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Realio’s Ratings: Atencio rises high, DC rises higher

Another red card, another loss from a winning position, another moral victory.

Last Updated
14 min read
Amber Searls - USA TODAY Sports

Somehow, the Sounders keep finding new and different ways to lose. This time, away at DC United, it was a defensive blunder that dominoed into a DOGSO penalty, ejecting our keeper in the first 30 minutes of the match and erasing what had been a solid start for Seattle. With that one play, DC quickly turned the Sounders’ 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit, which Seattle was unable to overcome. Even being the better team for much of the rest of the match, especially in the second half, again the Sounders were missing the skill needed to create or finish one of their quality opportunities. Again, the team earned a moral victory but not the kind of victory that counts for league points. Playing well in a loss is no longer satisfying, as continually making mistakes and continually dropping points is becoming insurmountable. 


Stefan Frei – 4 | Community – 4.0 (off 28’ Red Card)

Frei started the game well, defending the ball in traffic early, and saving the one shot he had a chance to touch. His distribution was dismal, as the rebuilt Sounders back line was uninterested and incapable of playing out of the back, instead relying on the keeper to kick long nearly every time. This led to low passing, a 38 percent completion rate. 

One thing I liked: A huge save in the 23rd minute was fantastic, the kind of save that Frei has been making this year, although they’re overshadowed by the times when he struggles. 

One thing I didn’t like: Originally I was upset that Frei didn’t come off his line earlier, but on the rewatch he started on his six and held his spot as long as possible to give Cody Baker a chance to recover. With Cody trailing the attacker, though, Stef struggled to deal with the onrushing player and awkwardly chopped at his knees in an attempt to stop him from scoring. Had he swung lower to the ground, it would have looked more like an attempt at the ball and likely result in a PK-plus-yellow combination. We all understand that he was trying and it was awkward, but the bottom line is that Frei took out the player and himself in one clumsy action. 

Going forward: Frei sits and Andrew Thomas gets more time, which isn’t a huge disaster as Andrew has looked strong so far this season. 


Cody Baker – 4 | Community – 5.1 (off 79’ for Rothrock)

Baker struggled in this match. He was victimized again and again in the first half as the Sounders defensive left consistently gave up chances, and his dreadful 50 percent passing was rough. Cody’s combination with Jonathan Bell was often at odds, and he failed to connect with any other part of the Sounders team. On the positive side, he co-led Seattle with five tackles and was much improved in an altered role in the second half.

One thing I liked: Freed from the pressure of any left sided help in a neat tactical switch, Baker improved in the second half, at one point running from end line to end line on a gut-busting push forward. This 50th minute dribble nearly earned Seattle a PK of their own. 

One thing I didn’t like: Baker and Bell got picked on and Cody did well to bend defensively until he ultimately broke, being completely dominated by an internal vertical run by Jared Stroud in the 28th minute. The DC player ran inside Cody, was free on goal, and unfortunately Baker’s recovery nearly stopped Stroud’s run, but instead it froze Frei who waited to see if his defender could recover. He didn’t, and so Frei and Baker combined to fumble away the good Seattle start. The offensive tradeoff needed from Baker to offset that kind of giant defensive mistake wasn’t in evidence. 

Going forward: It would be nice if this team stopped getting red cards and making big blunders, but the pressure other teams are putting on them seems too much for a struggling Sounders group right now. 

Jonathan Bell – 5 | Community – 5.3

Bell got his first field time in a Seattle uniform and went 90. His performance was mixed, looking very shaky early and improving as the formation switched. Eight clearances and three tackles mostly came early, and his six won headers were important against a team as big as DC. While 64 percent passing wasn’t stellar, a defender with a key pass was great to see. 

One thing I liked: There was a lot to build on from Bell, who has an intriguing skillset from the left side of defense. Especially exciting were his 24th minute vertical pass after a dribble, and an 88th minute cross to Albert Rusnák, both excellent attacking services from a team always looking for left-sided offense. 

One thing I didn’t like: The left side of the Sounders defense was disconnected from the rest of the team in the first half, with Baker and Bell struggling to work together as DC sent waves of pressure through their side. Part of the issue was Bell’s connection to Yeimar, which saw Jonathan lagging far behind the right side, creating gaps that were victimized when Bell pushed forward to try to stay in line with his center back partner. 

Going forward: Bell showed good athleticism and an intriguing size and speed combo that could work in a three, four, or five-back formation. Honestly, at this point, if he's getting to practice on time and not giving up red cards, start the dude. 

Yeimar – 6 | Community – 5.5

Yeimar was solid in this match as most of the DC pressure came in the first half and originated on the opposite side of the field. He had two shots in an active match on set pieces, and added a key pass. Defensively, he worked smoothly with Cristian Roldan and later Josh Atencio as the Sounders right side held up for the most part, but his 64 percent passing was just okay. 

One thing I liked: Yeimar was consistently across to aid the Bell/Baker side as he frequently needed to pull left in support. His defense in the 34th minute kept DC from taking the lead even earlier, and allowed Seattle to regroup and nearly earn points. Yes, “nearly earning a point” is somehow an objective on this team right now. 

One thing I didn’t like: An 18th minute missed run header was a chance wanting, and in the 49th minute he attempted to dribble in a spot you don’t want it stolen, but guess what? 

Going forward: Yeimar was again joined by different pieces around him and is the only consistent high-performer on the defensive back line. 

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.6

There was a lot to like about Cristian’s play in this match, but it’s hard to tell how much of it was the position he played, the game state, or the opponent. After struggling early, he erupted in the second half as a sorta wingback-for-mid-fender on the right, and this led to some of the best moments of his season. He ended up with a single shot and only 66 percent passing, but his impact was substantial in the second half. 

One thing I liked: Just seeing Cristian go off in the 71st minute was a reminder of who this player can be. Roldan was everywhere, defending, attacking, physically winning battles central and wide, pushing the ball up the wing, crossing into dangerous places, and being incredibly impactful to the point he looked like he was playing fresh against a team down multiple players. 

One thing I didn’t like: Even being a foot taller might not have helped when he was out-jumped for the second DC goal, but a lot went wrong to set up that play. A lot went right in the 94th minute that saw Cristian on the corner of the six with a golden chance to gain that moral victory point and instead his mistouch ended up weakly covered by the DC defense. 

Going forward: The right back experiment with Cristian is an interesting one because he can still do much of what he does now but from a deeper starting position. While I wouldn’t call this performance revolutionary, it's intriguing enough to wonder if this sort of tactic could help unlock his previous level of performance. 

Defensive Midfield

Josh Atencio – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 6.3

Atencio was fantastic, reminding everyone that he is a starter when this team is interested in competing for points. A MOTM performance included a plethora of stats: team-leading three shots, a key pass, multiple headers won, 70 percent completion rate, team-high five tackles, five clearances, and some nifty tactical play while dropping deep. 

One thing I liked: His vertical 14th minute run has been missing from the Seattle midfield. His 57th minute defense showed an ability to drop in as a centerback and excel. His 68th minute header hit the post, and he nearly scored off an 83rd minute free kick; Atencio was excellent. 

One thing I didn’t like: A 3rd minute turnover showed up in my book. There goes his starting job. 

Going forward: Atencio had a nice first half and then turned in a second half that had to be eye-opening for the coaching staff. Tactical changes can come slowly to the Sounders, but seeing Josh able to drop seamlessly into a CB role yet still play as a roaming number eight was the kind of flexibility a team could utilize moving forward. 

João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.3

JP was almost quietly good, remaining an effective part of a Seattle offense that scored first and then remained on the front foot in a second half that was carried by the team down a man. His tireless work rate and connection was essential as Sounders dealt with creative DC movement and later tactical switching due to personnel deficits and changes. He had a shot, two key passes, and 75 percent passing. 

One thing I liked: Seeing João Paulo lead the team in touches with 74 was great as he set the tone for the metronomic movement of the ball through the middle. Even down a man, having a midfielder (not a defender) with your team’s highest possession is a great thing. 

One thing I didn’t like: JP uncharacteristically lost a vertical runner in behind him in the 18th minute, and he had notable errors in the 43rd and 58th minutes. 

Going forward: JP going 90 is something this team needs. Going 90 with 10 players around him would be even better. 

Attacking Midfield

Léo Chú – 7 | Community – 6.5 (MOTM) (off 31’ for Thomas)

The return of Léo Chú was everything you might have expected. His defending was more a concept than a tangible product, his offensive movement was excellent and he and Morris and Moose gave the offensive spacing needed to create (and finish) a good opportunity. He had a shot, a goal, and about the most production from eight touches you could hope for in a severely abbreviated outing. 

One thing I liked: Chú didn’t get long on the field but he showed an offensive flair and finishing ability that had been sorely missed for Seattle. Smart movement and the speed to keep up with a Morris breakout meant Léo was unmarked in the box in the 14th minute. When presented with a chance to score, unlike his teammates, he forcefully and cleanly put the ball away, giving Seattle some brief hope. 

One thing I didn’t like: Who knows how much more Chú had to offer? When Andrew Thomas had to come on in the 31st, it was Léo who was sacrificed.

Going forward: It's hard to tell what Léo Chú has to bring this team, but someone able to put the spotted round thing into the net seems like a positive. Once upon a time, this team had a ton of attacking wide options, but Chú in this match staked his claim to the left wing by actually putting that round thing in the net.

Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.0

Rusnák continues to play well as an attacking member of a team that only has cohesive attacks in spurts. How much that has to do with Albert specifically is hard to tell, but against DC he had 51 touches, excellent 89 percent passing, two shots and a key pass. 

One thing I liked: Rusnák was very active in the first half, finding pockets in the middle of the DC defense to connect the Sounders beleaguered defense with smart counter attacking movement. He had a 14th minute shot and the secondary assist on the goal, and followed this with nearly finding Raúl Ruidíaz in the 54th. 

One thing I didn’t like: A completely wasted free kick in the 47th minute was the kind of deflating moment you hate to see a DP produce, as even down a man, Seattle had moments to come back and the wastefulness was a downer. 

Going forward: Albert is doing his job as a force multiplier; the forces he multiplies are just struggling to stay on the field right now. 

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.3 (off 46’ for Ruidíaz)

Jordan outperformed expectations on the right, as he looked great on the wing prior to the injury and red card that fundamentally changed the game to the weirdness it was. Although only getting 10 touches, Jordan created the goal, had two key passes, and completed 100 percent of his attempts. 

One thing I liked: Racing down field and putting immense pressure on the DC defense, it was Morris who sized up that stretched defense and found the internal run of Chú before delivering an excellent cross to earn an assist on the opening goal. In the 42nd minute he nearly did it again. 

One thing I didn’t like: Morris was subbed at half, perhaps to save him for fixture congestion, but it was a move that took a lot of counter attack and field-stretching ability off the pitch. 

Going forward: Jordan is creating big opportunities and looks very good amidst the chaos that has surrounded him this season. Similar to his teammates, however, Morris is only effective in spurts. 


Danny Musovski – 5 | Community – 5.0 (off 21’ for Vargas)

Seattle tried out Musovski in this one and he responded by being active and combining well with his teammates, as the Sounders came out in a counter attacking tactic and used it perfectly to earn an early lead. Although he only touched the ball four times, the dynamic movement and 100 percent completion rate from Musovski was a different look for the Seattle front line. 

One thing I liked: His movement and ability to keep up with the vertical runs on either side of him was solid. 

One thing I didn’t like: Right after Seattle scored and looked to have much of the momentum, Musovski came up lame with an injury, ultimately forced to sub in the first 20 minutes. 

Going forward: This match had an opportunity to change the expectations of what a Sounders lineup looks like, and it all went downhill after Musovski went down. 


Obed Vargas – 6 | Community – 5.4 (on 21’ for Musovski) 

Perhaps surprisingly, it was Vargas who entered for the injured Musovski and even more surprisingly it was as a right winger. Following the theme, Obed played surprisingly well there, with a roller coaster outing that wasn’t without its faults, but was interesting in that it suggests a new idea of what this young player might offer. Vargas had 40 touches, and a (nearly) essential key pass. 

One thing I liked: Obed’s 94th minute run and service to Cristian Roldan was a beautiful combination of effort, technical ability, and follow-through. It’s this third part that Vargas has struggled with and it was eye-opening to see this all add up to a massive chance. 

One thing I didn’t like: An inexplicable 59th minute handball defensively nearly gave DC another penalty kick and was a head scratcher. 

Going forward: Obed on the wing is definitely worth another look, as it seemed to protect him a bit with the sideline and allow him the freedom to be proactive and vertically inclined. This play is likely what the coaches were hoping would translate to his central role, but either way it's nice to be reminded there is a quality player with high upside in there. 

Andrew Thomas – 5 | Community – 5.9 (on 31’ for Chú)

Thomas was thrust into the match due to the Frei red card, and immediately had to face a penalty kick. This was a rude entrance to the match, and after predictably conceding, he was part of a Sounders team that conceded one more time but otherwise was on the front foot. 

One thing I liked: A 37th minute save was excellent as DC looked to try to blow the match open. 

One thing I didn’t like: DC scored their second on a powerful header but one that Thomas got a hand to and maybe, in a perfect season that is literally the opposite of this one, he saves. 

Going forward: Andrew Thomas has gotten more matches than he likely expected this year, and he’s shown he’s up to the challenge. 

Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 46’ for Morris)

Added to the match at halftime, Raúl was on the field for a spirited second half where Seattle was the better team, but it was hard to tell how much credit he deserved for that. He had 15 touches, took two shots, and completed all his passes. 

One thing I liked: It was great to see Ruidíaz stretch the field in the 53rd minute, something that the Sounders desperately need and that Raúl has struggled to do this year. 

One thing I didn’t like: He had two shots and didn’t put either on frame, with his 56th minute shot a now-familiar forced shot into traffic hoping for magic. 

Going forward: Raúl seems well fit as a substitute, but maybe no longer fit to start for this team that needs a different skill set up top. 

Paul Rothrock – 5 | Community – 4.8 (on 79’ for Baker)

Rothrock came into the match in the 79th minute and played something close to an attacking version of the left-sided activity of the man he replaced. He had nine touches. 

One thing I liked: Some smart movement was impressive in this one from the Rock, who’s 89th minute diagonal run across the field was brilliant but unfortunately much better than the service from Vargas, and a legitimate scoring chance went begging. 

One thing I didn’t like: Outside of his off-ball movement, the 40 percent passing and low usage mean this was a lot of effort without payoff, likely more due to game state than anything Paul did or didn’t do. 

Going forward: Between Dylan Teves and Rothrock, Seattle has some intelligent movement and good tactical positioning available off the bench. 


Rosendo Mendoza – 4 | Community – 4.2

Another week, another red card, another nearly impossible referee rating task. This ref called 22 fouls on DC, gave them five yellows (compared to 11 and one to Seattle), but it was the red card called on Frei that changed the entire game and made it nearly impossible for the Sounders to leave DC happy. Throughout the match there were many other calls that were confusing, and it is hard to separate Seattle’s poor play and the poor refereeing. 

One thing I liked: Calling a push in the back on Musovski in the 3rd minute was nice to see, and a 5th minute yellow card was the correct call. 

One thing I didn’t like: Unfortunately, while there were so many repetitive fouls and yellows called there was nothing that was going to add up to the enormous advantage that the one red card-plus-PK gave DC. For the second week in a row, you can have a lively debate about the validity of the red, but Frei is awkward when going down (never great at PK saves, struggles mightily with 1-v-1 moments) and this looked like him being less than smooth trying to save the ball. By that metric, it was an attempt on the ball, PK and yellow, 1-1 at worst with full teams, game goes on — and the way the team played the rest of the match, maybe 1 or 3 points for Seattle. I get it, it’s hard to see how the guy who can make “THE SAVE” can also be this uncoordinated. And this ref has to make a judgment call, so what is “trying to get the ball” versus getting a bit of the player, but also … sigh. 

Going forward: Seattle can’t get out of their own way and the referees aren’t doing them any favors (outside of that silly PK in San Jose). 

DC United MOTM

Benteke big.

Next up: Short weeks mean less time to dwell on whatever happened, and in this season that is a good thing. Next up, a midweek game at Philadelphia Union.