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Sounders vs Sporting KC: Player ratings

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Another hard fought point earned from a tough trip, the mighty Sounders keep pace in the playoff hunt.

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

What an ugly game of soccer they play in Kansas City. It seems every time we play those guys it devolves into a slugfest, and this was no different even though their coach chose to rest players for other competitions.

I wasn't overly impressed with many Sounders players, who as a whole seemed to be playing in quicksand for most of the 1-1 match. Of particular disappointment was the effort of the play through midfield and the desire to play forward soccer by our fancy attackers. A lot of this was due to the defensive posturing and physical nature of the opposing team, yet I would have loved to see more spark and interest in breaking down the opponents.

RATINGS:

Stefan Frei
Community - 7.76 (MotM)
Realio -8 (MotM)

I guess I can just start every post with "Frei - 8 (MOTM)" since this is a few in a row now. Stefan is playing out of his mind right now, but unfortunately it also means that our defense is putting the goalie in situations where he is forced to make spectacular saves. I like that he is up to the test, but we need a set center back pairing that can get us back to defense as a strength (hint: Marshall and Evans).

Right off the bat he made an outstanding save on a chip in the 8th minute, pushing the ball over for a corner. In the 29th minute corner kick a completely unmarked Bernardo Anor was allowed to get a shot off. Oba looked on disinterestedly as Anor walked past him at the top of the box and went to get on the end of the corner, but luckily Frei was there.

Stefan added positional saves in the 43rd and 45th minutes, and came out very strong to catch the ball in the 58th when SKC was threatening. In the 93rd minute Frei pocketed the point by making a great save on a Dom Dwyer near post shot.

Frei used short distribution early in the game, but as the game got on resorted to chunking the ball up field. It is nice to see our goalie playing at such a high level and I sincerely hope the rest of the defense can get on the same page.

Oniel Fisher
Community - 4.64
Realio - 4

Watching the game, I didn't think Fisher had too bad of a run but my notes show 95% of the comments in the negative column. It started off with a bad pass to Dempsey in the 7th, followed by another to Ivanschitz in the 11th. Poor passes and rough shape were referenced often in my notes, and Fisher seems to have a severe lack of chemistry with the left wingers playing in front of him.

At times Oniel seems to check out of games and his play deteriorated heavily in the latter stages of the match. I noted poor passing in the 82nd, a clear to no one in the 88th, and an awful pass that turned into a counter attack in the 89th. Fisher quit at the end of the game on a few plays, most notably in the 93rd minute as he watched Mikey Lopez walk past him to get a try at the rebound.

I don't know what the Sounders plan is at left back, but I saw very little dynamic play from Fisher. He was almost nonexistent going forward, and he failed to connect with any direction throughout the game. His defense was adequate without giving up too many big plays, but there were far too few positive notes for me to score him any higher.

Zach Scott
Community - 5.11
Realio - 5

I thought Scott regressed this week starting alongside Evans instead of Marshall. He didn't look comfortable in the back and seems to have lost the form that spurred his resurgence last year. While still serviceable, a left side pairing with the inconsistent Fisher was rightfully picked on by SKC. In the 18th Scott helped after a bad Fisher error and he had numerous times where he stepped up appropriately on defense but overall he struggled to maintain shape and support the midfield.

I think Scott sometimes makes decent passes, but in this one he looked almost exclusively over the top with low percentage results. He forced the ball long in the 6th, 12th, 22nd, and 56th minutes and our team isn't really built for that sort of play. Scott's bad giveaway in the 44th led directly to an Alonso yellow card and in the 46th minute he was actually ahead of almost the entire Sounder team.

Scott lost his head akin to Fisher, turning the ball over consistently late in the game. His defensive header in the 79th minute was directly into the middle of the field and easily recycled back into the eventual goal scoring play. In that instance Zach was ball watching and loses Dwyer for a tap in. In the 87th minute Scott was completely beaten on a free kick header that luckily was called offside.

Brad Evans
Community - 6.18
Realio - 6

Evans looked comfortable in his move back to the defense and paired with Scott, but wasn't able to imprint upon the game very consistently. On the plus side I was very happy with his defensive positioning throughout, and any rust from being in the midfield was invisible in his play. Brad has great instincts on when to step up and did so well in the 11th and 57th minutes, cutting off attacking chances for KC. In the 27th minute Evans had a series of plays where first his defense created a counter attack to Oba, and then on the following KC possession Evans' defense saved the day on a break. Later a step and strong defensive play robbed Jacob Peterson of a chance in the 68th.

With Evans in the back you get quality service forward as opposed to chunking the ball over the top and the best example of this was a 52nd minute ball that released Valdez into space for an excellent goal scoring opportunity.

Evans earned an average grade because even with a lot of solid work he had a number of errors. Like others, he was guilty of trying to force a ball to Martins (10') and was easily rounded in the 13th in what could have been a disaster if not for the attentive Alonso. Brad dove in and missed the ball in the 28th which was an issue early on in the season but something I haven't seen lately.

The issue that I docked Evans for the most was his free kick defense.  In the 29th he was beat by Anor over the top and in the 63rd was very slow to follow his runner. It looked to me like he slipped on the goal scoring play.

Tyrone Mears
Community - 6.23
Realio - 6

Tyrone has had very quiet weeks after filling my ratings book to the brim over the summer months. In this game I liked his overall defensive positioning and communication with Evans, but wasn't as impressed with his work combining with the winger in front of him. There was consistently a giant hole in front of Mears that needs to be utilized by this team.

In the 9th minute Mears showed impressive 1v1 defense to shut down a KC attack and again in the 66th. His back heel pass in the 23rd set up an eventual Ivanschitz shot and I really like seeing him get forward strongly in the 71st minute.

That was his only effective foray though, and I was especially disappointed to see a cross directly to the KC goalie in the 31st with FOUR Sounders teammates in the box. Mears had the obligatory "force it towards Oba for a turnover" (42'), tired late with a bad clear in the 76th, and was completely dominated in the air by a Dwyer header that should have scored.

We seemed to lack pressure on the ball, and in a bit of foreshadowing Mears didn't close down a 16th minute cross that proved dangerous. With Marshall back there it might make more sense to lay off a guy and not risk being beat, forcing him to push balls across into the DPOY, but in this one the team needed more urgent ball pressure. It's a bad idea to allow teams to keep having uncontested service, no matter who we have in the back.

Andreas Ivanschitz (off 64')
Community - 5.71
Realio - 5

This may be unduly harsh but I thought Andreas really struggled in this match to add his mark. Starting with losing possession on a good chance in the box in the 7th minute and following up with a poor free kick in the 11th straight to the goalie, Ivanschitz struggled to put his imprint on the game. After a nice vertical run and through ball from Martins, Andreas tried an audacious back heel pass to Dempsey that failed in the 15th.

Andreas did some good things in this one but never seemed in sync with either the players in front or behind him. His service in the 20th and 52nd were both stellar and a 34th minute run was quality followed up by a poor pass. His defensive work is underappreciated, though, and I noted multiple times where his help and positioning were great.

Ivanschitz does not challenge for aerials and is pushed off the ball easily. Because of this he ends up getting knocked around a lot and consistently goes down "soft", which in this league rarely garners a foul call. He needs to adjust quickly and figure out where he fits into this team whether it's possession, wing runs, or central combination.

Gonzalo Pineda
Community - 5.34
Realio - 5

This was a rollercoaster game that may have deserved an average score but there is a complete shift in my scores around 35 minutes in. After this point I have zero positive notes and it's clear that Pineda lost effectiveness very early.

Pineda tried five over the top passes, consistently looking to stretch the defense. One of these, in minute 32, was a perfect pass to Martins for the only Sounders score on the evening. Pineda surrounded these passes with very nice defensive plays, such as saving Fisher in the 7th and cutting off a counter attack in the 34th.

Unfortunately, Gonzo wasn't stellar in this one even before falling off the endurance cliff. He was beat down the middle in the 8th minute, giving up a shot that forced a save from Frei. His pass in the 9th minute was directly out of bounds and he forced passes in the 16th and (Obligatory Oba force) in the 46th.

Pineda was walking as early as the 54th minute and his bad touch turnovers in the 55th and 56th signified to me that he was just gassed. I would have loved to have the yellow card situation be different and I'm sure Sigi Schmid did too; this would have allowed him to sub a tired Pineda instead of Alonso.

Osvaldo Alonso (off 73')
Community - 6.29
Realio - 6

Unfortunately, I wasn't overly impressed with Ozzie either, who earned a barely average score in a performance that looked very tired to me. Sure, he had a few recoveries and he played decent positional defense while holding down most of the midfield almost on his own, but there were very few notable positive actions aside from holding very deep defensive position well throughout.

Things got off to a rough start when one of Alonso's first long passes sailed well over Ivanschitz's head in the 22nd minute and out of bounds. Some other connections were not clean either, and Alonso failed to handle the physical play of the KC midfield calmly, getting chippy in return. In the 41st minute he committed a foul in a very dangerous spot and a few moments later got a cheap yellow card for a foul. He looked tired on this play and his footwork was not up to his high standards, forcing him to foul. This was a huge card in the scheme of things, and I really think Alonso was fatigued from travel or the heat.

In the 62nd minute (already on a card) Ozzie pulled down a player dangerously and followed that up eight minutes later with a risky tackle that prompted his being pulled to save him for LAG. Even tired and relatively ineffective connecting with the offense, Alonso was still a big help compensating for the positional inadequacies of Pineda which showed immediately upon his removal.

Nelson Haedo Valdez (off 84')
Community - 6.40
Realio - 7

Valdez was the second best Sounders player by my eye and unfortunately was unable to get integrally involved in the attack on more than a peripheral basis. This team had a tough time getting the ball to the Sounder DP in any space to work and I noted him and Oba occupying the same space on multiple occasions.

Valdez likes to make diagonal runs off a forward who drops into space; unfortunately, Martins' inside out runs are in direct opposition to this movement. Something will have to give because Oba looked none too happy to see Nelson take a Mears pass off his foot in the 17th minute. Valdez had a poor cross in the 24th minute that missed a wide open Dempsey and in the 60th minute mishandled a through ball on goal so badly that Clint came up behind him and took it away.

When Oba drops into space, Valdez is a natural at holdup and his header down to Dempsey for a shot in the 14th was magnificent. Valdez is a very vertical player and he put Martins in on goal wide open in the 25th with a great pass that deserved a better finish.

Valdez's defensive effort is magnificent for a winger and I noted multiple times where his pressure was stellar. In fact, it was his pressure in the 32nd minute that forced the turnover to Pineda for the assist on the opening goal. Nelson's 75th minute slide tackle from behind was a pure effort play and great to see.

Valdez set up a few very dangerous chances, the first being a tricky inside out run, collecting a perfect ball from Brad Evans in the back and after taking a few touches delivering a tremendous cross to the onrushing Dempsey. The second was a through ball to Pappa in the 73rd that was behind the defender, allowing Marco a direct path to goal. Both of these passes show he knows exactly where to put the ball just far enough away from a defender and with enough pace to allow a great chance on goal. Valdez needs to be involved more, but with his work rate we can expect his performance to wane as he tires later in games.

Obafemi Martins
Community - 6.17
Realio - 6

I think this was by far Oba's worst game of the year. I almost gave him a "5" but he scored and set up 2 other plays that could have been goals, which is phenomenal for an off game. His run and finish in the 32nd minute were solid hustle and a touch lucky finishing. The pass to put Valdez through in the 60th minute was good vision and eclipsed by an even better pass to Dempsey in the 85th that almost netted a game winner.

Otherwise, Oba seemed disinterested in this match. He started off with a horrible pass in the 4th to Valdez who looks to be on a completely different page than Martins. His dribble in traffic and loss of possession in the 17th was followed with a frustrated look and he mimicked that after scuffing a great chance 1v1 with the keeper in the 26th.

Oba put an uncharacteristically awful ball right to the defense during a 2v2 break with Clint in the 27th. He followed that up with a bad run in the 30th and another dreadful give and go feed a moment later. Martins' trapping and passing was rough, and I noted poor turnovers throughout due to bad touches. I was most disappointed to see a clear lack of effort on an Evans pass in the 79th minute. I do not know what was wrong, but it was clear on my re-watch that Oba wasn't happy or his normal self. Luckily his lousy self is still average.

Clint Dempsey
Community - 5.02
Realio - 6

I saw some narrative including the "L" word about Dempsey and I think this is not necessary true. I definitely saw some conservation of energy by both forwards (and a number of other players), but I wouldn't single Clint out as the lone offender. That being said, I noted him briefly clutching at his hamstring in minute 4 and wonder if he actually gutted out an entire game with a sore leg.

Dempsey had a lot of notes both good and bad in this one, and his game mirrored his 14th minute play where he made a good run, but had a poor finish off a Valdez setup. I thought the usual Clinfemi connection off as both players looked bad and most obviously in the 30th when it looks like Oba made a wonky run. I definitely noticed Clint more amused onlooker than involved player in minute 57 and in the 75th he was merely walking on a play.

Otherwise, Clint was close to his usual disruptive self, creating smart space for others and finding key passes. His through ball to Valdez in the 12th almost resulted in a score and he was wide open in the 23rd and 24th minutes and was not found by each new winger on either of these plays. I noted Dempsey with some strong defense in the 78th minute to force a turnover and his hustle to follow up a play in the 82nd earned Soni Mustivar a yellow card and the Sounders a dangerous free kick.

A lot of people will see movement and be impressed at "hustle" but movement without reason is wasted and Clint is a master of finding an extra gear when necessary. He did this both in the 52nd to get on the end of a Valdez cross inside the six-yard box and again the 85th from Oba, both without the expected results.

I would have liked to see both forwards stay more involved in this one and having DP level players visibly walking is not good; however, they produced a few very dangerous chances and the team was close to holding on for full points.

SUBS:

Marco Pappa (on 64')
Community - 5.67
Realio - 6

Pappa came on and gave his usual meandering performance. He was everywhere, and had no real position that I could discern. Ever calm on the ball, he was able to change the point of attack multiple times and offered a very different look than the other wingers. His control under pressure in the 69th was vintage Pappa and his passing crisp and meaningful.

I have no idea why he stopped his run in the 73rd after being put on goal by Valdez, failing to get a shot or pass off. I thought his defensive effort in the 91st minute very lax especially as a sub.

Erik Friberg (on 73')
Community - 5.52
Realio - 5

My only note was "constantly chasing Pineda". Let's face it, Erik isn't Alonso, and we shouldn't ask him to be. On Wednesday with a fresh energetic Roldan next to him Friberg looked great, allowed to float around and be a destroyer and move the ball forward. Sunday he was tasked with covering all the space that Pineda was too tired to get to, and it proved too much for the Swede to handle. He made a game effort to supplement the deep lying central mids but wasn't able to do much more than dampen the KC attack.

Lamar Neagle (on 84')
Community - 4.93
Realio - 4

I liked nothing about this performance. Dwyer comes in, and in 20 minutes has ten touches, 3 shots, 3 dribbles, almost scores twice (did score once) and dominated. Neagle had half this time and he threw a goose egg. Now I don't expect Neagle to be Dwyer but he has to make an impact and he had ZERO TOUCHES. ZERO everything. Didn't dribble, didn't pass, didn't shoot, didn't defend a guy, didn't tackle a ball, didn't take a throw in - ZERO. Only reason I don't give him a zero score is because the goal came from the other side. Not impressed.

REFEREE

Armando Villarreal
Community - 6.07
Realio  - 4

I am not sure how to rate KC games, since they almost always devolve into ugly affairs. This was no different, with the home team earning double the amount of cards, committing twice as many fouls, and making the game a rough one to watch. For a majority of the match I thought Villarreal did a decent job keeping the game from becoming a fist fight. Players from the Sounders especially were visibly upset with the tactics fashioned against them. Armando correctly called an obstruction for a pull on Alonso in the 10th, and I thought the yellow cards were all correctly called, but otherwise I found a lot of issues with the way the game was called.

Bernardo Anor was a consistent fouling machine and started with an early foul on Alonso. Jordi Quintilla also was a repeat offender and I had him for about five fouls of which he was whistled for a 38th, 58th, and 67th, the last which earned him his "final warning". Andreas Ivanschitz was rightly unhappy with the physical play at times (others he went down too easily) but in the 27th he was hacked with no whistle. I thought Mears got away with a blatant foul on Lopez in the 28th but no whistle.

Martins was deservedly upset after a late hack in the 29th minute that didn't earn a card for the offender, and how Mustivar didn't see yellow after going blatantly out of his way to get Ivanschitz in the 49th is beyond me. Lopez with a 2 footed tackle on Fisher in the 69th wasn't deserving of a call. All year people have been cleaning out players well after the ball was clear and this is how Dwyer introduced himself to the game and Brad Evans in the 74th minute. We can't allow players to continue through the person after a pass! Erik Palmer Brown cleaned out Oba in the 79th to put a bow on a pretty dismal reffing job that I felt needed a firmer hand.

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I am torn whether to be worried about the obvious lack of chemistry on the team with a few players or chalk this one up to KC playing their usual negative tactic soccer. I think it's more of the latter but I really hope to see a different spark from the attackers on Sunday. LA is vulnerable in the back especially on the road and we will need all of our attacking options to be invested in the game. If we sleepwalk through another game like we did this last weekend, we will be in big trouble.