Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
No one should ever discount a 2-1 road win. It's hard to win in the parity-crazy MLS; even harder on the road.
Seattle Sounders FC have managed a tie and two wins in three straight road games. It's an impressive little run and one that I think bodes well for the entire season. That said, yesterday's win at Chivas USA wasn't all that impressive in terms of the performances on the field. When I looked through my notebook only two players rose above the 5-6 range that translates into playing about what you would expect. I gave both Obafemi Martins and Chad Marshall 7s for the night, and named Martins as my man of the match.
As a squad, the Sounders suffered from occasional mental breakdowns and odd, unnecessary turnovers - just inexplicable passes to no one, or worse, directly to opponents. For nine of the 11 players who started I ended up with scores about even in my notebook. I'd suggest that while that's OK, it will need to be better against better opposition.
This week's ratings:
Stefan Frei: 6. Made one great save. A few minutes later he came out on a ball he couldn't possibly get to and left the net exposed. Thankfully Chivas couldn't exploit the situation the way Seattle did to Dan Kennedy.
DeAndre Yedlin: 5. How many times did Ozzie Alonso or Chad Marshall - and even Obafemi Martins at one point - have to cover for DeAndre abandoning the defense for a forward run? The first time Ozzie messed up and cost his team a questionable PK. There were many, many times after that. Here's the problem: The Sounders turned the ball over pretty constantly last night. DeAndre makes a run, puts himself in a good offensive position, and then the ball is lost somewhere behind where he is on the field. I wonder how the coaching staff will address this. I don't think you want to discourage DeAndre from joining in. But perhaps he needs to realize that he is doing it too often, or going too high up the field, given the fact the ball turns over a lot in MLS.
Chad Marshall: 7. Another solid night for Chad. I had him at plus-5 in my notes in terms of great plays, tied with Martins. He covers for a lot of mistakes around him, including from Yedlin and Traore.
Djimi Traore: 5. Djimi makes a lot of spectacular tackles, but rewind to just before those tackles and you will often see that he has to make the tackle because he was beaten 5 seconds earlier. He was often inexplicably way, way up field in this game too, and once it almost cost the team a goal. Thankfully, Marshall slid over to put enough pressure on the Chivas striker and Frei positioned himself perfectly to block the shot. Watching that replay several times I have no idea what in the world Djimi was doing so far away from the back line. I'd also say that too many of his clearances still don't go to a teammate. Clearances that travel 20 yards or less right to the foot of an opponent drive me crazy. They don't release pressure. Those kinds of plays often catch teammates flat-footed. They see a clearance and begin to push out and regroup and bam, just like that they are back on their heels again. I'd honestly prefer the ball just be kicked into touch in those situations. To be fair, Djimi is not the only one whose clearances are regularly poor, but compare his clearances with Marshall's sometime. There is a difference.
Osvaldo Alonso: 6. I read through the game thread and realize that most of you don't think the penalty called against Ozzie was a penalty. Some of you don't even think it was a foul, claiming "he got the ball." For the record, getting the ball with your right foot does not give you license to clip the back of your opponents legs with the left. I'm about Ozzie's biggest fan, and have been for years, but that entire sequence was below his standards. He went down unnecessarily trying to combine the tackle and a pass and left it way, way short, then he fouled Barrera either right outside the box or right inside, depending on whether you were the referee or not. The good news is Ozzie bounced back to have a decent game. He had another amazing passing performance, completing 89 percent of his passes, and tied for the team lead in tackles.
Gonzalo Pineda: 6. An active game from Gonzalo. He completed 51 passes, second only to Alonso's 55, and he put in several threatening crosses. He does seem to slow in the second half a bit. I scored him a plus-three in the first half in term of impact plays, but even in the second half, with as many giveaways as impressive plays. My rating system, if you haven't figured it out, is brutal on unforced errors such as running yourself into tackles or passing to nowhere or an opponent. Sigi Schmid once said that soccer is a game of turnovers. While that's true, it's a long way from the top leagues and the amount of turnovers that often go on in an MLS match. This is the one thing that has gotten so much better about MLS since I started watching 10 years ago. At the lowest levels it can be truly brutal to watch soccer - the ball just pinging back and forth aimlessly. I tend to punish people in my ratings when this kind of stuff happens. Gonzalo is less guilty of this than many others, on the Sounders and in the MLS as a whole, but it explains why I saw as much negative from him as positive in the second half.
Lamar Neagle: 6. Right place at the right time on the goal. Great that he was there to finish. Lamar is a give and take kind of player; he occasionally scores you a goal and he hustles his behind off, but he is inconsistent at times with his passing and possession. He only completed 61 percent of his attempted passes in this one, and was tackled and lost possession 19 times. That is a lot of giveaways. I think there are perhaps two explanations for this: One, Lamar is still not as skilled as many Sounders players, he makes up for it with hustle; and two, Lamar plays a very direct style. He gets the ball and goes at the defense and toward the goal, come what may. Use the intricate passing of Dempsey and Martins as the contrast to that.
Marco Pappa: 6. I was among the supporters glad to see Marco back in the lineup and was honestly surprised by how little impact he made. I scored him a plus-three for the game in terms of impact plays, but I had no notes written down for him in the second half, positive or negative, when he was pulled off in the 67th minute. Hoping for more and better in the future.
Clint Dempsey: 6. A solid game from the captain. He completed 80 percent of his passes and was a key cog in the attack, as usual. But he wasn't particularly goal-threatening at any point in this one - more of a play-maker than a striker. His pass on the Martins goal was very pretty, weighted perfectly to give Oba a good chance at backflips.
Obafemi Martins: 7. MOTM. I imagine some people will argue for a higher rating here. Oba kept the CUSA backline occupied all night and scored the game-winning goal. The give-and-go with Dempsey on that play was great, but perhaps more impressive was Oba's run after the pass to Dempsey. He seems to have limitless energy. It is worth considering how many more chances the Sounders might have if more of Oba's passes found a mark, though. He completed only six of 16 passes in this game. Some of that can be chalked up to the difficulty of trying things to get the ball forward from hold-up play; Oba definitely "tries stuff" with his passing. He was also tackled and lost possession 16 times. That's a lot of turnovers for one guy. I still named Oba man of the match for this one for his goal and his tireless efforts.
Brad Evans: (67th minute): 5. Not much impact, but glad to see Brad back. He was one part of the passing lead up to the winning goal - which went Marshall long to Evans, Evans inside to Pineda, Pineda through to a holding Martins, Martins off to Dempsey and then Dempsey back to a running Martins. Love to see that kind of good passing adding up to a finish.
Chad Barrett (91st minute): Incomplete.
Dylan Remick (92nd minute): Incomplete.