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Sounders at New York City FC: Player ratings

Obafemi Martins was the Player of the Week for the league, the Man of the Match for Sounder at Heart readers but only second best according to Realio.

Everyone is chasing Oba
Everyone is chasing Oba
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Mehdi Ballouchy scored New York City FC's only goal and that impressed 91% of the 462 respondents. Jason Kreis has now removed Ballouchy from any future consideration for Seattle Sounders fan praise. Both Clint and Oba were rated well above eight. Dempsey had only 7% of respondents feeling that his performance was MVP quality. Martins earned that level of praise from 24% of Sounder at Heart readers. Realio's ratings follow.

* * *

For me, the big issue going into this game was how would the Sounders react to playing on a small, new field? Many players I thought would really dominate a small field did not, while others were surprisingly effective.

RATINGS:

Stefan Frei
Community - 7.66
Realio - 8

Frei's game may have been better than any of his four shutouts. He just crushed my notebook with positive marks against Gotham City on Sunday night.

This game allowed Frei to show that he is one of the best in MLS right now. Stefan was impeccable at positional goalkeeping, especially in the first half when he continuously made shot-stopping look routine. Time and time again Frei cut the angle down completely and forced the opponents to fire directly at him or wide of the goal. Mullins' early near post shot and the quick corner where Frei was the only Sounder awake are examples. Result: 8 shots against and only one goal. On the few shots that required him to show off his shot-stopping ability, Frei was up to the task, especially against Poku in the 76th minute and Villa in the 92nd.

The field was so small I half expected a lot of errant clearances, but Frei did well to use more throws and misplaced only one clearance.

Dylan Remick
Community - 7.05
Realio - 7

I am curious if people think this is Dylan's position now or is Leo still the incumbent?  With games like this, Remick won't relinquish the spot any time soon. This was his best defensive game. Remick scored higher against Houston in my ratings, where he was a terror up and down the field but this was a more mature, (solid) outing for the young left back. I liked seeing him step up and into the middle of the field in front of Marshall multiple times to intercept a pass. In prior games, he had a few issues of putting Marshall in bad spots. None of that was evident in New York and they played very solid in cohesion.

The best of Remick was evident in the 8th minute. Dylan went on a long, overlapping run supporting the attack wide from the left, but it resulted in a goal kick. Remick has the speed and endurance to get back into position quickly on Shelton, recovering immediately and stopping any counter down his side of the field. Someone without his speed or fitness has to decide which is more important, to attack or defend.  Remick's athleticism should be very valuable as the season continues.

One issue to keep an eye on was evident in the 12th minute and again in the 33rd minute. Both times Remick gave Shelton the inside position instead of shuttling him outside toward the sideline. There was a third time where he got beat to the middle of the field. This is a bit of tactical error you never see from the more experienced Leo Gonzalez.

Chad Marshall
Community - 7.07
Realio - 6

Two mere mortal "average" scores for Chad Marshall in back-to-back weeks. The sky is falling!  Marshall was pretty quiet in this game, and that's not a bad thing for a center back; however I was surprised that Marshall wasn't even more dominant being on a smaller field. I assumed the dimensions would play to his strengths, but this game just solidified how great he is on a larger pitch as a function of his positioning. I know smelly Alan Gordon got loose once, but I really like the freedom Marshall is given on free kicks, and three separate times he was able to float to the right spot and make a clearance like King Kong casually swatting planes from the Empire State Building. I assume man-marking is going to be the best bet for some teams but against a mediocre aerial team allowing our best header to play free safety is a great idea.

Chad had a few poor passes and uncharacteristic giveaways.  A bad back pass in the 7th minute had to be cleared by Frei and was most likely a result of never having played on that surface. Marshall was just pretty good this game, nothing spectacular.

Brad Evans
Community - 7.03
Realio - 7

Evans once again was the best defender on the backline. He is quickly becoming a dependable strength in the back, improving every week in giant bounds such as when in the 19th minute Shelton shouldered him off the ball, only to have Brad return the favor immediately to win a goal kick.

By now we can pencil Brad in for four or so won headers on defense a game, and recently you can add to that multiple 1v1 defensive actions (I counted three). I like seeing Brad begin to add more attacking options to his defense, looking to open up teams a bit more instead of just clearing the ball to touch. The proof to me that Brad is starting to play and isn't over thinking things was in the 74th minute, where in traffic inside his own box he calmly slotted back a clean pass to Frei to clear the danger. This illustrates the improved Evans is as relaxed as the naked-cowboy back there versus a few games ago when Brad would have cleared this out for a corner, or into a less manageable position. I again kept track of how many times Evans went to ground. On a sliding scale of Hurtado to Nkufo, this was pretty much in the middle, and out of the four times I noted him hitting the deck, all four were great tackles and worked perfectly.

Tyrone Mears
Community - 6.48
Realio - 6

This grade is a lot like the Marshall 6. It's not as high as his counterpart across the field, but the rating is a lot closer to above-average MLS rating than it looks. Tyrone had a  solid game with a few icky spots sprinkled in.

I believe that Evans has been so effective because Mears is staying home next to him, and Tyrone recovered a few times well when Evans stepped (like in min 86 for example). Every game there is a time when the other team tries to counter and Mears slows the attack, allowing the defense to get back in position.

Mears only received an MLS normal grade from me this week based on his scores averaging down from a few pretty iffy spots. I think he may have held Mullins onside early which led to a great chance for NYCFC. He had both a bad pass to Evans (most likely a result of the field conditions) that put Brad in a rough spot, as well as a whiff in the 51st that should probably have resulted in a goal against. While the yellow card for a late tackle was deserved, he probably didn't learn the language he used afterwards in my wife's yoga class.

Tyrone was one of the guys whose game suffered from the field size and condition, and being behind Rose left very little to do going forward for long stretches. I am disappointed at his production going forward and still no free kicks allowed to a righty. On the other hand, I loved that Mears just shut down Villa as soon as he stepped onto the pitch, from bodying him to the 1v1 defense in the 76th min.

Andy Rose
Community - 6.38
Realio - 6

This field played surprisingly well for the Andy Rose skill set.  Winning headers, keeping shape and working hard both directions was the name of the game for Rose in New York and he did all these well. There wasn't a lot that differentiated Andy from average in the league however, and Rose did a workmanlike job covering for the defense and sending the ball towards the high paid guys up front.

Other than a nice recovery after an Evans field-monster bite in the 3rd minute, I didn't have a lot of notes on Rose. He seems to draw fouls pretty nicely, and drew one (probably should have been two) yellow. Rose did have a great entry pass in to Oba in the 74th minute that ended up as a deflected Dempsey shot. I would like to see more/better communication with Mears if Andy is going to play the right side, as Tyrone was very stunted in his ability to go forward with Rose in front of him.

Gonzalo Pineda (off 90')
Community - 6.38
Realio - 7

I have Pineda as the more active and higher rated center mid this week. With the field so compact, we saw Alonso ranging from side to side, and Pineda staying more central and facilitating the attack. Pineda continually shows his positional awareness and ability to play off of where Alonso is.

While Ozzie was being more of an enforcer on Sunday, Gonzalo picked up more of the pressure-releasing job and his movement in the middle of the field was great. I liked seeing an over the top look in the 14th minute that Clint barely missed, and this set a tone of the mids to look for quick linkups directly vertical, something this team lacks at times. On the Dempsey goal, it is Pineda who steps into Grabavoy to steal the ball, and start the attack. I think Pineda is an underrated defensive tackler and when he is on the middle of the field it's a wasteland for opposing players.

Pineda wasn't perfect, and he was guilty of a foul in a bad spot in the 30th minute. This is noticeable more for the fact it was the Sounders' first foul of the entire game than any result of the free kick. Speaking of free kicks it appears to me that while Pineda often hits a great ball in the run of play, his set pieces are very inconsistent.

Osvaldo Alonso
Community - 6.92
Realio - 6

It's weird to give Alonso an average MLS rating. He hasn't done much average in six years here. Unfortunately, this game was just one of those where Ozzie, like Mears, was hampered by the tight field which removed a lot of the flashy effectiveness and range Alonso possesses.

Alonso still is integral to this team and his position ahead of the defense broke up a lot of attacks. Alonso no longer surprises me when he makes a tackle and immediately is able to funnel this to a counterattack chance. I think he does this better than anyone in the league and I noted twice where a strong midfield tackle became instant offense. Because of the smaller field it wasn't as necessary for him to buzz around and save people from mistakes but he still had a couple recoveries (one for Neagle after he was shoved down made the book).

Ozzie had a few poor passes and like many took a bit of time to adjust to the conditions. I don't blame Alonso for the goal, but I did note that it was scored when Ozzie took the ball deep into the NYCFC third and lost possession, resulting in a counterattack that brought New York back into the game. If Alonso is going to make long runs like that, someone needs to compensate in the center midfield.

Marco Pappa (off 67')
Community -  6.82
Realio - 8

After last week's rough outing, Pappa showed that while the field was rough for others, it fit his playing style perfectly. He looked very active early, showing defensive presence in the 2nd minute. Pappa announced his intentions early by looking vertical in the 7th minute to chip a long ball over the top to Dempsey. In the 23rd this continued desire to push vertical was rewarded with the look to Oba to get the game opened on the scoreboard. This vision is really rare in this league and as teams press the Oba/Clint duo in the middle of the field, having a guy who can unlock that at any time is pretty special.

Pappa was very active in this game and his tight touch and technical skill was on display for everyone to enjoy. Sometimes, the top 2 need a third prong, and in this game it was Marco Pappa. It was this connection with the strikers that made the second goal so easy, with Pappa cleanly controlling the cross and finding Clint.

Any inadequacies in Marco's positional play and defending were mostly covered by the skinny field and there wasn't a lot in my book negative. I would like to see him finish off a tackle sometimes, but I understand the self preservation desire. This was Pappa's best game of the year since the romp in the opener and is really exciting for the future.

Obafemi Martins
Community - 8.86 MotM
Realio - 9

Goals change games. Yes, Obafemi Martins had five turnovers; some even were passes that went to the other team! It matters not at all. This guy isn't going to fill my stat sheet up with perfect passing and amazing assists. What he is going to do is play 90 minutes like a lit firecracker. You know it's there, and yet have no idea when it will explode. Every game I notice the dynamic ways he differentiates himself from the other attackers in the league. Many times this is done with dangerous runs at angles that are just fantastic. On his first goal, Oba pauses and then runs horizontal to the last defender for just a split second, keeping him onside just long enough to keep the flag down. This won't show up in most stat books but it directly created a goal-scoring chance. Speaking of chances, how often does Oba miss good looks? VERY rarely. A lot of people would be sitting on half as many goals as Oba but he finishes so calmly especially on his 1v1 opportunities. It is really a testament to his concentration that even after an amazing run, spin turn, or athletic play Oba is still mentally strong enough to focus and put the ball away.

Just when you think maybe the Sounders are tired, Oba pops up in a dangerous spot and Dempsey finds him for his second goal. Again Martins has all the requirements: awareness to make the run, touch to get the ball perfectly in front of him, speed to outrun the defense, and the finishing ability that makes it all worth it. Oba is truly a wonderful player playing at a really high level and would win MOTM most days with this performance.

Clint Dempsey
Community - 8.29
Realio - 9 MOTM

I went back and forth over whom to give MOTM this week, Dempsey or Oba. I really wouldn't have felt bad going either direction but ultimately it was Clint who had more + marks (a remarkable plus 12 in the book - most this year) and earned this title. In order to score higher than Oba with his 2 goals Dempsey had to bring a lot to the table, and he did especially with FIVE key passes. While Oba is so dynamic going forward and finishing pure, Clint's vision and playmaking ability is possibly the best in the league. So much success of the Sounders is a direct result of Clint's great range of view, key passing, or productive movement.

A back heel in the 9th minute to Rose created the first good chance for the Sounders and was conjured out of thin air by Clint's creativity. Throughout the game Clint was everywhere, facilitating the linkup from the midfielders, allowing Oba to play higher and stretch the small field as much as they could.

Dempsey did a lot of the dirty work in the middle, mixing it up with Grabavoy and Mix often, while still managing to either flick on for Oba (goal) or Neagle (blown 1v1) . Clint consistently puts people into good spots and could have had multiple more assists. He took a good shot in the 75th that deflected around just wide as well. Did I mention he scored one also? This was a complete offensive display that really was too much for NYCFC to handle.

For the people who think Clint starts out with a higher scale or is lazy and want to argue or whatever, go look at Oba's first goal. There is no one in the league who wants to score and works harder to get into position to score than Clint Dempsey. When I paused and replayed the Oba goal to rate it I was amazed just as much at Clint as Oba, even though Clint was a peripheral part of the play. He just wants it SO BAD. As soon as the ball goes over the top to Oba, Clint takes two steps then actually puts his head down. He isn't even looking at Oba he has his head down STRAINING for (I counted!) seven strides before looking up and being an option for Martins. Ultimately Oba keeps and scores brilliantly, but I was really impressed by this seemingly small thing that Clint does consistently. He knew he had to get there as an option, put his head down and busted his ass, and in doing so pulled Saunders away from his angle. This gave Oba room to shoot and offered a tap-in should he have opted to pass. That kind of effort is extraordinary and is why Dempsey earns high grades weekly as he continually puts both himself and others in places to succeed.

SUBS:

Lamar Neagle (on 67')
Community - 5.85
Realio - 6

We all know what to expect from Neagle by this point and he showed us the entire package.

On the negative side, there were some giveaways, losses of possession, and he committed a really unnecessary foul in the 78th when double-teaming a player in a poor spot. He missed Oba on what may have been a hat trick had he seen him.

On the plus side, Neagle makes really good runs, and was rewarded by Dempsey in the 77th to get a 1v1 effort that he ultimately squandered. He found his trademark top-of-the-18 angle shot in the 94th and almost had another great ranged goal.

This was a solid Neagle-like outing for Lamar where he consistently got into good positions and just had some rough results. Sometimes those go down and he has 2 goals off the bench, other times were like Sunday and he's empty handed. Two shots on goal is a nice trend in limited time.

Cristian Roldan (on 90')
Community - 6.43 only 1% responded
Realio - N/A

It was very nice to see this guy back from some youth national team stuff and also staying high on the substitute list. I had Christian down for some good hustle and one errant pass. Roldan didn't have much time to create an impact either way in a game where it was decided and SSFC was playing it out.

NONE - N/A

No idea why Sigi didn't use the 3rd sub to kill time at the end of the game. I understand not wanting to disrupt the flow but a forward sub to kill time and put fresh legs in for a minute or two has some upside and not much downside.

REFEREE

Silviu Petrescu
Community - 4.94
Realio - 4

And my once lofty referee rankings come crashing down to earth! I actually wrote "Swallowed whistle" in the first half as Petrescu was letting everything go. He allowed so much contact that when he finally started giving cards it was really choppy. Standing around like the Statue of Liberty and having bad angles on plays forced Petrescu into a habit of missing the first foul and calling the second, which led to rougher than necessary play.

I thought the yellow cards to Watson-Siriboe were both justified as well as the Poku, Pappa, and Mears cards. He had one time where he allowed advantage to play on which was remarkable in its loneliness.

This ranking is so low mostly due to the above choppiness. After giving Mix a yellow he was allowed 3 hard fouls committed after with no second yellow. The Oba yellow looked like he had already decided before the play had even happened. Why did he let NYCFC take a free kick twice? Multiple times Petrescu ignored his AR's and I just thought this was a poor effort on the night.

***

Three points to start this road trip off was a perfect result for the Sounders, and done in strenuous conditions. I really like seeing some of the newer guys show they are deserving of playing time, and once again the stars for SSFC shone bright even while playing on a field worse than Central Park.

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