A trap game is how many characterized the Philadelphia game, and it almost was. Chad Marshall repeatedly bailed the team out with quality defense, blocking multiple shots and scoring the game winning goal; his best game as a Sounder thus far.
I thought Philadelphia dictated the game at times for good spells. They had a few good opportunities but just couldn't take advantage of them, or they were....... Marshalled away.
The defense played really well against a Union team that moved and combined well through the middle to create those chances and watching the game on TV afterwards, it was nice to see the back four playing well as a unit. Still work to be done, but there are quality pieces in place to continue to refine.
It's sad to see Remick go down, but Brad Evans did a great job stepping in and filling in at LB, which we may see again depending on Leo and Dylan's fitness. Hopefully that isn't necessary, but it's nice that Brad is so versatile and has a high soccer IQ to be able to slot in with little drop in positional output.
Moving the Posts In: Gonzalo Pineda
I supposed this reset in expectation might just be something for myself as much as anything else. Early in the season, Pineda seemed to have the goods to really become the whole package and he just needed to knock off the rust. I saw promise in what could be an older savvy Alonso. He has the defense, his set pieces are effective and accurate, and a majority of the time he makes the smart, simple passes combining well through the middle with Alonso. Given time in the run of play, he can even create some great opportunities for others, but for the most part those plays are slightly over hit or off target. It's really when he gets pressured that dangerous opportunities occur (which, I suppose, can be said of most midfielders in the league) which is not something I saw coming from the veteran international.
When he receives the ball in transition and under pressure, Pineda seems a bit too prone to losing the ball or an errant pass leaving the back four exposed. It hasn't caught up with us too much thus far, either with Marshall and Traore covering, Alonso picking up the pieces or MLS quality showing it's worth, but it's still a concern and something that in a tight game could prove to be costly.
To be clear, I still think he's the best option to pair with Alonso in the midifield. I was hoping for a bit more in a deep lying play maker spraying passes around (Pirlo lite?) and allowing Alonso to express his attacking prowess (not unlike Manchester City unleashing one Yaya Toure upon his departure from Barcelona), but I don't think we're going to get to quite that level. Le Sigh. This one was really about me adjust expectations for myself, but maybe I'm not the only one who harbored these secret desires.
Moving the Posts Out: Obafemi Martins
Just slightly, but there is still upside to be had from our target forward. 4 goals brings him to second on the team, and we know the influence he's been having in creating opportunities for himself and the team (leading with 4 assists) has been a huge positive compared to last year.
His comfort in the team, his strike partner, as well as his familiarity with the style of play in the league has allowed Oba to seemingly express himself in a way we were unable to witness last year when pairing with Neagle and EJ. His combination play has occurred all over the field, playing deep to start moves, playing high to hold up, playing wide to spring wingers; there isn't a part of the field that he hasn't found someone or some way to get into a dangerous position.
The reason that the posts can't move too much further are twofold. First, he already plays at such a high level, and although his numbers don't reflect a highly effective forward, we in Seattle know better in the way he helps the team on the whole. Second, there are times where he loses the ball trying to create opportunities but it results in turnovers and potentially dangerous counters. Thankfully, we haven't seen this bite us badly thus far, but unless he is willing to begin to play a little more conservative when he drops deep (not likely), there will always be the danger of the counter associated with his attempts to create.
I'm ok with that. The upside definitely outweighs the downside and I have a lot of confidence in our CMs and back four to bail Oba out.
In Range: Chad Marshall
Normally when someone is coming off of their best performance of the season I'd be placing them in the "posts in" category. Thing is, although it was his best performance because of the plays made, his play in general wasn't any different than it has been throughout the season.
Chad has regularly found himself in good position to defend his mark, or good positions to cover for a streaking Yedlin, or sometimes covering for Traore being a little........overzealous. He is consistently making solid passes out of the back, well timed tackles, clearing well and dominating in the air to prevent any dangerous crosses from meeting their intended target.
On the offensive side, there aren't many who would argue that the goal on Saturday hadn't been coming. Too many times I've seen Marshall win headers off of a set piece/corner and put it back across goal to create an opportunity, just high/wide or see the ball cleared off the line or saved by the keeper. It was bound to happen, and the way he is playing and with the service he is receiving, I have a hard time believing that there won't be more chances for him to impact positively on offense.
On the whole, I'm not sure there's been a more consistent player on the team throughout 2014, and this game just allowed a light to shine on the plays he's been making.
From the Half Way Line: Penalty kicks and Family
Alonso may have missed the PK on Saturday, but I can't say it bothered me much. I loved that the guys were willing to let him have a go and I respect and appreciate the reasons behind it. Had we lost/tied the game (and haven't we seen enough dropped points for SSFC via penalties), I don't think my feelings would be much different. I really liked that the team wanted him to do something special in acknowledging his family, and while it may not have been successful, it's nice that he wanted to try and dedicate something in the game to those outside of it. The game isn't played in a vacuum where the score and game have no bearing on the rest of your life. Just as you give up/sacrifice some things outside the game in order to play, it's a nice gesture to acknowledge that fact in some way and let the rest of life be recognized in the game.
Lots of words, but overall I think it was awesome that he and the team were willing to let him take that on, and I think it was even better that they rallied around him and took care of business. (good article putting more of those thoughts together here)