Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
The Seattle Sounders defense is on lock down. The back four of Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Jalil Anibaba and Leo Gonzales, with a ton of help from Osvaldo Alonso, allowed DC United only two shots on goal in a 1-0 Sounders victory Saturday night in the District of Columbia.
The Sounders lost the possession battle pretty badly, and DC attempted 14 shots, but so few of them were of a dangerous nature that Stefan Frei was only truly tested once all game.
Gonzalo Pineda was excellent as the field marshal running the show going forward and despite less-than-stellar showings from Kenny Cooper and Lamar Neagle he was able to engineer the one goal with one of the best crosses you will ever see, pinpointing the ball onto the head of Chad Barrett, who finished cleanly.
This was not the Sounders best game of the season. The offense struggles without Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey, but the defensive play has been magnificent as of late and the team continues to roll on.
Here's how I scored the players in Sounders' victory at D.C.:
Stefan Frei: 6. Only two shots on goal, and really only one of them demanded much of Stefan. But he handled it well.
Brad Evans: 7. Brad was very good once again in defense. I'm going to go ahead and start a controversy, I guess: Why not leave Brad at right back when DeAndre Yedlin returns from the national team and push Yedlin into the right midfield role he is currently playing in Brazil? To me the right back spot has been more solid defensively since Brad took over because Brad stays home more. And Yedlin looks an amazing threat for the national team in the midfield and I imagine could do some real damage in MLS from that spot. Thoughts?
Chad Marshall: 6. Chad was solid in an interesting role. With Anibaba apparently assigned to shadow Eddie Johnson, Chad picked up everyone else making a run, and double-teamed Johnson when necessary. A good performance, though perhaps not as stellar as some we have seen earlier this season as he wasn't tested as much.
Jalil Anibaba: 7. Jalil absolutely hounded Eddie Johnson in this game, giving him very little room to make any kind of play beyond a back pass. This was Jalil's best performance of the season. He just didn't let Johnson pose any kind of threat at all. Very good stuff.
Leo Gonzalez: 6. Like Marshall, Leo had a bit less to do than Anibaba, but as is often the case, that's because teams don't try much down his wing. Leo is like a clock. He may not look spectacular, but his consistency is incredibly valuable and it's no coincidence that the team gives up fewer goals when he is on the field.
Ozzie Alonso: 7. The first half was a spotty performance for Ozzie. I had very few marks in my impact plays notebook as it appeared the Sounders were struggling to cope with DC flooding the midfield behind Johnson. The second half was a more vintage Alonso performance, I had him at plus-6 in the second half alone, as he helped lock down the DC attack and refuse to give them anything but the worst, most-unlikely shot attempts. I'll admit that one of my favorite things watching a Sounders game is when Ozzie turns an opposing player and rushes up the field 30 yards or so, single-handedly ending a pressure situation and turning a clearance into a push forward. He had two or three like that in DC last night.
Gonzalo Pineda: 7. MOTM. Gonzalo wasn't as dominant in this game as he was against San Jose in the U.S. Open Cup, but I again scored him highly in my notebook. His impact on the game was a plus-8 according to my notebook, including me giving him a plus-2 for that amazing cross assist on the goal. I rarely do that, give someone more than one positive mark for one play, but on the occasions I do it's because a player does something that is so far above and beyond what we are used to seeing in MLS games that I don't think one positive mark does it justice. As spoiled as we got watching Mauro Rosales cross the past three years, I think that Gonzalo's cross on that play was the best I have ever seen by a Sounder. Without it we might be talking about a 0-0 tie in this one.
Lamar Neagle: 5. We have discussed a lot on this site about Lamar's regularly high number of turnovers. In general I am of the thought that when they happen in the final third and he is trying to thread a pass or trying to nutmeg a defender for a goal opportunity that it's not the worst thing ever. That's not what I saw in this game, though. Lamar had several unforced giveaways on the wings up near midfield in the first half, a performance for which I had him at minus-5 in my notebook. Thankfully he was considerably better in the second half, especially after he was pushed forward with the Azira-for-Barrett substitution in the 58th minute. He still finished slightly negative overall in my notebook, but not enough in my view to mark him down to a 4.
Marco Pappa: 7. Marco had some real nice moments in this game and I scored him a plus-5 here, earning this 7. I particularly like how much he is helping on defense these days. He is significantly better in that regard now than he was at the beginning of the season. Both he and Pineda would really benefit from better forward play.
Kenny Cooper: 5. I had Kenny at minus-1 in my impact plays notebook, which I think speaks to the fact he again had less impact than I would expect when he is playing a full 90. He still drifts out too much onto the wing for my liking. This team really doesn't need him to create goals when it has players like Pineda and Pappa. It needs him being big and strong in the box and scoring.
Chad Barrett: 7. Chad's notes in my notebook probably mean I should only give him a 6 here, but the header goal was really well taken and it was the difference in the game, thus the bump up. And of the two forwards he was clearly the most dangerous.
Michael Azira (58th minute): 5. Michael has played a few times at an outside midfield spot now and he just doesn't look as comfortable there as he does in a holding role in the center of the pitch. I scored him an even zero in my notebook, one plus play and a minus for one instance when a DC defender just ran right past him down the wing like Michael was standing still.
Aaron Kovar: (72nd minute): 6. The good news for Aaron is that he doesn't look out of place at all on an MLS pitch. I suspect as he matures as a professional player he will end up being an asset somewhere on or near the level of Yedlin - and that is high praise. He had a couple positive impacts in this one and no negative. Now that he has that first one under his belt I suspect his next appearance to be even better.
David Estrada: (85th minute): incomplete. Not enough time on the field for David to earn a rating here, but I will say I have to hand it to the guy for battling back and finding his way into the MLS side after being on the outside looking in and shipped off on a loan spell not too long ago.