The 441 Sounder at Heart readers that rated the narrow win over the Houston Dynamo were thrilled with defensive players and with Obafemi Martins. They were disappointed by Gonzalo Pineda's red card and Ted Unkel's call of the match. Tyler Deric won a clear plurality of "best non-Sounder" votes, with 34% supporting him. That feels high for a keeper that didn't face many threats.
How did the community and guest rater Realio feel Seattle Sounders FC players did? The ratings for Marshall are close, while there is significant divergence on those for Evans, Remick and Pineda.
Community - 6.94
Realio - 7
Frei got a bit more work this week, which allowed me to rate him more accurately. Keepers don't usually fill up the stat sheets so it can be difficult to really judge their play. One thing I have been watching all year is his command of the box, and this was very good on Saturday night. He came out and nicely collected three crosses/corner kicks that I counted, as well as displayed some nice distribution on multiple occasions that started counter attacks. I really think Frei having Evans as an outlet he is comfortable with is helping.
I did note in the 43rd minute that Frei seemed hesitant to come out, and this resulted in a chance he should have easily thwarted. On the flip side, the 6th minute charge off his line to clean up the ball on the 18 was tremendous, and something I haven't seen from Frei. I also think he had the free kick covered in the 80th.
I believe we are getting a really nice idea of who our keeper is: A solid shot-stopper who is making quality decisions and maintaining great positioning, while relying on superior air defense in front of him. I can see the confidence growing as this defense gels, which is resulting in more possession from the back.
Community - 6.23
Realio - 8
If there were a MOTM for each half, I think Remick would have won for his first half performance. It was reminiscent of Mears vs. New England. Dylan just completely stuffed the stat line in the first half here, showing both defensive and offensive capabilities. If this is any indication of a consistent level of play, it's a really good sign for our left back depth.
While not as prolific in overlapping as Mears tends to be, Remick still managed to get in three good runs which were instrumental in attacks. Consistently at least a dangerous option, his runs were perfectly timed and he used his pace to continually charge up and down the wing, offering crosses and a wide shape. He won a foul in a good spot after making a good run supporting the attack. Not just content to be an attacking threat, Dylan had smart defensive plays (4) highlighted by his decision-making on counter attacks. As noted by Likkit in his GIF post, in the 6th minute - instead of pressuring the ball on a counter - he dropped off, slowing the attack while covering half of the field. Again in the 21st minute he makes a great decision to delay the play by giving the attacker space instead of diving in and attempting the high risk/reward play. This showed his tactical maturity and allowed our defense to get back into position. (Think about our friendly and how we failed to do this on their counter).
Remick's first error came with an unforced turnover in the 30th minute. He was beat to the end line once and had a bad cross on offense. Until he seemed to tire a bit, he just wasn't beat much in the first 75 or so minutes, while adding some really nice attacking elements. By far the best he has looked as a Sounder to me.
Community - 6.88
Realio - 7
It's a luxury to assign an above average score to a player and realize he had an off night. That's how good some of our players are. Chad Marshall plays at such a consistently high level that an OK night for him is still much better than most players' best games.
Marshall and Evans are quickly becoming a dominant aerial force. As usual Chad had five or so defensive headers, with a majority featuring his patented "perfect header to a teammate" control. Multiple times Marshall played perfect 1v1 defense and stopped offensive attacks with his normal defensive prowess. He had some defensive errors, such as the whiff on a clearance in the 6th minute that led to a nervy chance on Frei (and an almost-injury to the keeper). I noted a bad pass or two - which is really rare - as well as a very uncharacteristic foul in a bad spot that gave Houston a valuable set piece.
Even with a few issues, it was hardly a bad game by Marshall. I could do without the bad clearance to the middle of the field instead of into touch in the 63rd minute, but I would just be nitpicking at that point. Bottom line is this guy had an off night and still dominated his position.
Community - 6.75
Realio- 8 MOTM
Back-to-back MOTM-worthy performances by Brad Evans, coming off the worst score of the year. Quite a pleasant turnaround, showing us that perhaps Sigi has created a VERY dynamic pairing in central defense.
Evans has been a notebook-filling machine these last two games, earning a +11 this week - five great clearances; four defensive headers; four defensive challenges won. What's so exciting is that like Marshall, Evans is now placing headers directly to Sounder teammates, like one in the 21st to Alonso who then created a nice counter attack. While the two centerbacks were both dominant in the air, Evans showed great 1v1 defense and really nice distribution from the back as well.
The great thing about this performance for me was evident in the fact that every negative note in my notebook was one that wasn't game-defining. One bad-pass turnover with the note "not dangerous". One time Evans stepped up too far and got caught out of position, however my note "recovered position quickly" shows it wasn't costly. Perhaps the best way to sum up Evans on the night was getting beat by Barnes on the end line in the 42nd minute after shading him that way. (one of his only errors on the night). A very similar play happened in the 64th with Barnes again and he promptly shut it down. He is learning really fast, and that is exciting for the future of this defensive unit.
Community - 6.73
Realio - 6
Another quiet game for Mears, who has been unable to capture the magic of his play vs. New England on opening night. Mears still overlaps nicely multiple times a game, gets his defensive work done solidly if unspectacularly, and on Saturday ensured that Beasley and Davis were shut down all game.
Tyrone got a +3 in the notebook and that was perhaps generous in light of some questionable defending, including a push (blatant and rather funny actually) that resulted in a dangerous free kick given, as well as a few possession issues due to heavy touches. I would have liked him to take his opportunity well on a late corner kick and give himself as an option instead of our lefties, but his service was poor.
I am never going to complain about a right back who doesn't get beat, makes a few overlaps and is solid. I know Mears can do more though, and hope he is unlocked next weekend.
Lamar Neagle (off in 60th)
Community - 5.12
Realio - 4
This is a generous 4. If Neagle doesn't have a nice back heel to contribute to the goal, this could easily be a 3. I have Neagle with a -6 in scoring this week and he only played 60 minutes!
Neagle did create two turnovers with some defensive hustle, which was unfortunately the only way he was able to impress himself on the game. I wanted to reward some hustle in the 28th minute after a turnover, but then he sort of drifted off into space and didn't play good defense at all. Plus it was his turnover committed in the first place. Add to that NINE marks for losses of possession and a foul in bad position on top and it's hard to argue with a 4 rating.
I have heard some talk about Neagle being some sort of defensive force as justification for his continued starting role, but at this point I am not even seeing a defensive contribution. Add to that four games with zero shots on goal and zero positive impact marks on games. I am having a harder and harder time arguing that he should continue to start.
Gonzalo Pineda (RC 56th)
Community - 4.95
Realio - 6
This really surprised me. If I was rating before re-watching I would have given Pineda a 5, yet after tabulating his scores in my notebook he was at a really nice +7 for the game. I think this shows just how much more effective Alonso makes those around him in the midfield. Gonzalo was much more active in movement, and I noted at least 3-4 instances where his pressure in the middle of the field started counters to the big two up front. It was this ability to pressure harder in the middle of the field that created the turnover that led to the only goal of the game.
I noted a few times that Pineda inexplicably stopped on plays. One of these was when Dempsey returned a pass to him but he had stopped, and the resultant pass ended up forcing Frei off his line into the challenge that he hurt his foot on. I have absolutely no idea why Pineda is stopping his run there. He had three crosses that weren't quality and obviously made a pretty lousy decision on the red card.
Admittedly I maybe should have deducted more from Gonzalo for a red card that ultimately didn't cost us any points, but I was pleasantly surprised by how effective Pineda was for his time on the field. He adds a crossing and service element that is lacking whenever Pappa/Kovar aren't on the field. This rating is easily a 7 without the card.
Ozzie Alonso (off 73rd)
Community - 6.84
Realio - 8
Welcome back, sir. At first glance I thought Alonso looked fat and slow from the stands at the start of the game. He sure changed that perception quickly. It all starts with Ozzie's close control and ability to pass out of traffic in an attacking manner without leading the receiver into undue pressure. He does this by making himself available in very different ways than the other midfielders. Alonso is so agile that when he gets a pass in the middle he is able to take a first touch in a completely different direction, setting up space and vision for the next move. I have Alonso with a solid +8 on the stat sheet, with everything from good control in traffic, elusive dribbles with the ball while attacking, and incisive through ball passing. It is this attacking ability that was most missed in his absence. Alonso sees angles so well and has such good control of the ball that he can move the ball forward where other midfielders are happy to just keep possession. This drives the attack.
While he did a lot of good stuff, there was definitely some rust and adjustment to game speed apparent. Alonso lost possession in midfield a few times and committed a foul in a bad spot on the top of the 18 in the 54th minute, which I noted. There was no sign of game speed slowness in the 64th minute when he busted through the middle on a solo run forcing a tremendous save from Deric to prevent a goal that might have sealed the game.
It was heartening to see how effective Ozzie was in this game while leaving room for improvement. In the 37th minute Alonso made a good play to steal the ball in the midfield and then made a bad cross immediately after. These are the kinds of things that should improve as he gets back to 100 percent fitness.
Community - 5.81
Realio - 6
An average MLS rating for an average MLS outing by Andy Rose. Let's be honest here: Andy didn't light the world on fire on Saturday from a wide midfield position. What he did do was win headers (7) and add height and presence in the midfield. Rose also did some solid work supporting the defense while still winning a couple of corners and free kicks.
In the 17th minute Rose earned a debatable yellow for showing studs, and while it might not have been warranted, it changed his aggression level some. After this Rose seemed more reluctant to foray forward into the attack and eventually got beat a few times to the corner by Beasley late. I thought his defense in the 71st minute on Barnes was rough, and led to a good chance for Houston.
This was a very up-and-down rating for Rose, and ultimately I arrived at a 6. There were some nice moments connecting to the forwards and there were some rough moments where he seemed incapable of moving the ball vertically. I don't like how easily he seemed to go down looking for calls which isn't anything that has been noted for him prior. That being said, if he goes down after a bad Davis tackle (and card worthy kick out) the ball never bounces over to Pineda who committed his red card on this same play.
Community - 7.92 MOTM
Realio - 7
Oba had a very Oba-like game. By this I mean he was consistently goal-dangerous when he received the ball, had a goal that few could score, but also had turnovers and a low pass-completion percentage. Because his turnovers are not usually in bad spots (other than 60th minute giveaway to Sturgis on the 18 which led to a dangerous shot), Oba gets away with a low completion rate. It should also be noted that his turnovers are attempting to push the ball vertically and rarely are bad back or square passes, but rather attempts to attack the goal. I am a bit more forgiving of this type of high risk/reward passing in the attacking third.
Oba was consistently on the shoulder of the last defender in this game, and as usual was game to run them ragged with long diagonals peppered in with drops into the midfield to link up with Clint. He put numerous diagonal balls to each of the outside mids as well as to an overlapping Mears that were just gorgeous in their efficiency. I really liked the great effort in the 75th to run by defenders and almost seal the game after receiving a Dempsey pass near midfield.
Even in a game with fairly little of the ball at his feet and plenty of possession losses, Oba was able to force his imprint on the game. A seemingly innocuous pass from Dempsey pushed him into the box, and then just WOW. Oba has such spectacular balance and such a low center of gravity that he actually accelerated two steps PAST the defense while spinning around them. Go back and see just how much separation he manages while being spun around, it's just amazing. After all that he is so completely in control of his body that he slots calmly on goal. I think maybe a few in the league could control the ball, or spin, or shoot, but none could do all 3 at the pace and effectiveness that he did.
Clint Dempsey (off 87th)
Community - 6.28
Realio - 7
Clint Dempsey is a stat machine. He also had a quiet night by his high standards, but he still managed a +8 in my notebook. Instead of the usual amazing offensive display we know he is capable of, Dempsey showed one of the better defensive showings by a forward I have seen from the Sounders. It was his pressure that unfortunately ended in Deric breaking their fullback's face, and I noted at least four times before the red card were Clint showed his underappreciated willingness to come back and support the midfield. Perhaps this defensive desire is caused by Ozzie being on the field and Clint knowing he could work through the midfield with him?
Whatever the reasoning, my notes are littered with the usual outstanding control in traffic, good passes, and making really intelligent runs that cleared space. On Alonso's ballbuster run down the middle, it is Clint who makes the perfect wide run directly at the outside back, opening up the path.
Unlike Oba, Clint is prone to making some turnovers that end up in rough spots. I can't really fault him completely for the pass back to the defense that resulted in Marshall's whiff and Frei saving the day as I think Pineda actually stopped his run, however we really need to curb the hard back passes in the middle of the field. Clint's forced passes sometimes get us in a bit of trouble as they tend to be horizontal vs. Oba's vertical errors. Clint really turned in some good defense after the red card as well, sometimes tracking midfielders all the way to the end line to win goal kicks.
Finally while I immediately noticed the wily veteran walk away from the bench prior to being called off to kill a few more seconds late, please don't grab your hammy like you hurt it, Clint, that's scary to us fans.
Micheal Azira (on 60th)
Community - 5.78 (99% rated)
Realio - 5
Not much from Azira here to really show me anything either way. A few decent covers for midfield runs, some hustle and a defensive steal. For errors I caught a couple of turnovers and balls left short. I gave Azira a somewhat harsh 5 here mainly because he had 30 minutes to come in and shore up the defense down a man and he did that, but pretty much nothing else. It might be a bit harsh to grade him below average MLS level here but I thought there were many times he could have offered more and didn't. Perhaps that was the game plan since we were down a man by the time he entered. After a very ineffective Neagle, Azira was a step up, but more so because he didn't consistently pass the ball to the other team, not for any outstanding achievements.
I think down a man you need a few grinders to just keep position-aware and not make mistakes, and this is what Azira gave us.
Zach Scott (on 73rd)
Community - 5.91 84% rated
Realio - 6
Average play in a short 17-minute run here for Scott. Although he came in with an immediate turnover, he played his position well, made generally good decisions, and stayed composed. I didn't like to see the bad foul in the 79th that gave Houston a free kick right on the 18. The entire defense played really well down a man, and it is nice to see good shape resulting in solid defense vs. previous seasons where being out of shape resulted in diving, lunging slide tackles, and domino effects.
Leo Gonzales (on 87th)
Community - 5.78 31% rated
Realio - NR
Not enough time to rate Leo here, however it's notable that it was my first time seeing the vaunted 5-3-1 formation.
Referee Ted Unkel
Community - 5.13
Realio - 7
I think the ref did a pretty good job this week. There weren't a ton of fouls called but I think he got most right, including the red card call. If last week's was red there is nothing to really debate about this week's.
It is debatable however whether he could have given a warning for Rose's foul that was carded, and as Brad Evans eloquently said loud enough to hit the field mic: "You need to call the foul early so that shit doesn't happen" (after Oba was fouled on a yellow-card-worthy tackle from behind). As a whole though, I was pleased that the referee didn't insert himself into the game by constantly blowing everything dead, and he used his AR's very well. I do think he missed a card/stoppage on Davis with a blatant kick out on Rose right before the red card. Unkel really handled the head injury well, stopping play and even having the Sounders trainer help out.
The Sounders were good this week. I like the continued maturation in the Brad Evans CB experiment, and players seemed to have set roles to play this week. With defense shutting everyone out and the forwards making magic happen I am really looking forward to what we can manage against a team that always seems to play us tough (LAG). We need to find some midfield answers as Ozzie rounds back into 90-minute shape, as only 2 heads of the hydra are scoring goals.