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Sounders vs. Rapids: Player ratings

We had 250 readers turn in valid ballots for the midweek win over the Colorado Rapids. Our community and Realio had a bit of a differing opinion on the performance of one player in particular.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Such a refreshing change to go from the hack and slash Sporting Kansas City to the mellow buzz of the Colorado Rapids game. This game was much more wide open, much better officiated (am I high? Did I just compliment Salazar?), and overall a better viewing experience. With some intriguing changes to rest a few players, we got a chance to see if some old dogs still had it, and if some new guys were ready to step up (answer is yes!) Here's my ratings on the 1-0 victory for the good guys.

RATINGS:

Stefan Frei
Community: 7.5
Realio: 8

Stefan Frei is in an amazing run of form for the Sounders. In his last seven games Frei has averaged a 7.75 score from me, to go with only 5 goals against (3 in the Columbus game). This game was another good one, and as usual Stefan showed early assertiveness in stepping to the ball in minute 3 and a nice step in the 19th minute as well. I see complete command of his area on lofted balls.

I started keeping track of Frei's positioning saves, and counted four of them (62', 64', 66', and 83'). He has truly fixed his earlier propensity to drift with the ball on plays, and it's showing as potential tough saves are simplified.  He did bluntly spill a hard shot from Doyle in the 43rd minute that caught him by surprise, but quick reflexes prevented any major rebound.

The biggest change mentally this year in the Sounders' back 5 is their control and comfort on the ball. Frei had 4-5 controlled distributions and even a short goal kick. Stefan isn't only going short though. He twice caught Colorado cheating forward with over-the-top counter passes. A kicked clear from Frei in the 22nd minute surprised the defense and led to a counter as it bypassed two levels of defense. The 41st minute catch and immediate 60-yard punt to a streaking Pappa on the wing was spectacular.

Leo Gonzalez
Community: 6.6
Realio: 6

Welcome back to the lineup Mr. Gonzalez. There is some comfort for Sigi to be able to plug in Leo and know exactly what you are going to get; in this case he got good shielding defense, solid work to remove pressure from the back, and positional awareness throughout all phases of the game.

Leo didn't do a lot to differentiate himself from the average, he just solidly went about his work without making many mistakes. I thought the shape of the team had him really far up at times, and I was confused about the positioning so far detached from Scott. As late as the 82nd minute Gonzales was in the Colorado 18 which was odd since Leo doesn't have the recovery speed and endurance of a Dylan Remick. Leo tends to take the safe option, including heading the ball out for corners twice when there was perhaps a chance to go wide.

It was nice to contrast the two current left back options for the Sounders this week.  As long as his defense can keep up with his offensive contributions I think Remick will hold on to the job. He's offering some more dynamic offensive play and is obviously learning from Gonzales how to better play positional defense. It is such a luxury though to get strong, dependable wide defensive play off the bench, and that's something that will help this team as Gold Cup, CCL, and USOC dates converge. Starting Leo is not much of a drop off, if at all.

Zach Scott
Community: 6.5
Realio: 6

Just as Sigi can get comfort from dependable Leo, you always know what you are going to get starting Zach Scott. Veteran professionals like Scott and Gonzales are why SSFC can replace half the backline and not skip a beat defensively. While Zach has his flaws, he has done better in the last few years in minimizing mistakes and maximizing his particular skill set.

Zach's strengths include physicality and aerial domination and both were readily apparent in this game. I had Scott for winning 6 headers and consistently bodying up the Colorado forwards. I like that he was still stepping up assertively in the 90th minute, showing he may have plenty left in the tank fitness-wise.

Zach's score becomes an average MLS score when you take into account the things that he just doesn't do well. He can be beat by speed, and was twice. He makes bad passes and did so twice as well. I only had Scott down for one bad foul in the 52nd that led to a dangerous free kick. In the 57th his possibly worst play of the game came when he completely whiffed on an attacker who then was free on goal. Luckily the improved Evans was there to help out. This was a very typical Zach Scott game and a nice outing for the veteran player.

Brad Evans
Community: 7.4
Realio: 7

Speaking of Evans, it was nice to again see how he would play without the Defensive Player of the Year next to him. I thought Brad looked good (best of the back 4) and certainly controlled the tempo from the back.

Brad's positioning is improving every game (notice the lack of slide tackles needed?) and I had him 4 times just being in the right spot to make a defensive action. Evans is making better decisions in the back, like covering nicely for a broken play in the 42nd minute. I have been watching specifically for Evans on set piece defense and was very impressed by his marking and concentration on the 53rd minute spot kick, a play where he had to chase the Colorado player around before winning a header.

Possibly because of the new defensive players around him, Evans had more in the negative side of the book this week. He was beat by Solignac a few times and pushed off the ball twice. I think he could have stepped stronger to Doyle in the 43rd and stopped a dangerous shot on goal. In the 64th he gave up a free kick in a bad spot and got a yellow for his troubles.

Evans was strong this game, though not as dominant as he has been in the past few games. Not having Marshall next to him definitely changed how he played, but I thought this effort was a great result for his continued confidence and maturation as a central defender.

Tyrone Mears
Community: 6.8
Realio: 7

I scored Mears a 7 for this game and it was a "tale of 2 halves". In the first half Tyrone was utterly dominant, putting Torres in his pocket and marking him completely out of the game. Torres was so ineffective he subbed at half, after having 45 minutes of zero output vs. the defense of Mears.

While crushing Torres, Tyrone was also marauding up his wing and linking with Roldan expertly. I marked Mears down for stepping multiple times to deny the ball, 5 great overlaps in the first half (one leading to the goal) and just basically an offensive and constructive first half. His crossing remains some of the best on the team, and he had wonderful determination and pass to Dempsey in the 34th minute that almost became another goal. His recovery on Solignac in the 42nd minute utilized great speed that enabled him to shut down a dangerous chance.

The second half was a lot quieter for Tyrone, and not as positive. The introduction of Ramirez changed Mears to more of a pure defender and I had zero offensive marks in the second half. Tyrone fumbled away the ball for a counter in the 54th minute which was notable because it directly led to Alonso fouling a Rapids player. This earned Ozzie a yellow card which could have been a really bad thing. I would have liked to see Mears step tighter to Ramirez in the 56th minute inside the 18.

I like that Mears can adjust to the way the other team is playing, and when the attacking catalyst was inserted, Tyrone immediately became more defense-minded. I think Mears complemented the work of the wingers in front of him well.

Cristian Roldan (off 70')
Community: 6.9
Realio: 7

After last week's rough wide play Roldan brought a breath of fresh air and energy to the wing against Colorado. A lot of what Cristian does is very technically savvy beyond his years, but he also balances this with a great motor.

This motor was the catalyst behind the first goal, and his effort to win the ball back was really crucial to the entire play. Instead of dropping back when an overlapping Mears' cross goes awry, he quickly steps up, dispossesses the Colorado player and drives to the end line to serve in a ball that eventually Pappa goes superstar bendar with. In the 34th minute Roldan again pursues a lost possession near the 18 yard box, winning a great slide tackle and earning Mears possession. This time the ball is slotted through to Dempsey, who rounded Irwin but was unable to finish. This was spectacular effort from the kid to create scoring opportunities from defensive actions.

We can all see his hustle in plays like these but what really excites me about Roldan is his tactical positioning. He showed up again and again in my book in the first half with ideal movement, often maintaining perfect shape with Mears, Rose, and Dempsey. It seems to understand where to be, and he makes decisions quickly and correctly. I noted a few times where the big $$ guys up front showed supreme confidence in Cristian, bypassing other options to get him the ball. It is great to see their willingness to use his runs, and is more evidence that he's not only in the right place, but doing the right things with the ball when he gets it.

This score was indicative of an above average MLS outing, but to be a true MLS-ready player I think Roldan needs to put together more of a complete game. I noted "where is Roldan?" at the 65 minute mark when he had racked up his 3rd giveaway without any impressive second half marks. Although right before he was subbed Roldan showed nicely to get two good shots in, he was largely ineffective after intermission and I think Sigi made the right sub. If Roldan can learn to stay checked in for the entire game (remember it took Yedlin a while as well) I think he will be an excellent fit to the Sounders' more technical, possession style of 2015.

Andy Rose
Community: 6.4
Realio: 8 (MOTM)

This was one of Andy Rose's best games as a Sounder. He won everything in the air (7 aerials won by my count) while still tracking back to pick up defensive notes. Rose showed amazing energy throughout and was the engine of the midfield. Even more importantly for me, Rose showed verticality and a desire to push the ball forward that I had not yet seen from him. Gone was the timid, back passing, "safe alternative always" midfielder of earlier in the year. In its place was a guy with multiple strong vertical dribbles (6', 32' especially) and willingness to push the attack. This new Rose had 3 key passes and multiple defensive recoveries and put in a complete all around dominant performance.

There were a few mistakes, some bad passes and 2 fouls in rough spots (40', 49') that he needs to clean up, but these were minor offenses surrounded by so many positives (I had him at plus 10 in actions overall). A few examples: "great first touch to set up Dempsey" - 36', "control and turn in tight space" - 54', "perfect drop off to Pappa for shot on goal" - 68', "fantastic touch to keep ball in bounds and romp down wing" - 76'. Notice how these actions cover the entirety of the game; and boy, was I impressed with his work rate. Rose is in fantastic shape and he was running hard through 90 minutes. What he lacks in the technical savvy of Pineda, he makes up for in work rate, and Rose put in the mileage against Colorado.

After watching others ignore the near post run vs. SKC, it was exciting to see Rose pop up near in the 50th minute and almost score a goal, which would have been a worthy reward for his great game. He will have to settle for MOTM honors from yours truly.

Ozzie Alonso
Community: 7.1 
Realio: 6

This was quite an up and down week for Alonso, who averaged out to a near zero score when the marks were added up.

The good was what you would expect from Ozzie: 5+ won balls in midfield, good control and acceleration to create turnovers. After the last game where the ball didn't seem to move quickly enough, I was on the lookout for switching passes. I noted 5 of them, although all were in the first half. This showed me that both the staff and players worked hard last week to game plan against this deficiency.

I wasn't super impressed with the bad Alonso, who lost possession in the midfield multiple times, gave up dangerous free kicks (21', 65') and dribbled into trouble a few times. I don't really blame him for the yellow as a bad giveaway from Mears led to Ozzie trying to stop an attack; when Solignac stopped there wasn't much Alonso could do. What I didn't like is Ozzie continued to flirt with being thrown out of the match after this 65th minute yellow card and had 4-5 more events throughout the game that were card worthy. I realize that his style is aggressive and Alonso relies on physicality in the middle of the park, but I think he should have been sent off. There was no need to continue to be this antagonistic after receiving a yellow.

Marco Pappa (off 74')
Community: 7.9 (MOTM)
Realio: 7

Pappa also had an up and down game. He was much, much more active and involved than vs. SKC, and it was immediately evident by getting into small triangle passing games with Clint and Oba. His back heel to Dempsey in the 5th minute was a beauty and Pappa seemed very willing to drift centrally in front of Alonso to push the attack.

Marco had 3 shots on target and 3 key passes in this game and they all came from drifting in between the outside and center defenders. The goal was sublime, taken with his off foot and smoked into the side net perfectly. He had another effort that the referee got in the way of or he might have had a brace. The third shot was very strong in the 68th minute but placement was off.

On the other side of the notebook were a fair amount of dangerous turnovers, bad corner kicks in the 35th, 70th, and 72nd minutes, and generally an absence of impact in the second half. I really would like to see Pappa stay more involved throughout, instead of disappearing for long stretches.

Obafemi Martins
Community: 6.6
Realio: 6

Oba didn't have his best game on Wednesday, but he put in a lot of the dank and dirty work needed in most wins. He was active and pressured high throughout this game, often forcing turnovers with his work rate. His pass over the top to Roldan in the 20th minute was one example of the vision he brings that our other forwards don't possess. In fact, his best plays this game for me were passes. I thought he definitely deserved an assist to Dempsey in the 85th and followed up with a beautiful cross that went wanting in the 86th.

Oba struggled with his control and was responsible for 8 or so turnovers that I counted. I thought he should have done better with his 1v1 chance in the 33rd minute and overall there wasn't the crispness we have gotten used to in Oba's game. I gave Martins an average MLS grade for a game where he could have earned higher or lower with a different bounce or two. Playing with a broken nose couldn't have helped much.

Clint Dempsey
Community: 6.8
Realio: 7

Clint wasn't able to dominate this game as much as he did previously vs. Colorado, but he had a very solid game.

I marked him down for a few missed touches, and some uncharacteristic bad passes, none of which were too consequential for SSFC. I think if he had a better touch on an Oba give-and-go he would have easily had a goal, and he missed another Oba pass in the 85th. Clint at times tried to take on too much, and dribbling at 5 guys was a bad decision in the 69th min.

One thing I noted when re-watching the Pappa goal was 3 guys all step to Dempsey, whose stellar run gives Marco the room to shoot. Clint's through ball in the 33rd minute put Oba on goal and he did well with a nice Mears pass in the 34th to round Irwin without result. Every game it seems Dempsey does something that makes me really take notice, and in this one it happened in the 77th minute. On the play Mears clears a ball to the middle of the field that Clint somehow controls between two plays and passes to a streaking Barrett. Dempsey follows the play well, gets the ball back and works a one-two with Oba. He rounds three players and just misses an open goal. The end result wasn't there, but wow what a great play from Deuce.

SUBS:

Chad Barrett (70')
Community: 5.6 (70 percent)
Realio: 6

Barrett had an average 20 minutes where he didn't do much wrong and was mostly a hustle/defense guy. I noted a gorgeous cross in the 88th minute and a willingness to help back with defensive shape.

Lamar Neagle (74')
Community: 4.5 (96 percent)
Realio: 4

I usually start subs out a bit lower than field players because they are coming in to do specific short term jobs against tired players. If Neagle's specific job was to come on, have 4 losses of possession, 2 bad touches, and 3 notable times where he put in zero effort and just watched the play, then mission accomplished. This was a particularly sub-par stint for Neagle. His concentration seemed hazy and Lamar didn't look interested in being there, which was even more obvious by contrasting the game that Roldan had in his position.

Micheal Azira (84')
Community: 5.2 (47 percent)
Realio: N/A

Azira passed the ball out of bounds once.

REFEREE

Ricardo Salazar
Community: 5.6
Realio: 7

Guys, Salazar didn't suck in this game. Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it. Our old nemesis filled up the stat sheet with some solid refereeing and I stopped the "surprisingly good call by Salazar" count after 5. I think the correct yellow was called on both Watts and Evans, and the ref used the advantage play well throughout.

I fully expected Pittinari to come out hacking and he sure did, to the tune of 4 hard fouls in the first 20 minutes without a card. Two of these came after the dreaded "NO MORE" talking to. Pittinari added 2 more plays late that I thought might finally get a yellow, but Salazar apparently decided against it. This ended up working in the Sounders' favor, as I think Alonso could have been sent off on 4 separate occasions. Maybe Salazar was being lenient in part due to our history with him.

***

There was a lot to like about a solid shutout win. The Sounders needed to put away a few more of their good chances in a dominant first half in order to cruise, but this game showed the team has a few players on the bench who can step in and give starters a break when needed.

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