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Realio’s Ratings: Post-goal lapses are Sounders’ undoing

Danny Leyva brought something new to Seattle’s central midfield, but it wasn’t enough.

Last Updated
14 min read
Darren Yamashita - USA TODAY Sports

In San Jose last weekend, the winless Seattle Sounders continued to underwhelm. They started another makeshift lineup, and that group showed the same lack of cohesion that has defined the 2024 season so far. The 3-2 loss to the previously bottom-of-the-conference Earthquakes was a disheartening display of poor soccer from veterans and rookies alike, all over the field. Some young players who don’t normally start – and some older ones, too – might have gotten fatigued, but for whatever reason, Seattle had a dreadful 10 minutes to end the first half, conceding twice and being ripped apart by a more dynamic, faster San Jose attack. Some critical second-half tactical and personnel changes led to a Sounder resurgence. A lucky opportunity was seized, and a well-crafted goal from the run of play suddenly had Seattle pulling level and looking like the better team. Alas, another defensive breakdown turned the Sounders’ momentum from pushing for a late win into an immediate deficit. Seattle lost to yet another beatable team and took over their spot at the bottom of the Western Conference. 


Stefan Frei – 5 | Community – 5.4

It’s hard to fault Frei for much of this match, as San Jose was creating massive chances through the terrible defending of the players in front of him. He had four saves. Seattle had conceded just three goals in the previous three matches, and last weekend they gave up that many against arguably the worst team they’ve faced this year. 

One thing I liked: A nice 9th minute save and clearance was a reminder of how solid Stefan can be. He followed this up with his customary solid positioning in the 66th minute, allowing a deflected shot to be routinely handled. 

One thing I didn’t like: In the 43rd minute, Jackson Ragen was beaten trying to trap, and as he recovered he forced Preston Judd to take a saveable near-post shot. Frei had this completely covered, but he pushed a rebound right to the center of the goal, allowing Cristian Espinoza to double the lead heading into the half. This has been an issue with Frei, this time maybe due to a bit of slowness or rust on coming back from injury. 

Going forward: Frei is a leader on the team, but his play didn’t offer much inspiration against San Jose. His game management and organization has always stood out more than acrobatic saves. Unfortunately, this team needs those saves right now due to the chances they’re allowing. 


Nouhou – 5 | Community – 5.1

Nouhou had a solid match on the left, tasked with defending behind the hardworking play of Cristian Roldan. Because of the way Seattle tactically shifted, there was little need for Nouhou to get into the attack, and the left side was largely forgotten as a creation point for going forward. He rarely joined the attack, but was active defensively as Espinoza gave the Seattle defense all they could handle. 

One thing I liked: One of the few times Nouhou got forward bore fruit, as he won a corner in the 8th minute. He added a good cross soon thereafter that was missed by a teammate. As Seattle tinkered with positioning in the second half, Nouhou helped the Sounders control possession. 

One thing I didn’t like: On the first SJ goal, Nouhou was one of multiple players who completely lost their mark and were out of position as the opponents recycled a set piece. This was one of multiple times that he wasn’t in sync with the rest of the defense. 

Going forward: Seattle changed some components at the back and centrally and still were victimized by quick counter attacks, something that has been a problem for years now. One thing that was consistent last year was the strong back line, and this group must quickly get comfortable with each other again.

Jackson Ragen – 4 | Community – 4.2

Ragen moved back to his customary left-center defensive spot but was again exposed at times. Asked to be the focal possession man on the field (team-high 97 touches), his passing and defending for much of the match was fine. There were some big moments where Ragen faltered, however, and Seattle conceded off those moments. He had four clearances, a tackle won, and two interceptions defensively. 

One thing I liked: In the 35th minute as San Jose cleared long, Jackson calmly controlled the ball off his chest and found a beautiful diagonal pass. This sort of confidence maintained possession instead of heading the ball back the direction it came. 

One thing I didn’t like: Ragen really struggled in transition. During a corner kick in the 42nd minute, Jackson blindly followed the ball forward, leaving a giant hole in the middle of the box through which SJ immediately scored. Minutes later he attempted an offside trap and got trapped himself, trailing the play as SJ scored their second. The third San Jose goal also featured Ragen, as he again over-committed to an idea, this time a missed slide tackle, which opened up a massive chance that the home team didn’t flub. 

Going forward: Ragen lost concentration in some big moments, and as the last man back he took himself out of all three scoring sequences with gambles that didn’t pay off. His decision-making was at best suspect and at worst just plain terrible. This team isn’t currently good enough to survive when people make bad decisions, and in each match this year those decisions made the difference in results. Two awful matches in a row might open the door for Xavier Arreaga. 

Yeimar – 7 | Community – 5.4 (off 87’ for Rothrock)

Yeimar returned and was excellent, combining defensively and pressing high to help control the offensive right side of the field for Seattle. He led the team in tackles with three, had two clearances and an interception, and added a shot and 94 percent passing. 

One thing I liked: He was immediately impactful, winning a 1st minute header, saving the defense in the 5th minute with his speed and anticipation, and in the 21st minute he showcased stellar defending. At times in this match, Yeimar was a more effective right back than Alex Roldan.

One thing I didn’t like: Yeimar nearly scored in the 8th minute as Danny Leyva put in a perfect corner. The big Colombian had a wide open look but put it wide of the open goal. An overly aggressive play in the 52nd minute forced Dylan Teves into a yellow card as Yeimar lunged, missed, and San Jose was off in the other direction. 

Going forward: Welcome back, Yeimar. He was immediately the best defender for Seattle and looked fit and active. Finding the right pieces around him should allow the defense to better deal with offensive pressure and activity. 

Alex Roldan – 4 | Community – 4.7

With Yeimar, Alex had his usual pairing on the right of defense, but that didn’t translate into an uptick in his play. Instead, he again struggled to influence the team’s offense and yet got caught out defensively at important moments. Paired on the right with Teves, Alex was unable to be the key attacking component that Seattle has relied on for the last few seasons. 

One thing I liked: In the 61st minute, Alex pressed and won a free kick as Seattle had a nice stretch of dominant attacking.

One thing I didn’t like: Having Yeimar back was supposed to unleash Alex. It did allow him more forward impetus, but he couldn’t link effectively with Teves at all, and the spaces that San Jose successfully attacked looked woefully similar to a bummer playoff match last November. In fact, Yeimar’s passing map on the right side looked more effective and aggressive than Alex’s, which is a big issue. 

Going forward: It’s hard to tell what’s going on with Alex this season, but there’s been a marked decrease in his output. Whether that is entirely due to Roldan playing badly, to the new pieces around him being less effective, or to the tactical setup is hard to answer, but there is definite room, and expectation, for Alex to play better. 

Defensive Midfield

Danny Leyva – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 4.9 (off 69’ for Baker)

Leyva got his first start in 2024, and coming off a poor substitute performance last week, he could have struggled against San Jose. Instead, after growing into the match speed, Danny looked excellent, helping control the center of the field and displaying outstanding vision to stretch the opponent’s defense. His vertical passing and willingness to move the ball quickly were tremendous, earning him five key passes, a shot, and 85 percent passing on 70 quality touches in the center of the pitch. 

One thing I liked: Directly creating danger was the name of Leyva’s game for much of the match. Danny did his best Nico Lodeiro impression, creating from a variety of areas and adding something we haven't seen in the midfield yet this season. His ability to turn and quickly release switching balls, including an absolute dime to Jordan Morris in the 57th minute, was dynamic and inspired. Leyva’s set pieces were by far the best we have seen in a while, giving chance after chance to Seattle through consistent, dangerous service. 

One thing I didn’t like: A horrible tackle in the 10th minute was a reminder that Danny can be overly aggressive and make bad decisions when out of position. A beautiful 35th minute dribble reminded us that Leyva isn’t quite there, as he finished that play with a turnover thanks to a terrible pass. 

Going forward: Danny got a shot and showed that he has a vertical game and attacking skill set that is unique to the young players vying for central midfield time. Still likely down the list a ways, this performance should at least open the door for him to get more time at central and attacking positions when the opportunity arises. 

Sota Kitahara – 5 | Community – 4.3 (off 58’ for Rusnák)

Making his first start, Kitahara was solid, quiet, and didn’t make many mistakes, which is likely what the coaching staff hoped for him. He played solid positioning-wise, had 82 percent passing, and contributed eight defensive actions across the middle of the field. 

One thing I liked: Even if it wasn’t always successful, moments like a 23rd minute attempt to pass the ball forward are a nice change from what other defensive midfielders offer. Sota was solid fundamentally, generally keeping strong shape with his teammates and moving the ball quickly and safely. 

One thing I didn’t like: Early on it was apparent that Sota was going to be timid on the field, and he struggled at times to connect with teammates. Maybe most notable was the small number of touches (only 34, about half of what Leyva had) as Kitahara was quiet. 

Going forward: Other than the announcers constantly mixing him up with Teves, Sota was not too noticeable. He appears to be solid at the fundamentals but doesn’t yet display a tremendous upside at this point in his career. 

Attacking Midfield

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 4.9

Cristian started on the left and played more in the left central areas than a sideline-hugging winger. As Seattle changed tactics in the second half, he played more centrally, and eventually dropped deeper into the middle. Throughout, he was a solid part of the team but didn’t make any big impacts on the offensive end, becoming more of a helper for the central midfielders. He ended with 79 touches, 77 percent passing, two key passes, and a shot while defending at each of those positional stops. 

One thing I liked: In the 16th minute, Roldan made a great tactical adjustment to help defend centrally, and he continued to do this in support of the middle of the field. When needed, he pushed to the middle permanently and attempted a large number of passes into the box. 

One thing I didn’t like: Multiple turnovers from this usually very clean player showed a struggle in Cristian’s game that has been apparent all year. An example was in the 11th minute when a Morris backheel flick into a Ruidíaz backheel flick found Cristian wide open on the left, but he failed to do anything productive with this great opportunity. When asked to play defensively in the middle of the field, he was late to react to a direct center run in the 83rd minute, and San Jose scored the game-winner right behind him. 

Going forward: Seattle didn’t run their offense through the wings as much as they had prior, which meant Cristian pushed inside to help overload the middle. This was helpful, and he did some of everything that you expect from him, but if you need him in the middle, then starting him there might be more effective than starting him wide and requiring him to adjust mid-match. 

Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 4.1 (off 69’ for Musovski)

Teves got his first start of the year for Seattle. He put in a lot of effort with little to show for it. That isn’t to say he didn’t impact the match; in fact his movement and pressure were essential for some of the Sounders’ success, but he was so detached from the team that very little of what he did directly led to big moments. When he subbed off in the 74th minute, Dylan had amassed only 38 touches. 

One thing I liked: In the 24th minute, he switched sides with Cristian and looked solid, defending well as he transitioned his pressing to the opposite side. This led immediately to a steal and some quality offensive push for Seattle.

One thing I didn’t like: While Dylan hustled and made the game more predictable for others, his play wasn’t dynamic or creating big moments. One such opportunity came in the 62nd minute when he had a chance to put Raúl through going forward but was unable to execute. 

Going forward: Surrounded by quality players, Teves is likely a great glue guy, someone who can work and create chances due to his supreme effort and high soccer IQ. When paired with a struggling group and other young players, he lacks the skill and ability to pull the team to success. 


Raúl Ruidíaz – 6 | Community – 6.1

Raúl continued to play his version of a withdrawn striker, and again it wasn’t very effective as an offensive concept within the side. Trying to make that work, he dropped deep and worked hard to connect in the midfield, having 46 touches as a deep scoring threat. 

One thing I liked: Another game, another Panenka: Raúl steps up when the opportunity arises and finishes clean. Creatively, he had a few moments, like a backside flick to Cristian in the 11th minute. 

One thing I didn’t like: Ruidíaz is still not a creator. Getting the ball 25 yards from goal and dribbling horizontally before forcing a tame shot from outside the box helps to get him six shots but zero actual goal danger. 

Going forward: Raúl looks active, but he’s getting the ball in spots where a player like Albert Rusnák likely looks for a pass first. With more team injuries and Raúl looking fit, it may be time to play him solo up top, thereby giving more numbers to a midfield that is struggling this year. 

Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 4.4

The service to Morris improved centrally (thanks to Leyva) but dried up from the wings. Thus, Jordan had another odd match where he looked great stretching the field and diving vertically from the wing, but struggled to connect centrally from a deep midfield and disjointed team shape. He had 29 touches and two shots. 

One thing I liked: Morris continued to make great runs, and Danny found him in the 57th minute over the top. His full sprint chest control was fantastic, and he smartly attempted a first time shot that was unfortunately saved. 

One thing I didn’t like: In the 36th minute Jordan wanted a pass from Ruidíaz forward into the box but didn’t get it. Then, as the ball was pushed outside, he trotted to the middle of the box. Nouhou put in an excellent cross to where Morris should have been, but he wasn’t in position and the opportunity was lost. 

Going forward: Morris moved wide in this game and had a lot of impact stretching the field instead of trying to stay central and link up with an uninterested Ruidíaz. Putting more people around Jordan is counterproductive. 


Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 58’ for Kitahara) 

Albert entered early in the second half and was immediately impactful, helping to fix some of the defensive positioning errors and adding some necessary structure to the central attack. 

One thing I liked: His first touch showed immediate skill in controlling a ball, and he added a shot in the 63rd minute from his customary top-of -the-box position. He had a perfect 100 percent on passing (21/21).

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle didn’t seem to know how to fit all the pieces together, with Albert doing a lot of positional movement trying to fill gaps as players moved around and tactical guidance changed.

Going forward: Albert has looked great and seems poised to be the central attacking anchor we need to help focus the offense and direct the team vertically. 

Cody Baker – 6 | Community – 6.2 (on 69’ for Leyva) 

Baker arrived on the right and was an immediate upgrade on whatever the Sounders were doing prior to him entering. Impactful and direct, he had 29 touches and two tackles. 

One thing I liked: One-touch control, second touch far post cross. That was all it took for Baker in the 81st minute to dial up Alces Alces and (momentarily) tie the match. He didn’t overthink it; he got controlled possession and put it in a dangerous area. Novel concept. 

One thing I didn’t like: Cody was in a fairly good position on the third goal, but similar to other teammates, was slow to react to the danger man running through the middle, and so he got a great view of the game-winner. 

Going forward: Baker’s direct play was reminiscent of the excellent streak of matches last season that earned him his current contract. He offers a different look and may be pushing for more minutes. 

Danny Musovski – 7 | Community – 6.4 (MOTM) (on 69’ for Teves) 

Finally, the Moose has been let loose. After multiple appearances where he added nothing to the match, suddenly Danny Musovski entered this game and was a direct, dynamic force who continually asked questions of the defense, combined in buildup, and made smart, direct runs that ultimately affected the scoreboard from the run of play. 

One thing I liked: Lurking back-post on a recycled possession for Seattle, Musovski demolished Paul Marie in the 81st minute, dunking over his head and finishing at the far post. This was an excellent way to open his Sounders account, and it brought the team back to level. 

One thing I didn’t like: A 78th minute foul ended a promising attack and gave San Jose more time to get defensively compact. 

Going forward: Musovski finally showed something to back up the promise of his signing. This time his late-game positioning was more coherent with the players around him and he responded by scoring. 

Paul Rothrock – 4 | Community – 4.7 (on 87’ for Yeimar)

Added in the 87th minute as an additional attacking player, Rothrock was entirely ineffective in his short outing. 

One thing I liked: He had a shot attempt in the 94th. 

One thing I didn’t like: There were multiple chances for Paul to do impactful things, but he struggled to play to the speed of the game. In the 90th and 94th minutes he had golden chances to cross the ball into dangerous areas with plenty of targets, and he failed to do anything constructive with either chance, killing any hope of points. 

Going forward: Rothrock wasn’t the savior we needed.


Gabriele Ciampi – 5 | Community – 4.9

Depending on how you like matches refereed, this was either a very good job or a very bad one. Ciampi landed in the middle, with some solid calls and strong control of the match paired with a few decisions that were at best confusing and at worst inept. He called 17 fouls on each team and split his four yellow cards evenly. 

One thing I liked: The game flowed okay, and the use of advantage and the whistle to keep the game active was good. Use of VAR was still a bit of a crutch, but actually done quicker than we’ve seen so far this season.

One thing I didn’t like: There were a lot of weird calls that didn’t quite make sense, none more so than an inexplicable penalty earned by Yeimar in the 71st minute. This was one of the softest penalties I’ve seen and while the San Jose defender did have a high arm, the contact was minimal and Seattle should count themselves lucky this was considered a PK. 

Going forward: It’s a shame to waste such a lucky call as that penalty in a match the Sounders ended up losing. With the “real” refs coming back, that might be the last time we benefit from a referee call this season. 

San Jose Earthquakes MOTM

Cristian Espinoza proved yet again that he is a very good soccer man. As has so often been the case, he was once again at the center of everything the Earthquakes did well in attack. He cooly dispatched a second-chance opportunity after Frei’s spillage to take his team into the break up 2-0. He finished with three shots, all on target, the goal, and four key passes. A tidy little outing.

Next up: LA Galaxy is a good team with a very strong midfield and poor defense, which seems to match up fairly well against Seattle’s current woes, meaning the Sounders should dominate.