Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
Seattle Sounders FC looked sluggish in the first half but the right change from coach Sigi Schmid made all the difference in the world as the team yet again came back from a deficit, beating Philadelphia Union 2-1.Chad Marshall put on a Man of the Match performance to keep his team in the game until Schmid unleashed Marco Pappa in the second half and changed the complexion of the game. Eventually the top performers teamed up to win the game with Marshall redirecting a threatening Pappa corner kick in the net for the game winner.
Rating the performances in this game was an interesting experience for me. I spent most of the day Saturday traveling to and from Houston, watching the Seattle Mariners impressively go ahead of the hapless Astros and then almost give away the game, winning 9-8. I think the experience of driving nearly six hours total to watch a struggling baseball team nearly blow a lead clouded my thoughts as I watched the Sounders game. My ratings were pretty rough last night. But a good night's sleep and a second watch of the game improved the ratings of many of the players, especially Clint Dempsey and Gonzalo Pineda, who both had stellar second half performances on second watch.
The second watch didn't make much difference for Pappa and Marshall, though, who were both great no matter how many times you watch this one. Marshall had an amazing six blocks in the game, and as noted by the TV announcers, single-handedly made it so keeper Stefan Frei had another quiet evening. Hats off to Schmid for reacting to the injury of his left back by moving Brad Evans to the back and inserting Pappa.
Read on to see how I scored this week's performance.
Stefan Frei: 6. Quiet night. Can't think of anything he could have done on Evans' own goal. Certainly not something he could have expected. Probably he should buy Chad Marshall dinner after this one.
DeAndre Yedlin: 7. I scored DeAndre a plus-8 in my impact plays notebook this week. Compare that to plus-2 last game and minus-two the week before. I want to point out a very specific play that I think serves as evidence of how DeAndre plays when his defense is as solid as it was against Philly. In the 25th minute he made a recovery run to catch up to Sebastien LeToux, who was running down DeAndre's side with the ball. DeAndre not only cut off the run but his positioning and his closeness to the ball forced LeToux to turn to the outside. DeAndre stayed on him, forcing LeToux toward the corner and eventually to a back pass that was not dangerous. LeToux did not get off a cross, didn't cut in and take a shot or make a centering pass, and didn't earn a corner by forcing the ball of DeAndre. That is the kind of defense we are used to seeing from Leo Gonzalez on the other side of the field. DeAndre had fewer pass attempts and completed passes this week, yet I scored him much higher because he had significantly fewer negative impact plays than previous weeks.
Chad Marshall: 9. MOTM. A plus-13 in the impact plays notebook is the highest recorded this year, yes, even higher than what I saw from Dempsey in his games against Portland and Colorado. Chad is the real deal on defense. He had six blocked shots. He was like an old-fashioned sweeper on many occasions, getting behind another defender who had made a mistake and not letting a shot get to goal. And, as usual, he completed almost all of his passes - this week at 86 percent. That stat amazes me every week. So many of his passes come under a ton of pressure in the middle of the box, and his headers and clearances are almost never wasted. How he has the composure to pick out a teammate for a pass while in mid-air battling for a header I'll never know. It's an amazing skill. Add to it that Chad finally got his long-deserved goal from a corner and this was an outstanding performance, the best of any Sounder FC player of this 2014 season.
Djimi Traore: 6. Djimi is one of the players who benefitted from the second look at the game. I originally scored him even for the second half. On the second viewing I found three defensive plays I thought really stood out. He was good in this game. I probably would have scored him higher had connected on more of his passes - the 69 percent completion rate only tells part of the story. When Djimi makes a particularly poor pass it usually leads to chance creation for the opponents. Maybe it's because he is playing next to Marshall and his amazing ability to connect passes from last-ditch defensive efforts, but it would be nice if more of Djimi's clearances and such ended up on the head, chest, or foot of a teammate. I did enjoy his two runs forward in the first half. At the time there wasn't a lot going on otherwise.
Dylan Remick: 5. Dylan just wasn't involved much in this one. I scored him at minus-1 before his injury. Here's hoping he recovers quickly.
Osvaldo Alonso: 7. Something about not scoring that penalty kick in the first half seemed to flick a switch for Ozzie. I had him at even in the first half, but plus-8 in the second half. How many times did you see him make a long run back to turn an attacker, or slough off a challenge to find the perfect pass to get the attack started? I don't know why the two halves were so different, but Ozzie was great in the second half. It averages out to a 7 for me.
Gonzalo Pineda: 7. Like Traore, Gonzalo benefitted much from a second look. I had he, Dempsey, Alonso and Pappa as the most impactful, active players when the team came to life in the second half. Gonzalo led the team in tackles with six, and his passing improved in the second half. He made a lot of the passes that started the attacks forward and he makes smart, solid passes in the attacking third. He still makes more mistakes than Alonso does, but he has such a high work-rate that he ends up making up for them in my notebook. It's worth noting that in the first half he and Alonso spent too much time together forward. Their push is part of the reason the Sounders are scoring so much lately, but they also do it often and leave wide-open spaces in the midfield during counter-attacks. In the second when one of them was forward the other was further back, and it made a big difference defensively. Marshall was forced into less theatrical blocks when the center-mids did a better job covering that space.
Lamar Neagle: 4. Lamar was the only Sounders player to finish in the negative in my notebook. He had a rough first half. Only Traore had a lower pass-completion rating among the starting 11. I scored him a minus-5 when he was taken off in the 79th minute. I understand why he is playing. He is goal dangerous. Having him out there means the defense has to account for three legitimate goal-scoring threats. But this was not a good performance from Lamar. I rated it "flawed." I do want to point out that, on the positive side, he made a couple of good plays on defensive coverage from his outside midfield spot.
Brad Evans: 6. Brad still looks a little rusty. I do think he should get a lot of credit for going back and playing an unfamiliar position as left back in this one. It was a chance-taking move from Schmid, but, as usual, Brad proved himself a professional. He played the position as if he has played it many times before. Nothing seems to faze Brad. I suspect he will have a much greater impact on the game as he gets his legs back under him.
Clint Dempsey: 7. No one benefitted more from my second viewing than Clint. I think perhaps we have all become a little jaded by just how good he is. I generally don't make notes for plays that seem normal. And I think it is possible Dempsey has trained me to expect a different normal. On second viewing though, Clint had plenty of impact during the more-intense play in the second half. The thing that struck me the most was how good he was at hold-up play. There were many times he received a ball in an almost untenable position - ball too hard, a defender already in his pocket, and still managed to use his strength and skill to control the ball, push through or away from the defender and make the right pass. This game was by no means like the recent performances that won him MLS Player of the Week. But it's still a significant cut above what anyone on Philly's front line is capable of.
Obafemi Martins: 6. I'm not sure if it was the weather or something else, but Oba was below his most-recent performances in this one. I actually had him with a negative impact score in my notebook in the first half, with two unnecessary giveaways and one great pass. He was better in the second half. And let's give credit where credit is due. A great striker is someone who can have a rather slow game and still take advantage of a golden opportunity to score. That's what Oba did when he slipped behind the defensive line off an Evans header and calmly finished. It makes it pretty hard on the opposing team when a striker seems to be off and then, in the span of five seconds, turns it on to score.
Marco Pappa: (51st minute): 8. What a difference Marco made in this one. When he checked in for the injured Remick, the team still looked as flat as it had in the first half. He completely changed this game. I scored him at plus-8 in impact plays. That's equal to what Alonso, Pineda and Yedlin were able to muster in the entire game. His passing was precise. And he whipped out some amazing ball-control tricks. Once, cornered along the touchline by two defenders, he flicked through them and whipped around, heading down the line all alone. In basketball they call that "breaking ankles." He also had a threatening shot on frame from distance and an assist on his corner kick to Marshall for the game-winning goal.
Kenny Cooper: (79th minute): 5. Kenny looked off, maybe rusty from not having played a ton. His touch was heavy, and he looked a step slow on the give-and-go he worked with Dempsey. Didn't add a lot in his time on the field
Zach Scott: (88th minute): Incomplete.