Seattle ventured into a stadium where they’ve struggled for years and, well, struggled. Missing a few dynamic pieces, Seattle had a hard time creating much offense against an RSL team that was very interested in physical play and less so in creating their own opportunities. This led to a choppy match featuring a lot of the referee and Seattle on the ball but lacking that creativity to break the deadlock and open up the match. The game ended 0-0, as yet again the steadfast Sounders defense was up to the task, limiting RSL to few chances, especially in a second half where Seattle created the only viable opportunities, but they ultimately had to settle for splitting the points on the road.
Stefan Frei – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.5 (MOTM)
Frei got another clean sheet, his sixth in 10 games, which by my math means he is scheduled to have 427 shutouts this year. This is a huge improvement over last season, and while he is making the saves he needs to make, his defense gets credit for consistently giving him optimal game states and windows to be aggressive on his positioning.
One thing I liked: In the 30th minute Frei made what seemed like an innocuous and easy save; however, this looked much more complicated on second watch, as the ball took a slight deflection off a defender and could easily have eluded a lesser keeper.
One thing I didn’t like: His distribution was rather erratic, like an 82nd minute punt that went straight to the opposing keeper and immediately into RSL’s possession.
Going forward: After conceding four, Stefan has now conceded zero goals against in back-to-back matches. That four-goal fiasco looks more like an anomaly than a trend.
Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off injured 91’ for Baker-Whiting)
Although it isn’t flashy, Rowe has been part of solid Sounders play, and teams haven’t translated his mistakes directly into any goals against. At some point the bug is a feature, and Kelyn deserves credit for again being a part of a great defensive effort. He had three tackles and three interceptions.
One thing I liked: In every match he plays, Rowe finds an interesting offensive moment, displaying a vision and ability that is rare from the left of Seattle’s defense. Against Salt Lake, this moment came in the 14th minute when he hit an early diagonal switching ball, finding the opposite corner for a chance that bypassed a congested midfield.
One thing I didn’t like: Kelyn was beaten for speed on a number of occasions and his defense in 1-v-1 situations was victimized in many of RSL’s best (half) chances. A 75th minute miscommunication with Jordan Morris was nearly ugly, and two plays in the 80th and 81st minutes showed his accumulating fatigue.
Going forward: Originally that looked like a career-ending injury in the 88th minute, and while he’s likely to miss time, Rowe deserves to go out on his terms, so it was a relief to hear he didn’t blow any major ligaments.
Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.8
Ragen was excellent against RSL, repeatedly denying anything centrally while winning all his aerial duels. Staying mostly central and deep, his possession numbers were good (96 percent passing) while having six clearances.
One thing I liked: Jackson’s passing was extra clean against RSL and he continuously found safe passes through the midfield to teammates while keeping excellent defensive positioning.
One thing I didn’t like: The one major time Ragen was beaten was in the 18th minute, and he was lucky the opponent’s header went wide.
Going forward: Ragen and João Paulo are the most obvious changes to the Seattle defense and should get much of the credit for how dominant they’ve been. There is no question that Jackson is the starter on what is one of the best defenses in the entire league.
Yeimar – 7 | Community – 6.7
Yeimar was his usual stellar self in the back, rarely being tested as his superior positioning often removed chances from the opponent before they even developed.
One thing I liked: In the 59th minute, when confronted with a dangerous 1-v-1 defensive test, Yeimar was perfect, pressing the opponent back before forcing out a weak cross.
One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar continues to have sporadic errors pop up in his play, like having all day to make a pass and finding a perfect ball to RSL in the 32nd, or randomly gifting a corner kick in the 76th.
Going forward: Yeimar and Ragen have forged an excellent partnership in the middle of the defense, and when they stay connected teams are getting shut out.
Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.5
With Morris in front of him, Alex reverted back to a more manageable 60 touches, getting involved sporadically and being part of another shutout defensive effort. He had a shot and a key pass, but also four clearances in a balanced effort.
One thing I liked: A beautiful cross toward Morris in the 47th minute should have opened up the scoring, as Roldan went forward and put in a perfect ball begging to be redirected into goal.
One thing I didn’t like: Alex didn’t get tremendously involved in the offense, but he got into the attack in the 73rd minute and, just as Seattle looked to be creating a big chance through their possession, Roldan fumbled it away.
Going forward: Morris on the right seems to drastically lessen Alex Roldan’s impact. Whether that’s because they’re not integrating or that Jordan isn’t on the opposite wing to receive service is yet to be determined.
João Paulo – 7 | Community – 7.0 (off 91’ for Arreaga)
João Paulo had another excellent match but wasn’t flashy, doing his duty centrally on offense and defense without putting up gaudy stats or notable plays. He led the team with 76 touches and had 93 percent passing by consistently connecting with teammates in generally short distribution.
One thing I liked: JP co-led the team with both two key passes and three tackles, showing just how versatile his play is.
One thing I didn’t like: Getting a yellow card in the eighth minute meant he had to play less physically than he likely wanted, and as RSL ratcheted up their physical play the Sounders struggled to match it.
Going forward: JP deserves a ton of credit for the Sounders’ defensive superiority this year, and he does so many things that are not quantifiable on the soccer field.
Albert Rusnák – 7 | Community – 6.7
Albert did a little bit of everything, touching the ball 62 times while leading the team in shots and being part of a suffocating middle defense that frustrated RSL into persistent fouls. His connection to JP was again nearly flawless, and the two combined centrally again and again to navigate pressure and push the ball forward.
One thing I liked: Albert recognized the defensive shape and looked to attack the corners. He found both wide players in great spots for chances in the first half, first sending Morris over the top in the 21st and then switching the field to create space for Chú to work in the 33rd.
One thing I didn’t like: RSL did just enough counter attacking through the middle channels to keep Rusnák and João honest, resulting in neither getting forward as much as Seattle perhaps needed, missing that extra runner in key situations. His set pieces were dreadful.
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 nearly always shifts the possession in Sounders’ favor.
Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 6.7 (off 71’ for Teves)
Chu started on the left, came to the right to create perhaps his biggest chance, and then returned to the left before exiting with 20 minutes remaining. He was very active on his side, but could have been more defensive minded with Rowe behind him. A shot and two key passes highlighted his offensive push.
One thing I liked: Chú showed he could be effective up the right wing in the 21st minute, beating his man and earning an uncalled PK before dropping the ball back for an Héber shot.
One thing I didn’t like: In the 25th minute Chú got forward on a break with numbers and made the wrong choice. It was a little thing, but with Seattle not creating many big chances, wasting a golden effort like this loomed large.
Going forward: Léo takes on defenders and forces them to react to him, which at times is a rare trait for Seattle players. And he has been doing this consistently, a massive improvement this season.
Nico Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 6.3
Lodeiro struggled against RSL, getting 63 touches but not creating his usual dangerous moments for teammates and making some poor decisions on the ball. A number of turnovers and moments of misplay were exhibited by Nico, who rarely has as many missed passes as happened versus RSL.
One thing I liked: A 10th minute free kick found Héber, and these two had some excellent connecting play through the middle.
One thing I didn’t like: Nico’s touch and decision making were both a bit suspect in Salt Lake. He had several missed passes (80th minute missing Morris who was in through) and his decision making (50 yard shot attempt in the 57th minute) was troublesome in a match that needed more precision.
Going forward: Lodeiro hasn’t looked great when paired with a withdrawn forward in front of him sharing space, and while he connected to Héber well, Nico didn’t find big chances for others to directly attack the goal.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.1
Jordan started out on the right and played a standard winger in front of Roldan for much of the first half, switching periodically before moving more central in the second half. He had 34 touches and led the team with three shots, but failed to get anything on goal and wasn’t able to consistently create attacks.
One thing I liked: A tactical change in the second half had Morris playing more as a second forward and it helped to pull him inside. This led to him stretching the field and being a more active part of the offense.
One thing I didn’t like: A perfect Roldan cross in the 47th minute needed any sort of touch from Jordan to redirect into goal and he whiffed. Those kinds of crosses were finished earlier in the season.
Going forward: Morris had some good play on the right but looked more comfortable in the middle where he didn’t have to combine with teammates. He may be even better suited out in his customary left wing position where he can stretch the field and run diagonals.
Héber – 5 | Community – 5.6 (off 81’ for Montero)
Héber got another start up front as Raúl Ruidíaz remained injured, and again he played centrally but withdrawn as an attacking midfielder more than a field-stretching center forward. He had 35 touches and was active within the offense, ending with two shots and two key passes.
One thing I liked: Héber was okay as a withdrawn forward, constantly checking to the ball and turning and finding players. Seattle played through his feet and time and again he controlled a tough pass cleanly, displaying excellent touch and an ability to keep possession through the middle.
One thing I didn’t like: With Héber again dropping deep centrally to support the middle, Seattle was inefficient in using the space he created until a second half switch pushed Morris more central. When Seattle did that, it congested space, and while it was good for possession, it didn’t work to create sustained chances going forward.
Going forward: This was the second match in a row that Héber did his job well, but asking your main scoring threat to be so much of a facilitator removes him from being in dangerous areas as often as needed, which limits his chance to do what he does best.
Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 71’ for Chú)
Teves came in presumably to get Morris out wide, and while it did that, a tiring defense on the left limited Jordan, and Dylan did little to pull the defense his direction. He only had five touches in 20 minutes of work.
One thing I liked: Completing 100 percent of his passes, Teves did what he could in the few times he found himself involved. His 92nd minute run gave an outlet for Seattle to kill off the match.
One thing I didn’t like: A 79th minute offside call was a chance lost for Seattle as Dylan was penalized.
Going forward: Seattle has a lot of backup wingers who don’t make big mistakes but also aren’t finding ways to impact the match, with Teves currently leading the pack for playing time scraps.
Fredy Montero – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 81’ for Héber)
Fredy came in and took up a similar position to Héber as a withdrawn forward, but was less impactful. He only had four touches as Seattle struggled to get the ball forward.
One thing I liked: Late in the match Fredy chased down an opponent in the left corner and his pestering defense helped create a free kick chance for the Sounders.
One thing I didn’t like: Without any opportunity created by teammates, Fredy was invisible.
Going forward: Fredy had a massive effort in the midweek match and was a surprise to enter this one. There may have been better options.
Xavier Arreaga– 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 91’ for JP)
Arreaga came in to help Seattle transition to a five-man backline and see out the end of a shutout.
One thing I liked: Ever-ready, Xavi joined the match and was active verbally, barking out commands and helping direct RBW to his left, while covering when his outside man pressed forward.
One thing I didn’t like: Are we just not tucking our shirts in any more? What has this world come to?
Going forward: There appears to be little animosity from Arreaga at having his starting spot taken, and he remains solid and ready for each of these short chances.
Reed Baker-Whiting – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 91’ for Rowe)
Fresh off a fantastic goal and outing midweek, RBW was quickly deputized off the bench due to Rowe’s injury.
One thing I liked: A nice pressure forward and centrally was a solid aggressive play and pushed RSL’s shape back from goal in the 93rd minute.
One thing I didn’t like: The positioning in the back five was only successful due to numbers, and Reed needed some on-field coaching.
Going forward: With a lot of practice as an outside fullback, this looks to be RBW’s best chance at meaningful minutes and perhaps a career-defining position change.
Nima Saghafi – 4 | Community – 3.8
Normally a quality referee, Saghafi struggled mightily in this one. Starting by giving a yellow card in the eighth minute, this referee ruled by the card, eventually giving out 10 while only whistling 22 total fouls. In fact, Seattle had the same number of fouls called on them all match (seven) as RSL earned cards (also seven). There is a problem when the match is being adjudicated via cards, and a fundamental breakdown of the game flow was the direct result.
One thing I liked: After giving an early card, it was consistent to give a similar card in the 36th minute, and his red card was well given, especially since it was late in the match and many referees seem unable to send someone off late.
One thing I didn’t like: Reffing via cards was an awful choice, but so was the dangerous play that was ignored. A 23rd minute PK looked pretty clear, a 31st minute hand to face was ignored, and a 59th minute elbow was deemed not dangerous. The ref put himself in a bad position with the way he ignored fouls but then gave cards, making things either too harsh or not nearly harsh enough. A good example was refusing to red-card Justen Glad in the 62nd after a bad foul on a yellow, but then giving an encroachment card minutes later for something extremely minor.
Going forward: Neither team was likely happy with the refereeing, and a choppy match that was too physical and laden with punitive calls was the result. This referee has been very good on average over the years, but this one was rough.
Real Salt Lake MOTM
Zac MacMath had less to do than his Seattle counterpart, unfortunately. But, similar to MOTM Frei, MOTM MacMath made his one requisite save (on the shot from Héber in the 21st minute), and likewise kept the clean sheet. Seattle managed to clean up their other promising attacks on their own.
Next up: Still waiting on that red card for the bodyslam.