After winning on the road last weekend, the Sounders returned home to promptly fall on their face against another lousy team. Austin FC hadn’t won in eight matches, but they managed to get their own road win by beating Seattle 2-1. It seemed like Austin scored on each of their half-chances, while Seattle missed a multitude of their own tries for another disappointing loss. The Sounders still lead the Western Conference, but they continue to underperform and find weird ways to lose to teams they should beat.
Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 5.3
Clean sheets against quality teams, then multiple goals against (previously) lousy teams is the recent run of form for Frei. It’s hard to blame Stef for much, as opponents seem to either create nothing or score every single half-chance created. Either way, he’s not making many saves.
One thing I liked: A 2nd minute save after Austin got in behind Jackson Ragen was critical to keeping the away team from scoring immediately, although he got a thigh to the head for his troubles.
One thing I didn’t like: With Austin pressing, Frei was consistently on the ball but struggled with distribution.
Going forward: Frei seems more like a passenger on a defensive rollercoaster ride than a driver of strong, dominant play.
Cody Baker – 6 | Community – 5.9 (off 84’ for Nouhou)
Newly signed Baker got the start on the left and was solid for the most part, showing MLS-level defensive positioning and offering some forward play and connection in spurts. He had three tackles, three clearances, and the team’s second-most touches with 78.
One thing I liked: There were a number of excellent plays from Cody, but most impressive was his composure. Consistently under pressure, Baker played controlled throughout, displaying nice defense and some nifty dribbling to split lines and get out of difficult spots.
One thing I didn’t like: While he played under control, Baker lacked a bit of precision, being inaccurate on a number of passes which led to only an 80 percent completion rate. A 62nd minute ball that missed Léo Chú was a potential big chance lost.
Going forward: Baker played his way into a contract and is young enough to take the next step as an attacking piece while he relies on his solid, MLS-ready defense.
Jackson Ragen – 5 | Community – 5.4
Seattle’s defense struggled with the numbers against them, with Ragen in particular having a hard time being caught out of sorts. His underlying numbers were fine: three interceptions, three clearances, and 91 percent passing.
One thing I liked: A beautiful over-the-top pass in the 9th minute gave Alex Roldan a golden opportunity to race forward from the back and get in behind to cross.
One thing I didn’t like: Ragen struggled with Austin’s pace up front as early as the 2nd minute, and Gyasi Zardes’ movement exposed Jackson’s lack of speed on a number of occasions. Other than a few sparkling long balls, Ragen’s distribution often put Baker and Yeimar in tough positions via angle or pace even though the pass was considered completed.
Going forward: Ragen has played better; he definitely looked tired and slow. There is depth on the bench that could be used to keep him fresh.
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 5.3
Yeimar was fantastic across the back, especially in a first half where he covered nearly the entire width of the pitch to continually save an embattled Seattle defense. His statline was beefy: 77 touches, 86 percent passing, five won headers, four clearances, seven recoveries, and a shot.
One thing I liked: Although he was “lights out” defensively for much of the match, a brilliant 29th minute pass directly up the center of the field picked out Nico Lodeiro and cut out nine defenders, giving Seattle a massive chance surging forward.
One thing I didn’t like: With Seattle pressing and looking prepared to dominate the second half, somehow Zardes got in front of Yeimar and scored in the 57th minute, sadly reversing the momentum.
Going forward: The defense seems either impenetrable or capable of leaking low percentage goals at any moment. Yeimar has similarly had an up and down season.
Alex Roldan – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 5.8
Roldan was once again a dynamic attacking force against Austin, consistently pushing forward to drop in crosses and create opportunities for the right wing as a tireless overlapper. He had two key passes including multiple excellent crosses that were unfortunately not redirected into the goal.
One thing I liked: Alex’s 84th minute cross was absolutely dynamite, and should have ended with Seattle scoring en route to a frantic final five minutes and the possibility of all three points. Unfortunately, they did not, as Jordan Morris was unable to convert.
One thing I didn’t like: A 51st minute chance saw Alex miss Héber when both were in behind, and of course six minutes later Austin converted their half-chance. Roldan needed to hit the ball first time, and too many touches cost Seattle a huge opportunity.
Going forward: Moving Morris opened up Roldan and helped him be more impactful. Getting his brother back would be huge to help Alex continue to link up.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 5.3
João Paulo was muted for much of the match, unable to link up going forward and missing a few opportunities to be more direct. The inclusion (and removal) of a number of Sounders players later in the match unlocked JP to be more vertical, and he looked excellent finishing up the match. Fifteen recoveries highlighted his usual active destroyer role.
One thing I liked: JP led the team with 94 touches and completed 86 percent of his passes. He was integral in great Sounders chances in the 80th and 84th, either of which could have earned Seattle a point.
One thing I didn’t like: João struggled to connect into spaces defensively, as he was just a step off on Austin’s first goal and was similarly close but not involved enough as the game-winning header was scored over him in minute 57.
Going forward: The center of the pitch was a tired mess for much of the match, as Seattle was tactically overloaded and unable to work their way out of the space denied.
Albert Rusnák – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 71’ for Atencio)
Albert was good at connecting with teammates against Austin, but failed to get himself into attacking spaces. This led to 88 percent passing and clean control through the middle of the pitch, but with only a single shot, he wasn’t the extra central attacker needed.
One thing I liked: In the 14th minute Rusnák stole the ball, juked multiple defenders, and nearly put Morris on goal with a curling through ball that split the defense and attacked directly, something Seattle must do more of.
One thing I didn’t like: Rusnák usually plays more positional defense than hard-tackling enforcer, but against Austin he failed to record a single defensive action other than his six recoveries. Seattle needs multiple people centrally who can get in a tackle.
Going forward: The combination of these two defensive midfielders with Lodeiro in front of them is one of the best fulcrums in the league, and their control and ability to work through difficult situations almost always shifts the possession in the Sounders’ favor. Unfortunately, they can’t overcome numbers, and teams overloading the center are highlighting a weakness.
Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.3
Morris did a lot of work offensively, but wasn’t able to finish the ball when presented with multiple opportunities. He ended with a single shot and 26 touches.
One thing I liked: Jordan’s 79th minute run vertically ripped apart the Austin defense; when he was able to turn and find Héber, Seattle scored immediately after.
One thing I didn’t like: With a chance to tie the match in the 84th minute on a perfect cross from Roldan, Morris’s shot was redirected right at the keeper. This was a little unlucky, but it’s the type of goal he was finishing earlier in the season.
Going forward: Morris has a unique skill set that can get lost in game state, but he must remain connected to the match, something he has struggled with since Cristian went out.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 71’ for Montero)
Lodeiro was asked to do a lot against Austin and wasn’t able to carry the entire team through the middle. He had 60 touches, two shots, and a key pass in a shortened match.
One thing I liked: Always moving to get open, Nico found a beautiful Yeimar ball in the 29th minute and turned to deliver in the middle. His 53rd minute ball through six defenders nearly put Dylan Teves in behind.
One thing I didn’t like: Being asked to do everything against superior numbers, Lodeiro looked tired. This resulted in him missing a few passes he normally converts, and likely led to his early removal from the match.
Going forward: Seattle looked more urgent and direct without Lodeiro, which should be a wakeup call to all involved.
Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 60’ for Chú)
Teves started on the right and was an active ingredient in many of the Sounders’ half-chances in the first half. Always willing to battle for possession, Dylan got beat up by the Austin defense yet continued to make unique and dangerous runs until subbing out early in the second half. He had a shot and 28 touches.
One thing I liked: Teves burst through vertically in the 35th minute and nearly gave Seattle the lead, timing his run perfectly to get on an Héber through-ball and hitting a low shot that almost megged the keeper.
One thing I didn’t like: Dylan missed Morris in the very first minute. He has to make that connection to the opposite winger.
Going forward: Teves plays a “Cristian Roldan-Lite” version of soccer that depends on original movement. While his runs were great, he lacked final precision and finish that ends with the ball in the goal.
Héber – 6 | Community – 4.6
Héber again did everything but score, repeatedly making great runs and connecting with teammates but unable to finish multiple golden opportunities. Time and again he was in the right spot to facilitate great chances, and he ended with an assist on the lone Seattle goal.
One thing I liked: Five shots. Four key passes. Héber was massively effective at getting chances as well as creating for others. His ability to find Fredy Montero as he was falling over in the box in the 79th minute gave Seattle life when Fredy scored.
One thing I didn’t like: It’s understandable to be frustrated by Héber because even though he had five shots, he failed to put any of them on frame. The most frustrating one was in the 93rd minute when he had a header off a corner kick with literally the entire goal gaping, only for him to put the tying goal well wide.
Going forward: Héber creates a lot of good chances but doesn’t finish them. Hopefully he starts to finish at a more normal rate, as he is excellent at everything except the final touch.
Léo Chú– 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 60’ for Teves)
Chú came in and was active, with two key passes on 24 touches.
One thing I liked: His 67th minute through ball to Héber was excellent.
One thing I didn’t like: Léo inexplicably dribbled out of bounds in the 73rd minute.
Going forward: Subbing on as a spark seemed to be a good role for Chú, but he is adding so much missing dynamic play that it’s hard to limit his minutes.
Fredy Montero –7 | Community – 6.7 (MOTM) (on 71’ for Lodeiro)
Fredy came in to rest a lagging Nico and his energy was a catalyst for a Sounders resurgence. Once again, Montero arrived and was almost immediately the best offensive player for Seattle, covering ground, holding the ball, finding teammates, and being goal-direct.
One thing I liked: Fredy scored in the 79th minute, a tidy finish following up a breakaway. His first-time goal wasted no effort and gave Austin zero time to recover. How refreshing.
One thing I didn’t like: It was hard to tell where Fredy was supposed to play.
Going forward: Fredy is in the best goalscoring form on the team, and he may be in line to get more creative minutes.
Josh Atencio – 5 | Community – 6.0 (on 71’ for Rusnák)
Atencio found himself back in front of the home fans and was active, finding the right plays and facilitating others.
One thing I liked: A tackle, two interceptions, and two recoveries unlocked his midfield partner in ways the player he replaced did not.
One thing I didn’t like: An 85th minute foul was unnecessary and killed some growing Sounders momentum.
Going forward: Atencio looked slow and struggled in his last few appearances after being injured, but he looked much stronger here.
Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 84’ for Baker)
The return of Nouhou from a bout of malaria was an excellent sight.
One thing I liked: An 88th minute cross forced a corner kick.
One thing I didn’t like: There was definite rust and Nouhou likely needs to build fitness as his connection to Ragen was limited.
Going forward: It was great to see Nouhou back on the field, and while Baker has been a pleasant surprise, Nouhou was having a strong season prior to sickness.
Rosendo Mendoza– 6 | Community – 5.7
Mendoza was a solid referee for a match that was very clean. Only calling 13 total fouls, Mendoza kept the game flowing and was only forced into two yellows.
One thing I liked: Daniel Pereira’s yellow card made sense, and it was refreshing to see a player actually carded for a blatant dive.
One thing I didn’t like: A few big calls should have been penalized. Frei was battered by an attacker in the 2nd minute; he left his leg in after the ball was clearly in Stef’s possession. JP got away with a yellow card foul in stoppage time of the first half. Ragen was pulled down in the 49th minute on a corner kick. Any/all of these deserved a harsher penalty than called.
Going forward: This was a low-foul match from a tired home team that doesn’t foul much against a pressing team who got a lead and sat on it. Ho-Hum.
Austin FC MOTM
Ethan Finlay takes home the award thanks to his one goal, one assist performance. The goal was so weird. The cutback pass is played to the only spot where neither JP nor Rusnák can reach it, and this forces Finlay to move away from goal to retrieve it. He’s then able to shift his hips, generating enough power to beat Frei to the bottom corner. The assist on what would be the match-winner is fine. Finlay drifts to the corner, pulling Ragen with him. His clipped ball is more hopeful than anything, but it manages to find Zardes and Austin wins.
Next up: Seattle drives up north to play a Cascadia opponent on Saturday and then has three home matches where we can turn this ugly home loss trend around. Go Sounders.