The Seattle Preview
I'll be honest: I have a little bias towards Seattle. Years ago when visiting a friend who was living out in Seattle, I went to a game and somehow ended up with some of the best seats I've ever had a sporting event. It only cost me $30 or so. It was in Seattle that I realized MLS could have actual, rabid fanbases who cared about and knew what was happening. Yes, I freely admit I didn't think much of MLS at the time.
This is a big game for Charlotte. I'll spoil my prediction a little here by saying I'm not confident we're going to get anything out of this game at all. I loved MAR's decision to go for it in the Cup. The team he put out was about the strongest we could've considering injury (Fuchs, Reyna) and availability (Świderski already on international duty). We obviously didn't win the game, but I'll never bemoan the club going for it.
There is a lot of angst among Charlotte fans about the amount of football some of the players (Shinyashiki, Jóźwiak, Bronico, Corujo) will be playing in a week (I'm assuming these guys will also start against Seattle). In a vacuum, I'm honestly not that worried about players having 3 games in a week. These are world class athletes and, for the most part, our team is young. However, the long distance travel does complicate things. People were frustrated with MAR's substitutions in the Cup game, especially taking Shinyashiki and Jóźwiak off, but I wasn't. First, I don't think Jóźwiak had a great game; RBNY really took him out of the game for the most part. More importantly, though, I wouldn't be surprised if the plan had always been to take them out when we did, as we looked ahead to Seattle. With an upcoming mini break--after this game, we don't play again until June 11th--I don't know that fatigue will be that huge of an issue, but it will be a factor.
Shots per game
Shots on target per game
Goals for (xG)
Goals against (xGA)
WhoScored team rating (SofaScore team rating)
16 (7th in the East)
13 (12th in the West)
Charlotte's possession keeps going up, but the shots/90 and SoT/90 has been pretty stagnant. We continue to struggle to do anything meaningful with our possession. We're also now 2nd to last in the league in goals scored with 12. Only Chicago has scored fewer (11). XG does nothing to make us look any better, as our xG puts us 4th to last, with only Seattle, Toronto (13.0), and Sporting KC (12.5) having a lower xG on the year.
If there's good news, it's that Seattle hasn't been able to score either. Their numbers aren't anything to write home about and show another struggling side. It should be noted that they've only played 11 games, the fewest in the league and two fewer than Charlotte. Yes, the points total is low, but having a couple games in hand could be handy for them if they can turn their season around.
And you can't talk about Seattle this year without talking about them becoming the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League. How much that competition did and is still affecting them is up for debate. I will say, for a club as successful as Seattle, the tradeoff of winning the Champions League and maybe having a down league year is probably worth it.
Seattle swap between back 3s and back 4s often. Over the past 4 games, they've played in a 3-4-2-1 (Dallas), a 4-2-3-1 (Minnesota and Houston), and a 3-4-3 (Colorado).
I was curious if they've had more success with one of the formations, and they have. As always, it should be noted that these formations are what MLS has listed; there's a non-zero chance they have a game or two wrong. Anyway, all of their positive results (i.e., either a win or draw) came when they've played with a back 4. Now that isn't to say they've taken points from all of the games that they've played a back 4. They lost against Nashville, Miami, and San Jose playing a back 4. However, they've yet to take any points with a back 3, which begs the question as to why they are persisting with it.
According to both the MLS Availability Report and transfermarkt, Seattle only has one player who is injured: João Paulo (CAM), who tore his ACL on May 5th. Transfermarkt has no one on suspension through reds or yellow card accumulation, however, they are hit and miss on that.
Seattle lists 6 players as forwards: Will Bruin, Fredy Montero, Jordan Morris, Raúl Ruidíaz, Alfonso Ocampo-Chávez, and Samuel Adeniran. FBref also has Cristian Roldan and Léo Chú listed as "FW,MF." Ruidíaz is one of their 3 designated players. Chú is a U22 Initiative player.
Ocampo-Chávez and Adeniran are both young players who haven't really played for Seattle yet. Ocampo-Chávez's only time in a league game came back in 2019 when he had 3 appearances (1 start) for a total of 82 minutes. He hasn't appeared in a MLS game since. Adeniran has 4 total appearances (2 starts) over the past two years (2 appearances and a start in each season). He only has 131 total minutes of game time in his career. Neither player has ever scored a goal or had an assist in the league.
The rest of these players have all featured in at least 6 games. Ruidíaz is the one with the fewest appearances, actually, but the Champions League definitely played a part in this. He was a starter in all of those games and, at 31, probably doesn't have the legs he once did. Now that the CCL has ended, he's once again been starting every game in the league.
The veteran is a good player. He came over from Morelia in Liga MX in 2016-17 and, while he's never hit the highs of his time in Mexico (20 goals in 2016-17 and 18 in 2017-18), he's nevertheless been a productive player. He's averaging 12.5 goals a season over his previous 4 seasons and he's actually been steadily increasing his totals each year (10 in 2019, 11 in 2020, 12 in 2021, and 17 last year). He currently has 2 goals on the year. He's a dimunitative player at only 5'5.5", according to FBref, or 5'7", according to MLS.
Morris and Roldán are probably the next biggest names of this group. I'll admit that when Morris first hit the scene at 21, I thought he was going to be good. While he's by no means a bad player, I think everyone can agree that he's never quite hit the heights many people thought he would. He missed his chance to go to Europe as a young player, opting instead to play for his home team in the MLS. He had a short loan for Swansea City in the English Championship, but didn't do much (4 appearances, no starts, 93 total minutes, no goals or assists) before tearing his ACL. This was his second ACL tear (he also tore it in 2018). Injury is obviously a big factor when talking about Morris and it's a shame we'll never know what he could've been. He still has pace, but nowhere near what he had before the knee injuries.
During Morris' healthy seasons, he is usually a productive player. He has 4 seasons of at least 22 appearances (2016, 2017, 2019, and 2020). Only in 2017 (23 apps, 22 starts), did he fail to register double digit goals (3 goals and 2 assists). In 2016 he had 12 goals and 3 assists; in 2019 he had 10 goals and 6 assists; and in 2020 he had 10 goals and 7 assists.
Morris is no longer deployed as he was in his early days. From 2016-2019, he's a player who is all over the pitch. I haven't put each year's heatmap here, but the 2019 map to the left is representative of these years. His coverage was actually pretty impressive as there's not really anywhere on the pitch wasn't showing up in.
Compare that heatmap to this year's map (to the right) and we have a player who is now being deployed as a left-side forward. The lineups all have him in a winger/wide midfielder role, however, his heatmap for the year shows a player who takes up more central positions in the left hand channel. Yes, he's providing some width, but he's not hugging that touchline. Whoever is manning the right side of our defense with Corujo will need to be aware of Morris and his runs. Franco gets a lot of heat around the Charlotte fanbase, but his energy could be handy this game for dealing with Morris.
Roldán is a well known name because of his ties with the USMNT. Whether he's actually at that level (he's not), he's a very good MLS player. Since 2015, when he was 19, he's played in at least 22 games every year. Aside from that first year and the 2020 COVID-shortened season, he averages 31 appearances per year. For his career, he has 31 goals and 26 assists, so he's a danger to score and find a teammate. He's only a career 81.3% passer, but he's decently ambitious with his passing. Last year he had 444 short passes attempts, 382 medium pass attempts, and 186 long pass attempts. In fact, back in 2019 he had 291 long pass attempts. He's clearly someone who believes in his range.
He's another player who's role and positioning has changed. When he first broke in, he was all over the pitch. This year, he's mostly been deployed on the right hand side opposite Morris and his heatmap reflects that. He does drift into the middle of the park a little, especially around the center-circle, but he'll mostly be found wide.
Will Bruin is an MLS lifer, having started with Houston in 2011 at the age of 21. He's 32 now and his best days are long behind him. He'll chip in a goal or two per year, but he hasn't had more than 3 goals in a season since 2018 when he had 7 for Seattle. He does have 4 seasons of double digit goals (2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017), but over the past 4 years (including this one), he has only 7 in 56 appearances. he has 1 goal in 8 appearances so far this year.
Montero is an interesting player. He started his career in MLS with Seattle way back in 2009. After 4 very productive years with the Sounders (47 goals, 22 assists in 119 appearances), the Colombian joined Millonarios in Colombia on a season long loan (22 appearances, 8 goals). He signed a contract extension with the Sounders before this and, at the end of that year, he joined Sporting CP in the Portuguese Primeira Liga on loan. Sporting exercised their option to buy Montero in 2013. He, again, continued to be productive for the Portuguese side, scoring 27 goals and having 5 assists in 67 appearances. He went to the Chinese Super League in 2016 where he scored 9 goals in 29 appearances. He then went on loan to Vancouver for the 2017 season, scoring 13 goals with 8 assists in 33 appearances. He then returned to Sporting in January of 2018. He would spend the next year and a half with Sporting, but his production was nowhere what it once was. He only recored 3 goals and 2 assists over 20 appearances during this time. This led him to terminate his contract with Sporting through mutual agreement and he returned to Vancouver for 2 years. In those two year, he had 13 goals and 4 assists in 48 appearances. In 2021, he rejoined Seattle and has made 36 appearances (but only 19 starts) for them over the past two years. He has 8 goals and 3 assists in that time. This is a long-winded way of saying Montero used to be a really good player and is still a decent one. At 34, his best days are behind him, but he can still dangerous.
He hasn't really been used much in the league in May, having started the game against Dallas on 5/7 and playing the whole 90. Since then, he's only had 1 sub appearance (against Colorado on 5/22) for 17 minutes. He did play 120 minutes in Seattle's US Open Cup loss to San Jose on 5/11. I wouldn't expect him to start this game, but you never know.
Chú is the last of the attackers and he hasn't done much with Seattle so far in his career. The U22 Initiative player joined last year at the age of 20 from Grêmio in Brazil. In his career for Seattle, he has 15 appearances and 4 starts (all starts this year). He's only scored one goal and has one assist (both from last year). He's a left sided player, so he's been unable to unseat Morris in that area of the pitch.
Seattle lists 11 players as midfielders on their roster: Kelyn Rowe, Nicolás Lodeiro, Albert Rusnák, Alex Roldán, Daniel Leyva, Paulo, Joshua Atencio, Ethan Dobbelaere, Reed Baker-Whiting, Obed Vargas, and Dylan Teves. Lodeiro and Rusnák are both designated players and Paulo is, again, out injured.
Dobbelaere, Teves, and Baker-Whiting haven't really played for Seattle. Teves has yet to make an appearance, Baker-Whiting has 5 career appearances for a total of 291 minutes, and Dobbelaere has 10 career appearances for 315 minutes over the past 3 years.
Leyva and Atencio are gaining playing time, but it's been a slow process. Both had 24 appearances last year with Atencio having 18 starts and Leyva having 8. On the year, Atencio has 6 appearances (2 starts) and Leyva has 3 appearances (1 start). Neither player has ever scored a goal and only Atencio has contributed to a goal (2 assists last year). They're both still incredibly young: Leyva is 19 and Atencio is 20, so the fact they've managed to get as much time as they have is all the more impressive. When they do play, both look like central, holding midfielders (at least according to their heatmaps). FBref has both of them as defensive midfielders, although it also has Atencio as a right winger for the Austin game in March. In every other game, he's a DM.
Rowe is an MLS vet who has played as a central (defensive) midfielder or wingback for Seattle. The former New England man has been with Seattle for the past two years making 29 starts (44 total appearances). He doesn't score goals anymore, but there was a time when he did. During his first 7 seasons (all with NE), he scored 29 goals and had 36 assists, including multiple 7 goal seasons. However, it's been downhill for him since then.
In 2019, he left NE and played for Swope Park (USL Championship), Sporting KC, the Real Monarchs (USL Championship), and Real Salt Lake. Across these 4 clubs, he made 22 appearances (13 starts). He scored 3 goals for Swope Park and had 1 assist for Sporting KC. He rejoined to NE in 2020 and started 10 games for them (16 total appearances). He didn't recored a goal or an assist. In total, since 2019 he's only scored 4 goals and had 2 assists, which is a far cry from what he was doing in his early career.
The other Roldán, Alex, has been playing as a fullback or wingback for Seattle. In fact, while Seattle has him listed as a midfielder (which is why I'm talking about him in this section), that doesn't really appear to be his position. At the very least, it appears that for the past 3 seasons, he's been more defender than midfielder. He broke in with Seattle in 2018 and made 19 appearances (with 7 starts) and, aside from 2019, he's been earning progressively more time, including 29 appearances with 26 starts last year. On the year, he has 10 appearances and 8 starts. He doesn't score goals, which isn't surprising considering he's playing as a fullback. He has 3 career goals, but only 1 in MLS. He did have 3 assists last year and already has 2 this year, so he is growing in that respect. At only 25, he still has time to improve.
Two of the last 3 midfielders are a pair of DPs: Rusnák and Lodeiro. Lodeiro is their CAM and while he's only been in 6 games so far this year in MLS, the CCL played a role in that. Before last year, Lodeiro was a very consistent player. From 2016--when he joined from Boca Juniors--until 2020, he averaged 6.6 goals. This also includes his first year with the club where he only made 13 appearances but had 4 goals and 6 assists. Excluding that year, from 2017-2020, he averaged 7.25 goals per year. On top of the goals, he averaged 8 assists per year, including a 12 assist year in 2018.
Last year was different as he only made 9 appearances (4 starts) and failed to recored a goal or an assist. He dealt with knee issues all year. He seems to be healthy this year, as he's already matched his start number from 2021. He currently has 2 goals and 3 assists.
While he usually starts behind the striker, he will drift out wide. As his heatmap shows, he especially likes to get out to the left hand side. This allows a player like Morris to move forward and drift into more central areas. Charlotte have faced a lot of good, diminutive, attacking midfielders and Lodeiro is no different.
Rusnák is in his first year with Seattle, having joined from Real Salt Lake. He started his career in England, but spent 4 years in the Eredivisie before joining the MLS. Rusnák plays a lot. He made 34 starts last year for Real (good for over 3000 game minutes). He's a box-to-box midfielder and will provide goals. Aside from 2020 when he only had 3 goals and 2 assists, Rusnák has never had less than 7 goals in MLS. In fact, he had 10 goals in 2018 and 2019 and had 11 goals last year. It should be noted htat he does score a number of goals each year from penalty kicks, including 3 PKs last year. While I would worry about his goal return being inflated if he were a foward, as a midfielder, his goal contribution is still outstanding even without the PKs. He's a midfielder who is consistently getting 6-8 goals a year and that is incredibly valuable.
On top of the goals, Rusnák provides great service for his teammates. He had 12 assists in his debut season for Real, followed by years of 5, 3, 2, and 7. He has yet to score or get an assist this year, however, it feels like it's just a matter of time before he does. The track record is too strong.
The final midfielder for Seattle is 16 year old Vargas. It can't be overstated how impressive it is that he is doing what he is at 16. He's made 10 appearances on the year (7 starts). Seattle is deploying him primarily as a holding midfielder.
He's not a finished product by any means and there is a lot for him to work on. When looking at his percentiles, parts of his dribbling ability (94th percentile in shot-creation via dribbling), positioning (93rd percentile for dribbled past, 87th percentile for shots blocked), and his ball control (83rd percentile for carriers into the penalty area, 97th percentile for dispossessed, 90th percentile for fouls drawn) all jump out. Most everything else, though, is pretty "mediocre."
I've put mediocre in quotes there because, again, he's SIXTEEN. You just can't overstate how impressive that is. I wouldn't expect a 16 year old to be 80+ percentile for any of his areas, so the fact that there are a number of areas in which he already is plus 80% speaks to his talent. His passing, tackling, and dribbling ability could all use some work, but I was playing FIFA (the video game) at 16 and he's in FIFA. I don't think you can critique too much at this point.
His ceiling is astronomical, but sports are strange. As a USMNT fan--as well as soccer fan in general--I'm very excited (and hopeful) about how he'll develop over the next couple of years. Nothing is assured, but he is an incredibly exciting player.
Seattle has 6 players listed as a defender on their roster: Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Abdoulay Cissoko, Jackson Ragen, Nouhou Tolo, Xavier Arreaga, and Jimmy Medranda. All of these guys have made at least 5 league appearances.
Medranda and Cissoko have the fewest minutes at 151 and 267, respectively. Medranda has been used primarily on the left as a leftback or wingback, while Cissoko is primarily a center half (although he has gotten minutes at LB and DM, according to FBref). Medranda had a career year last season, playing in 25 games and scoring 4 goals with 3 assists. His percentiles show a really strong player, so it's a bit surprising that he's not getting more time. His goals may have been a bit lucky, as he only had an xG of 1.5 for the year.
Cissoko, meanwhile, is a young CB who--with a very quick look at the percentiles--appears to be good on the ball (83rd percentile for dribbles completed) and improving on defense (81st percentile in pressures, 75th percentile in tackles, and 76th percentile for blocks).
Yeimar and Arreaga are the two primary CBs, regardless of whether Seattle is playing with a back 3 or a back 4. In a back 3, Arreaga will man the central CB position, while Yeimar plays as a RCB.
Yeimar is a monster defensively. The 29 year old Colombian is in his 3rd season with Seattle having joined form CA Unión in Argentina. Over the past 365 days, he's in the 86th percentile for pressures, the 90th percentile for successful pressures, the 99th (!!!) percentile for tackles, the 90th percentile for blocks, the 76th percentile for clearances, the 85th percentile for aerials won, and the 97th percentile for tackles plus interceptions. If there is one area of weakness, it's that he struggles versus dribblers (53rd percentile for percentage of dribblers tackled and 13th percentile for dribbled past). His passing is just fine, but as a CB who defends as well as he does, you can live with some subpar passing.
Speaking of passing, the reason they can afford to have Yeimar's average passing is because they pair him with Arreaga who excels in that area. Arreaga is in the 87th percentile for pass completion percentage and the 93rd percentile for medium pass completion percentage. He's no where near the pure defender Yeimar is, but he's not bad. In most areas for defending he's somewhere in the 60th to 75th percentile. Like Yeimar, Arreaga also struggles with dribblers (20th percentile for percentage of dribblers tackled, 15th percentile for dribbled past).
When in a back 3, Ragen plays as the LCB. He's a young CB at only 23 and this is his first year getting playing time in MLS (7 appearances, 6 starts). Due to his limited playing time, his percentiles should be viewed with some skepticism, but they show serious promise. He is showing good passing range (83rd percentile for long passes completed, 97th percentile for through balls, 90th percentile for switches). Unlike Yeimar and Arreaga, Ragen doesn't get dribbled past (98th percentile for percentage of dribblers tackled, 99th percentile for dribbled past). He's also in the 93rd percentile for clearances and 91st percentile for dribbles completed. He's still got a lot to learn in terms of other defensive duties (17th percentile for tackles, 48th percentile for pressures), but as a young CB he is showing good signs.
When playing with a back 4, Seattle have been using Alex Roldán as a right back and Tolo as a left back. Tolo broke into the Seattle side at 19 years old, making 19 appearances and 10 starts in 2017. Since then, he's had a 28 appearance season, two 22 appearance seasons, a 19 appearance season, and 10 appearances so far this year. He offers very little in way of goal contribution, only having one career assist back in 2020. Among fullbacks, he's in the 96th percentile for pass completion percentage, including the 96th percentile for medium pass completion percentage and the 87th percentile for long pass completion. Defensively, he's no slouch, either, as he pressures very well (98th percentile), blocks shots (95th percentile), intercepts a lot of balls (92nd percentile), clears a lot of balls (96th percentile), and is good in the air (84th percentile).
In terms of actually adding to the attack, the only way he does is by getting fouled (99th percentile for SCAs due to fouls and 98th percentile for GCAs due to fouls). I assume this means he goes over pretty easy once he gets into enemy territory. He is a good dribbler (87th percentile for dribbles completed and players dribbled past), which probably helps him sell the fouls. Note: I could also be wrong and maybe he just draws a lot of fouls legitimately.
Seattle has 3 keepers on their roster: Stefan Frei, Stefan Cleveland, and Andrew Thomas. Thomas has never made an appearance for Seattle in MLS, while Cleveland has played in 4 games this year, starting 3 (Andrew, maybe you could get PT if your name was also Stefan?).
Cleveland did start 15 games last year as Frei missed time through injury. He was okay, allowing only 17 goals and having a PSxG+/- of -1.2. He had never appeared in more than 5 MLS games (2018 with Chicago), so for a "debut" season, this was a decent one. In his 3 games this year, he's allowed 4 goals and has a +1.8 PSxG+/-. You could do a lot worse for a backup keeper.
Frei is their starter. The 36 year old has been with Seattle since 2014 (joining from Toronto). He's been good thorughout his career, as he's only allowed 1.28 goals/90 and has a career 72.7% save percentage. He's only had one year with a negative PSxG+/- (2019 when it was -1.2). He was at +5.5 in 2018, which was the last time he played more than 30 games. So far this year he's at +0.7.
Seattle will play out of the back a bit, as Frei only has a 32.6% launch percentage on the year. That would be a career low, as he was at 43.4% last year. Within the short and medium ranges for passing, he's deadly accurate (98.1% career short passer and 98.9% medium passer).
Frei is one of the few goalkeepers Charlotte will have faced this year that is legitimately good. The fact that we've struggled with average to below-average ones so far doesn't bode terribly well.
I don't really have high hopes for this game. Seattle is definitely underperforming from where they traditionally are, but the talent is still intact on this team. Their frontline of Morris, Lodeiro, Ruidíaz, and Roldán has goals in it (that also doesn't include Rusnák who is bound to start getting a few). Defensively, they're not giving up much. With only 15 goals allowed on the year, they're not easy to score on. If we were playing at home, I might have a bit more hope, but having to go to Seattle worries me. This is still a team that has only ever earned one point on the road against a MLS side.
For Charlotte , I'd expect a front 3 of Jóźwiak-Ríos-Shinyashiki, however, I'm usually terrible with predicting MAR's lineups. I think a really interesting option would be a Vargas-Shinyashiki-Jóźwiak front 3. Normally I wouldn't expect a new, young signing (Vargas) to start so soon, but with how much he's played already, it's clear MAR really rates him. I know Ríos has scored a couple goals for us recently and I'm very excited about that, but I'm not sold this goalscoring is sustainable. With all this said, I still expect the lineup to include Ríos.
In the midfield, I continue to assume Bronico starts until he doesn't. As I said earlier, I think Franco's energy could be useful this game, but I won't make any predictions on who else will join Bronico. I'm honestly still of the opinion that it really doesn't matter, as we're still struggling to get good production from that part of the pitch, regardless of players.
In the backline, I'm not sure. I think a lot depends on if Fuchs is healthy enough to play. If he is, I think he starts at CB alongside Corujo, with Mora at LB. I think Lindsey might return to the lineup, but Afful hasn't been playing poorly so I wouldn't be surprised if he kept this place. Afful is 35 and has started two straight matches, which means he might not have the legs to start--or play in--this game.
I hate to say it, but I don't see us getting anything from this game. Our road struggles plus travel and lack of key player availability don't bode well for us. I hope I'm wrong.
Prediction: Seattle 2 - Charlotte 0