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Sounders v Salt Lake player ratings

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Evans, Neagle, Dempsey, Martins and Rose all shine.

Jane G Photography

Here is a key to the standard 1-10 scale.
1. Horrible
2. Awful
3. Poor
4. Flawed
5. Adequate
6. Good
7. Very good
8. Great
9. Superb
10. World Class

The Seattle Sounders thrilling 3-2 win over Real Salt Lake Friday night included some really good efforts from Sounders players; it also exposed some troubles this team continues to have with RSL's style of play.

The Sounders had three very, very good goals, all of them requiring a high level of skill. It's clear that the Sounders are playing with a full deck of talent for a league at this level.

Lamar Neagle's goal was world class, and the pairing of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey continued to exploit defenses in a way that shows that both Sounders strikers are top-class on Martins' goal. Andy Rose's winner was so well-taken, so gloriously exactly as the game is taught, that it makes you realize how few players actually execute that way when given goal opportunities.

And let's not forget Brad Evans, who I chose as Man of the Match. Brad's passing was what started a lot of the Sounders' chances in this game, and his workrate was unmatched by any other sounder over the course of the full 90-plus minutes.

That said, there will have to be some adjustments made before the next time the Sounders play Salt Lake so we don't see situations where players like Javier Morales and Joao Plata can find themselves running freely in and around the goal box. I have watched the videos over and over and I'm still not sure who is to "blame" for the goals. I have settled on blaming the scheme. Salt Lake overloads the middle of the field with a diamond midfield, with normally five players inside the width of the goal box moving forward and the flanks left to the fullbacks. That overload is what seems to have led to the goals, with no one seemingly available to take on the runs that led to the goals. On the first Gonzalo Pineda did not follow the run of Morales, opting to stay with a run from Plata. On the second, Pineda and Yedlin double-teamed a player and no other Sounder moved to take Plata, leaving him wide open to take a shot from just outside the box.

The idea that both Salt Lake goals came from players basically unmarked means Sigi Schmid and the coaches need to work on some things with defending the diamond before the next game against RSL.

Read on to see my individual player ratings for the win.:

Stefan Frei: 5. I don't know how Frei could have stopped either goal. The deflection on Plata's goal was particularly difficult. That said I don't feel like he commanded the box very strongly, particularly on set plays, when he too often waited back as Chris Schuler or some other RSL player take headers on balls he could have challenged for. Just a look on the other end of the field would show you what I mean, as Nick Rimando grabbed cross after cross out of the air before it could be dangerous.

DeAndre Yedlin: 6. I scored DeAndre a plus three in my impact plays notebook for this game, which earns him a 6, "good" from me, but nothing more. I do like that he was in the box at the end and was involved in the play that led to Rose's goal. I'm not 100 percent sure he made the touch to Rose, though, as repeated watchings seem to indicate the ball came off an RSL defender. Either way I wouldn't score him any higher in this one as I felt his impact was good, but contained a few flaws.

Chad Marshall: 7. Chad was darned strong in this one, as usual. Neither of the goals came from in his vicinity. I scored him a plus-6 in my notebook for positive plays, most of those earned in the second half when he either turned up his game or RSL decided to chance going right at him more often. He had an outstanding header pass in the box to Martins for an early goal chance. Too bad Martins couldn't finish that one.

Zach Scott: 6. I scored Zach exactly the same as Yedlin, though he had fewer marks in my notebook overall. I have nothing negative to say.

Leo Gonzalez: 5. A couple games back I talked about how Leo hardly ever gets beat down his side of the field. It is so rare that it sort-of sticks out like a sore thumb when it happens, as it did in this game on the first goal. He did help quite a bit in the attack on the left flank, which was something the team really needed after RSL went down to 10 men and tried to bunker for the draw.

Osvaldo Alonso: 6. A couple of very nice tackles were the highlights for Ozzie in this one. Both he and Pineda look a bit overwhelmed and sometimes out-of-position against RSL's packed-in diamond, though. For example, I have watched the replay of the first RSL goal many times now, and I can't tell you where Ozzie was and why he wasn't following either of the two late runners into the box in Morales and Plata.

Gonzalo Pineda: 6. Gonzalo made some real nifty passes that led to chances in the first half, but his help on defense was questionable in this one. On the first RSL goal he decided to let Morales go and run with Plata, which meant no one at all was marking Morales when he received the ball in the box. I don't know if that was a mistake, or if he was expecting Neagle to slide over. Either way he shouldn't have to mark two late runners by himself. On the second goal he helped double-team and try to pin the ball in the corner, leaving Plata alone. When the pass got through there no one else was anywhere near Plata to pick him up. I'll say here what I said in the introduction, though: I think that this is a formation problem and not an individual player problem. I don't think either of Pineda's decisions I mention here were poor ones. He made choices we see in every game all the time. It's just that in this came no one else picked up to cover after he made those choices.

Brad Evans: 8. MOTM. Brad is playing at a very, very high level the last two games. He is all over the place and his solid short and long passing is leading to many of the chances, such as the long release pass he made that led to the Dempsey-Martins combination for goal number two. I scored Brad the highest in my impact plays notebook at a plus-7. Most of Brad's touches led to something that tested RSL.

Lamar Neagle: 8. Lamar was a man on fire in the first half. I scored him second-highest in my impact plays notebook for this game. Interestingly, all of that was in the first half. By the time he was taken off in the 79th  minute it had gotten to the point he was not very involved any more. But let's give credit where credit is due, Lamar was spectacular in the first half, and his goal was out-of-this world. That goal just has to be considered for MLS goal of the week. It came out of nowhere and was hit perfectly, giving the defenders and the goalkeeper no chance. That spark of imagination and daring was exactly what the Sounders needed being down 1-0 at that point. It changed the game and re-energized the side and the fans.

Clint Dempsey: 7. Clint was very good throughout this game with the highlight being the classy pass he laid through to Martins for Martins' goal. A really good performance from one of the best players in MLS.

Obafemi Martins: 7. Oba really pushed himself and the team at times in this game. I can't think of more than one time where he took a touch that looked like he was going to give away the ball only to work his tail off to win it back, turn and create a chance. Like Neagle, I thought Oba was a lot better in the first half than the second. He did have the breakaway that forced RSL to haul him down and take a red card in the second half. But after that, as RSL bunkered, he found it hard to be part of the attack, with so much of it coming through the air on crosses and corner kicks. It got to the point that he was going way back into the midfield to try and get touches and contribute as RSL packed it in and took away the wide-open fields that are Oba's danger zone.

Subs:

Andy Rose (65th minute): 7. I imagine some of you will choose Rose as man of the match as his clinically taken goal won the game. I'm OK with that. I will say I think just considering the goal does Andy a disservice though, as his play was far better than just that one incident. The thing that Andy has brought the team that it has been missing is another goal-dangerous runner from the center of midfield. As much as I love Alonso and Pineda, neither of them bring the same threat. I suspect we will continue to see a lot of Andy as long as he continues on this hot streak.

Chad Barrett: (79th minute): 5. Not much impact in this one. He got a header on goal and lobbed the ball in a couple times as the Sounders tried to break down RSL, but I didn't really score anything he did as an impact play in my notebook.