The heart of the Seattle Sounders defense played at its highest level as a group in the first-leg of the MLS Cup tournament's semi-finals. Chad Marshall, Stefan Frei, Zach Scott and Osvaldo Alonso were all excellent and would have led the team to a shutout on the road against FC Dallas were it not for a poor decision by Marco Pappa that led to a penalty kick for Dallas.
I named Marshall my man of the match, scoring him a plus-10 in my notebook, enough for me to give him a "superb" 9. Frei, Scott and Alonso all earned 8s from me as Dallas was forced to attack down the wings and then see ball after ball either cleared away by Marshall and Scott or controlled by Frei, who was more commanding in his box than he was the entire MLS regular season or U.S. Open Cup tournament. It was Frei's top performance of the year in my book.
Enter your ratings and then read on to see my complete list of ratings and analysis of the draw in Dallas.
Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
Stefan Frei: 8. Stefan was better than he had been the entire year. I scored him a plus-6, which is a lot for a keeper. He made one spectacular save but just as important he controlled the box in a way I couldn't recall the rest of the year. If the ball was in the air and near him, he took it and without a bobble. If he plays like this throughout the tournament the Sounders have a legitimate shot to win.
DeAndre Yedlin: 6. DeAndre was good here, though I didn't have his impact as high as some of the others. He only hit on about 50 percent of his passes, which is low for him, but he did a good job of forcing Dallas' biggest threats to the inside in the first half, as they tried to avoid his speed.
Chad Marshall: 9. MOTM. I wrote a bit about Chad above, but here are the stats that back up this high score, 14 clearances, five interceptions, two tackles, a 70 percent pass completion rate, including connecting on three of four of his long passes. Many of Chad's highlights came when he covered for an outside defender running to cut off what appeared to be a legitimate chance at goal, or sliding to kick a ball out to touch and allow his teammates to reset for a set piece. He was just incredibly dominant throughout the game and I had no problem at all giving him my man of the match.
Zach Scott: 8. Zach should get an 8.5 here, really. His stat line mirrors Marshall's. He led the team in tackles with 5, he had 13 clearances. It was his best game of the year and perhaps his best game ever in a Sounders uniform. I had him slightly lower in terms of big-time impact plays than Marshall, but the stats show he was the second-best Sounder on the field, and only slightly behind Marshall at that.
Leo Gonzalez: 5. Leo didn't score well in my impact plays notebook, at only a plus-one. I thought he was fine in the first half, probably a 6, but Dallas adjusted in the second half and moved Fabian Castillo to Leo's side, exposing a bit of Leo's age and lack of speed. He didn't really do anything wrong, but among the backline players I thought he was the weakest in this game.
Osvaldo Alonso: 8. A great glancing header goal that means more than any goal Ozzie has ever scored. The new away-goals rule makes it so. But Ozzie wasn't just about the goal. As importantly, he dominated the central midfield, with three tackles and six clearances, and an 82 percent pass completion percentage, an impressive stat especially given how many times he tried longer passes up the center trying to spring the attack. I thought he did that more than usual in this one.
Brad Evans: 6. Brad did a fine job marshalling the forces and keeping the Sounders organized in this one, the kind of things that don't appear on stats sheets. Stats-wise he was a level or two below Alonso, completing just 64 percent of his pass attempts, but he did make four tackles and three interceptions. I think Brad ends up starting the next game, but if Gonzalo Pineda is healthy, Brad is going to be back on the wing and Gonzalo will be in this important position for the offense with his superior passing ability.
Lamar Neagle: 5. Lamar had the lowest score in my impact plays notebook, just too many poor passes (only 56.5 percent completion rate) and lost possessions (5). It wasn't his best performance, but he did help on the defensive end some and was a good outlet with his head for long balls from the back. He'll need to play better in Seattle Monday, though, assuming he starts.
Marco Pappa: 6. Marco could have gotten a score higher than this. His passing was good, including a spectacular cross on the header-goal. He had two shots on goal, both on target. And then he made a terrible choice on to slide after a ball he had no chance of getting in the penalty box and cost the Sounders a goal. I marked him down a lot for that, believe me, yet he still received a plus-3 in my impact plays notebook. I wish he didn't make that poor decision. But overall I still rated him as "good" here.
Clint Dempsey: 6. I scored Clint a plus-three in my notebook, and only plus-one in the second half. Part of the problem was that the Sounders took a defensive posture in this game. Clint did have three shots on goal, but that was pretty much the extent of his meaningful contribution here.
Obafemi Martins: 6. I scored Oba higher than Dempsey in my impact plays notebook, but the stats didn't back that up, and I dropped his score here from 7 to 6 after further review. I'm looking forward to the team opening up the game a bit more in Seattle next week, allowing Oba and Clint a chance to create more magic.
Kenny Cooper: (65th minute): 5. I scored Kenny a flat zero in this one, and a literal one. I had no positive or negative marks in my notebook at all, certainly not what Sigi Schmid was hoping for with this substitution. I wouldn't be surprised if Chad Barrett is the choice next time.
Michael Azira: (72nd minute): 6. I was surprised that Michael didn't play in the middle, with Evans wide, once Michael entered the game. But I give him credit for playing fairly well on the wing in his limited time.