Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
Obafemi Martins is a difference-maker in Major League Soccer. Never was that more evident than when he came in to last night's Seattle Sounders game against Portland Timbers and led the Sounders to victory. Martins was not alone, mind you, with Clint Dempsey also having an outstanding outing and the Sounders' defense, Marco Pappa and Gonzalo Pineda also putting in strong shifts. But the difference in play between before Martins subbed in and after was like night and day.
I rated Martins a 9, superb, for his game-changing 40-minute shift. Regular readers of this feature know that I keep track of impact plays during a game. Martins actually finished one mark behind Clint Dempsey in that sense in my notebook. But considering he did so in in 50 fewer minutes made it easy for me to name Martins my man of the match. If you extrapolate what Martins did in 40 minutes over the course of a full game he would have tied the highest score in my notebook this year.
Here's how I scored the players in Sounders' victory against Portland:
Stefan Frei: 6. Stefan handled Portland's few chances with little problem. There was the one drive from Zakuani that came off of him hard and led to a rebound chance, but the only Timber in line for the rebound was offside. Stefan has been good lately and he continued that in this game.
DeAndre Yedlin: 7. DeAndre was really solid in defense in this one. The only times anything remotely threatening came from his side of the field was when Zakuani cut to the inside where DeAndre passed him off to the central defenders and defensive midfielders so he could stay with a wide runner. DeAndre didn't have a huge impact in the attack in this one, but that's because Portland's three-attacker approach forced him to help keep Portland's wing play to a minimum. DeAndre made the right choice, stayed home and helped keep Portland off the board for the night.
Chad Marshall: 7. In the mid-week Open Cup game, I lauded Zach Scott for his play in shutting down Portland's Adi. This game I think Chad had more to do with that. He was completely solid in defense. One of the things that makes Chad special is he can play strong defense and win balls against big attackers without earning fouls. Another very good performance here.
Zach Scott: 7. Like Marshall, I thought Zach had a very good performance in this one. He won 100 percent of his aerial battles and won four tackles, according to the whoscored.com recap of the match. It's been a long time now since we saw a questionable performance out of Zach, which is a welcome relief for Sounders supporters who have been most worried about the spot next to Marshall this season.
Jalil Anibaba: 6. I scored Jalil just slightly behind DeAndre in this one, earning him a solid 6 rather than the "very good" 7. Still, it's very encouraging how well he has played in this role. Given the often unbalanced nature of the Sounders' "hydra" attack, it's important that whoever plays left back can serve basically as a third center back when necessary. Jalil has proven very valuable in this role giving Leo Gonzalez some needed time off.
Osvaldo Alonso: 6. Ozzie again completed more than 90 percent of his passes. He did have an uncharacteristic turnover and I thought he was perhaps not quite his best. It's not often Pineda completes more passes than Ozzie. Please don't take this as criticism though. Ozzie is still a key cog and played well last night if not outstanding.
Gonzalo Pineda: 7. Gonzalo almost had a goal when he snuck in the box early for a header. He had yet another assist, his sixth of the year, which ties him with Obafemi Martins and a couple others for seventh most assists in MLS this season. Gonzalo was the key link for the team from the back to the marauding four goal threats of Martins, Dempsey, Neagle and Pappa and I had him as the fourth most important player in the second half for the Sounders.
Lamar Neagle: 7. Lamar was very good in this one. He had an assist and two shots on target. I did read some negative comments about him in the game thread, but I think his negatives are overstated. He had one turnover and was dispossessed twice here, that compares favorably to Dempsey's two turnovers and one time being dispossessed. He had an assist on the well-chosen pass to Pappa on Pappa's goal.
Marco Pappa: 8. Marco was a huge part of the offensive engine in this one, with five shots (two on target) and a goal, three key passes and an 85 percent pass completion rate. But what really moves this from a "very good" outing to a "great" 8 is the fact that Marco led the team in tackles and intercepted four passes. Marco is a complete player now and the Sounders' opponents are suffering because of it.
Clint Dempsey: 8. I didn't have Clint marked down much in my notebook the first half - just a couple positive marks, but relatively quiet. He exploded in the second half, racking up the highest score in my notebook with three shots on target, tons of inventive passes completed and of course the goal that rewarded the Sounders for a dominating spell of minutes that left no doubt which team last night has World Class players and which team does not.
Chad Barrett: 5. Chad was OK, but not much more in the first half. The only thing I can say for his outing is that he and Dempsey scored similarly in my impact plays notebook in that half. Chad is workmanlike, and I think we all appreciate the work he puts in. It's pretty unfair to compare what he does to what Martins does, but I think the results speak to the difference between the two strikers.
Obafemi Martins: (51st minute): 9. MOTM. I used whoscored.com for my stats this week as I find them easier to decipher than the updated Opta stats on mlssoccer.com. In his 40-minute shift he had one shot on goal, two key passes, two dribbles, won two fouls in dangerous spots, had two accurate long balls, two accurate crosses and completed 10 passes. That is one hell of a substitute shift.
Michael Azira: (87th minute): incomplete. A short shift here that doesn't deserve a rating, but I do think Michael was solid in his limited time.
Dylan Remick: (91st minute): incomplete.