One of the legitimate questions about player ratings is what does it take to get a 10? I'll say that I have yet to give a 10 to a Sounder in my years of rating the squad. Still, I'm struggling to figure out what more Clint Dempsey could have done this week - three goals and not a single bad touch. I don't have any negative marks for Clint in my notebook and some of the positive ones were double-plusses, as when he controlled a too hard pass deftly and turned and got off a goal-threatening pass or shot.
I will not be surprised at all if many of you give him a 10 for this week's performance. The only thing I can say is that Clint did not have a huge impact in the first half, when, I believe, the team was playing in the wrong formation for this game. Of the total of plus-12 he received in my marks this game, 11 came in the second half. I guess my thought is that if he had a similar impact in the first 45 minutes as he did in the second, a 10 would be the score. So here I reluctantly give him a 9, but I have never leaned so close to giving a 10 before and I will understand if many of you do so.
This week's ratings:
Stefan Frei: 5. You can't blame Stefan for any of the four goals. Still, I'm dying him to see him start making some saves on shots when you don't expect him to do so. Remember Kasey Keller? Remember Michael Gspurning before last year's meltdown? It would be really nice if we had a keeper that could, on occasion, make up for poor play from his defenders or midfielders. I can only think of one remarkable save from Stefan through five games. When he does it again he will earn a higher rating.
DeAndre Yedlin: 6. The formation switch with the second half substitutions helped a lot of people, perhaps no one more than DeAndre. He was left on an island a lot in the first half and did not look good. He got spun and nutmegged and all kinds of things we aren't used to seeing from him. In his defense he often he had to deal with two players at the same time, an attacker and a defender running the flank. He was so much more solid after the formation switch. And his more solid defense allowed him to get into the offense more too. Great run to earn the penalty kick. A tale of two halves in this one.
Jalil Anibaba: 3. Many Sounder at Heart commenters, myself included, had been calling for the younger, faster, more athletic Anibaba to get a start over Djimi Traore. I guess we should all be careful what we hope for. Calling his performance in this game "flawed" would be generous, which is why I choose a 3 for "poor." In the second-half in particular, Jalil was a giveaway machine. And it's beyond me why he didn't step up to Diego Chara on Chara's second goal. Jalil looked lost and extremely indecisive. If the manager treats Jalil the same way he treated Marco Pappa after his poor performance we may not see Jalil again for a little bit.
Chad Marshall: 7. Chad did not have a negative mark on his ledger, which is becoming commonplace in rating him play. He was good again this week and moved up to a "very good" 7 based on a second viewing, which made me realize how threatening he was on the offensive end on top of his solid backline play.
Leo Gonzalez: 7. I would guess that Leo is back to 100 percent given that at the end of the game he was combining with Pappa and making long overlapping runs to the end line to fire in crosses. Meanwhile, none of Portland's real chances came from his side of the field. Yedlin and Dylan Remick could both learn something about defending by watching Leo's highlight reel. Even when people put a move on him, Leo is never out of contact and he never gets fooled. His hand is almost always on his mark's back or shoulder and he stands on the ball before anyone can do anything dangerous with it. Glad he is back.
Osvaldo Alonso: 7. Ozzie seemed a little off his game compared to normal. I do wonder if the 4-3-3 requires him to cover too much ground and takes him out of his comfort zone. Still, I had him rated as the second-highest in terms of outstanding plays in my notebook, trailing Dempsey and just ahead of Marshall and Gonzalez. He seems to rarely play below "very good."
Gonzalo Pineda: 6. Gonzalo laid out a terrible backpass in the first half that left the defense flat-footed and led to a goal. I had him at a minus-2 in terms of impact plays in the first half. I suppose being an experienced player helped him shake that off in the second half as he ended up on the positive side of my ledger, which is enough to earn a 6 from me. One of these days his great free kicks is going to lead to a Chad Marshall goal.
Micheal Azira: 5. I have been watching MLS since 2005 and pretty religiously since 2007. The one thing that has really improved in the past few years is the passing. The game used to sometimes resemble Ping-Pong, with the ball changing directions constantly as one bad pass followed another, making taking advantage of turnovers the name of the game. The skill level in MLS has improved immensely since then and unforced giveaways, while still an issue, are not nearly what they used to be. Unfortunately I counted four unforced turnovers in the first half for Michael in this game, just bad passes to nowhere and no one. He rebounded, though, and ended up having as many positive plays as negative. He obviously works hard and his positioning is helpful. If he can stop giving the ball away he has a chance to have a much more positive impact on the Sounders.
Kenny Cooper: 6. I wonder a bit whether Kenny's lung-busting work rate early in games leads him to slow down a bit later. I don't think it's a coincidence that when he starts he is almost always the first player subbed off. His goal in the first half was great and he was well into the positive in the first half, but his only real second-half contribution was the backpass to Anibaba that was stolen and led to a goal, a pass that probably should not have been made.
Clint Dempsey: 9. MOTM. It really doesn't get much better than Clint's performance. His passing was crisp, his ball control was amazing, his positioning was nearly perfect and of course he was right-on in terms of scoring his chances. I will make the argument here that I made in a couple of the comment threads after the game: This team is better off when Clint is playing in a withdrawn forward role in the center of the park. He is the best option for choosing the right pass in an advanced position and for moving the ball from side to side to open up chances. I know some of you love the 4-3-3 because it leads to a wide open game. But to me that beginning formation moved Clint too far outside, and called on him to help defend too much. It's impossible to predict he would have had the same impact in the first half as he did in the second half after Neagle and Pappa checked in and team switched to a 4-2-3-1. But if he had, he would have scored a 10 from me. His second half was arguably the best 45 minutes of soccer ever from a Sounders FC player.
Obafemi Martins: 6. Considering the Sounders scored four goals, it's perhaps a bit surprising that Oba didn't score one. I would say he was good in this game, but not great. He had a couple frustrating turnovers when he tried to do too much with the ball by himself, but he also laid off some nice passes and helped with the comeback push in the second half. In the end I scored him exactly the same as Cooper in terms of his impact on the game. He was good here, but I think we would all love it if he could have finished off one of his dangerous chances.
Lamar Neagle: (60th minute): 8. Huge impact from Lamar from the minute he walked on the pitch until the final whistle was blown. He did as much in 30 minutes of play as others did in an entire 90-minute shift. You have to give Lamar nearly as much credit as Dempsey for tilting the field in the Sounders' direction and earning the tie. His passing and ball control were both very sharp, and he attacked the wilting Timbers with gusto, leaving them flat-footed and a step slow. A great substitute performance.
Marco Pappa (68th minute): 7. Marco started out a bit slow. It seemed to take him about 10 minutes to really get into the flow of the game. But once he did, his passing and ball control led to chances. I was especially excited about the way he played Leo Gonzalez into the offense, inviting him to long runs and then rewarding him with passes so perfectly weighted that they led Leo beyond the last defender on the wing. I have to wonder whether these 20 minutes gets Marco back into the starting lineup next week.
Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class