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Realio’s Ratings: Midweek madness

Rothrock goal off shot-block bounce-back sparks Sounders’ comeback.

Last Updated
11 min read
Thomas Shea / USA TODAY Sports

Seattle played a midweek game in Houston in rough Texas weather and continued their momentum on the road. Although ultimately drawing the Dynamo 2-2, at one point in the second half they looked more likely to lose 4-0 than tie. The miserable first half featured an experimental lineup and tactical tweaks that worked well for Houston. After halftime, Sounder changes added some normalcy to the formation and personnel. Due to some individual efforts, by the middle of the second half Seattle had somehow weathered the storm and magically flipped the game on its head. Just moments from conceding a third goal, the Sounders scored their first, followed it up with a tying goal less than ten minutes later, and ran out the match for a morale-increasing draw. This result could go a long way to defining what has been a trying season. 


Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.2

After a game of not saving things he should have, then not having much to do the next, this was a signature Frei outing: he was the difference between earning points and not. Multiple big saves kept Seattle in the match long enough to scratch back from a deficit. He was credited with three crucial saves, in a strong outing.

One thing I liked: A 57th minute save was hugely important, as his fingertip deflection stopped Houston from going up 3-0. The timing couldn’t have been better, as Seattle cut the lead in half seconds later. Another massive save in the 76th minute was an even better double save that again directly stopped Houston from outright winning the match.

One thing I didn’t like: Some risky plays with his feet included a terrible choice to go short in the 30th, leading directly to Houston stealing, then scoring. 


Jonathan Bell – 6 | Community – 5.8 (off 79’ for Nathan)

Bell returned to the starting lineup and played okay, but struggled to get on the same page as teammates, instead relying on individual defensive work rather than solid team play. His 94 percent passing was excellent, and a team-high six clearances detailed a busy defensive outing.

One thing I liked: Early on, as Seattle looked strong in the first ten minutes, Bell quickly moved the ball, spreading it around the back with pace and allowing Seattle to push forward. Later in the match, he showed strong flexibility to move inside Nouhou and defend as the left of two center backs.

One thing I didn’t like: Bell wasn’t always in line with teammates, often failing to trap in cohesion with others. He was a ball-watching cone on Houston’s 40th minute goal, never checking the runner behind him who scored easily. 

Jackson Ragen – 7 | Community – 6.7

Similar to the rest of the team, Ragen struggled with the back three/five formation, often a bit out of place and taking angles defensively that left gaps behind. Oddly enough, he didn’t have many defensive moments at all, including not being credited with a single tackle or interception, instead co-leading the team with three shots and putting two on frame. He added a sparkling 96 percent passing as Jackson continued to find teammates at a high rate, just not in great positions going forward.

One thing I liked: When Albert Rusnák stepped over a dead ball in the 63rd minute, the match was begging for a set piece goal. Ragen obliged, on a nifty right-footed touch across goal into side netting to tie the match and help earn Seattle a point. 

One thing I didn’t like: For much of the match, Seattle’s defense was reactive. Even worse, at times, like in the 53rd minute, Ragen was just watching instead of moving to support teammates. Getting caught forward with so many tired players was a tactical blunder.

Yeimar – 4 | Community – 5.1 (off 46’ for Nouhou)

Yeimar only played in the deplorable first half for Seattle, and while he was okay, the team had little ability to combine the formation and personnel into anything resembling soccer. His 93 percent passing was the usual mixed bag, and he left at halftime to help fix tactical positioning errors that plagued the team in the first half. 

One thing I liked: If it wasn’t for his four interceptions, Houston might have had five goals in the first half, as Yeimar also blocked two shots in a defensive effort that while not great, was important to keep the score at “only” two going into the break.

One thing I didn’t like: Similar to Ragen, Yeimar was often watching, with a great view of the 30th minute goal as the Sounders around him scrambled defensively and he stood resolute, marking nothing. His poor header was immediately recycled into the goal behind Frei ten minutes later. 


Reed Baker-Whiting – 4 | Community – 5.8 (off 88’ for JP)

Reed started the match at a wide midfield position and was generally lost. His inability to find the right defensive position combined poorly with his ineffective offensive performance. He had three tackles in mostly reactionary wide defensive plays, and contributed a shot and a key pass.

One thing I liked: Reed’s ability to dial in crosses with either foot is a great talent, and he mixed up his tries from left foot down the line and right-footed cutbacks. 

One thing I didn’t like: This match won’t be on his European audition tapes. For most of the game, RBW was lost defensively and a non-factor offensively. The first part was especially rough, as Reed was continually forced into lunging tackles to make up for poor positioning and movement. He was 0/7 crossing the ball. 

Obed Vargas – 5 | Community – 5.1

It's clear Obed still needs a strong director in the middle. For long periods against Houston he was lost, struggling to find the match and being ineffective on both sides of the field. With a more familiar tactical setup in the second half, things improved, but there was a lot of expectation that wasn't met, or was defeated by fatigue. 

One thing I liked: Obed was clearly dragging late in the match but continued to work hard, ending with a tackle and three interceptions defensively. After his big turnover led to a goal, Vargas was cleaner on the ball and even got involved pushing forward later in a long, tiring outing.

One thing I didn’t like: Hung out to dry by a central goal kick from Frei in the 30th, Obed did just about everything wrong, fumbling his touch, falling down and eventually watching Dallas walk the ball into the net. 

Josh Atencio – 5 | Community – 4.9 (off 60’ for Musovski)

Atencio got a rare start and didn’t cover himself in glory. A willing worker, he covered a lot of ground but was a turnover machine in the first half. He clearly didn’t cover the right spaces or interchange with Vargas before the tactical changes at the break. He earned a shot and a key pass, however, as he worked hard to support a flailing attack. 

One thing I liked: Right before half Josh got into the box for the second Sounders shot, and this is the kind of vertical presence he needs to show. A nice 57th minute touch put the ball into the path of Paul Rothrock to do the thing. 

One thing I didn’t like: It was clear early that Atencio couldn't get untracked, with multiple turnovers and fouls as he was chasing ghosts in the defensive midfield. 

Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.3

Cristian put in an ironman performance, running up and down the right and combining centrally, ending on the left a few times, and eventually playing just defense. He won four headers, three tackles, and had multiple clearances, at times chasing defensively but effectively controlling possession from the back right. 

One thing I liked: Roldan was the best defender in the first half, repeatedly coming back and defending the right channel and denying Houston from scoring even more. In the second half he was more creative, pushing the ball forward into good spots and keeping possession for Seattle. 

One thing I didn’t like: Cristian’s impact was muted the more he tired. In the 88th minute he turned over a routine pass unguarded when he was unable to chase down the play. 

Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.0

In the first half, Rusnák was a giant nothingburger, failing to combine with others, looking uninterested, and struggling to be relevant. As Seattle grew into the match, so did he, asserting himself with a crucial assist before dropping into the middle and helping defend out the point. His positional flexibility was crucial for Seattle to adjust with many subs as the match moved on.

One thing I liked: Again, a dead ball went from Rusnák into a dangerous area and again Seattle converted, the third match in a row where Albert has created a goal from a set piece in a suddenly dangerous part of the Sounders’ attack. His three interceptions came after moving back to help defend out the match.

One thing I didn’t like: A 51st minute breakout saw him try a tricky pass through traffic instead of a cleaner option, with predictable results. More annoying was not communicating with Obed in the 76th minute, resulting in a turnover to Houston that tested Frei. 

Paul Rothrock – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.0 (MOTM)

Paul wasn’t great for long periods, struggling like his teammates to be involved in the first half, tiring and not connecting well for much of the match. None of that matters, because if anyone has taken advantage of their opportunities this season, it's been Rothrock. He once again scored a massive goal for Seattle and showed that sometimes, you just gotta swag-check the other team. Three shots, a key pass, three tackles, and an interception showed an active match.

One thing I liked: In a game where Seattle was being thoroughly beaten, it was Paul who took the game into his own hands in the 58th minute, willed himself into a dangerous position, and then scored. Seemingly from nothing, this play changed the match. He got the ball in a forward spot, drove at the defense, took a shot on frame that forced a save, and then returned the rebound into the net. It wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t smooth, but unlike others looking for the perfect shot, Paul’s ended up in the net and gave Seattle the momentum. 

One thing I didn’t like: It's weird to keep saying “outside of his goal, Paul struggled,” but he wasn’t great for much of the match, and his technical skills were repeatedly exposed. Fifty-five percent passing is indicative of someone who not only couldn’t find his teammates, but turned the ball over repeatedly. 


Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.8 (off 60’ for Ruidíaz)

Jordan Morris hung out on an island by himself in the first half, rarely touching the ball and seeing runs unrewarded. In the second half he also worked hard but was inconsequential, overshadowed by others who were more effective. He only had 17 touches, but managed a shot and two key passes in the times he found the ball. 

One thing I liked: Morris makes great defensive choices, continually attacking the Houston defense and forcing them into predictable play. This was especially valuable in the first half as multiple times his pressure both denied Houston quicker play and gave Seattle their rare attacking chances. 

One thing I didn’t like: Jordan has to be more effective and demand the ball when he’s not getting fed consistently. The kind of play Rothrock had where he stat-checked the defense should happen multiple times per game by Morris.


Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.7 (on 46’ for Yeimar) 

Nouhou changed the game. His play was strong, but it was likely the tactical improvements from a more standard lineup are what allowed Seattle to look like a different team with him on the field. He had a key pass, defended as expected, and brought energy and life to a team that looked dead heading into the break.

One thing I liked: Immediately pushing forward, Nouhou linked with Rothrock in the 51st, and had an excellent 74th minute pass as he brought some normalcy to the back. He was a perfect 19 for 19 passing.

One thing I didn’t like: A bad pass in the 52nd wasn’t great, and some late team defending was lucky not to be exposed.

Danny Musovski – 5 | Community – 5.1 (on 60’ for Atencio)

Danny came in and played as a hybrid false nine, midfielder, defender. He had 18 touches and won a header, as well as the free kick from which Seattle tied the match.

One thing I liked: Excellent 74th minute defense and then breaking out was exactly what Seattle needed. A sneaky won foul in the 78th with no options was a veteran move. 

One thing I didn’t like: Musovski didn’t play up front or particularly well, instead floating around, supporting wherever he could. Without a set position he at times got lost and was ineffective.

Raúl Ruidíaz – 5 | Community – 4.9 (on 60’ for Morris)

Replacing Morris meant Ruidíaz had the thankless job of running up front and dropping back to support defense, especially after Seattle equalized right after he subbed in. He had 14 touches, mainly in possession, and excellent 88% passing.

One thing I liked: Nice little 71st minute holdup earned Seattle a free kick after Raúl was fouled, and it was Ruidíaz busting his ass in the 96th minute to defend and see out the result. 

One thing I didn’t like: There was a chance for Raúl to be a super sub and that would have meant taking a shot (and scoring). Instead, Ruidíaz was watching from the front a lot, and failed to bring any magic to the game offensively.

Nathan – 5 | Community – 5.4 (on 79’ for Bell)

Nathan got his first playing time since the inaugural match of the season and looked the part. Thirteen touches, 91 percent passing and an ability to slide into the defense and look comfortable with a team he’s barely played with was nice.

One thing I liked: His passing remains excellent, and was an essential ingredient of seeing out the match. He had at least one look that showed an ability to transition the ball that may pay off in a different game state.

One thing I didn’t like: Coming in late for Bell meant that Nathan had to get up to speed quickly, and the marking in the back at times was misaligned. Ragen and Nathan were rarely in the same mind trapping, and there is work to be done to acclimate all these parts into a cohesive unit.

João Paulo – 5 | Community – 5.8 (on 88’ for RBW)

JP got in for the last few minutes and helped bring some order and leadership. He did everything asked of him in only four touches, completing all his passing attempts and earning a clearance.

One thing I liked: In the 93rd minute, JP confidently dribbled out of pressure and forced a yellow as Houston desperately tried but failed to regain possession. 

One thing I didn’t like: Playing João for five minutes was an odd choice, and although it worked out, there was a need for him at least five minutes prior.


Drew Fischer – 6 | Community – 5.8

The match started out with excellent refereeing, so much so that I had to double check who the referee was. For the most part, the match remained well-reffed, but there were more issues in a contentious second half that had a number of questionable calls. It all evened out to a hard fought, fairly well adjudicated match.

One thing I liked: An early yellow card showed a desire to ref closely. Ignoring a blatant dive in the 49th was great, and a tremendous 63rd minute play saw this ref allow advantage before pulling it back for the free kick when no advantage materialized — a fantastic bit of reffing.

One thing I didn’t like: The biggest problem was about five card-worthy fouls that were inexplicably waved off. Whether it was Héctor Herrera twice hacking people in the 67th, Reed being assaulted on a break in the 74th, or the two-handed shoves on Raúl, there should have been more cards than the three given to Houston. 

Houston Dynamo MOTM

Latif Blessing was a real troublemaker for the Dynamo in the first half, as his two goals built a lead that looked insurmountable heading into the break. His first was a hip check finish off a high pressure turnover scramble play in the 30th. His second, of course, was a header, nodded home by the 5’-7” winger just nine minutes later.

Next up: A crucial home match against a low-table team.