Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
7. Very good
10. World Class
Playing without five of the 12 players who regularly start, the Seattle Sounders put on a dreary performance in Vancouver Saturday in a 1-0 loss to the Whitecaps.
The Sounders managed only two shots on goal. It didn't help that none of the three players counted on to produce goals - Kenny Cooper, Chad Barrett and Lamar Neagle - performed well.
In the first half the Sounders were being beat in the midfield as Vancouver flooded zones and looked to get the Sounders out of position. The midfield responded with a better second half, but the strike force was still nowhere to be found.
Perhaps such a performance is to be expected when missing Clint Dempsey, Ozzie Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Obafemi Martins and DeAndre Yedlin. It was an uninspiring game and, I'm sure, a game the whole squad will want to put behind them with two games with Portland coming up this week.
Here's how I scored the players in Sounders' loss in British Columbia.:
Stefan Frei: 7. MOTM. Stefan was the only player who truly seemed "on" in this match. He had five very nice saves in the first half. He had no chance on the goal when Sebastian Fernandez was left clean and unchallenged for a well-taken long strike. Stefan wasn't tested in the second half, when the Sounders midfield played better, but his first-half performance was enough for me to consider him man of the match in this one.
Jalil Anibaba: 5. I scored Jalil a minus-1 in my impact plays notebook for the game based on one pretty poor turnover. Other than that he was relatively solid, but certainly made no plays that stood out.
Chad Marshall: 5. Like Anibaba, Chad didn't make much impact in this one. One thing we learned is just how much slower he is than a top-speed striker. It usually doesn't matter much. But in this one the way Vancouver was overloading areas occasionally meant Chad had to come way outside the box or try and run alone with the pace of Erik Hurtado. I can think of two occasions in particular where Hurtado blew by him with relative ease and would have scored were he a better striker.
Zach Scott: 6. Zach receives a slightly higher score from me than Marshall based on a couple nice plays that ended up in my notebook. I scored him a plus-2 overall compared to a zero for Marshall. He did slightly better in keeping up with the pace of Hurtado, but made a mistake by not closing quickly on Fernandez on the goal.
Leo Gonzalez: 6. Leo ended up a plus-3 in my notebook. My favorite play of this lackluster game was when Leo ran almost stride for stride with Hurtado chasing a long ball and got there in plenty of time to pin Hurtado to the touchline and force him to go backward. Leo isn't that fast, but he is that smart. He knew exactly where to be when Hurtado picked up that ball to limit Hurtado's options.
Michael Azira: 6. Let's dissect the goal. Two bad things happened on that play. First, Brad Evans lost Pedro Morales on a give-and-go and Michael scrambled over to try and cover, leaving Fernandez all alone in the center of the pitch. Second, Scott did not close out Fernandez after the pass. If Michael had gotten to Morales faster he might have cut off any passing lanes, but he didn't and the result was Fernandez was wide open for a shot.
Brad Evans: 6. Like Gonzalez and Azira, I scored Brad a plus-3 for this game. I mentioned his part in the Vancouver goal above. He has to take responsibility for losing Morales on the play. Brad was particularly good in the second half, where his passing and positioning both ended Vancouver's thoughts of playing through the middle and helped create what few chances the Sounders had in this one.
Lamar Neagle: 5. I can see why Sigi Schmid called out Lamar and Kenny Cooper at half-time in this one. I scored Lamar a zero in my impact plays notebook. I was, however, a little surprised Lamar came off before Cooper, as I thought Cooper was even less effective. That may have had something to do with the players available on the bench - with Tristan Bowen being more of a winger than a straight striker and thus a better substitute for Lamar than Cooper.
Marco Pappa: 6. Marco roamed the field trying desperately to link up some passes and create chances, but the strikers in this game were so poorly positioned that he had little to work with. I scored him a plus-5 for the game, the highest of the field players, but I would have liked to see him be more goal-dangerous considering how little of that was coming from in front of him. He also made a mistake early in the game by not picking out a wide open Neagle on his left as the team attacked the box.
Kenny Cooper: 4. I'm going to try not to be too harsh here, but Kenny has been a disappointment during the World Cup break. He was brought into this team to either be the second or third striker, and to cover for the possibility that both Dempsey and Martins would be in Brazil. He has struggled to have any positive impact when he starts. He has only six shots on goal this season, none last night against Vancouver. Most of the time, he plays way too wide to be an effective goal scorer, and that was clearly the case in this game. Kenny is the sixth-highest paid player on the Sounders roster, making $265,000 in guaranteed compensation. He trails only the three DPs, Brad Evans and Chad Marshall. Maybe it's not fair to compare salaries, but when you realize Kenny is getting paid more than Marco Pappa and Gonzalo Pineda combined you have to wonder if the Sounders are getting their money's worth. To be fair, Kenny has done a credible job in several substitute appearances this year. But given his chance to shine as a starter, he has not performed as one would have hoped.
Chad Barrett: 5. Chad was only slightly better than Cooper in this one. Their scores in my notebook were pretty similar, but at least Chad had one positive impact play noted. I sometimes wonder if Sounders supporters realize how lucky we are that the club joined MLS after the DP era started. Imagine this team without Dempsey, Martins and Alonso. Imagine if it had to rely on a strike force of Chad and Cooper every game. I have been watching MLS regularly since 2005 and I can tell you the quality in this league is significantly higher and the games much more fun to watch since David Beckham decided he wanted to live and work in Los Angeles. Many thanks to Becks for making this Sounders team so much better than it could have been. No really, I'm serious.
Tristan Bowen (55th minute): 6. Tristan was a revelation early in his substitute appearance. None of us have had a chance to see him play for Seattle and my recollection of him at Chivas USA was that he was fast but had a poor touch and therefore didn't add a lot. That was not the case last night. He was good in touch, good in positioning and good at passing, along with being quick. Unfortunately he never got past that first impression. I scored him a plus-3 in my notebook, but all of those positive marks came very early. He seemed to fade into the background a little more as his shift went on. Still, those first 20 minutes were tantalizing and I'm looking forward to seeing him more in the future.
Cam Weaver: (74th minute): 4. I understand the idea of a target forward; standing tall, winning control of the ball with his back to the goal and distributing. The Sounders have a long history with that kind of player: Nate Jaqua, Blaise N'kufo, Eddie Johnson. There is value in hold-up play if it is done well. I just haven't seen that from Cam yet, nor any kind of real goal threat. In this game he had almost as many fouls, three, as he had successful passes.
Aaron Kovar: (86th minute): incomplete. I was calling for a Kovar-for-Cooper switch just after half-time, with Neagle moving up front. It didn't happen and perhaps Bowen's good shift provides the evidence why. I believe Kovar can add a lot to the game if given more opportunities. I expect we'll see plenty of him in the U.S. Open Cup game this week.