For some reason, MLS always seems to cluster games between LAFC and the Seattle Sounders and so it goes again, as the teams will square off on Sunday, less than a month after their last meeting. This one will be up at Lumen Field in Seattle, and we check back in with Dave Clark of SB Nation Seattle-area soccer site Sounder at Heart. Many thanks to my good buddy in taking the time to answer my questions!
Angels on Parade asks Sounder at Heart:
1. Since LAFC last saw the Sounders, they continue to have not lost this season. Is there an aspect of the play that’s particularly clicking right now, or is everything good?
Nouhou. Nouhou. and Nouhou. His conversion from a regularly attacking left back into a defensive stopper LCB in the 3-5-2 has created the best defender in the league. There’s this national hype train that’s been pushing him for a bit, but they’re mostly focused on comedic aspects of his game. The fact is Nouhou’s defense is on par or exceeds what the last three Chad Marshall Defender of the Years did. Despite his size disadvantage Nouhou is the best shielder of the ball in MLS right now. Via anticipation and vision he pops into passing lanes regularly. Yes, he can make unconventional choices at times. Too many are taking those unconventional moments as Nouhou Gospel and ignoring his incredible performances in conventional defense.
2. It looked like Stefan Frei suffered a freak injury at the end of Wednesday’s game against the Earthquakes. Any diagnosis and any chance he will play? If not, who will be the next man up?
There was a bit of good news this week, in that Frei’s injury might put him out only 4-6 weeks. Considering the initial worries that it could be a 3rd player lost to an ACL injury, something that puts him out for just over a month is wonderful.
In the offseason Seattle signed/retained two experienced goalkeepers to the MLS roster, already had Trey Muse, and signed Christian Herrera to Tacoma Defiance. Now those signings of Spencer Richey and Stefan Cleveland seem fortuitous. Brian Schmetzer isn’t tipping his hand. Sounder at Heart expects Cleveland, the less experienced of the two, to start. Cleveland did start the first game of Defiance’s season, but that was his first competitive match since 2018. He only has 9 matches across MLS and the USL Championship, but carries a 1.22 GAA with an 81% save rate. Richey was a regular with the very bad FC Cincinnati teams. In his career with Cincy and the Whitecaps he has 86 starts with a 1.70 GAA and 66% save rate. Personally, I would lean to the more experienced player against one of the top tier teams in the West, but I’m just a blogger.
3. I believe you discussed homegrown midfielder Josh Atencio before the last meeting against LAFC, but any other youngsters stepping up lately for the Sounders?
Atencio will be out, again. His absence and the compressed week gave opportunities to two other teen sensations. Danny Leyva is a defensive midfielder with strong passing skills. He missed almost all of 2020 with injuries, but was the first of the current wave of youth in the Sounders org. Ethan Dobbelaere is a winger who can add a bit of scoring punch at some point in the future. In the midweek match his most effective work was on the defensive side of the ball. Both are unlikely to start against LAFC, but should see time. They also just signed Reed Baker-Whiting. RBW is the youngest MLS Sounder right now, and is a central mid without a specific role, yet.
Projected lineup: Clevaland; Nouhou, Arreaga, Yeimar; Smith, João Paulo, Rowe, A.Roldan; C. Roldan; Ruidiaz, Bruin
You can read my answers to Dave’s questions at Sounder at Heart.
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