Sunday's 2-1 comeback win at home vs Dallas showed a ton of heart from the home field Seattle Sounders team. Again the coaching staff made the right moves throughout to give this team a chance to get a quality result, and the players stepped up immensely showing incredible intensity especially in the second half to recover a lead. This is the first time the Sounders are ahead going into the second leg of a MLS playoff series and it comes on the heels of a 10 game unbeaten streak. Dallas showed enough attacking flair to keep the series still wide open and it will take another quality result this weekend to advance.
Community - 7.3
Realio - 6
Stefan had a less impressive game this week, yet when he needed to step up he did, making the big saves needed to take a win into the second leg. I had more negative marks for Frei than in a long time, though, probably due to yet another defensive backline in front of him.
Distribution against Dallas was difficult for the Sounders' keeper, and Frei had issues all night getting the ball to teammates. Without Brad Evans as a safety valve Stefan struggled early with the many touches he was forced into. In the 12th minute he forced a short pass to Fisher which handcuffed the young left back and in the 15th Frei was forced into a hairy dribble under pressure before passing to Scott. With new players on the field I was disappointed with the disorganization on a 6th minute set piece against, and the wall was not in an optimal position.
Any time Fabian Castillo is 1v1 vs. a goalie the advantage is to the Dallas winger, but I have seen so many great saves this year from Frei I was disappointed in the angle he took and that his dive was ineffective. After the goal in the 18th minute, there was only one miscommunication with Marshall before Frei righted the ship and had a fantastic rest of the match.
Quick off his line in the 52nd minute, Frei turned away David Texiera well, and he repeated this in the 70th with two HUGE saves in succession. Throughout the game Frei made every other Dallas attack look mundane, registering easy positional saves in the 75th and 85th. I also noted Stefan's ability to read the game flow, and he picked out his opportunities to spring long balls well - one of those in minute 67 directly contributed to the tying goal.
Community - 6.0
Realio - 5
I considered an average rating here, but there were just too many negative marks to justify the higher score. Fisher did have a few positive marks, such as a 23rd minute spot of possession in traffic that was very nice to see. A minute later, he showed 1v1 defense vs. Michael Barrios and kept the speedy right winger in front of him. I was most impressed with his field awareness in the 79th minute, when Oniel saved the day after Scott was badly beaten.
Unfortunately, Fisher's first playoff experience was a rough one. He was continually beat by the speed of Barrios (5', 22' 52'), and early on was easily pressured into turnovers. Oniel followed up a 5th minute defensive blunder by clearing the ball blindly in the 7th. When Rose tried to look for him in the 13th, Fisher ran away, forcing the midfielder to pass the ball back into pressure. He did calm down and make better decisions in the second half.
Oniel stayed home most of the game, and that was prudent with the attacking wingers from Dallas, however there were a few opportunities to get forward and support Ivanschitz in front of him and he didn't. When he did get forward, such as a 38th minute overlap, he failed to be dangerous, turning in a harmless goal kick and forcing the defense to cover the hole he left.
Community - 7.7
Realio - 8
Marshall has already had monster playoffs in which he has been the best defensive player I've seen. In this match it was no different, with Chad consistently saving the Sounders defense from a formidable Dallas onslaught. I had one negative mark for Marshall the entire game - a 7th minute pass that put Fisher in a difficult spot - and that was it.
Marshall was everywhere in this game, starting with a 5th minute tackle to rescue Fisher. In the 7th and 11th minutes he was again shading almost all the way to the left sideline to help the young left back and cleared two chances with a foot and a head. Speaking of headers, I marked Chad down for 9 to go along with 5 interceptions. He was just fantastic on the back line.
Chad erased David Texeira from the match, allowing him almost no touches or any semblance of a look on goal. My favorite actions were Chad standing up the Dallas forward while in the box in the 6th minute and completely erasing him 1v1 in the 65th. When not dominating the middle with strong defense and aerial authority, Chad was sliding over to save a beleaguered Scott (60').
This was the kind of defensive effort we will need from Marshall when we are thin around him. I realize it is asking a lot for one guy to pick up so much slack from those around him, but from what I have seen Chad is on a complete tear and shows no sign of stopping in the playoffs (averaging a massive 7.4 in his last 10 matches).
Community - 5.6
Realio - 5
There was a lot of trepidation about Scott starting vs. Dallas and it was with good reason. Scott struggled most of the night but as usual put in a ton of effort. He did a lot of smart little things to minimize the damage from the opponents. Unfortunately, he was still badly beaten on at least three occasions and Seattle desperately missed the recovery speed and instincts of Ozzie Alonso.
Like LA previously, Dallas forced a lot of the play to go through Scott, and he responded with mixed results. In the 5th minute Scott forced a long ball while bypassing the midfield and started a precedent of avoiding the midfielders. Sending long passes toward Oba surrounded by Dallas center backs was very unsuccessful.
On the 18th minute Dallas goal, Scott was in a bad position, took a very bad angle, and was beat for pace all on the same play. This sort of play occurred in the 60th and again in the 79th, each with the same similar mistakes in angles while being victimized by Castillo and Barrios.
I marked Zach down for a number of bad passes, especially the 60th minute clear that went right to an eager Castillo who skated into the box immediately. A lot of the errors that Zach committed were luckily not capitalized on, and Marshall especially was helpful when Scott was beat. There were positives from Scott as well; he won a ton of great headers and defended adequately for 90% of the time.
Community - 6.8
Realio - 7
I had a lot of marks on both sides of the sheet for Tyrone this week. I was really impressed with his two way play in this one.
Tyrone dove in and whiffed on Ryan Hollingshead in the 11th minute, but less than a minute later he stood up Castillo and forced him to retreat 1v1. The worst mistake was ball watching in the 18th minute. Instead of stepping up to Diaz or dropping to help Scott with Castillo, Mears was caught in no man's land, unable to help with either opponent and left marking an empty section of turf. I caught a misplayed switch in the 23rd, and his header in the 52nd went to the middle and a dangerous position. While hanging in there most of the game, Castillo torched Tyrone in the 66th.
On the plus side, Tyrone was steady in helping contain the left wing of Dallas, and he also managed to get very active on the offensive side of the ball. This started early, and I noted great overlapping runs in the 4th and 8th minutes. Another overlap in the 19th was rewarded with a ton of space, however Mears failed to give good service. I would love to know if the 29th minute rocket volley he hit one time was goal bound instead of glancing off a defender. In the 51st Mears' high pressure won the ball and he was able to get a strong cross into Oba.
This version of Mears is very dangerous for any Sounders opponent, as he is both stopping defensive plays and getting involved offensively. I believe these two facets of his game feed off each other, and the threat of his offense should help curb overlapping fullback play from opponents.
Andreas Ivanschitz (off 90')
Community - 8.4 MotM
Realio - 8 MotM
It isn't a complete surprise that Andreas is a good player, but man is he continually surprising with how many different ways he can change a game. We all know about the service, and it was perfect on both the 48th and 63rd minute free kicks he took. We knew he had some guile in setting up crosses, like he did in the 27th, touching the ball neatly around Barrios at full speed while managing to get off a great cross that forced a punch clearance. I even knew he could play great positional defense, working from a central position diagonal to the width and back in a metronomic fashion.
We knew Andres was going to have a few rough touches, get beat backdoor when trying to play zonal defense a few times, and turn the ball over when he wasn't on the same page as teammates.
What I didn't know he had in him was the pace, the PASSION, the DESIRE and finishing chops to score the equalizing goal in the 67th minute. This goal encompassed all of this and more. Similar to a 32nd minute run up the center of the field followed by a booming shot, Andreas took the game at the Dallas defense. Cutting into the middle after a long Frei punt Ivanschitz found a loose ball and seized his opportunity to push with purpose at the Dallas goal. Rounding two people and getting a nice effort from Oba to clear a window, Andreas put a blast from a tight angle perfectly into the far corner and rescued the game (and perhaps the season). This was such an impressive personal display of intensity and an example of a player just grabbing a game and refusing to be beat.
I love what Ivanschitz brings to the team, he is a class player who makes great decisions and should only excel more as others learn to play with/off him. More than anything I loved to see the intensity in a guy who obviously wanted to be here, and is completely invested in what we have going on in Sounderland. A few other guys (Dempsey in particular) may have earned MOTM this game but I gave it to Andreas who was the crux of the comeback and someone who just refused to be beat.
Community - 6.4
Realio - 6
Andy played well but it was clear he wasn't guarding immobile central players in this game. At times, I felt he got pulled way out of position due to the movement of Mauro Diaz. One of the big strengths of Ozzie Alonso is his ability to sit in front of the back line and just eat up any attacking midfielders who want to utilize that pocket to find runners. Rose tried, but was unable to limit the crafty Dallas playmaker.
Andy almost had an assist on a tremendous one touch pass over the top to Dempsey in the 17th minute, but this was one of few offensive actions. His defense was his usual steady position, strong in the air, clogging passing lanes style. I did note tremendous trailing defense in the 22nd inside the penalty area that was stellar.
I am not sure how the defense was supposed to be set up, but it looked to me that Rose was determined not to let Diaz behind him. Normally this would be a good thing, but this also went with low pressure, and Diaz found lots of space to pulls strings. On their goal, Rose failed to close down space quickly, allowing Diaz to make a fantastic play. I would like to see Andy close that space more in the second leg.
Erik Friberg (off 76')
Community - 6.9
Realio - 7
This wasn't as spectacular a playoff game as the midweek match, but Friberg still put in an above average shift. The amount of field he covers in a game is just phenomenal and my notes are littered with events from 3' - Supporting forwards in box to 11' - Friberg playing defense in the six-yard box and wins ball from Castillo. I can't stress enough how much this work rate helps the team out when you have a midfielder that can help push the attack yet still has the legs to get a tackle in on defense.
Erik had a great switch to Mears in the 23rd as he tried to help move the ball around to take pressure from the defense. I liked seeing him tee up a volley in the 30th minute in the "Alonso kicks it over the goal" spot and keep it on frame. His 33rd minute shot went wide but it was a clever run and there was great communication between Friberg and Martins to lay it off for a one-time effort.
Friberg saved the day on a 38th minute rough Rose pass and again showed willingness to put in a defensive shift in the 49th. He even got a header on goal in minute 64! Having Andy behind him has made Erik adjust his play quite a bit, but he has really impressed me in the last two games with his willingness to be everywhere on the field assisting teammates. I didn't see him take a single play off and I wasn't surprised he was subbed late, completely gassed.
Marco Pappa (off 62')
Community - 6.2
Realio - 6
Marco was the only player I felt looked out of sync with his teammates. Pappa had a very rough time assimilating into the attack. After a good entry pass to Oba in the 4th minute, he spent the next twenty roaming around looking to get involved. One of the keys I've seen when these two wingers play is to have one cut into the middle and find the other who has stayed wide. Usually, this is Ivanschitz and Pappa found him wide open on a switch in the 27th. Seattle has to take advantage of these wide spaces when teams collapse on the attack in the center.
A majority of my negative marks for Marco were misplaced passes, many of which were forced. Attempting to shove the ball vertically to Oba (especially in the air) was not a good gameplay against their big and cohesive center backs, yet Pappa tried on multiple occasions. The one time (min 46) that he put one on the ground, he almost found Martins.
Marco just didn't add much to the game, and while putting in a steady defensive shift to help on Castillo, he added little in flair or attacking danger. I question why he took a 40th minute free kick, and I believe he was rightly subbed after not rating a single mark in my second half notes.
Community - 6.9
Realio - 7
Oba was bottled up for much of this game, and he showed less desire until late to create on his own. His 5th minute turnover was due to a communication error and he had a number of bad touches that resulted in turnovers. I didn't see a lot of movement diagonally into the spaces that Hollingshead was vacating as Castillo moved vertical.
I mentioned earlier that it wasn't smart to keep chunking high passes to Oba vs the Dallas back line, but he made a game effort to still challenge for these. In the 10th and 19th minutes this meant chesting down a direct pass to Dempsey in lieu of more traditional hold up play. In the 33rd minute Oba had great game awareness to make a neat drop off pass for a Friberg shot that went just wide. One thing that makes Oba so dangerous is he follows up shots well. Every time he laid a ball off for an attempt on goal he was always diving towards the keeper, and in the 72nd he was almost able to get a back heel on frame.
I liked seeing Martins pressure the long ball turnovers over the top, instead of giving up - even though he was unable to gain possession most of the time. One of the few times he did manage to control a long pass from the back was in the 85th minute where he was able to turn and get off a deceptively dangerous shot pushed out for a corner kick that contributed to the winning goal. I love seeing Oba still fighting late to get little opportunities to score.
Community - 8.2
Realio - 8
So far Dempsey has been the best player in the playoffs, and he is showing just how valuable he can be by affecting the game in a number of ways. I had zero negative marks and his 80% passing was stellar for the amount of touches he had (70, Rose led team with 71).
I'm sure you were as disappointed as I was that the 5th minute came and went without a Dempsey goal, in fact my first note for Clint came in minute 12, where he showed great hold up play and control. One thing that has shown up a number of times in the playoffs is the pressure that Clint alleviates on dead ball defense. The other team can be crushing the defense, getting shots and attacks and gets a corner kick and out comes Clint with the ball glued to his foot, often releasing Oba or getting a foul to alleviate this pressure like in the 27th.
In the 32nd Clint combined with Ivanschitz, starting a break that ended with a powerful shot on goal. It was his pressure that created the turnover to Oba to start the sequence ending with a Friberg shot just wide of the post. He created a free kick in the 40th minute and then followed up a deflection in the box and got a shot on goal. Unfortunately, it was straight at the keeper.
After being moved to the wing Dempsey seemed even more effective, cutting into the middle and spraying dangerous passes vertically. I would be remiss to ignore the tremendous direct free kick he took: he hit it perfectly. Clint is a player who is showing a ton of confidence while competing at a very high level.
Nelson Haedo Valdez (on 62')
Community - 7.1
Realio - 6
The difference in the way Nelson plays vs. the player he replaced (Pappa) is stark. Instead of having him play winger however, Sigi smartly put Valdez up front with Oba. Suddenly Oba was now able to play off of Nelson and found much more success. Valdez' instant hustle in the 66th minute showed Dallas that this was a different beast altogether. Other than a very nice turn and hit in the same motion in the 71st that barely went over and a bicycle kick try, Valdez didn't have a ton of notes. What he did do however was stretch the field vertically, offer a flicking/heading option, and pull the center backs away from Martins. It was very effective soccer without touching the ball a lot.
Cristian Roldan (on 76')
Community - 6.5
Realio - 6
Again Schmid showed confidence in bringing in the young Sounders rookie in a playoff match, this time in a central role for the tiring Friberg. Again Roldan responded by making no mistakes, showing a ton of hustle, and keeping possession. I did note a poor service on a taken corner kick, but Cristian more than made up for that by charging in with abandon and winning both the header and a foul call in the 85th minute. Earning fouls in dangerous spots with guys like Ivanschitz, Valdez, Dempsey, etc. is suddenly highly desirable and this set piece was the difference in the game. I also loved seeing Roldan hustle back in the 93rd minute to win possession instead of quitting on the play.
Micheal Azira (on 90‘)
Community - 5.4
Realio - 5
Other than his first touch out of bounds, Azira didn't do anything of note in a time wasting sub. He did have a few minutes to support the nonstop defense of Castillo and he did ok.
Community - 3.5
Realio - 4
This was another poor refereeing display on Sunday night. I wasn't impressed by Stott and I think I am most upset about his positioning. If he was just closer to the play some of the calls he made could be more justified but when he is calling advantage from the center circle on plays in the box it is hard to believe him. The early PK shout from Dempsey and ensuing advantage play that resulted in their goal is much easier to deal with if he's close to the play at all (hint: he isn't). Stott managed to be 40 yards away from both the PK call and the goal.
It is frustrating to see a referee get baited by a player, and I thought Diaz got away with dives in the 1',6', and 45'. This is very purposeful by Dallas who ran out of ideas when not allowed to counter attack. I thought Diaz got away with more than this as well, committing a gross hack on Friberg long after he had cleared the ball away in the 17th minute. Yes, Stott played advantage but he really needs to go back there and give the deserved yellow card. It was as potentially game changing as a non PK call to me. A similar play happened with Texiera creaming Fisher behind a play in the 29th. Texiera wasn't done either, in the 44th he came through the back of Rose without any consequence.
It was disgusting to see the Dallas keeper time wasting in the 38th and 43rd minutes, and even more ridiculous to see Stott run 30 yards to chat with him before refusing to give a yellow. I thought Ivanschitz could have had a penalty kick awarded after Je-Vaughn Watson took him down in the area. In a game with almost 30 fouls called I can't be mad that Stott wasn't using his whistle, but where's the cards?
The referee did get the right call on Pappa jumping in in the 20th and Rose fouling in the 25th, but if you are going to call foul throws how does the 48th minute throw go un-whistled? This game was just too choppy from the ref and while it didn't degrade to the physically dangerous level of the first game, I thought Stott had a very poor evening.
It occurs to me that only 1 yellow card from two playoff games is a great silver lining for the Sounders. While other teams have players who will be affected by accumulation, the good guys have no one looking over their shoulder yet. Now, I wouldn't ever advocate for the endangerment of the players like the LA game nor the casual negligence of the Dallas match but it is a small thing that might pay off for a team looking to make a long run. Speaking of long runs, this is the best setup for the second match in the Sounders' history. It is going to be very difficult to go to Dallas and get a win but this team hasn't lost a game in their last 10 and not losing will put us through. Getting past Dallas and earning that 2-week rest would be HUGE for assembling a first choice lineup for the remainder of the playoffs.