Happy about a 1-1 tie! I am not sure we deserved to win, but based on my ratings we sure didn't deserve to lose against the LA Galaxy on Sunday. I saw a lot of positives this week and we look to be close to really breaking out. We played a team that may be the best in the league and handled them for long stretches of the game.
Stefan Frei -7
Stefan didn't have a MOTM performance for the first time in a few weeks but that's a good thing: he wasn't consistently forced to make amazing saves to keep his team in the game. In this match he dealt with the few decent L.A. chances well, and he was rarely tested by a supposedly potent Galaxy attack.
The biggest save was a Robbie Rogers' shot in the 16th minute which caught Alonso and Neagle ball watching as the L.A. left back worked a give-and-go with Sebastian Lletget to get deep into the goal box forcing an acrobatic block from Frei.
The rest of the goalie's game was managing a few crosses, playing the ball long to Neagle, and setting up his wall very well on the few free kicks conceded. There was nothing Stefan could do on the goal against, when the reigning MVP was handed a ball on the 18 with many angles to shoot from.
Leo Gonzalez - 7
Community - 6.14
I was very happy with what Leo brought to the team defense in only his fourth start of the year. This consummate professional is always ready to contribute, and he played admirably against a very strong right side of the Galaxy attack. After Bruce Arena specifically targeted Dylan Remick in an earlier game, it was nice to have the wily veteran on the left.
Gonzalez made a strong defensive header in the 6th minute that to me signified he meant business, and he followed this up with a lot of physical play. Leo turned around what had been the leaky left side of the defense in prior LAG games, mixing very well with Ivanschitz ahead of him. I thought these two were very well in tune throughout and their chemistry was apparent, such as in the 11th minute when they double teamed expertly on the line to produce a turnover.
Leo is master of the subtle bump, and he consistently knocks around his opponents in strategic, yet legal ways. He completely flummoxed Gyasi Zardes for most of this match. Small taps and pushes and positioning from Leo frustrated this National Team player into a very quiet night.
On the attacking side Leo didn't push forward much but when he did he offered a great option on the left to swing in the ball. A 46th minute cross was a bit long, but his 59th minute overlap and pass that found Oba in a dangerous spot shows how tactically aware Leo is when he surged forward to accept space created by teammates.
Leo was forced to foul Zardes in the 5th minute after being beat by speed and at times I thought he ranged too far forward. In the 27th this was readily apparent as he hung Scott out to dry by not staying connected. Otherwise, I really liked what Leo brought to the back.
Zach Scott - 4
Community - 4.69
Scott had a rough game, which was made more apparent by the Galaxy's obvious game plan to force the ball to him. He led the team in touches with over 100 and it was easy to see that LA was defending in such a manner to make Scott beat them. Unfortunately, Zach had trouble with this plan as he made many rough plays and ultimately the critical blunder that led to one of the Galaxy's only quality scoring chances.
The main issues were bad choices in distribution of the ball. Scott's first touch on the night was a blind clearance to the middle which was a preview of the rest of his game. Another dangerous pass to the middle in the 19th had to be rescued by Alonso, and there was a similar pass in the 30th. The midfield needs to give him more options for sure, but when in doubt, wide is always better as a defender. Scott made a terrible square pass in the 33rd and Robbie Keane picked off his awful centering pass in the 36th and turned it into the Galaxy's only score on the night. Most frustrating is that he repeated this same problematic pass in the 51st!
This game wasn't all bad from Scott, and I like that he didn't hang his head after making the huge mistake. Although beat by Zardes for pace in the 27th, Scott had a number of solid defensive plays and won 10 headers that I counted. Even though Zach's distribution was rough, his defense was pretty good and he even had two nice plays in the 79th - the first a great over-the-top pass to Leo down the line and then smart defending to cut off the ensuing counter attack from LA.
Brad Evans - 8 (MOTM)
Community - 7.13
My choice for MOTM might surprise many readers, but in this game there were few errors by Brad. I marked him down for misplaying a diagonal over-the-top pass in the 24th and heading a defensive clear to the middle in the 27th (right to Gerrard for a volley on goal). Another 46th minute pass was underwhelming but Evans still managed a 90 percent passing accuracy for the game, which is phenomenal no matter where you play.
Brad was a complete rock on defense in this one, whether it was bodying up a Galaxy player to win the ball (2'), bailing out players around him with acrobatic clears (15') or maintaining perfect positioning (20'). His 1v1 defense on Lletget in the 64th minute was just fantastic. Remember guys, this guy is playing his first season at this position! I was most impressed with how calm and confident Brad is in the back now. His patient clear on the backline with players around him in the 21st oozed confidence, and he played like a 10-year veteran in defense again in the 67th as he was completely calm under pressure from LA. After their goal, it was Evans who could be seen rallying the troops, keeping the team on track, and showing the leadership we have come to expect from him.
While I was most impressed with the flawless defensive positioning and distribution from Brad, I would be remiss if I didn't mention his offensive contribution (and what sealed MOTM for me). In the 86th minute Evans crashed the box with abandon and almost scored after a Barrett effort. A poor near post corner easily cleared late in the game must have resonated in Brad's phenomenal soccer mind because in the 94th he switched his run to the near post and made a perfect header on a similar set piece across the goal which was finished by Barrett to rescue a point. His primal scream and flex showed the emotional investment this player has in this team, and he simply refused to let us lose.
Tyrone Mears - 6
Community - 6.80
An average week for Mears, who along with Neagle in front of him did a decent job stopping Lletget for much of the game. Tyrone filled the stat sheet with many marks on both sides of the board.
Tyrone didn't start off strong, losing a runner in the 2nd minute that was saved by the alert Evans, but Mears made no other notable mistakes in the first half. Defensively he stepped nicely in the 6th to clear danger and then made an overlap and solid cross to Dempsey in the 9th. Neagle and Mears seemed better in tune this game and Tyrone found the Sounder winger over the top neatly in the 14th. A 22nd minute slide tackle was a beauty, stopping one of the rare LA attacks up his side.
Mears started off the second half with a bang, making a lovely individual run down the line and crossing in the 49th. Unfortunately, Tyrone wasn't very effective after this, even drawing the ire of Evans after leaving Lletget open on a throw in (63'). Steven Gerrard badly fooled Mears on a corner kick and clanged his header off the crossbar in the 65th minute thanks to another Evans intervention.
Sometimes in this game I thought Mears was out of position high which pulled Brad away from Scott, and Tyrone still passes backwards way too much for my preference, but he errs on the side of caution and it's hard to blame a defender for that trait. I would love to see Mears attack up the line more, since good things have happened all year when he is aggressive in supporting the attack. Notably it was Tyrone's overlapping run which earned the goal scoring corner kick.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 7 (off 85')
Community - 6.27
Watching live I didn't see a ton of remarkable things from the Austrian, but man this guy fills up a stat sheet when analyzing tape. He is already linking up well with the forwards such as a 3rd minute pass to Clint and awesome vision to find Oba in the 6th. I saw a lot of hustle from Andreas in this game and I am pleased he was able to go for an extra 20 minutes as he gets into game shape.
I marked him down for a few speculative passes that were either tired or on the wrong page as teammates. I wasn't as impressed with the set piece service this game as previously, and Ivanschitz flat out whiffed on a ball that Dempsey dummied right to him deep in the box in the 76th minute which would have left him 1v1 with Galaxy keeper Donovan Ricketts.
Ivanschitz looked stronger as the game wore on, contributing a nice free kick in the 35th and getting a tremendous shot off in the 49th. One thing to keep an eye on if Leo keeps playing behind him is how well they already seem to play off each other. In the 46th Andreas lifted a perfectly weighted pass over the top to an overlapping Gonzales. After drifting inside in the 59th and attracting the defense, both players shined with Leo sneaking up the line and Ivanschitz displaying outstanding vision to find him behind the defense.
The backside run looks to be a favorite of Andreas' and after scoring on it against Vancouver he again got on the end of a similar Oba cross in the 68th and just missed scoring. I really appreciate how this winger stays wide, and his spacing with the forwards remains consistent. He looks very confident on the ball but a pass completion percentage in the 50's needs to be vastly improved.
Gonzalo Pineda - 6 (off 66')
Community - 5.53
Pineda's up-and-down ratings season continues, with this week the book showing him struggling for most of the contest but putting in a game effort to earn an average score. While I disagree with Alexi Lalas who said Juninho and Gerrard "dominated the midfield", Pineda had a rough go connecting with his teammates. This includes issues with finding Alonso, which continues to be frustrating to watch. Instead, Gonzalo often looks for the over-the-top ball to spring an attacker.
This vision worked well on a long ball to Oba in the 5th minute and an even better look to spring Neagle in the 20th. The final positive mark in my book was a cross to Dempsey in the 54th which I really liked. Pineda played solid defense and at times was the most active high pressure on the team.
Gonzalo was very slow to support a struggling Scott in the 5th minute and this was a trend of the game that hurt us on their goal. Another issue I noted repeatedly was forcing the aforementioned long balls. Pineda continually passed the ball over-the-top which created turnovers in the 28th, 50th, and 70th. A back header in the 38th put the defense in all kinds of trouble and a 58th minute touch killed a promising attack.
The main underlying problem with the midfield was the inability to connect the ball through the middle. Juninho did a good job destroying but Gerrard was a traffic cone at times, and I was disappointed to see Pineda struggle to support the middle of the field and connect with his wingers or midfield partner.
Osvaldo Alonso - 7
Community - 7.32
Alonso was caught forward a few times and in the 40th minute both central midfielders were way too high, but other than this and a poor back pass in the 82nd minute, Alonso turned in all positive marks this week.
So much of what the Sounders do is predicated on a steal and quick counter through the midfield and usually this starts with an Alonso defensive action. This happened in the 15th minute: I marvel at how quickly this destroyer can turn into precise distributor after a tough tackle or interception. Another time Alonso found Neagle over the top (19') following a Dempsey lay off.
Ozzie was very strong in the midfield for me in this game, getting multiple marks in the book on plays like the 44th minute where he helped Evans on defense and turned and switched the ball perfectly. These quick switches are so vital to the Sounders' attack because it forces a defense to adjust to the ball while somehow keeping track of Oba and Clint. Alonso did himself one better in the 76th minute with an almost 65-yard switching cross to Mears with pinpoint accuracy.
Ozzie's defense was strong in this game, continually pressuring the ball wide and out of danger, and frustrating Gerrard into ineffectiveness. With Alonso as a free safety on set pieces, the Sounders can throw numbers and expect him to clean things up just like he did in the 84th minute. I saw no signs of injury or sluggishness from Alonso.
Lamar Neagle - 6 (off 66')
Community - 4.66
Lamar Neagle was immensely Lamar Neagle in this game. Some things he did were just tremendous and others make you just wonder what he could possibly be thinking. Other than a whiff on a rebound attempt in the 49th minute, I didn't have anything in the book for the second half and his sub was warranted.
Neagle was very active in the first half of the game, and he came out hot. His one-touch flick in the 3rd minute to Dempsey was very nice and he made an under-appreciated run in the 6th minute. On the play when Oba put in Clint, it is the run of Neagle that Ricketts is so concerned with he jumps the pass, allowing a wide open near post for Dempsey that unfortunately he didn't capitalize on. This was a good piece of soccering from Lamar.
In the 9th minute, Neagle hustled to the middle of the field to play defense and win possession and a minute later he won a long ball header from the back. This was notable because Frei repeatedly looked to Neagle as an outlet for clearances and goal kicks and I thought Lamar played them well, winning a majority. Neagle looked more comfortable with Tyrone Mears behind him in this game, and they linked up to win corner kicks in the 14th and 32nd minutes.
Lamar had an offside right on top of Oba's run in the 18th minute and didn't appear to link well with Dempsey in the 45th who wanted to work a give and go. Neagle's night can perhaps be summed up by his great over the top run in the 19th minute that Alonso picked out. Instead of trusting the pass, Lamar paused as Leonardo attempted to play the ball, and this allowed Ricketts time to come 25 yards off his line and beat Neagle to the ball. This was an improved game, but still plenty to work on for Lamar.
Obafemi Martins - 7
Community - 6.45
Our forwards filled the stat sheet, doing everything but scoring and showing the SKC issues were easily fixable. Oba had a very up and down game offensively for himself but contributed with three key passes, any of which could have been a goal.
On the negative side, Oba had a lot of turnovers, starting in the 2nd minute for a bad touch and the 6th minute for a bad pass. He dribbled into trouble multiple times and lost possession, notably the 43rd minute after actually dribbling by (and refusing to pass to) Scott. Martins had a rough time holding the ball up against Omar Gonzalez, and in the 52nd and 56th minute especially was unable to get the Sounders some breathing room by keeping the ball.
Whenever Oba touches the ball he can be dangerous and he was with a pass to Clint in the 6th minute that looked like a lucky bounce but somehow managed to stay on Oba's foot and he then calmly found his strike mate for a great opportunity. He made a tremendous run to get on the end of a Leo cross in the 59th and worked a lovely give and go with Pappa in the 72nd that resulted in a shot. Twice Oba found players with perfect passes over the defense that deserved assists - Ivanschitz in the 68th and Barrett in minute 86.
Clint Dempsey - 7
Community - 6.07
Other than two poor dropping passes to Alonso in the 3rd and 47th minutes that were stolen and turned into counter attacks, I had little in the negative column for Dempsey. He had a few shots I believe he should have done better with, the most egregious being in the 6th where he failed to finish on an open near post after a great diagonal run and nice Oba feed.
I would like to see Andreas and Clint work more together, as when they do (like minute 4) good things happen. Both seem to have a similar soccer intelligence that lends itself to vision, touch and movement over pure athleticism.
Clint's holdup play against LA was stellar, and it was his drop to Alonso that set up the 19th minute over-the-top pass. A similar play happened in the 38th. I really liked the thought process when Dempsey dropped into the midfield and just slowed the ball down in the 40th minute after some Galaxy pressure, alleviating the press and allowing the defense to regroup.
The second half started out with sustained Sounders pressure with Clint's footprint all over it. In the 54th minute Dempsey made a far post run and nodded a header back to where a watching Oba should have been. In minute 56 Dempsey beat FOUR players off the dribble and got a cross into Martins for an opportunity. It was Clint's diagonal run in the 59th minute that pulled three defenders away from the left and opened up Leo down the wing.
Dempsey had a nice turn and shot in the 84th minute that Ricketts did well to stay in front of and Clint almost scored a fantastic over-the-head, outsid-of-his-right-foot, scorpion-kick thing in the 92nd minute, somehow nearly getting the ball on goal from a tight angle.
Marco Pappa - 7 (on 66')
Community - 7.46
Pappa was everywhere. He covered the entire field from sideline to sideline, connecting with players, being active, and showing a dynamic attacking flair that changed the entire game. His give-and-go with Oba in the 72nd earned room for a shot that he hit poorly. With LAG trying to waste time in the corner as early as the 82nd minute, Pappa showed some fancy feet to steal the ball on defense and push it into attack. Marco's entry to Dempsey in the 84th for a shot was great, as was his over the top chip in the 92nd.
After a poor cross in the 74th and near-post corners that weren't dangerous in the 85th and 88th, Pappa found Evans in the 94th for the assist. This was a very nice substitute appearance for Pappa.
Erik Friberg - 6 (on 66')
Community - 6.30
I liked what Friberg immediately brought to the field, opening up Oba in the 68th with a diagonal ball. Most of what Erik offered was positioning help in the midfield, and it showed as the Sounders dominated the ball throughout his time on the field. He popped up all the way on the baseline to give Dempsey a crossing option in the 73rd minute - a very smart hustle play.
Chad Barrett - 8 (on 85')
Community - 7.46 (MOTM)
I originally had Barrett for a 7 rating but he did everything he was asked to do. His run and pass in the 86th minute almost scored, and in the 94th minute he did score, beating his mark and finishing strong on a flicked ball to the middle. You can't ask anything more from a sub, especially one who wasn't expecting to play less than an hour before kickoff.
Jair Marrufo - 5
Community - 5.71
I thought the referee below average in this game, and it was largely because of the way he played advantage. Sometimes it made sense, such as allowing play to continue in the 15th and then pulling the ball back for the kick when there was no advantage, and again in the 21st when Ozzie destroyed Gerrard and the play was allowed to continue.
With Marrufo you know he is going to let a lot go, and I was prepared for this when Omar Gonzalez cleaned out Oba in the 4th minute but no foul was given because Martins kept his balance. I thought Zach Scott was fouled in the 5th minute and for some reason advantage was played, yet there was no advantage to playing on. This happened again in the 61st minute when Juninho destroyed Oba but no whistle. There was no advantage and the play deserved a card yet Jair waved play on. Allowing it to continue and not giving a yellow was a travesty and yet it happened again in the 80th minute this time with Omar hacking Oba.
That wasn't the only yellow I thought Marrufo missed; I felt Mears deserved one in the 77th for an unnecessary hip check and Gordon attempted to clean out Frei in the 93rd in a play that should be a booking no matter if he connects or not.
I did like the overall referee control of a game between two teams who don't like each other much and though I wasn't surprised by Marrufo being conned by dos Santos into a call in the 31st, he wasn't fooled by Lletget in the 55th. I think Evans got away with a handball in the 67th minute as well.
Looking back on this game I see a surprisingly well-played match from a Sounders team missing a few key components against a full strength Galaxy team. The holes in the game were things that the missing players should be able to fix, so this bodes well for the last few games and playoffs. We need to stay healthy and develop more team chemistry. And most importantly, we need to win at Houston and at home against RSL.