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Sounders shutdown Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0: Player ratings

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

A solid 372 people rated players in the 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Seattle Sounders fans had a plurality say that Pedro Morales was the best 'Cap on the night, but only 33% saw it that way. Laba and Manneh finished tied at 19% for the best match. Realio's ratings follow.

If you thought this was going to be a track meet high scoring even game, you are not alone. While no one wants to be defeated, the last of a long road trip against an early shield contender could easily have resulted in a loss and I don't think anyone would have been too angry about that. Instead, the Sounders came out and ran passing drills and a defending clinic on Saturday.

RATINGS:

Stefan Frei
Community - 7.38
Realio - 8

This was a fairly uneventful night for Frei, and one that didn't lend itself to many spectacular saves. Even with this lack of flashy keeper play I awarded an 8, as I give Frei lots of credit for organizing the defense in front of him throughout. In fact, other than a kick out of bounds in the 88th minute that is maybe debatably ok at that time, I had no issues with Frei's game. When you play a pretty perfect game and get a clean sheet against a tough offensive team, I'm giving you an 8.

Stefan earned his score with one great save (Morales' volley 7') and solid saves in the 10th and 42nd minutes. Frei filled a decent amount of my notebook with positioning, tracking the ball well on a corner kick, and especially stepping in the 78th and 88th minutes, both of which were assertive advances. I like how comfortable Frei looks in the back and he had a nice control early in the second half where he became part of the possession game interchange between Marshall and Evans, showing his ability to use his feet as well.

Dylan Remick
Community - 6.74
Realio - 8

I thought Dylan might have played Leo Gonzales back into a start this week but I was wrong. It makes sense to play Remick with his speed on many matchups, providing he doesn't get lost tactically. Kudos to the coaching staff who worked with Dylan to help erase last week's issues while showing confidence in a young player, allowing him to bounce back from a rough outing.

Remick was unlucky in the 7th minute when a bad bounce allowed Morales past him for a shot that Frei saved, and he committed an unnecessary foul that led to a set piece in the 10th. Other than these few early blips I thought this was Remick's best game since he torched Houston in his first start. What was different between the 2 games was that in the Houston game he led with his offense, aggressively overlapping and pushing the game vertically. This game he was just a complete brick wall in the back, staying home often (I counted only 3 overlaps of any consequence).

This defense-first attitude showed up on the stat sheet in the form of 3 defensive headers, which haven't been his strong point, 4 solid tackles, as well as 4 times where he stood his man and played fantastic 1v1 defense. In the 66th minute I saw what may be the reason he's starting over Leo at this juncture. On the play he pushes forward and the ball is lost, however Remick uses his wonderful recovery speed and late game hustle to win the ball back for SSFC. I would like a bit more imaginative play when pressured than just lumping the ball forward, but now I'm just being greedy.

Chad Marshall
Community - 7.07
Realio - 8

Last week I asked where the old Chad Marshall went. I think we found him. THIS was the Marshall we know will show up and anchor the defense. Someone pointed out that long flights across country and being a giant might have affected Marshall more than most, and based on this comeback performance I could buy into that idea.

I counted 4 times where Chad expertly stepped up and won possession from the Whitecaps, and multiple other times where his 1v1 defense was impeccable in shuttling offensive players away from goal. As always Marshall will win you headers, but most impressive for me was that 5 of the 6 headers I counted went right to a teammate, often jumpstarting the attack. It is uncanny how well he can control defensive headers and put them perfectly to a Sounder teammate.

Marshall was beat in the 55th minute forcing Evans to come over and slide tackle away the Vancouver attacker. A similar play happened when Chad had a giveaway in the 81st minute, but again Evans was there to sweep away the danger.

Other than these small errors, Marshall locked down his defensive zone. Chad even had a really nice over the top ball to Neagle and some decent passing to round out a great day and remind us why he's the DPOY^3.

Brad Evans
Community - 7.82
Realio - 9 (MOTM)

Who's bad? Brad Evans is a bad man. I filled my entire allotment of space in the Brad Evans "good" column of my notebook this week. In minute 53! This was the best I have ever seen Brad play at any position, certainly the best I've seen him in the back and one of the best defensive displays from a Sounders player I can remember.

Here is my list of negatives from Evans on Saturday: "49th minute Evans gives up foul in dangerous spot". That's it.  Not only is that the only negative mark, it was immediately followed by this note: "49th minute Evans wins defensive header on ensuing free kick after foul".  That's how dominant our sheriff was, the only major mistake Brad made he immediately rectified.

You want defensive headers? I counted 6. You want clearances? How about TWELVE! You want leadership? Check out minute 42 where he lays into Pappa about his weekly bad pass across the middle. You want defensive domination? I have Evans down for 3 times stepping into various players and taking his ball back from them and that isn't even counting when he completely owned Pedro Morales in minute 92 not once but twice on the same sequence. This is veteran play by a center back who is now leading by example from a position he has cemented as his own.

Evans was so tuned in that whenever anyone around him had a misstep, he quickly and efficiently stepped over and supported whether Marshall, Mears, or the mids. I beyond impressed by this performance and Evans' continued maturation as a central defender.

Tyrone Mears
Community - 7.21
Realio - 8

Mears' quality start puts the back 5 defenders' average score over 8. Unlike the dynamic forays of YedlinYesterYear (YYY), Mears offers more solid positioning and what I think is a better fit for the defense of this year's Sounders team.

Tyrone did get beat by Manneh for pace, once over the top, once because he slipped, and once in the 56th minute on a nice play by the Vancouver player but otherwise Mears tied him up in a little bow and put him in his pocket. Managing a player like Manneh that is fast, dynamic, and usually rampaging up and down the wing vs. the Sounders, this was a phenomenal defensive outing. Mears does it with a savvy combination of positioning and pace, not unlike a faster Leo Gonzalez.

What Mears was able to do that we haven't seen against Vancouver recently was exhibit shut down 1v1 defense. Consistently Tyrone just outplayed the attackers on his side and in the few times anyone got around or behind him, his communication with Evans allowed the Sounders CB to easily tackle away the danger. Mears did get a few overlapping runs in and I was impressed again at his fitness, which led to a long solo run down the line in the 85th minute to kill some clock.

Marco Pappa (off 92')
Community - 7.48
Realio - 8

Pappa had another strong outing this game, highlighted by his league leading 5th assist on the second Sounders goal. Pappa is just fantastic when he is given the ball in space and is the best on the team in looking to stretch the field vertically with his vision. Pappa drifted into space overloading the middle and was able to make the incisive pass that really put the Sounders in the driver's seat for the rest of the game.

Yes, Marco has 5 assists and he did some good stuff offensively, but what impressed me most in this game was his defensive work rate. Multiple times I have Pappa noted as floating in to help on defense. There was a lot of tracking back that isn't always evident, and this seemed like a really good coaching tweak to allow Pappa to track defensively inside out, allowing him to direct passing and marshal the middle of the attacking focus.

It seems like human nature that Marco would commit his usual weird giveaway to the center of the field (42nd minute). Twice he attempted back heels that were unnecessary and both times they were stolen. I think with Barrett stretching the field and Vancouver unable to create effective pressing, the game really lent itself to Marco floating around and finding pockets of space while overloading numbers in the center of the field. If we were not leading all game I believe Marco would have looked vertically even more. Pappa's positioning was tremendous in a way that didn't penalize the Sounders for his absence on the wing for long stretches of play.

Gonzalo Pineda
Community - 7.03
Realio - 7

Pineda had a ton of touches and did a great job managing the game. One thing I noted last week was that our central midfielders were too square to each other and that issue was completely corrected this week. Gonzalo kept both distance and verticality between himself and Alonso and this allowed better defensive shape, offensive triangles and passing lanes.  Pineda against Vancouver was a defensive first supporter, who helped control the ball and transition using his vision to move the ball to open space. Multiple times he drifted wide in defense, to help double Manneh or others who made diagonal runs from the midfield and to support space vacated by Pappa.

This was a hardhat sort of job by Pineda and he didn't have any glaring negative marks in the book. Because the Sounders scored early, he turned from attack-minded distributor to controlling presence, working to distribute cleanly and stay very positionally compact. I thought Pineda was somewhat more involved in the second half, but since the team wasn't pushing it was hard to find much good or bad in his game.

Osvaldo Alonso
Community - 7.66
Realio - 8

Last week I picked on Marshall and Alonso for underperforming my expectations. This week both stepped up with 8's.  Alonso looked quicker and more agile than in any game so far this year. I knew good things were in store when in the 2nd minute Ozzie stole Manneh's cookies and went the other way. This entire game was a clinic by Pineda and Alonso of passing and movement, keeping vertical spacing and opening up giant swaths of field to work through. With Dempsey dropping deep, both center mids adjusted by staggering their runs off him.

Two negative marks occurred: a whiff on Morales in the box in the 7th minute which led to Vancouver's best chance, and a foul in a rough spot in the 40th. Otherwise Alonso was just brutally efficient in his control of the Whitecaps midfielders all game. His control in tight places, possession, and distribution was superb and reminded me what this guy brings to our midfield. When Ozzie is in form he does what I have dubbed the Alonso Bossing Defense (ABD). This is where Alonso just goes up and takes the ball from someone, stands them up, dispossesses them and goes the other way. I had 5 of those in my book, the best in the 86th minute where he showed fantastic recovery speed before closing and letting Koffie know he was there.

With Alonso making these signature plays, even going all Traore (min 93 CHOO CHOO!) there is hope that Ozzie can return to his MLS best 11 form.

Lamar Neagle (off 85')
Community - 6.05
Realio - 6

I wasn't too impressed watching Neagle this week, and the stats bear that out. Neagle's passing percentage wasn't as good as the rest of the team, he made some pretty awful decisions on where and when to make passes, and gave up a foul in a bad spot. Lamar had a nice through ball to Pappa in the 24th minute, some standout defensive moments where he drifted inside and disrupted things, and one notable hold up when he moved up front.

What I really want to point out though, and why with a lot of pretty lousy marks he still gets an average score from me is the "Neagle factor". Last game it was apparent when Neagle came on that there is some intangible aspect that Lamar brings to a game that at certain times can help the Sounders. Lamar keeps width, adds direct play, and I believe is at least partially responsible for the high marks that Remick earned this week through his OFFENSIVE positioning. I thought Neagle was a bit rough on defense and made a bad foul in the 15th minute. But unlike Andy Rose who sat on top of Remick against Columbus and supported by packing in the defense, Neagle pulled the right side of the Vancouver attack back towards their own goal. By being a threat to release (as Chad Marshall did once with a nice over the top pass in the 26th), Lamar's presence forces the entire shape of the game to shift left and forward. Neagle effectively plays defense by being offensively dangerous.  While he wasn't super involved in this game, there is some merit to having a player like that on the field.

Chad Barrett (off 72')
Community - 8.23 MotM
Realio - 8

I told the guy next to me before the game started (hi Eliot!) that I liked the idea of Barrett starting because I thought that he was most likely to defend effectively from the front, allowing Dempsey to drop in and control while Chad would press. What I should have said was that Barrett would score 2 goals and play almost perfectly in this advanced harrier role. This was a master class performance put on by a veteran player who did exactly what was needed and helped his team win a game.

It was immediately notable in this game that Barrett was not only going to push high and be the point of the attack, but he'd also be a support player all over the field defensively. I had Chad for 6 solid defensive actions, quite remarkable for a forward. In the 7th minute after scoring his goal he popped up on the wing to cover for Pappa, and in the 9th he double teamed a Whitecaps player in the middle of the field with Alonso to gain possession. This continued all game, with Chad a willing work horse to defend from the front. Unlike Oba, Barrett even helped a few times on corner kick defense.

I would be remiss if all I talked about was the defensive. GOALS CHANGE GAMESTM, and Barrett had both in this one. The first is a tremendous run off the back shoulder of the center defender, staying onside perfectly and then accelerating past the defense and calmly slotting home. The second is another well timed run with a more difficult but fantastically placed finish across his body side net. I re-watched both of these goals numerous times and you know what really stood out? Barrett NEVER LOOKS AT THE GOAL in either instance. I realize the old adage "the goal doesn't move" but this was amazing to see someone demonstrate this concept in a live game environment. Chad runs full speed, gets on the end of the passes, and puts them to his spot. Both times he concentrates fully, not looking up, getting distracted by other players or taking his eye off the ball. Remarkable.

Clint Dempsey
Community - 7.79
Realio - 8

If Barrett was teaching a class on stretching center backs, Dempsey was teaching a clinic on secondary movement, passing, and control. This was another beautiful game from Clint but in an altogether different role then we have seen this year. Asked to drop back and be more of a facilitator than usual, Clint was just spectacular as a deep playmaker.

There were two main areas where Clint excelled. The first was obvious; he dropped into space, alleviated pressure, and pushed dangerous passes to others. The best of these was in the 5th minute where he takes a sublime touch and turn in one motion, and chips over the top to Barrett to open the scoring. The trap and control on that play alone was impressive, and then he did similar great touches out of traffic in the 30th, 34th, and 47th minute.

The second way that Clint really affected the game was his movement, which was near to perfect. Dempsey knows where to float to either be available or to pull defenses out of shape. His angled runs pulled multiple Whitecap players and opened giant holes to be exploited by other Sounders. So much space was opened when he dropped deep that I hope the other players learn to use this advantage Dempsey creates.

I had Clint down for 2 turnovers (35', 75') but he offset this by playing more defense than usual. I really appreciated his wing defense in the 24th minute. Dempsey is playing MVP level soccer, and is finding more and more ways to impact the game.

SUBS:

Andy Rose (on 72')
Community - 6.04 (88% rated)
Realio - 6

This was an average showing from Rose, who had plenty of time to make an impact. I'm sure he was advised to work defensively first and he did that well, covering for the middle of the field. Andy won some headers and most importantly was defense-first holding a lead in support of the fullback behind him. I thought Rose looked better on the left side then the right, and other than a poor giveaway in the 78th minute didn't have much in my book either way.

Darwin Jones (on 85')
Community - 5.91 (49% rated)
Realio - 6

Jones didn't have a lot of time on the field, but gets an "MLS average" rating from me. His vertical game translated well, although I think he could learn a lot by watching how Barrett maximized his chances. He will need to work on his first touch if he hopes to find more first-team minutes.

Leo Gonzalez (on 92')
Community - 6.15 (11% rated)
Realio - N/A

I love that Leo always seems to be smiling, and I think he's probably most responsible for the development of Dylan Remick. Not enough time in this game to rate.

REFEREE

Mark Geiger
Community - 7.22 (eight gave perfect 10s)
Realio - 9

Well hello sir. That was a well-reffed game. I think he only needed the yellow once, and it was the right call when Laba fouled Pappa in the 28th minute. Geiger didn't need his cards because he controlled the game. I applaud his communication with the players, and he only used the whistle when necessary. I personally thought Rivero was looking to dive both questionable pk times, but what I really like was both times Geiger was less than 10 yards away and in perfect position to make the call. Hard to argue with a referee who is that close and has a good view. Geiger really had an even game, let the game play on when appropriate, relied on his AR's and receives no complaints from me.

As a Sounder fan, this was a very fun game to rate, because it never seemed in doubt. What I had expected to be a thriller instead turned into a workmanlike, almost boring "outplay you to death" game.  Highlights for me were the defensive shape, finding scoring chances without Oba, and a midfield renaissance.

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