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Sounders vs. Sporting KC: Player Ratings

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Between a double-game week and the breaking news regarding the FIFA Arrests these ratings are a bit late. There were 227 raters with 44% of those saying that Benny Feilhaber was the best player the Seattle Sounders faced in the nil-nil draw to Sporting Kansas City.

Realio's ratings follow. They were turned in prior to the win on Wednesday night.

Well, this was a pretty rough clunker of a game to get into. It actually reminded me a LOT of the Portland game, where the opposing team came into the Clink and just played negative soccer and looked to maybe steal a win, except KC has better team defense and SSFC missed Oba a ton in this one. Many of the scores and comments are similar to what people earned in that earlier game. Sounders need to diversify their attack better when confronted with negative tactics.

PLAYER RATINGS:

Stefan Frei
Community - 7.51 MotM
Realio - 7

Frei did pretty much everything right in this game, and wasn't called on much. Just like the aforementioned Timbers game, the Sounders net minder had mostly to manage the game and kept his concentration to make a big save late. In this game, the save happened in the 93rd minute and held the shutout in part to great footwork to set up the parry.

I really like the Sounder defense this year, and it's the best in the league for goals against.  A lot of this is the organization and control that is being shown by the back 4. Getting Frei on the same page as the field players has been huge, and it shows with Frei's comfort in dominating his territory during gameplay. In the 73rd he stepped out to corral SKC's first corner of the day and assertively punched it away when it tailed a bit. I liked seeing a committed decision and follow through here, instead of trying to make an awkward catch and fall to the ground holding the ball. I also appreciate that nothing was forced all game; since the opponents dropped so much we saw some short goal kicks instead of long 50/50 balls.

Dylan Remick
Community - 6.55
Realio - 7

Remick was one of two people I considered for MOTM, even though he only merited a 7 from me this week.  I really liked what I saw from Dylan for much of the game, and he filled my stat sheet with much more offensive plays than last week. The entire game he was the Sounders' lone left wide player and he worked forward a lot to support attack in the absence of a left mid.

Remick had a great run in the 19th minute where he used his pace to get into position. He followed this up with nice crosses in the 30th and 53rd minute and consistently rampaged up and down the left side. He created 2 very nice chances from his wide defensive position. With Pappa increasingly going walkabout, I have a hard time calling this overlapping.

There were some turnovers, and rough passes forward that brought down Dylan's score this week. I have been watching his play for some maturation in attacking passes and I am not seeing improvement on the scale of his defensive work. At times, especially when pressured, Remick just chunks the ball forward. This looks to me like he just has no idea what to do so clears the ball to no one. In a game where there wasn't a lot of pressure, I would love to see Remick keep possession a bit better and look diagonal, instead of forcing over the top down the line passes. Remick really did have a great game defensively this week, rarely getting beat and when doing so (like in the 47th) he used his speed to immediately recover the ball.

Chad Marshall
Community - 6.83
Realio - 7

Marshall wasn't massively dominant, but he was quietly consistent. After a rough start committing a foul in a bad spot in the 8th and passing out of bounds in the 10th, the defensive stalwart we have come to expect showed up. Chad won every header and continues to show unerring ability to direct them to teammates (I counted 5) which allows quicker change of possession. Chad's positional defense was strong all game, and unlike last week where he depended on others to back him up, no one got behind Marshall against SKC.

It is apparent that Marshall isn't quite comfortable being an offensive catalyst, and he prefers to either go long over the top or short to Evans, but he seems to be working on this as the Sounder style permits him more time on the ball. One thing I will be watching closely from Marshall is his sudden bad habit of getting beat to the ball in the box on near header runs. Just like when Kamara stepped in front earlier this year, there was a time in this game he was slow to react and a KC player had an open header from about 8 yards out. I am confused why he is allowing people to beat him to these spot headers and hope it is something he is aware of.

Brad Evans
Community - 7.37
Realio- 7

The Evans week 2 game definitely seems like an anomaly now, being 11 games in and averaging around 7 even with the rough score. He has been the best defender in the back and in this game Brad was solid yet again.

Evans seems to really have learned how to step up around forwards and win possession, and he showcased this in the 3rd minute on the way to 5 total for the game. His positional defense is improving every match, making it less necessary to slide or dive in on players. Evans was again dominant in the air, and managed to get two of his headers directly to Sounders teammate a 'la Marshall.

In a game so tightly contested around the midfield, sometimes it takes a bit of brilliance from a player to break up the status quo and in this game, it was Brad Evans who made a spirited run forward in the 36th minute, showing great awareness and speed to dribble through the center and pressure the defense. Unfortunately Brad missed a wide open Barrett that might have been a better option than the curler he tried and missed. I really like this attacking mentality and in a game where there is so much sludge in the middle, it was a breath of fresh air. Brad later again looked to the spectacular, with a fine bicycle kick that somehow Barrett was unable to direct home.

There was one bad pass in the 57th minute through the middle that immediately came back into his face for a shot on goal, but I think that is the price you pay for the luxury of such a skilled passing CB willing to create from the back. I hope as the season goes on that Evans will increase his inclusion in the attacking facets of the game. I would love to see Evans and Marshall both make more of an impact on our set piece attack.

Tyrone Mears
Community - 6.61
Realio - 7

This was the first game where I thought both of our outside backs got forward together throughout. Because of his defensive needs being so minimal, Mears spent a lot of time getting past the midline. Mears had some nice switches, and got in a nice cross in the 21st minute that the keeper saved. I thought a few crosses were wasted from Mears as Sounders (Barrett, Neagle) made far post runs instead of near post.

Positional defense from Tyrone was great all game, I didn't have him being beat at all. A few times a bad cross followed an overlap, and he did commit some turnovers, often the unforced kind such as dribbling out of bounds.

Of the two things that were very apparent in this game the first is we need to let Mears take more free kicks. His free kick in minute 31 was spot on, and again in the 82nd Tyrone fed a great ball on a set piece. Since Mears isn't a threat in the box and his service has been better then Pineda/Pappa, in the instances where a right footed ball is useful, I hope the Sounders continue to allow him to take some set kicks. The second thing is I don't see much forward urgency from Mears. Unlike Remick who goes forward almost to a detriment some times (losing possession) Tyrone doesn't force the defense to adjust to his runs much. If there is any type of defensive pressure on him he turns and passes back to Evans or Frei. I am not saying I want Yedlin-esque heedless forward bombing, but I really like what Mears does when he gets forward and it's a bit frustrating to see him continually turn and pass backwards when I think he could force the action a bit more.

Lamar Neagle (off in 64)
Community - 5.23
Realio - 5

Neagle again underperformed against a bunkering team. Just like the Timbers game, I just wasn't impressed with Lamar. I had him with a negative score in the notebook overall and have notes like "not in the game" (20th) and "Barrett and Neagle should switch". Neagle just didn't seem interested in seeing the ball much (checked stats...26 touches or 1/3 of Pappa's number) and was unable to impact this game.

It seemed like the inconsistent Lamar Neagle was back, making a good play and then immediately committing a mistake. Rough passes, making bad runs (missed near post from Mears' overlap in 28th min) and generally just being invisible for long stretches was the mark Neagle left on this game.

After the finishing clinic put on by Barrett last game, Neagle showed us why he can frustrate even the staunchest of fans. He continually gets put into great positions and 1v1 type breakaways and I can't remember him finishing any. In this game he had a big chance right out of halftime on a textbook "short short long" passing play from Neagle to Dempsey to Pineda over the top to a wide open Neagle. Lamar made a meal of the chance and never seemed to be involved in anything else till his sub in the 64th minute.

Pure bunkering teams play a style that requires very technical, skilled touches and movement to break down. Neagle is great at stretching teams and putting defenses on their heels when he has space and the ball. This was a forgettable performance from Lamar that saw him with neither.

Gonzalo Pineda
Community - 5.89
Realio - 7 (MotM)

I saw Gonzalo as the better of the two midfielders this game, in an ugly slugfest through the center of the pitch. I wasn't super impressed with any of the mids, but Pineda dealt with almost 135 touches in this game and remained active throughout chipping in with 3 key passes and a warrior mentality absorbing hits in the middle.

A Pineda corner kick in the 5th minute nicely found Barrett's head, who almost nodded it on to Dempsey. Another nice service in the 31st found Neagle for a header. Free kicks from Pineda were generally a strength as well as a wonderful over the top pass to Neagle in the 46th that I think should have been a goal.

Pineda lost possession a fair amount in the midfield, and it seemed at times the Sounders would have a long spell of possession only to have it go to Pineda for a turnover. A lot of times, however, this was because Gonzalo was the only player looking forward, the only guy trying to stretch the field and attack goal. Yes, a fair number of these passes went awry, but I scored Pineda high for at least trying to stretch the bunker, which is more than a lot of the players accomplished. You can't just chunk long balls forward all the time, but this game needed some directness that only Pineda provided.

Ozzie Alonso
Community - 6.67
Realio - 6

This was a really quiet outing for Alonso. He had some nice hustle plays and switched the ball at times, but never really got forward in any capacity to support the attack. This is curious to me because he should be running circles around Servando Carrasco. Sigi commented at half that he wanted the ball to move quicker, and I didn't see a ton of that quick ball movement the coach desired.

There were more than usual bad passes in the midfield this game, but nothing that ended up being very dangerous other then the pass across the goal mouth early where he caught Marshall off guard.  I am not sure why Ozzie went short on a free kick in the 6th minute with CBs up for a service into the box.

Again the issue arose of Alonso and Pineda being too square most of this game. Without one of them pushing forward, there is a lull in the midfield shape. A few times Dempsey came back to support and ended up in the middle of both of the mids. I am a firm believer that the Sounders play better when Ozzie and Pineda maintain more vertical shape. Alonso did his defensive diligence most of the game, I just would have loved to see him take advantage of his attacking skills to get more involved instead of staying so deep.

Marco Pappa (off 73')
Community - 5.68
Realio - 5

Looking back I am tempted to just repost my comments from the Portland game and see if anyone would notice. They are pretty spot on for this game as well. Again I was unimpressed with both wide midfielders and their inability to be involved in a bunkering game is something that needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. While neither team employing the "park the bus in the middle of the field and hope a breakaway or set piece steals 3 points" have been able to do more than tie, it is still disconcerting to see how ineffective our wide mids have fared vs this tactic.

Unlike last week where Pappa was active and moved well with others, this game it looked like he was forcing his movement into areas that others like Alonso should be in. His passing was at times hopeful, but never came to any fruition. There weren't a lot of notes good or bad, just an ineffective performance from Marco this week.

Chad Barrett (off 84')
Community - 5.66
Realio - 6

Playing target forward against a packed in defense receiving little service is a completely thankless job. Chad moved around, tried to get sprung over the top at times, and worked hard with little result.

On the good I noted a nice header from the 5th minute corner that almost found Dempsey to redirect, a nice vertical run in the 28th showing an attempt to stretch the field, and a good cross in the 58th to Dempsey for a half chance. Multiple times in this game I think Chad took the wrong angle, going far post when near was the more dangerous option.

Chad Barrett was so successful last week by finding space and moving off the ball into dangerous positions. He also received the ball in great areas to shoot (which he took advantage of). None of this happened this week as the compact KC defense allowed little space either over the top or in between defenders. While I like what Chad was trying to do, there is a reason he is a nice spot start or bench option. The Sounders really needed a guy who could single handedly change a defense with dynamic pace, power, and vision. Unfortunately that guy was injured.

Clint Dempsey
Community - 6.31
Realio - 6

Clint Dempsey is mortal and can receive an "average MLS player" score! All It takes is to remove his MVP caliber strike mate, delete his service through the mid, and have his 2 wide attacking supporters play lousy. These things have happened throughout the year, but this was the first time all occurred in the same game.

I only had Dempsey with 2 major errors, a missed pass to Barrett that might have been a scoring chance and a lost possession that was quickly turned into a counter the other direction. Unfortunately my expectation is that Dempsey will have more impact on the game, and he just wasn't able to affect much of anything.

Usually, being blanketed by 3-4 defenders all game would open much area for others to work in (see VAN game) but for some reason the extra attention paid to Dempsey didn't work against the opponents. He had good movement throughout, dropped deep to get some passes and as usual his tight control and vision was evident. Unfortunately, there were just not enough times that Deuce was able to get into dangerous positions at the same time as the ball. It seemed he made a good run and was unrewarded, or he got the ball and had to pass it off after being quadruple teamed. Without moving the ball fast enough to take advantage of this emphasis on Dempsey, the team just floundered.

SUBS:

Andy Rose (64')
Community - 5.57
Realio - 7

Just like the Timbers game (broken record I know) Rose entered and had an impact. This time it was immediate, with a PK shout after 2 minutes on the field. I actually think it was deserving of a call but (see below: ref).  Rose was much more active than the man he replaced (Neagle) and was involved in a ton of play in the attacking third. He had a nice steal for a counter in the 80th. I am curious though why players aren't realizing his strengths, such as late when he was waving his hand back post for a header (Tip: he's good at those) which went wanting.

I like what I saw from Rose and while I don't think he is a starter on the wing, he played better than the other wingers in this game and above average for me.

Cristian Roldan (73')
Community - 5.87
Realio - 6

I like subs that are a ball of energy and Roldan was definitely this and didn't look out of place on the MLS pitch. He looked to provide a spark with some pace and activity on the near sideline, earning a double yellow and free kick spot in the 81st after a tough run. I would like to have seen him be a bit more careful with the ball and a risky pass was followed by dribbling too much in the middle and losing the ball; Nemeth got a shot off from this. After watching Marrufo not call anything, he needs to be better prepared for physical play.

Darwin Jones (84')
Community - 5.50
Realio - 5

Darwin got a bit more time this week then last, but didn't do anything to make me think he was MLS ready. Jones needs to take a page from the Roldan book of activity and move more. Multiple times I noted that he was a spectator and not an active participant in the game.

REFEREE

Jair Marrufo
Community - 4.69
Realio - 3

This 3 might be generous. Let me start off by saying that while I hate how this game was reffed, I understand that players need to adjust to a referee's style and the Sounders flat out didn't do this. That being said Marrufo's style is awful and when combined with the overly physical play style of Kansas City you get this dreck of a game.

I believe Marrufo called 10 fouls on SKC and 6 on SSFC. I counted 29 other offenses that could easily have been called a foul but was not. TWENTY NINE! Of those I thought at least 5 were yellow cardable and even would consider the Mustivar 2 footed tackle on Pappa in the 21st at least pinkish (no foul called!) It's really hard to give a persistent foul card when you don't call enough fouls in the first place, and this ref just didn't call anything. I prefer a much tighter game for the players' safety as well as the standard of play.

This just degenerated into a near unwatchable hackfest at times, with "Feilhaber goes down really easy for a guy who plays super physical" making my book. Besides missing fouls both hard and soft Marrufo failed to use the advantage play on the few times he did call a foul, and ignored the idea of obstruction. Why was SKC allowed to kick Dempsey's set piece in the 2nd? Who knows! First yellow given in the 81st minute in what I saw as a 30 foul game? Ok!

My biggest issue with the way this game was reffed was Marrufo's positioning. It was consistently awful. Unlike Geiger who last week was perfectly positioned to make calls and thus hard to argue with his decision making, Marrufo was horribly out of position and far away from the play constantly. Often he would be jogging in from off the camera screen as he was making a call, and I just can't understand a professional ref running such a bad diagonal. It is hard to justify a bad call when you are so far away. I thought this the poorest reffing performance of the year and instead of being a regulatory figure who protects the players and enforces the rules, Marrufo promoted a sluggish, thuggish, ugly game that could easily have degenerated into injury.

I hate that the longest section in this ratings post is on the ref. Guess who is our ref tomorrow? (Hint it rhymes with salad bar)

The ratings form for the win over Colorado will be up shortly.

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