Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

Realio’s Ratings: Essence edition

Essence: defined as the “intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something … that determines its character.”

Last Updated
13 min read
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Last weekend at home against the Chicago Fire was an all too familiar scene: the Sounders came out flat and conceded in the first half, stumbling into halftime down one goal and lucky it wasn’t more. Then the team made some key adjustments in the second half that completely flipped the script. An invigorated Seattle team utterly dominated en route to a 2-1 win, their third comeback in a row. With more central pressure, vertical outlets, and a consistent goal-dangerous presence in the box, Seattle pummeled the helpless Fire until they made mistakes, and the Sounders ultimately scored on two well-deserved penalties to take all three points and continue a much improved home form. 

The essence of this team: Resilience


Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 6.6

While the rest of the team slept through the first half and viewed defending as optional, it was Frei who came up big on multiple occasions. He hasn’t been perfect this year, but again in this match he was ready to play at the first whistle, unlike some of his teammates who were slow to wake up. A massive save in the 5th was his biggest contribution — a hockey style kick save on a Chicago breakthrough that prevented this match from getting out of hand before it even started. Frei was one of the few who had a good first half; he kept a shutout in the second half allowing the team to mount a comeback. Although not as busy, his 71st minute save behind poor defense was excellent. Frei’s game management is his best attribute and so underrated in limiting teams from running up the score — he almost always keeps his team within striking distance. 

The essence of Stefan: Manager


Reed Baker-Whiting – 4 | Community – 5.3

A lot of the awful first half was due to Reed treating defense as Realio treated an entropy equation in college: ignoring it and hoping it made sense down the line (spoiler: it did not). RBW has a fluid dribble and fantastic vision going forward, but his fullback positioning and angles are more theory than practice. His connection with Jackson Ragen was poor, putting pressure on the middle and permitting Chicago to run rampant down his wing. In the 5th minute, he allowed a player to run in behind him and Ragen, forcing Frei to come up huge in a 1-v-1 to save the match early. Second half adjustments gave Ragen more cover, and Reed moved to a more advanced position which benefited everyone. Due to this, he ended up tying for the most touches on the team, and when pushed forward, showed improved connection with the rest of the squad (80 percent completion). The lack of key passes or offensive creation combined with his dreary defense should have the staff rethinking any plans to replace Nouhou as a starter, although Reed’s forward momentum seems like a good fit for an attacking substitute. RBW must show he can not only defend 1-v-1, but also combine in a tactical defensive shape that doesn’t leave his teammates out to dry, things he failed badly at against Chicago. 

The essence of Reed: Disappointing

Jackson Ragen – 5 | Community – 5.1

If defenders co-lead the team with 90 touches, it's usually good to see Ragen as one of those players due to his strong passing completion rate. He rewarded the team with 85 percent, but didn’t turn much of that possession into purposeful, forward passing until after the break. Ragen was part of the problem in the first half, not able to connect in defensive space with teammates and not adjusting to the gaps around him. This meant when Chicago earned a turnover in the 30th minute Jackson was the last man back and his defensive flailing merely ushered the Fire attacker into the box for a free look which he finished. The second half shape was much improved, and Ragen was able to adjust forward in aggressive fashion, controlling play nearer to the midline and dominating possession with clean passing and a combination of safe choices and aggressive attempts forward. 

The essence of Jackson: Inconsistent

Yeimar – 7 | Community – 6.6

As usual, Yeimar was a bit under the radar, but an essential defensive presence. His eight clearances were six more than anyone else on the team, as frequently it was up to the right center back to sweep across and clear away mistakes from the left side. He also won five headers, a dominant aerial display that supported a first half of desperation defense. While his positioning didn’t change much after halftime, the tactical switch meant that his passing became more vertical, finding Cristian Roldan up the width and João Paulo forward in the center, rather than less dangerous and more cautious horizontal passes. His 1-v-1 defense in the 3rd and 80th minutes stood out, but it was the general pressure he created with his positioning in the intervening minutes that was an essential part of the Sounders win, as he once again showed to be the most consistent defender on the team. 

The essence of Yeimar: Constant

Alex Roldan – 4 | Community – 4.5 (off 46’ for Rothrock)

The falloff in Alex’s play has been stark this season and it continued against Chicago. After a scary concussion led to him missing time, Roldan was back and in the starting lineup but was not effective. There were a few bigger defensive errors, but more importantly the right side is missing any fullback spark when he’s on the field. After a nice 4th minute play up the wing, he was just … absent. Somehow he had two shots but neither threatened, and he was subbed out at halftime. Unfortunately, it's no longer what Alex brings to the team, it’s what he doesn’t bring that defines his 2024 season. When others come in and do a similar job defensively but bring a tactical adjustment that jump-starts the offense, it's time to reassess where the younger Roldan sits in the lineup. 

The essence of Alex: Unsatisfactory

Defensive Midfield 

Obed Vargas – 6 | Community – 6.4

In the first half Obed was nowhere to be seen, in a bad way, as he didn’t connect offensively and failed to cover spaces defensively. This led to big gaps in the back and a lack of forward pressure through the center. The Chicago goal happened when Obed vacated the middle to pressure wide, lost a tackle, and watched as the Fire scored through the gap he left. When once again he was pushed forward closer to Albert Rusnák in the second half, good things happened for Seattle. Suddenly he was cutting offensive passing lanes, connecting through teammates, dribbling into the attacking third with momentum, and even getting into the box to nearly score in the 82nd minute. His resurgence came with the ability to connect with a wide right option, as well as defensive and possession cover behind. This freed Obed to aggressively connect in more central areas, and his ability to find Rusnák and Léo Chú in the second half was essential. 

The essence of Obed: Improved

João Paulo – 7 | Community – 6.7 (off 85’ for Musovski)

In a dismal first half, overly vertical fullbacks and lack of connectivity between JP and Obed left giant gaps in a stagnant midfield. No amount of hustle could fix those spaces, and ultimately the team conceded due to the central pressure. The changes in the second half gave more central support to JP, allowing him increased freedom to impact both sides of the field, and he responded with a brilliant showing. No longer tethered to babysit the left back, João Paulo ended with two shots, a key pass, and more central positioning to influence the play. This allowed him to direct the quick, fluid motion of the second half by pushing the ball forward with urgency on the dribble or looking up field for line-splitting passes to diagonal runs. João has been a key element to the moments when Seattle look the best this season, and finding him more support from Cristian Roldan freed JP to influence the match going forward. When the Sounders control and build through the middle, it makes Jordan Morris more effective as a vertical threat that gets service, and it enables the wingers to create the wide spaces that tend to get forgotten when Seattle struggles in the middle. 

The essence of JP: Distributor

Attacking Midfield

Léo Chú – 6 | Community – 5.5 (off 76’ for de la Vega )

There were times in the first half when Chú stretched the field, a few moments when he turned a 1-v-3 into a free kick (12’) or nearly connected with Jordan (41’), but otherwise he struggled to get the service from the center that he needed. With Reed a mess behind him, there were few options for the left winger. Being on an island wide, or cutting inside and trying to connect with a passive Rusnák made Léo an ineffective piece of a misfiring offense before the break. Getting the central support and pushing Albert and Obed forward with JP calling the shots from a deep area allowed Chú to start to cook in the second half. Tactically adjusting to a more open and balanced forward line, he was able to stretch the field and find cutbacks to ever-present options in Morris and Paul Rothrock. The consistency in creating big chances has been improved, but Chú still struggles to connect to those around him, and he failed to bring overlapping or complementary players into the attack, instead relying on his own creation first. He benefited from the smart third man movement of Rothrock, and bookending Chú with an opposite side winger who can keep up with his forward momentum is essential. 

The essence of Léo: Progressing

Albert Rusnák – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 7.4 (MOTM) (off 98’ for Nathan)

Rusnák’s play was a non-factor in the first half as the team scrambled through the middle and failed to connect forward. His propensity to disappear when the Sounders aren’t feeding him possession in the middle is much of what drives his narrative versus expectations. When Seattle is able to transition quicker and have more free-flowing central play, Albert bursts to life, suddenly accentuating every teammate’s best moments. Albert can make the killer pass, and in the 53rd minute it was his through ball behind the defense that sprung Morris, who found the excellent Rothrock run that earned the penalty. As Seattle has grown into the season, so has Albert’s play. Taking the penalty both times to calmly tie, then win the match is the kind of leadership we expect from our DPs. His play isn’t always flashy but it's effective when added to other functioning pieces, and Rusnák’s willingness to tactically fit into the group is a key to the team’s success. 

The essence of Albert: Leader

Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.5

Roldan worked hard but was mostly invisible in the first half when Seattle struggled. Part of the issue was the team’s gravitational pull back and to the left, with Cristian playing centrally and often abdicating his wing. It was only when he moved back at halftime to replace his brother that the elder Roldan tilted the whole match on its head. Even more so than Rothrock’s hustle, this tactical change and having Cristian in a deeper role helped Seattle succeed, fundamentally changing multiple players’ positioning, creating forward momentum, and dominating the second half. By having Cristian controlling possession in the center, yet still pushing vertically up the wing, Seattle supported the central midfield with knock-on effects through the whole team shape. This meant Obed was released to link with Albert, it connected Cristian to Albert directly, finally involving the CAM, and created the space that allowed JP to run the show with vertical passing and aggressive defense. The sudden balance and control in possession in the back brought Jackson and Reed forward on the field, improving their defensive shape and alleviating the wide struggles. Morris’ runs from left to right now cleared more space for Chú on the wing with Jordan personally connecting through the right channels as Cristian repeatedly found line-splitting passes to these runs from the striker. All of this happened with Roldan playing nearly the same way he did in the first half, just from a deeper position. The domino effect of having a strong midfield directly led to possession with a purpose, and the relentless waves of attack that Seattle surfed to victory. 

The Essence of Cristian: Coordinator

Seattle’s shape in the first half (left) versus the second half (right). Image from @mclachbot


Jordan Morris - 7 | Community – 6.7

Morris was solid in a first half that saw him often attacking alone. His efforts created at least one yellow card against center backs that struggled to contain his verticality in the rare moments Seattle got forward. One of the least talked about parts of Morris’ game that has significantly improved is his holdup play, which is an essential part of the match when Seattle needs a defensive outlet. After halftime he was fully unleashed, repeatedly supporting direct Chú runs, combining with over-the-top looks from Rusnák, Roldan, or JP, and hustling to match the effort level of Rothrock. It was a Morris vertical run to get on the end of a clever ball from Albert that was combined with a nifty cross to earn the first penalty. A persistent Morris pounced on a long touch in the box and forced the game-winning penalty as well. Jordan was fantastic, with two shots on goal, two key passes, and being a consistent danger with only 25 touches. Morris has a tactical awareness that manifests in an ability to create space for others, an understanding of how to support with connecting and holdup play, and a ruthless ability to create massive, game-changing actions every match. 

The Essence of Jordan: Relentless


Paul Rothrock – 7 | Community – 6.8 (on 46’ for Alex Roldan) 

Rothrock had 18 touches in 45 minutes, only 80 percent passing and a single, blocked shot. He was 0/2 crossing. He wasn’t a factor on defense. Paul doesn’t trap the ball super cleanly. Zero of that matters, because when Paul friggin Rothrock steps on the field he changes the energy of the team immediately and for the better. Having a pure wide option on the right meant someone was able to fill the space Cristian abdicated in the first half, and the Sounders finally had access to a quarter of the field they had ignored before the break. It meant that the runs of Chú or Morris were suddenly useful as the ever-hustling Rock was always in the right place to complement attacking movement, or was being fouled in an effort to get there. There is little that is pretty, technical, or standard about the way Paul plays, but he is so tactically savvy that he almost always pops up exactly where the team needs him. These moments of Rothrockin’ are massively impactful, befuddling opponents. In the 54th minute he was streaking in on the far post to win a crucial PK. In the 59th he followed up central and created a big chance that JP almost put through the net. Another central supporting run forced an overturned PK call, and his pressure in the 70th minute earned him a clothesline kick to the neck. Hustle is pointless if it's misguided, and Paul has the soccer understanding to get to where his work rate will have the most effect. He is not just running to run, he’s running to create specific moments of imbalance for his team, and he does so with a masterful precision. He brings impactful chaos, and he makes stuff happen every time he steps on the field. 

The essence of Paul: Disruptor

Pedro De La Vega – 6 | Community – 5.7 (on 76’ for Chú)

Aside from just getting this highly-anticipated player back on the field, there was a certain energy that rivaled even Rothrock’s inclusion when PDLV entered. He wasn’t immediately great, fumbling the ball a number of times and clearly pressing too hard, trying to do too much, and not connecting with teammates. But even as disappointing as some of his numbers were (58 percent passing), that excitement when he subbed on wasn’t diminished. His dynamic movement found spaces where the Sounders often struggled, and although Obed took a great shot in the 82nd, PDLV was available for an even better look had Vargas seen his trailing central run. Pedro’s ability to move forward on the dribble was excellent, and seeing him casually spin a defender before strutting into the box and earning what should have been called a fourth PK was a bit of effortless excellence. How he fits in with the attack and whether he can stay healthy is a huge part of the 2024 Seattle story, but the team’s resiliency and some home success will go a long way toward molding this key player’s legend to align with Sounders’ expectations. 

The essence of Pedro: Dynamic

Danny Musovski – 5 | Community – 5.0 (on 85’ for JP)

It’s hard to say where Danny fits into the big picture of Sounders this summer, as all signs point towards investing more into the attack. Against Chicago, he got in late and was part of the scramble in the box that ultimately saw Morris fouled for the game-winning penalty kick. A lot of the good that’s happened lately with Musovski on the field is related to his smart movement and decisions, however he has rarely been responsible for scoreboard-altering events. 

The essence of Danny: Unclear

Nathan – 5 | Community – 5.2 (on 98’ for Rusnák)

Brought into the match late to hold onto a lead and give Rusnák some recognition from the crowd, it's unknown what Nathan brings. He has been injured for so much of the season that it’s hard to tell whether he is indeed an asset or a late Scheffler-style victory-cigar sub. From the small sample size he has looked fine. 

The essence of Nathan: Unknown


Joseph Dickerson – 7 | Community – 5.8

Dickerson has been the most prolific referee for Seattle in the past few years and has generally been good. He was again good in this match, calling fouls fairly and keeping play safe but consistent moving forward. A 24th minute advantage play before bringing the ball back was excellent, but it was inconsistent with Morris pleading for advantage on another first half play when the ball was blown dead and a card issued with the Sounders looking to play on. Most importantly in this match was the VAR getting the penalty checks correct on the first three calls. Without Rothrock vehemently complaining, it was a surprise to see the VAR call Dickerson to the monitor on the first decision. Similarly, VAR and Dickerson got it right the next two times, correctly awarding a penalty after Morris was fouled, but also correcting an erroneous hand ball call that nearly saw Rothrock draw his second PK. The biggest miss from this crew may have been the PDLV penalty shout, but with all the cameras limited, we may never know. 

The essence of Joseph: Accurate

Chicago Fire MOTM

Goalscorer Haile-Selassie was a sensation for Chicago in the first half. His (perhaps overly selfish) play in the 29th, as he found a shot off a high turnover, was indicative of a player with goals on his mind. A minute later, he found the opener following a clever turn to flummox Ragen. Much like literally every single one of his Fire teammates, his second half impact was muted as Seattle came roaring back.

The essence of Chicago Fire MOTM: Flamed out

The essence of the upcoming match: Crucial (again). A home match against a low table team (again, again).