Last week was a tie that felt like a win due to playing well against a good team and scoring late. This week’s 1-1 result against the Houston Dynamo felt like a loss due to playing lousy against a bad team and scoring late. No one in this game stood out exceptionally, with generally mid to low scores across the board. There is a lot to work on before the season finale, as MLS average is not good enough for the kind of results we want from this squad.
Community - 6.9 (MotM)
Realio - 6
Stefan didn't have a ton of work this week, and I noted under 10 plays total on which to rate his play. He did an average job, giving up a goal that he was shielded from and otherwise dominating his area. I think he was caught cheating to the wide side of the net on the goal.
This may be a game where Frei wasn't asked to make any spectacular saves, but I noted some great positioning. The first was in the 7th minute when Will Bruin got loose, and Stefan covered the goal well forcing a shot wide. In the 12th he again was in good position against Bruin, although in this instance he spilled a rebound across the middle of goal and I would like to see him contain that. A really nice punch out on a corner kick in the 63rd is quickly becoming a weapon for Frei and his save of a Manotas shot in the 90th was adequate. Also of note was impeccable wall framing on set piece defense.
There weren't many notes on distribution, but a few were rather poor, such as a goal kick in the 22nd going directly out of bounds and a wasted punt in the 47th trying to spring a bored Oba. It seemed Frei had a lack of targets for his usual wide clearances, and in the 32nd I liked a long middle kick which found a holdup forward.
Dylan Remick (off 82')
Community - 4.6
Realio - 5
Remick didn't do much to earn back a starting role on the team, turning in a definitely underwhelming effort. After a very rough start, Dylan did settle down and turn in a steady performance for the final 70 minutes or so but he was unable to add anything dynamic whatsoever.
Remick looked rusty early, his very first touch in minute 5 going out of bounds followed by losing his mark Giles Barnes in the 8th minute. In the 12th his bad control fumbled the ball to Bruin who had a look on goal. In the 20th he overcommitted on the ball and when he missed, found himself past the midfield and drastically out of position.
Dylan later settled down and didn't give up any other notable attacks through his side for the rest of the game. With Houston showing a remarkable lack of initiative in the attack, it was hard to tell how much of this was due to good defense and how much to apathetic play from the Dynamo. I did note a well defended header in the 13th, along with a well-timed tackle in the 33rd to win the ball back in transition.
Other than these and a long throw in the 47th directly to Dempsey for a shot on goal, Dylan had a difficult time joining the attack. Multiple times he bombed forward, only to be missed by teammates or lost on the backside of play. It was apparent that he is not on the same page as Ivanschitz in front of him, and they rarely combined. At times, Remick lost any idea of what to do and just chunked the ball forward to no one, which is especially rough when the forwards are not active.
Community - 6.4
Realio - 6
Marshall started the game off in the 1st minute with a punted long ball to try to pick out Dempsey's head for a turnover and after that smartly left the distribution from the back to others. He played solid defense, won some headers and was in good position to help out an early-game struggling Remick.
Marshall didn't factor into the game too much, as Houston sat back and didn't attack him often. Marshall's positioning as usual was stellar, and he covered well in the 30th and 59th for teammates. I was surprised to see an unusual miss-header in the 63rd lead to a Bruin shot and Chad completely misjudged another header in the 79th that went over his head.
I did make a note that Marshall was left free to roam on set piece defense as he was earlier in the season and it seemed to be effective. He is still not getting any looks on offensive set pieces, which is disappointing.
Community - 6.8
Realio - 7 (MotM)
Brad was once again our best defender on the night. Oddly enough, he was also our best attacker at times. Turning in the best overall full game performance was good enough for Man of the Match honors from me.
On defense, Evans was a rock. In the 4th minute I loved seeing him track the ball all the way across the field instead of dropping off or getting beat. In the 6th and again in the 18th he stepped up to Houston attackers, showing great timing to thwart attacks through the middle. Throughout the game Brad repeatedly covered for other players who lost their mark; I was most impressed by his helping on Ricardo Clark after Pineda was beaten in the 19th and on Brad Davis when Friberg was beat in the 28th.
His offensive contributions were numerous. Starting in the 2nd minute with an entry pass to Dempsey's feet in a dangerous position, Brad showed off his distribution abilities all night. He is just so good at keeping his head up and anticipating off ball runs that he jumpstarted the offense from the back repeatedly. In the 16th minute Evans recognized the Houston defense playing minimal pressure and showed off his dribbling ability, knifing through the midfield before laying off a perfectly weighted pass to a wide open Martins in on goal. This play was more than worthy of the assist it didn't receive.
Brad wasn't beaten all night, but he did have a few poor long balls attempting to unlock the defense from the back due to the increased playmaking load. I was very happy to see his free kick defense in the 41st minute greatly improved from the recent past where he had shown some struggles maintaining his mark.
Community - 5.3
Realio - 4
I wonder if all the wear and tear we put on guys like Mears and Neagle through the year are going to come back to haunt us. I have noted Tyrone's effectiveness waning as the season has gone on and also a distinct lack of attacking desire from the Sounders right back. Much of this may be by design, but attacking speed on the width is a huge deficit on the squad right now and this is something Mears offered early in the season. Now Tyrone is rarely venturing forward, choosing to play tame passes square or backwards, and he's having a very difficult time connecting with any midfielders.
I thought this was by far Tyrone's worst game of the year and it was well below MLS average, even without the horrible pass choice that enabled their goal. In the 5th minute his pass forward was inadequate, and recycled immediately into a Houston attack. In the 7th he had a chance to go forward with tons of space on the wing, instead turning and dropping the ball to Frei. In the 10th minute Mears lost his mark on Davis, who is by no means a fast player. A poor forced long ball to Oba in the 11th went harmlessly out of bounds for a goal kick but at least it was forward, unlike a lousy entry pass to Friberg in the 19th that was lost.
Mears had a lot of problems communicating with his teammates, and I noted a hard throw in nowhere near an upset Dempsey in the 21st, followed by Tyrone backing off a player in the 24th which earned him a scolding from Alonso. In the 32nd Mears followed the ball instead of his man and forced Friberg to almost give up a PK trying to cover. Plays like his 64th minute poor pass and subsequent awful tackle instead of just passing the ball up the line to an open teammate were very disappointing.
Mears is playing ok defense but isn't making good decisions right now on the ball. His first instinct is to turn and drop the ball, and I don't think the forced pass to Dempsey that Houston scored on will help this habit. I have no idea why he refuses to either pass the ball up the wing to a teammate or dribble to space. I think at times more than anything this team misses DeAndre Yedlin's rash, unabashed charging up field to tilt the game sideways and pull opposing mids out of shape. Mears is usually playing adequate defense and adding nothing else to the game, yet this game he added negatively.
Community - 5.8
Realio - 7
If the Sounders make the playoffs and it devolves into a defensive/set piece battle, it is a comfort to know that Andreas is on our team. In this match, his service on dead ball situations were consistently the most dangerous chances we created. I noted a perfect corner in the 36th, another in the 71st that should have been a penalty awarded to Rose, and a third in the 76th that found Dempsey alone. His 82nd minute service found its way to the face of Oba for the equalizer, and Andreas had at least two more dangerous passes in this one. I really like that not only is the quality of the ball being served in spectacular, but also that Ivanschitz is varying his delivery, sometimes going back post, others near, and these are put in dangerous spots that are very hard to defend.
Andreas wasn't all dead ball play either, there were some nice combinations with his teammates, like a 7th minute display where he cut all the way across the field to run a give and go with Friberg, or the 33rd minute combination with both Clint and Oba, showing he too is able to join their tight passing triangles.
There are still some holes in his game (he is very susceptible to give and go's on defense) and I think Andreas needs to acclimate a bit better to those around him. After playing good positional and 1v1 defense in the 21st, he casually lost his runner after the play and I believe that is due to communication. Other times like the 52nd he forced the ball to where he thinks players should be with mixed results. I thought his yellow card was due more to a poor Pineda pass than anything he did on his own, but I would love to see more of a desire to push the ball vertical - every game I see Ivanschitz beat a guy on the dribble and I am reminded he can in fact do so. This would open up some crossing options I think.
Gonzalo Pineda (off 67')
Community - 4.7
Realio - 5
I am not sure how many below average MLS performances we have to see before we try someone else in central midfield with Alonso. As early as the 6th minute I saw traffic cone level defense from Pineda that continued in the 17th, as well as traffic cone with arms waving others to defend in the 15th and 18th. Luckily Evans was there to save the day in the 19th after Ricardo Clark blew past Pineda. Overall I was very disappointed in the lack of movement throughout, and I am confused why he is pressing high at times yet not supporting forwards hold up play or making space for others.
A few times a game (such as minute 42) Pineda is good for a switch or a smart over the top ball to unlock a defense as well as a strong tackle (43') to earn possession, however these are so few and far between that it seems to me he is just a placeholder. Gonzalo is running some, and taking up space, and helping general defensive shape, but I see so many times during a game where he could help his teammates out with more effort or pace and unfortunately he seems to have neither. Pineda is not being directly responsible for goals against, but his overall play is less than we should expect from a starter and it is telling when multiple times a game his teammates bypass him for more difficult options.
Community - 6.1
Realio - 6
Alonso looked off this week. I am having a hard time discerning how much of his struggle is due to carrying huge defensive responsibilities of those around him and how much is true fault of Ozzie.
Against Houston, every note for Alonso was in the defensive column, and he rarely entered any sort of offensive position. With Evans wrapping around him to create, and the outside mids pinching in, Ozzie sat deep and kept a central destroyer role. He played this adequately, covering for the central midfield while ranging wide when necessary to cut off attacks. At times the "old" Alonso was on display, with defensive pressure in the first 5 minutes creating havoc and a 22nd minute expert poke out giving us a glimpse of a more dominate midfielder. It was great to see him single handedly stop a counter attack in the 85th minute, allowing the Sounders to throw players forward in hopes of a winner.
I really thought Alonso looked lethargic at other times, and I continue to be unsure why the midfielders refuse to pass to each other. An example was in the 43rd minute where Alonso blatantly ignored an open Pineda and attempted a dribble forward, which resulted in possession loss. In the 82nd minute his touch seemed off, and Ozzie looked tired. He definitely was frustrated and it showed, both in struggling play and a blatant awful foul/kick out combination in the 61st minute that should have resulted in at the very least a yellow if not red card. This is unacceptable play from a leader and DP level player.
Erik Friberg (off 62')
Community - 5.2
Realio - 6
Friberg was active and put in a lot of effort on the wing, which is more than can be said for a lot of other players, however it was quickly apparent that his game is ill suited for the wide play needed from wingers with this current roster. Erik is very good at service forward but from the width this comes in the form of crosses (Barrett goal vs LAG) but there were two large problems preventing him from being effective: 1. Little possession given in space on the wing from either central or Mears behind him, and 2. No off ball diagonal runs from players in front of him providing a target. He only managed one strong serve from the outside in the 38th, but I was again impressed with his accuracy from non-dead ball situations.
Without traditional wing options, Erik drifted inside in the 7th to work well with Ivanschitz, and had a few other playmaking opportunities. More than anything, Friberg turned in a busy defensive shift in front of Mears, often playing strong 1v1 defense in conjunction with limiting passing lanes towards the overworked Alonso.
A few first half mishaps were noted, like losing Davis in the 29th, and fouling Demarcus Beasley in the 40th in a bad spot. Friberg's defense is much better when he keeps players in front of him and is allowed to anticipate movement instead of chasing, and he had a tackle that was a borderline penalty when chasing a Houston player into the box. This isn't a performance that was awful, but from a position that we desperately need creativity and direct play, the average outing wasn't enough.
Community - 5.6
Realio - 5
This was Oba's worst game of the year, and only putting the ball in the net saved him from me considering a 4 rating (goals change games). I have never seen so many marks in the negative column for the Sounder superstar and his surprising lack of intensity through most of the game was hard to watch.
Martins' first touch was a 2nd minute angled header towards Pineda that missed the mark completely. Also in minute 2 was the first of FOUR back heel turnovers that were flagrantly bad. I remarked that Oba looked slow on a Dempsey through ball in the 20th and he followed up a poor pass in the 30th with a distinct lack of effort to recover. Bad passing was the theme of Oba's night, barely recording over 50% completion rate for the game. This included a plethora of awful attempts that rarely went anywhere constructive such as a 39th minute try for Andreas that wasn't close, a 49th minute pass across the middle to no one, and an 83rd minute ball that went nowhere.
Oba is still a world class player and while having a distinctly off game he still turned in a few positive instances. His holdup play and turn to find Ivanschitz in the 15th was solid and he made a good run to get open for Evans in the 16th- yet put his shot wide of the goal. Between that and the 82nd minute I noted nothing positive for Martins, yet he still popped up in the right place at the right time to score the equalizer.
It was a rough outing for Oba and I really don't like seeing "no effort" repeatedly in my notes for a guy who usually brings a ton of it to games. His entire night was encapsulated by his chance in the 80th where he was released 1v1 vs. David Horst and not only was unable to beat the slow Houston player, he was shuttled away from goal and offered up a weak and ultimately harmless cross that trickled to Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric. We need much, much better effort as well as results from Obafemi.
Community - 4.9
Realio - 6
Neither forward impressed a ton in this game and Dempsey had an up and down performance as well. Overall I rated him average but we need to see consistently above average performances from our big name players. I saw a lack of forward movement and willingness to open space for others, creating a stagnant middle of the field and inability to create chances.
In the 6th minute Dempsey was essentially playing center back, dropping between Marshall and Evans. We have to figure out how to get our forwards touches without them dropping into our own 18 to receive the ball. This hurt us on their eventual goal as well with Clint dropping back to force an errant Mears pass.
Just as Oba looked off, the usually dependable Dempsey had some issues we rarely see such as his inability to control a 22nd minute clearance, or a lost possession in the 33rd where a nonchalant touch was stolen. Offensively I expected him to do better going towards goal, and things like the 76th minute corner header going over and a general inability to connect with the wingers was disappointing.
I thought Clint started out strong, with a 2nd minute flick to Oba a brilliant look that was wasted by his strike mate quitting on the ball. His pressure in the 4th minute on a Houston center back creating a turnover was again wasted by Oba. After that though, Clint had trouble getting into the game, and it wasn't until he made a bit of magic in the 48th minute that he hit my notebook again. In this play he showed incredible balance and control to combine with Friberg to slalom through 3 defenders and manage a shot on goal which forced a tremendous save by Deric. After some decent hold up play and minor contributions Dempsey again created a bit of magic with a deflected free kick late that somehow Deric managed to save.
Both of these chances were an inch away from drastically changing the score line, but close isn't enough. We need to get more effort, more chances, and MORE RESULTS from our forwards.
Andy Rose (62')
Community - 5.7
Realio - 7
I was very pleased with what Andy Rose brought to his first game back from injury, immediately winning a header upon arrival in the 61st minute. In the 65th minute scoring play from Houston, Pineda is a full 20 yards closer to goal than Rose, yet its Rose who appears in the play at the end, due to some stellar hustle while Gonzalo walked.
In the 71st minute I thought Rose earned a penalty kick, rising up for a header on a free kick and being tackled in the box. In the 73rd Andy had a smart inside out run, opening space for Ivanschitz to drift to the center, who found Oba who almost slipped the ever involved Rose in on goal unmarked. This constant movement from Andy greatly improved the midfield shape, and I was not surprised that it was Rose's turn and cross in the 82nd minute that earned the equalizing corner kick.
This was a very nice substitute performance and the kind of effort we need injected throughout the team.
Chad Barrett (67')
Community - 5.7
Realio - 7
Chad came on the field and had a good shift, creating space through width on the right side, as well as transitioning into spots higher on the field in spaces created by others. His 80th minute run was quality and he earned a corner in the 84th and a free kick in the 88th through strong play. Barrett's near post run and flick off the 85th minute corner kick was stellar.
This game illustrates what a smart player Chad is, and after watching from the sideline he comes in ready to exploit weaknesses that he has seen over the course of the game. Barrett linked up well with Rose, and other than a pointless kick out yellow card vs Barnes I really appreciated how much he brought to the game.
Zach Scott (82')
Community - 5.4
Realio - 5
After two very effective subs, Sigi chose to put Scott in the game for unknown reasons. He rewarded the coach with pretty much nothing. He wasn't beat much by a Houston team that looked willing to play for the tie. He had one header recovery vs. a rookie after being beat across goal.
Community - 5.1
Realio - 5
I thought Jurisevic did a good job managing most of the game, allowing correct advantage play and the game had a good flow. Unfortunately, I will remember this game by poor usage of cards to regulate the game.
Luis Garrido got a yellow card but only after fouls in the 11th,16th,26th, 35th (warning given) and finally 63rd. I thought he deserved a card earlier instead of letting him pillage the Sounders middle. Ivanschitz got a justified card for a bad foul but Clark knocked Friberg similarly in the 57th (and out of the game a bit later) and for some reason Edvin had the card out and then put it away! Houston wasn't the only team who got away with cardable actions, I thought Alonso had about 4 warnings without a yellow and could have been sent off for his idiotic kick out in the 61st minute. Dempsey in the 59th minute went up for a header and made little play on the ball which I thought deserved a yellow as well.
There were two PK shouts, one for each team, and I thought the Sounders' slightly more valid, with Rose being manhandled in plain sight of the Assistant Referee. This was a fairly boring game that warranted more cards to keep better control of some dangerous plays.
It is hard to know if this is a good team grinding out results and refusing to lose even while finding their feet as a cohesive unit or a bad team severely underperforming and poised to fall harmlessly from postseason thoughts. I think myself and many others here would really like to see more visible effort from the players on the field, and I hope next week I am not again writing about another Sounder game that looks like it's played in a tar pit. I am happy with the defensive effort and am awaiting the new additions to jump start an offense that seems just a few bounces away from being very scary. Let's hope to beat RSL at home this weekend and gain some momentum going into a hopefully long and fruitful playoff run.