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Sounders lose at Sporting KC: Player Ratings

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Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Expectations are funny things. Going into this weekend's Seattle Sounders 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City, I thought I was fully prepared to tie or lose a close game. I would have been more than happy to keep it competitive with the lineup holes I saw, but by midgame I was thinking we could easily earn a goal and make it interesting. The team played solid and more importantly, well enough compared to SKC to earn points. And then... Elfath and co. happened.

There were 262 ratings this week. Of those 31% thought that Tim Melia was the best non-Sounder. That was first, but not by much. Graham Zusi came in with 24%, Matt Besler with 19% and Other (write-ins had this as Elfath) with 17%.

RATINGS:

Stefan Frei
Community - 7.51 
Realio - 7

Frei did his job to earn a result in this game, and should have had his 8th shutout. There was a definite change to the philosophy of the back this game, much less short play and possession and more hopeful clearances. In fact, I only noted Frei going short twice in the entire game, and the Sounders rarely moved the ball around the back.

Stefan stepped perfectly in both the 17th and 29th minutes to stop promising Kansas City attacks, and he maintained good command of his area throughout. In the 42nd minute he made perhaps his best save on a Graham Zusi shot, and followed this up 4 minutes after halftime with a great step to win the ball in a 1v1 situation that illustrates how much confidence he is playing with.

Personally I don't think the penalty kick called was correct and in light of the refereeing up to that point it was a very, very soft call. Frei had a good jump off his line and does everything right from my vantage point. He has a right to a 50/50 ball and while there is contact, the entire game was full of physical play. Angry Stefan Frei is a 2 pole waiting to happen. It was unfortunate that this game ended up like it did, but I hope this intensity fuels him to excel even more this season.

Dylan Remick
Community - 6.35
Realio - 6

After a near MOTM performance against these guys a week or two back, Remick completely disappeared in this one. I understand the formation was very different and he was required to stay back more in this game but I actually had the note "is Remick playing?" midway through the first half.

While this isn't necessarily a bad thing for a defender to stay under the radar, Dylan was notably absent from the attack vs. KC. Remick's highlight was a 60th minute run forward, dribbling to the middle of the field for about 40 yards, exploiting a giant hole in the SKC defense and finding Pappa on the attack.

Communication on the backline was noticeably off, and the rookie Connor Hallisey took full advantage, cutting in between Scott and Remick repeatedly for good chances. These 2 left sided defenders didn't seem on the same page with regards to marking diagonal outside in runs. Remick did shut his side down completely and prevented anything from getting down the wing past him.

Chad Marshall
Community - 6.73
Realio - 6

This was about as average a game as you will ever see from a 3 time Defender of the Year (have I said this before?). Chad didn't really do much to stand out from anyone around him, though he had limited mistakes. The couple times I noted that Marshall did well included cleaning up a few Scott blunders and a really nice 1v1 defensive play in the box in the 54th minute.

Chad won headers, played decent positional defense, and against the "forwards" KC employed this was adequate for most of the game. A nasty whiff in the 50th minute could have easily led to a goal if it wasn't for the quick thinking and agile Frei behind him coming out to save the day. I noted a few times that Marshall was out of position, and the back four really never looked completely in sync. I really expect more from Chad when it comes to organization, and the entire back line didn't seem to ever settle into a comfortable system, instead relying on desperation clearances.

I really don't know what happened to Marshall the offensive weapon and again he was unable to show up on set piece offense. Against a truly weak set piece defense Marshall was unable to make his mark and this was very disappointing. It is really surprising to me that Chad doesn't have 4+ goals and assists this year and I can't remember the last set piece goal.

Zach Scott
Community - 6.31
Realio - 5

This performance by Scott didn't impress me very much.

On the plus side, he won a lot of headers (5 or 6) and actually had 2 shots on goal. He plays well on corner kick defense and stayed in fairly decent position on set pieces. Scott didn't get caught up field over aggressively marking in this game as he is prone to.

Positioning was a struggle for Scott, and often he was very slow to rotate to the backside runner (4x). This was very apparent as Hallisey split the defense unmarked multiple times, the worst in the 36th where the KC player missed a tap in somehow. In the 42nd minute Scott was competently marking Graham Zusi, inexplicably leaves him to ball watch, and is late to recover as Zusi put their most dangerous shot on goal. This was quite appalling defending and nothing that was expected after seeing his first few starts this season.

I would be remiss if I didn't bring up the PK call. Scott was badly beaten on this play and looked to be committing a foul if Frei wasn't called for his. Dwyer just gave Zach fits his entire time in the game and Scott did not look good matched up against an actual SKC forward. Some of the old, non-dependable Scott showed up in this game and it wasn't pretty.

Tyrone Mears
Community - 6.65
Realio - 6

Just like Remick, Mears didn't have a ton of stats in this game. He played a very average, boring outside back against a team that was quite toothless in attack. That being said, I thought de Jong seemed the most interested player on KC (before Dwyer entered) in attacking the goal. Mears defended him with mixed results.

I am not too familiar with de Jong, but Tyrone really seemed to give him a ton of respect. Perhaps this was scouting as de Jong punted quite a few shots into the stands, but I would like to see Mears trust his speed a bit more and not give a wing player so much room to make bad decisions. Tyrone was beat to the inside in the 24th minute but locked down his side steadily for the rest of the game.

Mears positive scores in this game were a combination of steady play, won defensive headers (2...a rarity for him) and some nice offensive contributions via dead ball. I love the trend to get Tyrone more set piece opportunities and he continues to impress with his service. His perfect 15th minute free kick hit Rose back post and should probably have been an assist. Another solid midgame free kick was sandwiched by a 93rd minute serve that found a Sounder in a good position to tie the game (Scott), but was headed weakly to the opposing keeper.

Gonzalo Pineda
Community - 6.52
Realio - 6

I was relieved to see Pineda back for this game specifically to add some veteran experience and a calming presence to the midfield. I thought Gonzalo did this very well, and was the only midfielder that consistently held the ball and looked up with purpose.

Pineda had a nice run in the 8th minute and would have probably scored from 6 yards out had he gotten a centering pass while unmarked. He also found Pappa in the 66th minute for the game winning assist supposedly offside goal.

It definitely took the center midfielders a while to figure out this new formation, and it was disorganized for a bit until Pineda took charge and started directing players. As the game wore on you could see each player falling into their role and in this one Pineda was the deep facilitator. He was adequate at roaming around pressuring the ball and then transitioning to looking forward to push the offense. With the other 2 center players not interested in holding the ball Pineda was the only player looking to play any sort of unlocking passes. Unfortunately these came few and far between. He did have a pretty ballsy header back to Frei in his own 6 on a corner kick in the 74th minute that only a vet even attempts that was fun.

Micheal Azira (Off 86')
Community - 5.52
Realio - 5

Man, Azira did not look comfortable on the ball at all, especially in the first half. Pretty much his entire list of negatives was in the first half however, and the second half he gathered a few positive marks to keep him above a USL level rating.

This being said, his first half was awful. He failed to clear a ball in the 7th minute that directly led to a Sporting KC chance. He followed this up in the 13th with an awful giveaway just outside his own eighteen yard box that luckily Jalil Anibaba ball hogged away from better attackers and shot wide. You can audibly hear Sigi shouting "Move Micheal!!" on the broadcast as Azira was just caught ball watching over and over again in the middle. Part of this can be attributed to the midfielders having trouble with the formation early (something fixed midway to half and tweaked at halftime) and part to just bad play. I have never thought of Azira as fast, but he looked positively slow in the 44th and 50th minutes as opposing attackers easily rounded him and went on goal.

Azira was improved in the second half, getting a few positive marks for some 1v1 defensive actions and just looking more comfortable in general. Micheal still played primarily two touch, but does switch the ball well and had a few passes that were very nice. Overall Azira just didn't look comfortable enough on the ball to be getting as many touches as you do in the middle of the field for SSFC.

Andy Rose
Community - 6.26
Realio - 6

Rose had a VERY quiet game and I believe suffered greatly from the lack of creative players around him. Andy works well making smart runs off of other players, but in this game where the midfield was so cramped there wasn't a lot of room to make runs off people. Couple this with spacing issues forward, and Rose looked lost.

Rose tried hard to impact the game, and repeatedly pushed forward to give the Sounders some offensive depth behind Neagle. He won headers, helped on defense, and did a lot of dirty non scoring work in the middle. I did like the backside (wide open!) run he made on Mears' free kick, but SHOOT MAN SHOOT! Instead, Rose pushed his volley back across the middle into the scrum. In the 38th minute he again went back post and put a wonderful header to Neagle on a corner kick which was wasted.

Rose had some turnovers and tries to pass through opposing players a bit too much for my liking, but he there wasn't a ton of marks for Andy on either side this week. I would have liked to see him making his usual diagonal runs in support of the wingers and am not sure why he didn't, other than perhaps the instructions were to stay compact in the middle and allow Neagle to make those runs (spoiler: he didn't).

Cristian Roldan (off 77')
Community - 6.32
Realio - 5

I really like Cristian, and think he has a ton of potential. He also really gives a lot of effort and hustle. Hustle only gets you so far here in Realio's Ratings however, and other then 9th and 55th minute marks for determination plays, I didn't have much else that I was impressed by Roldan vs. Kansas City. His less than MLS average rating reflects this.

I have a hard time putting full blame on Roldan for his rough outing as I really feel he is a quality technical player who needs more touches and to be used differently, but I also think you need to make the most in whatever role you are utilized. On Saturday Roldan became a shuttler type who barely touched the ball and just added to a compact mess in the middle of the field.

He can't blame the formation for ball watching multiple times (8th, 22nd, and 41st the worst I noted) and he again didn't have the stamina to play a full game which is becoming a bit worrisome as the effectiveness drop off when Roldan is tired is massive.

I will chalk this fairly poor performance up to the system not being set up to utilize his skills and the lack of creative elements to help him shine. In order to keep justifying starts though we need to see more from Roldan in the stat sheet than just some sporadic hustle plays.

Marco Pappa (off 80')
Community - 7.76 MotM
Realio - 8 MotM

Pappa looked to me to be the best player on the field and played with energy and flair for the full 80 minutes he was in. Unlike his teammates who seemed scared of the ball, Pappa was strong in possession, had multiple key passes and put both his shots on target.

I'll start with the three negative marks in my book: settling for a 30-yard shot in the 19th minute (heat check after the last few games? He had better options), a back heel turnover, and not tracking back consistently from the wing. The not tracking back put Mears into more pressure than perhaps normal, but Pappa offset this by being the most dangerous offensive player for either side.

Pappa put Neagle in on a 1v1 chance as early as the 8th minute, and again he put Neagle in on goal in the 36th, either of which could have been an assist but ended as wasted chances. In the 66th his perfect pass was the game winning assist called offsides wrongly. I marked Marco down for great service on corner kicks in the 9th, 38th ,38th, and 43rd minutes as well as set piece service in the 48th, any of which could and probably should have resulted in at least one goal. In fact, this was by far the best set piece delivery game of the entire year and one the Sounders will be disappointed to not have capitalized on.

Throughout this game Pappa was the sole creative spark and he continuously put those around him in a superior spot to score, but was not rewarded for his great effort.

Lamar Neagle
Community - 6.64
Realio - 5

I am still waiting for Neagle to finish a breakaway when his teammates put him on goal. This game was no different than others in recent memory when fantastic vision and skill from those around him put Lamar into a spot to imprint the score sheet and he just fails to do so. It is beyond frustrating to rate this guy.

Here are some good things I saw:

Neagle hustled on a great served corner ball from Pappa in the 9th minute and managed to direct his header towards goal (saved). He makes a good run in the 37th minute to get a 1v1 after another brilliant Pappa ball (saved). In the 38th minute on the ensuing corner he manages to get a head on a Rose redirect but is unable to score (whiffed). On the defensive side Lamar hustled at times and started a counter in the 42nd minute after helping on a defensive corner kick. His pass to Pappa in the 62nd minute was nice and he finished the "offside" goal well in the 66th minute.

Unfortunately most of these good actions by Neagle are followed by failure to complete the play. In the 8th minute Pappa puts him on goal but his terrible first touch takes him away from goal and allows 2 defenders to catch up. Compounding on this Lamar decides to take a long 25 yard shot instead of looking up and seeing an unmarked Pineda making a run down the middle of the field. Multiple times I saw Neagle come back to help defensively but then leave his man unmarked as he drifted back up front, causing havoc in the defensive shape.

The argument that Neagle is a forward and not a winger just gets more and more flimsy as I see him waste chances **and see another guy in the organization play this role perfectly **. Lamar is telegraphing his shot in the 37th minute and doesn't show any of the composure you want out of a striker. I can't help but compare to Barrett finishing 2/2 a few weeks back without even looking at the goal.

I can live with strikers missing shots as long as they are getting them and putting them on frame, and Neagle managed this twice. What I hated seeing was Neagle with very little positional recognizance and a failure to support the wings with diagonal runs. He left Roldan on an island with no options until too late many times. Lamar could have helped his midfield out by merely taking a high line to one side or the other of the center backs, effectively cutting off half the field and setting up the defense behind him, however he failed to do this and while standing square with the defense allowed KC to switch around him and forced his midfield to sprint in hot, humid conditions to chase the ball. I begrudgingly give him a 5 for getting into a few good spots maybe USL guys don't get to.

SUBS:

Leo Gonzalez (77')
Community - 5.89 (74% rated)
Realio - 6

Leo had decent positional play and earned a free kick in the 90th minute. No impact on the game.

Thomas (80')
Community - 5.34 (34% rated)
Realio - 6

Oh did Thomas play? He did track back, receive the ball and turn it up field to start an attack in a very "offensive midfielder" type move in the 90th minute.

Darwin Jones (86')
Community - 5.03 (16% rated)
Realio - N/R

Had a nice entry pass after collecting a long ball and making a diagonal run to support the wingers, something I had been waiting for all game.

REFEREE

Ismail Elfath
Community - 1.83 (58% gave him a 1)
Realio - 3

Both KC games have earned a 3 ref rating for similar reasons. Both swallowed their whistle unless histrionics were involved (more on this later). This led to some heinous mistakes from Elfath. When Azira fouled a KC player in the 7th minute and it wasn't called I could tell we were in trouble. In the 15th minute Elfath actually made a good call where he allowed advantage and then pulled the ball back for a free kick. Unfortunately it wasn't until the 70th minute where another positive remark was in the ref's column.

In the 21st minute Marshall is kicked in the stomach and de Jong gets... nothing? I believe because Chad doesn't go down rolling in agony he doesn't get this call. In fact, Benny Feilhaber was running around knocking people but because the fouls were against young players who don't embellish (Azira, Roldan, Rose) the whistle never blew. Yet when Zusi tumbled down after Marshall bumped him an immediate foul was called. Rose got the exact same contact in the 34th and nothing was called. Feilhaber levels Pappa in the 50th minute and when there is no call SKC happily took a dangerous counter attack.

Just like Marshall or Rose not complaining, the penalty in the 62nd minute that wasn't called for Pappa was DIRECTLY due to his keeping his feet. Unlike Zusi, Dwyer, and Feilhaber who tactically fell down to win fouls Pappa kept his feet even though he was definitely fouled in the box and wasn't rewarded with a PK. I absolutely hate this non call as it encourages embellishment. (Sounders also go down easy at times before someone starts that narrative.)

The penalty against SSFC was debatable (I think Frei has every right to make that play) but in light of the severe lack of whistles throughout this game it's just a complete travesty that Elfath decided at that moment to start whistling the game tight. It is just a shame that a ref can be so hands-off for 85 minutes and then put his imprint all over the final score line.

Elfath wasn't directly responsible for the "offside" call, but that was sad to see an out -of-position AR compound his mistake by raising the flag.

** There is a guy in the Sounders organization who is absolutely perfect for the single striker role Lamar tried to play Saturday who holds the ball and turns with pace or runs off the back defender. Unfortunately he's at Stanford or playing for the USMNT.**