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Realio’s Ratings: The one where Seattle beats their rival

Cristian Roldan, playing in his seventh position of the campaign, scores to lead Seattle past Portland.

Last Updated
13 min read
Soobum Im - USA TODAY Sports

Final: 2-1, Sounders! Away against rival Portland! Given Seattle’s 2024 season so far, and our pathetic history against Portland, expectations were low before this game. Despite the lofty standards of the Seattle Sounders Football Club, in most games this year they had neither the mental strength to come back from a deficit, nor the passion to hold onto a lead. Sunday afternoon against Portland, though, Seattle actually seemed energized by an early Timbers goal, and they quickly equalized before pushing into a lead. Yes, there was way too much desperation defending and daring Portland to break them down. But they didn’t break down, and the Sounders only allowed two shots on goal, neither of which troubled our keeper. It's always going to be a wild ride against Portland; in this match the stellar and compact defense with just enough offense preserved the win and exceeded expectations. 


Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.4

Frei had little to do in this match, as the defense either let a nearly impossible counterattack score on him (one time) or denied everything the Timbers wanted to do (the rest of the time). This let Frei have a relaxing afternoon in the sun. He recorded two saves, and was especially good at “game management,” i.e. time wasting and annoying Timbers players and fans. 

One thing I liked: In the 84th minute, Portland had a quality look at the goal. While the shot was wide, it was great to see that Frei had the post covered, so that had the attempt been on frame, it wouldn’t have tied the match. 

One thing I didn’t like: Seattle’s defense failed miserably in the 15th minute and Frei was glued to his line. 

Going forward: Frei saw his backup do some magic midweek, and then he showed Thomas how to win on the road against your biggest rival. 


Nouhou – 7 | Community – 6.8

Nouhou started a rivalry match and showed up with the fire that the competition deserved. Defensively he was excellent, building upon a string of performances with another shutdown job on the left. He picked the right moments to go forward to support the offensive efforts. He had 69 touches, completed 77 percent, and was decisive on when to drive into the attack. 

One thing I liked: After an aggressive first half that had Nouhou winning a 3rd minute corner by vertically attacking and finding cohesive crosses when the opportunity arose, he dropped back and offered lockdown 1-v-1 defense in the second half, shutting down Portland’s wide play. 

One thing I didn’t like: In the 4th minute, Nouhou inexplicably allowed a free cross instead of closing down his man. Had he passed the ball earlier on a breakaway in the 55th minute he likely wouldn’t have gotten himself a yellow card for his troubles. 

Going forward: Said yellow card means Nouhou misses the midweek match against a strong RSL team, which is annoying. 

Jonathan Bell – 6 | Community – 6.0

Bell got another start a few days after playing 90 minutes at Starfire. He acquitted himself well for the most part, combining through the middle as Seattle’s defense locked down the Timbers for long periods of the match. His five clearances led the team and he connected cleanly with 93 percent passing as part of a defense that didn’t give away many opportunities. 

One thing I liked: It was great to see that Bell understood the physicality needed in a rivalry match, as he battled and fought for every inch of the field defensively. His willingness to mix it up frustrated Timbers players.

One thing I didn’t like: A 63rd minute handball gave a struggling Portland team an unnecessary free kick. Bell was just okay in the air, showing a surprising lack of header ability for someone with good soccer size. When beaten over the top, his recovery speed on Portland’s goal was dismal. 

Going forward: Even though he’s maybe fourth in the center back depth chart, Jonathan showed that he can slot in and be effective, which is great news as the team works through fixture congestion.

Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 6.1

Ragen moved to the right and was a solid defender for most of the match. As Seattle controlled possession in the first half, Jackson was consistently pushed high to support an offensive posture that surrounded the box with numbers but not a ton of movement. He completed 90 percent of his passes, including some quality forward support play. The offense that depended on a centerback to get near the 18 and cross or thread through balls exposed a tactical deficit. 

One thing I liked: In the first half Seattle pushed numbers into the offensive third and Ragen did well to support that. But it was his long balls forward to Jordan Morris that helped unlock space in the 27th and 39th, essential attempts that stretched the field and put Jordan in position to threaten the goal or win key second balls against defenders. 

One thing I didn’t like: Jackson was badly beaten on Portland’s goal, either due to a miscommunication with Alex Roldan to his right or not holding a coherent line as a Timber got in behind him. Either way, being beaten from the other side of the halfline wasn’t good. 

Going forward: Ragen was solid, and having the versatility to play both sides was great, even if the defense gave up more chances than hoped for. 

Alex Roldan – 6 | Community – 5.6

Alex returned to the right after playing midweek in the Open Cup and he improved on that effort. Although he still struggles to connect with others and defend consistently, he was part of a possession dominance in the first half before moving up a line. He showed better play as a winger than as a fullback. He finished with 77 touches and a key pass. 

One thing I liked: Although not a direct part of the success of Seattle in the first half, Alex did help hold possession. When tasked to move up and be a more creative winger, he improved, and an 88th minute run forward was excellent. 

One thing I didn’t like: Getting beat in the 15th minute was bad, as a Timber easily got inside of Alex and split him and Ragen, finding an uncontested chest to a teammate to score. Alex was left behind without the recovery speed to impact the play as Portland took an early lead. 

Going forward: Cristian took his job so he auditioned for Cristian’s? Who knows.

Defensive Midfield

Cristian Roldan – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.4 (MOTM) (off 93’ for Leyva)

Now that is more like it. After a slow start to the season, Cristian looks more comfortable and more impactful lately, this time starting from a deep playmaking position and diving into the attack. His offensive style was still vertical and connective, but starting him deeper was a good fit for this match. Roldan led the team in touches with 88 and had the important tying goal, but was also notable for his strong defensive play that included three tackles and nine recoveries. 

One thing I liked: Picking up a pass not intended for him, surging directly on goal, and taking a shot hard enough that it deflected in was critical right after his team conceded against the run of play. Cristian’s runs, movement and vision, and first-touch passing were essential to the Sounders success, and they paired well with his toughness and intensity, which allowed him to lead from a central position. 

One thing I didn’t like: Sometimes Roldan trying to do too much led to some gaps centrally. He was badly dispossessed in the 58th minute, one of a number of times that Roldan didn’t have the sideline to help camouflage mistakes. 

Going forward: Cristian hasn’t been great on the wing, but he moved to right fullback and was best on the team and now moved central and looked like starter material there. Where Roldan starts is less important than where he continues this resurgent output. His ability to look over the top for Morris is a tactical asset. 

João Paulo – 6 | Community – 6.1 (off 76’ for Baker)

JP did his job well, cycling the ball around and adding an important physicality to the match on the Sounders’ defensive side. His 81 touches and 89 percent passing mirrored his partner Roldan, as they patrolled and combined well to cover the field defensively. He had a key pass but wasn’t often part of the offense, instead pushing the ball forward and covering centrally. 

One thing I liked: Always a strong defender, JP was quick to understand the referee’s complete lack of desire to call things, and he adjusted. This meant strong tackles, plenty of physicality, and more than once completely overwhelming Portland players in a refreshing display of how to be physical with a purpose. João rode the line defensively and used it to the Sounders’ advantage. 

One thing I didn’t like: JP had some early turnovers that were uncharacteristic, and he missed passes that he normally makes, such as in the 38th minute with a brilliant Morris run waiting. He was also beaten on a 41st minute corner kick that Seattle got lucky on. 

Going forward: JP is so consistently good that we can nitpick these small errors because they are infrequent, but it feels like we haven’t yet seen a complete, DP version of João this season. 

Attacking Midfield

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 5.2 (off 81’ for Rothrock)

Morris had the unappealing job of running in the hot sun up and down the wing into a bunkering Portland defense. He was effective about as long as Seattle was, so about 55 minutes. He made his usual runs and was a strong holdup option as the game slowed down. He had a key pass and a shot on goal in 30 touches before subbing out late. 

One thing I liked: As Seattle looked lively in the first half, it was Morris who drove much of the attack, including a 6th minute cross that nearly found Raúl Ruidíaz, a 32nd minute header, and multiple occasions just holding up the ball or winning second balls as Cristian or Jackson looked over the top to stretch the defense. 

One thing I didn’t like: There were a lot of “almost" plays, such as a 48th minute ball that came across with Morris being a step late. After beating the defense in the 80th minute and seeing no support, Jordan stopped instead of driving at the defense and forcing something to happen. He might have made the right choice, but it’s frustrating to see someone with his clear ability not talent-check defenses more often. 

Going forward: Seattle didn’t get much from the wings this match, and hasn’t for much of the year. Seeing Jordan in a more free-flowing match might not happen any time soon. 

Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 93’ for Teves)

Rusnák started as the central attacking player, tasked with breaking down a deep-lying defensive team, and he did some things well. His two key passes led the team and he completed a team-high 94 percent of his passes. He also had strong defensive value against Portland, as part of a central midfield that controlled possession in the first half and defended well in the second. 

One thing I liked: Rusnák’s control was very important in this match, as was his incredibly clean passing. This kept the ball in Seattle’s control when dominating possession, and allowed Seattle to use him as an outlet when beleaguered defensively. 

One thing I didn’t like: One of the reasons that Albert has a high completion rate may be that he doesn’t try speculative passes or push forward attempting to “try shit.” There is a severe lack of that with Seattle in general, and Rusnák should push more to show dynamic creation, not just control. 

Going forward: Albert is more force multiplier than offensive dynamo. He needs a more open game and dynamic movement to combine with to be effective this season. 

Obed Vargas – 6 | Community – 6.5

Obed started in his new winger position and brought some interesting movement and combination in a strikingly similar role to Cristian when he plays there. Consistently dropping inside to overload and support the middle, Vargas had 46 touches and 71 percent passing. 

One thing I liked: A good vertical run in the first ten minutes showed Vargas’ newfound love of attacking, and it was great to see him display his excellent technical ability and instinct to push the ball forward. A 48th minute cross showed a refined service from width. His ability to combine centrally was realized in the 50th when he poked a ball to Raúl for him to do Raúl things with. 

One thing I didn’t like: In the 17th minute, Vargas neatly drove into the box but then had no plan, ultimately fumbling the ball away. In the 61st minute, he was shrugged off the ball and didn't quite have the size/balance/center of gravity to bang around centrally. 

Going forward: For all the hate going toward the opposite winger, Obed had zero shots. Our wide play isn’t creating anything, and that's a distinct problem that seems exacerbated by opponents defending deep, and Seattle’s slow buildup style. 


Raúl Ruidíaz – 7 | Community – 7.3 (off 76’ for Musovski)

Raúl did it again, this time scoring a stunning game-winning goal from outside the box early in the second half. He combined this with 87 percent passing on 36 touches, and he remains a thorn in the side of Portland, scoring his 319th goal against them in this rivalry. 

One thing I liked: Unlike others on the roster, Raúl has the ability to will a goal out of almost nothing. As he ages, he’s had more speculative attempts and pathetically tame shots, like the one earlier in this match. Still, on the road against Seattle’s biggest rivals, there was Ruidíaz attempting and converting a ridiculous bit of skilled finishing, first-timing a left footed shot from outside the box with such fervor that it got up and down in classic Ruidíaz fashion. 

One thing I didn’t like: Raúl provides frustratingly little movement up top, and his inability to connect or set up others is a big reason the team is struggling to score. Always a “shoot first” striker, he put three of his team-leading four shots on goal and scored one, but he also denied Seattle another handful of good opportunities by forcing a shot or missing teammates’ movement. Not scoring at all from inside the box shows how little time he spends there, and that lack of a target is a problem for a struggling offense. 

Going forward: Say what you will about Raúl, his seven goals are the seventh highest in the league. At some point, it doesn’t matter how they happen, Seattle needs someone to kick the thing into the thing. 


Cody Baker – 5 | Community – 5.6 (on 76’ for João Paulo) 

Baker came in as Seattle dropped deeper into a defensive shell to ride out the win with a lead. He had 10 touches as a right fullback, pushing Alex Roldan forward into the wing position and pairing Obed Vargas centrally with Cristian. 

One thing I liked: Cody showed excellent positional defense in the 80th minute, combining strength and space to shelter the ball out, and he took a physical bump for his troubles. 

One thing I didn’t like: Forty percent passing when you are trying to run out the clock is rough, and it included bad turnovers in the 77th and 94th minutes. 

Going forward: Baker can play both wide defensive positions and looks like a solid part of a quality supporting cast. 

Danny Musovski – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 76‘ for Ruidíaz)

Danny came in to get some fresh legs up top and did some nice movement and connective play with the team as they held onto the lead. Although he had only 12 touches, he made coherent runs. 

One thing I liked: In a short time, Musovski won two headers, and he looks to be a true aerial target. 

One thing I didn’t like: An 88th minute offensive half chance was killed with a poor pass, and he had an unfortunate foul giving Portland a last-gasp 95th minute set piece. 

Going forward: Musovski remains an excellent substitute who shows smart runs that combine well with teammates. 

Paul Rothrock – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 81’ for Morris)

Rothrock came in to replace an exhausted Morris and took up some space for the last 15 minutes of the match. 

One thing I liked: His defense and positioning were supportive late. He only touched the ball three times but completed two of his passes. 

One thing I didn’t like: There was at least one time where Paul was standing on the sideline with teammates looking to get him the ball, but he did not provide a good angle. He needs to move to support the team shape, either dropping or pushing forward instead of staying stagnant. 

Going forward: Paul came in and did his job, and holding onto this win was a big deal. 

Dylan Teves – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 93’ for Rusnák)

Teves saw the field for the last few minutes. He had a single touch. 

One thing I liked: In the 96th minute, he pressured Portland and his tenacious defense ended the match. 

One thing I didn’t like: Dylan’s energy was a clear upgrade over tired legs. Faith in these subs to hold onto a win was apparently less than the faith in the last MLS match that they could win a tied match. 

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

Danny Leyva – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 93’ for C. Roldan)

Leyva came in late for a battered and beaten Cristian Roldan. He had five touches while bringing good energy. 

One thing I liked: A 95th minute clearance helped end the game. 

One thing I didn’t like: Zero percent completion on two attempts wasn’t great, but clearing the ball out late was the best choice. 

Going forward: It was nice to see Leyva earn time after a good showing in the Open Cup, and hopefully this leads to more quality play. 


Allen Chapman – 4 | Community – 5.3

Chapman has struggled in the past to referee Sounders/Timbers rivalry games. He somehow outperformed expectations and at the same time was a disappointment. Depending on which football you favor, American or everyone else’s, you either loved or hated this performance. Chapman only called 18 total fouls (seven on Seattle) with a single card for each team in a brutal, physical match that thankfully didn’t end with a severe injury. 

One thing I liked: The physical game and play-on method of refereeing benefitted Seattle. As LikkitP pointed out in Discord, Seattle has been on the wrong end of some bad calls in Portland as they have habitually been keen to take advantage. This “terrible lack of calls for both sides” somehow evened the playing field out. Especially appreciated was Chapman’s lack of desire to deny Seattle’s first goal, and his instinct benefitted the away team. 

One thing I didn’t like: This was one of the most blatant examples of the MLS ref swallowing his whistle since the Terrible Times of Toledo™. It was almost comical how many fouls were waved off. Almost comical, because the increased physicality and lack of penalty for dangerous play meant there was far too much dangerous play and the opportunity for this match to end in legitimate injury. Perhaps both teams being underachievers muted the animosity enough to prevent flagrant fouling, but there were enough times each team got away with blatant fouls to wonder what Chapman was doing.

Going forward: I stated last week that Seattle may do better with fewer fouls called as it limits their set piece weakness and they don’t transition enough to be penalized much by defensive physicality in midfield. I didn’t mean it should be like this, but in a way it proved the point. 

Portland Timbers MOTM

In a rare but appropriate occurrence, the two players who combined for the lone goal for the bad guys came out even in the voting. As noted above, their goal, which gave Portland the briefest of 1-0 leads, was a “nearly impossible” counter. Jonathan Rodríguez split Seattle’s back line, chesting an over-the-top ball into the path of the onrushing Felipe Mora.

Next up: Tough team in a tough environment on a tough amount of rest. Guess we’ll see how tough we are.