Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
I have a lot of disparate thoughts about the Seattle Sounders FC getting blown out by New England on Sunday.
I think sometimes teams lose and maybe over the course of the season that’s OK.
I think maybe long trips in three-game weeks means perhaps some of the squad depth ought to get a chance to play.
I think making too big a deal out of this loss would be a mistake. The Sounders aren’t as bad as they looked Sunday.
I think there are some legitimate problems with the way this team is playing. When you get beat the same way over and over throughout a season it shows a team weakness. There are a couple of things I think that systematically are leading to too many goals allowed. Way too many Sounders are pushing forward in the attack. I recall one point where Brad Evans had the ball at the midfield stripe, near the left touchline, and I could see on the screen Alonso and Pineda ahead of him in the center, Yedlin about five steps up from him on the far touch, and Neagle in front of him on the left line. I couldn’t see Pappa, Dempsey or Martins, but I know they were further up the field out of the picture. That means only Chad Marshall and Djimi Traore were on the defensive side of the ball. A bad pass or other turnover and it is quick-counter time for the opponent and an overwhelmed threesome of Marshall, Traore and Frei. Sound familiar?
Add to that the fact that Martins had 22 turnovers Sunday – per Opta – Pappa had 20, and Alonso, Neagle, Dempsey, Gonzalez and Evans had 10 or more. A lot of turnovers, eight players in the attack, and easy counter-attacks – attacking football can be exciting, but it exposes you to potential disaster. It was a disaster in Massachusetts.
So to sum up how this game fits into this season so far: the first-place record is great, but the goals-allowed is alarming.
Here’s how I scored Sunday’s performance.
Stefan Frei: 4. I think it’s fair to say that Stefan should have done better on a couple of the goals. Usually I have said something, like "there’s not much he could do about that one," but not today. I think he should have gotten some sort of hand or body part on at least two of the goals. On the first goal I think you could say that a world-class keeper like Keller would have parried the ball around the net rather than just knocking it back into the attacking melee in front of him. I’d call this a flawed performance. As my girlfriend said to me after his 90th minute save: "He’s gotta stop letting them in sometime."
DeAndre Yedlin: 4. I had DeAndre at a minus-two in my impact plays notebook. But that only tells part of the story. The drawback of my notebook is that it doesn’t pay enough attention to things like poor positioning and such. DeAndre wasn’t particularly worse than the other defenders, but his decision-making was questionable at times in terms of where he was on the field when the counter-attacks happened.
Chad Marshall: 4. During Chad’s recent hot streak there was a lot of talk about how he deserved another look from the national team. I think this game showed his one weakness compared to the younger center backs who are on the national team – he’s relatively slow of foot. His positioning and heading ability have really paid off this year, but in this game he was forced to run at and with waves of attackers, and he did not rise to the occasion. And really, did any of us expect to see him accidentally knock in an own goal this season? I sure didn’t. Chad was flawed this week.
Djimi Traore: 4. I actually scored Djimi slightly lower than Yedlin and Marshall in this one in terms of impact plays, but it was close. Basically all three were below par in this one. A lot of the blame has to go to the men in front of the back line: Djimi and Chad in particular were left stranded by the fullbacks and midfield. They did not respond particularly well to those situations.
Brad Evans: 5. Brad was one of three players who finished with a plus score in my notebook, along with Clint Dempsey and Gonzalo Pineda. Given the choice, though, I don’t think the coaching staff will choose to have him play left back except in these injury situations. He did not play well at left back. He did slightly better in the midfield after the 60th minute, raising his performance to "adequate" in my book.
Osvaldo Alonso: 5. I scored Ozzie even in terms of impact plays, but I don’t know how I feel about his positioning in this all-out-attack the Sounders are playing. I have to think an adjustment is coming – something from the coaches urging Ozzie to offer more coverage for the defenders.
Gonzalo Pineda: 5. I had Gonzalo at plus-one in my notebook, but don’t have a lot of great things to say about his performance this week. I love that he is often serving in an attacking midfield role, and his 89 percent pass completion rate was the highest among the starting midfielders while his 10 turnovers was the lowest. I also love that he made it obvious how angry he was by the loss this game. I like that he doesn’t like the Sounders being embarrassed. What I don’t like is that he and Alonso don’t seem to have figured out when to go forward or stay back as a tandem. The pairing just has to offer better support to the defenders.
Lamar Neagle: 4. On the first goal, Lamar’s man offers up a pass and takes off down the touchline and Lamar just stood there. He never got close to getting back. Only 76 percent of his passes found a mark and he didn’t offer any kind of real resistance on defense. Flawed is the right word here.
Marco Pappa: 4. A 66 percent pass-completion stat, coupled with 20 turnovers? Flawed, for sure. I also want to point out that part of the problem on the wings is that both Marco and Neagle are very often pinched in behind or with Martins and Dempsey in the middle of the field. When both wing midfielders are tucked in the fullbacks take up the space on the touchlines and you basically have eight players in the attack. Yes it has created a ton of goals playing this way, but at what cost?
Clint Dempsey: 6. MOTM. I named Clint Man of the Match because, to be honest, I couldn’t think of anyone else. Martins completed a higher percentage of his passes, but Martins was a turnover machine. Clint had the highest score in my impact plays notebook at plus-2, which ought to tell you how this game went.
Obafemi Martins: 4. Most of you don’t know this, but when I watch Euro soccer I have always been an Arsenal supporter. I love watching how that team plays soccer – the Arsene Wenger system with tons of possession and intricate passing. But when it doesn’t work it is ugly, both in England and here. One game Oba’s ball-trickery and tight-area passes seem amazing, the next they look too cute and too difficult. Oba had 22 turnovers in this game. That is a very good description of how Arsenal plays in the years since Thierry Henry left too. Sometimes you just want someone to just run and shoot and not try to make the most intricate pass available.
Leo Gonzalez (60th minute): 5. Leo stayed back more, thank goodness. But then again he had 10 turnovers in 30 minutes and only completed 66 percent of his passes; this during the time New England was willing to allow the Sounders all the possession they wanted except in the final third.
Chad Barrett: (68th minute): 5. Chad was fine in this one. If anything his addition added some calm on a field full of frustrated Sounders. I didn’t see anything particularly threatening from him, but he didn’t make many mistakes either.
Kenny Cooper: (86th minute): incomplete.