered sustained pressure until the final whistle.
One thing I liked: Nouhou was a big upgrade on the left defense, helping slow down the Galaxy attack through that side. His ability to track to the corner was essential late.
One thing I didn’t like: While only completing 57 percent of his passes, Nouhou tended to be more of an acrobatic clearance machine than a controlled possession outlet, which staunched the bleeding but often invited more pressure.
Going forward: Nouhou is a strong starter on this team, but he showed he can come in and help if needed, even if just returning from international duty and perhaps even while fasting.
Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 69’ for Atencio)
Vargas came into an overwhelmed midfield and it remained a battle. He struggled with how to remain connected with teammates, especially JP, as the Sounders midfield was repeatedly slashed by LA.
One thing I liked: His 88 percent passing was clean, and Obed again showed an ability to link up with teammates in possession.
One thing I didn’t like: For playing 20-plus minutes in a midfield spot, only getting 12 touches was a disappointment. Riqui Puig and the LA midfield dominated through Vargas for long stretches, and his defensive positioning was a big reason the Galaxy had so much success.
Going forward: It’s hard to know where Vargas is after just limited sub minutes, and the talent still peeks through, but he has to perform better than this outing.
Xavier Arreaga – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 90’ for Morris)
Arreaga joined the match for the last few minutes to add another big tall body to help see out the win.
One thing I liked: Xavi entered with a smile, and even as a sub he seems to put the team first and be willing to contribute.
One thing I didn’t like: With zero touches, Arreaga didn’t even mess up his hair.
Going forward: Seattle can go to a 5-back by inserting Xavi late, or he can start, or he can be a sub in a number of defensive looks, giving excellent depth to the Sounders’ defensive options.
Alan Chapman – 6 | Community – 5.9
Chapman had a chippy match to deal with in California, giving out five cards but only calling 22 total fouls. Much of the physical play warranted (and was given) advantage play, and the match was run quickly for most of the clock.
One thing I liked: Alan ignored a 35th minute flop and correctly gave Lodeiro a yellow card in the 85th for a delay.
One thing I didn’t like: Yes, there was an uncalled handball, in fact there were a bunch of them — just not the one coach Greg Vanney was whining about. Chapman was very consistent at not calling what seemed to be obvious handballs throughout the first 90 minutes, so his correct non-call against Nouhou made sense.
Going forward: Chapman was okay and didn’t get overly involved in the match, which is good.
LA Galaxy MOTM
Riqui Puig ran the show for LA, and was a key to their second half resurgence. He consistently found holes in the Sounders’ midfield in which to receive, turn, and play incisive passes. His was often the “pass before the pass” as the Galaxy chances began to pile up in the second frame. And when he wasn’t creating through his vision, he was drawing two yellows on Sounders defenders, setting up dangerous set pieces.
Next up: Unfortunately, no one gifted St. Louis any goals last week, so the Sounders won’t be the first to beat them when they arrive in Seattle this week.