This was the first time I have been presented with a clear MOTM who didn't earn the highest notebook score on the night. The Sounders flexed their depth and showcased an exciting second half dominance that culminated in a 3-0 win over Dallas and pushed them to the top of the table.
Fabian Castillo was rated the top performing non-Sounder by 74% of the 353 raters.
Community - 8.08 (MotM)
Realio - 8
Stefan Frei is putting the entire package together every game now.
First off, you can tell Frei is well prepared and studies the game and film. He quickly closed down Castillo in the 26th obviously knowing his tendency to over dribble. Multiple times Stefan jumped on players' tendencies, quick off his line to support a besieged defense. Michel tried an Olympico in the 22nd minute but Frei was ready again well prepared for his shenanigans.
In the 31st minute Azira slipped and allowed Dallas to rush down the center of the field. A bad angle by Scott forced Stefan into a world class diving save to prevent a sure fire goal. SAVES CHANGE GAMES®. Instead of a goal lead on the road with Dallas looking around for a bus to park Frei kept the Sounders in the game long enough to get settled in and sub in game changers. That save was just awesome, the footwork and reflexes perfect, and the rebound wide and away from danger.
There are multiple games now where Frei has stood on his head and kept the score line manageable for the offense to get its groove. This is incredibly valuable as I believe the sounders are the deepest team in the league and have been hugely successful with coaching tweaks at halftime. Keeping that goal off the scoreboard allowed Sigi to go into half, do his magic, and turn the entire game around.
This defense is the best in the league and is led by an amazing goalie that not only is making every save he is supposed to, but also saving some which no keeper is expected to save. Small markdowns for generally poor distribution this game give Stefan something to practice this week.
Community - 6.65
Remick was much improved after a tough outing last game. Tasked with defending perhaps the best one on one attacker not named Oba in the league was a lot to ask of the young left back and he and Scott had mixed results in the first half matched up against Fabian Castillo.
Anyone not named Mears facing Castillo will get beat at times during a game and I docked Remick for some of the issues the left side of defense had in the first half. There were at least two times that Dylan was solely responsible for a Dallas attack that was nearly successful, and his tremendous pace is still covering for some slight positional issues throughout games.
Remick created offensive support behind the giant hole that Castillo left on the wing and did so by overlapping Thomas consistently in the first half. I noted good runs in the 2nd, 12th 36th and 45th minutes that all were quite dangerous. His service is quite excellent when moving up the left wing and Remick puts in a very consistent far post ball. Dylan looks more comfortable with the ball on his feet and spun out of pressure with foot skills instead of punting the ball ahead a few times which is promising in his development.
Community - 7.01
Realio - 8
When I looked down at my stat sheet I was surprised to see zero notable marks in the negative column for Chad Marshall this week. Chad had an excellent game, playing much better than against Kansas City and perhaps being more comfortable playing next to Scott with more reps in practice.
Multiple times Chad stepped up well to challenge, did his usual tidy job winning balls, having 4 interceptions and 9 clearances and showed very well tactically in this one. Marshall seemed to stay up farther and wasn't holding back as dangerously deep as he has recently. I was especially impressed by his single handedly stopping a break-away in the 48th minute by neatly dispossessing a dangerous Mauro Diaz. I have been a bit harsh on Marshall lately and hold him to a very high standard but in this game he showed he is still capable of playing to the level that earned him 3 DPOY awards.
Community - 6.29
Realio - 6
Coming off a rough game vs. SKC, Scott couldn't have been too excited to see Castillo coming his way early and often in this one. As expected, the start didn't go too great for Zach when forced into 1v1 situations with the crafty Dallas winger. He was beat for speed in the 24th minute, and quite badly again in the 28th in a spot that could very easily have resulted in a goal. In the 31st Scott was guarding an open space and ball watching as Dallas players ran around him and forced Frei into a fantastic save.
Zach, being the veteran he is, settled down and started to take better angles after this dangerous chance. He quickly recovered from bad positioning multiple times, the best in the 35th where Castillo was stoned after thinking he had passed Scott. As usual Scott turned in a hard working defensive game with aggressive play, won headers (4) and physical tackles. One thing that I really am noticing from Zach Scott is his distribution long from the back is quite impressive. Multiple times he had distant entries to wide midfielders or forwards that were inch perfect passes. His passing from a defensive area is second to Evans. Scott ended up earning a positive score from my ratings after a rough start and helped earn himself an average rating and the team a shutout.
Community - 7.27
Realio - 8
Mears proved he is the best right back in MLS again Saturday, showing great abilities in both defensive and offensive facets of the game.
On the offensive side, Mears started the game winning a free kick in the 4th minute right outside the 18 from overlapping Rose and earning a foul. He continued to stretch the Dallas shape and make consistent runs in support of the midfielders throughout. His set piece to find the head of Evans in the 50th minute was clearly something worked on in practice and executed perfectly. He also took a nice corner kick in the 74th minute.
On defense, Mears showed great 1v1 defense in the 8th minute to stop an attack, and again in the 32nd. Dallas coach Oscar Pareja made the silly mistake of switching the Castillo over to match up against Mears after halftime, and for the second game in a row Tyrone just annihilated their most creative player. The once dangerous Dallas winger was completely shut down by Mears, culminating in a 76th minute 1v1 dispossession indicative of their battles on the night. In this play with half of the field available to take on the Seattle defense, Castillo was fooled by Mears stepping back then closing quickly. Tyrone got a foot on the ball and neatly turned the attack away.
Mears was beat by Diaz early (11') and I noticed again a bad angle letting Zendejas inside of him in the 16th minute but these were minor mistakes from a player who is showing great confidence anchoring the right side of the best defense in the league.
Gonzalo Pineda (off 45')
Community - 5.05
Realio - 6
Pineda brings a lot to the team when allowed to float above Alonso and create offense over the top with his great left foot service. With Azira as a partner in the middle, Gonzalo was forced into a much more defensive role and was not able to affect the game offensively other than a vertical look to Dempsey in the 14th minute. Gonzalo had good positional defense for most of the half and has really tight control which was in stark contrast to the midfielders around him.
Pineda had a lot of turnovers (5) and most were just passing errors. Pineda is unfortunately wearing down already, and there are minutes in the center mf to be won by hungry bench players, outside signing, or player role reallocation. Gonzalo managed 45 ok minutes before being sidelined with injury, turning in an average stint in the middle of the field but nothing memorable.
Community - 5.62
Realio - 6
In the stands, I thought Azira had another rough game, but the re-watch showed Micheal turning in a fairly promising shift. His first half was a bit rocky and I think he may be too similar to Pineda to work well with him (they tend to gravitate to the same places on the field) but working behind Evans after halftime he was very good.
Azira had some bad passes (4) and tends to make them in dangerous areas of the field where there is little margin for mistakes. Micheal needs to stop clearing the ball to the middle of the field! Most players (besides Mears) were getting beat by Castillo speed wise and Azira added to this total twice in the first 15 minutes. After this he settled in nicely and other than the slip in the 31st minute Azira did many things quite admirably.
I have multiple positive defensive actions for Azira in this game, with positioning being the most prevalent. He also started dominating the area behind Evans and allowed Brad and Thomas to press higher by trailing the midfield and cleaning up anything behind the front 5. Azira is very strong on the ball and looks nicely forward when he is playing with the confidence he showed in the second half. Once allowed to play a freer role, I thought Micheal looked very good in the middle.
Community - 6.21
Realio - 6
I was pleasantly surprised with one of Andy Rose's better games at outside midfield. I like the chemistry he and Mears show on the right side, and I think this familiarity allows both to succeed. He stayed home a lot to help the midfield not be overrun when there were slower central players bunched together.
What Rose brought to the wing that stands out is his vertical passing. He had nice looks in the 3rd, 6th, and 9th minutes to Neagle on diagonal movement. Rose makes good far post runs from outside midfield and showed this in the 7th and again in the 12th minute, giving Remick a great aerial target for his overlapping crosses from the other side of the field.
When Evans and Oba came on there was less urgency for Rose to push the attack, but he still managed to keep alive the corner kick that Oba finished off. Andy's pass percentage was improved in this game and I thought he did decent job taking up the enormous amounts of space that Oba created on the left side.
Thomas Bedinelli (off 61')
Community - 5.65
Realio - 6
Tommy Jags is an intriguing piece to the depth of the Sounders' roster. He does some exciting things that bring variety to the lineup. Thomas has great vision and plays with his head up constantly. This is very important in the Sounders system that relies on control and possession through the midfield and allows him to link well with teammates. An example was his turn from pressure in the 40th minute, completely under control, and finding a Sounder player to continue attack. The pass weight was perfect and his calmness on the ball is classy. Thomas' run forward and high press along with Evans allowed Neagle to grab the loose ball that started off the scoring - on this play he slid left toward goal and offered a great option other than a 25 yard shot had Neagle chosen to lay it off.
There is a lot to work on in his game and this is definitely an unpolished player. In the 6th, 23rd, and 32nd minutes he showed zero inclination to play defense, putting in a halfhearted slide tackle and watching as defenders behind him covered the hole he left on the wing. Thomas took a set piece right before subbing and it wasn't impressive. There is a lot to like from this shift, and as he gets into shape I think he will fit nicely into the Sounders' system.
Community - 7.16
Realio - 8
I have not been a huge fan of Lamar so far this year but in this game he came out and annihilated the stat book, earning the highest score of the game with a plus 10. This performance was night and day different from his last few outings, and it started off in the 1st minute with game defining defensive activity and full field stretching. This is the effort we need from Neagle when he plays, a guy who is highly opportunistic and athletic playing both ways and forcing tempo changes from opponents while creating space for others.
I noted a disciplined angled run to the corner in the 6th minute that he only seems to make when he is confident and looking for the ball. It is such a quality run that allows Dempsey to tuck in behind and Rose push inside. These runs and hustle plays wore down a Dallas defense that simply had no answers in the second half. An example of Lamar's determination was his following up a bad back pass in the 8th minute and forcing a nervy moment from Dallas keeper Dan Kennedy. It might not seem like much, but this play started a precedent of Kennedy straying off his line to support the center backs.
I noted Neagle with great defense on a corner kick in the 22nd and he even had a well-placed corner service in the 76th. After Oba subbed in Lamar slid effortlessly into a wing position and still continued to play both ways, earning huge points from me for his midfield hustle defensively in the 63rd minute.
Lamar's goal was a tremendous strike from distance, and every time a SSFC player scores from outside it just opens more and more room for our DP's to operate in the box. I have to think that Kennedy was off his line due to earlier pressure from Neagle, and this opened the corner for the precision finish. Lamar's vision was excellent to pick out Leo for the icing on a dominant second half performance and earn an assist.
Neagle had a few turnovers and while he shows well for hold up play, his decision making on where to drop the ball off is awful. I thought the wide open Thomas a quality option but I can't argue with the finish on his goal. Errors were few and far between in this one and Lamar's performance puts him back in the conversation for heavy minutes with continuing play at this level.
Community - 7.07
Realio - 8
Clint just sort of did everything right in this one. There were flashy moves, (check out Likkit's GIF post for fireworks) but Dempsey is able to do these spectacular things because he is so incredibly proficient at the simple stuff. Clint just has amazing "handles" and there are five or so times a game where I have to go back and slow-motion watch a near impossible controlling touch or deft flick perfectly weighted to another player. These are instances where 90% of MLS loses possession and Clint not only keeps it, but usually puts Seattle in great attacking shape. Dempsey also alleviates pressure on the defense well by holding the ball and finding his teammates moving off the ball. When not directly involved, you can find Clint tirelessly running defenders away from the play, and his angles are fantastic. On the final goal of the game Clint drags two players across the middle and still may have scored if Lamar had passed to him. The hole he left behind was easily found by Neagle and led to a solid finish.
Dempsey might not have the stats to back up an MVP caliber season, but he is playing at an exceptionally high level every week.
Brad Evans (45')
Community - 8.05
Realio - 8 (MotM)
A few other guys had tremendous games (Neagle especially) but the clear MOTM was Evans for his utterly dominant 45 minute performance that completely changed the complexion of the game. Credit to Sigi for keeping the defense intact and putting Evans into the center of midfield. Tactically it worked perfectly, and the engine of the success from the final 45 minutes was Evans. Immediately in the 45th and 47th minute Evans made plays to win the ball and look direct forward, putting stress on the defense it hadn't faced in the first period.
Evans looked fantastic, and has the ability to press high intelligently. This pressure just destroyed the Dallas midfield who suddenly had no time to make decisions. Pressing only works with players who are both physically able (Evans showed great fitness playing both ways) and intelligent enough to make correct decisions. This was apparent when Thomas and Evans both stepped up quickly in the 55th minute, and Neagle pounced on the loose ball to open the scoring.
A side effect of Evans marauding forward was it dropped Azira into a more comfortable destroyer role behind him, allowing Micheal to excel cleaning up the stretched out Dallas middle. With Evans pushing high to support the forwards and Azira cleaning across behind him the entire defense stepped forward about 30 yards, changing the entire shape of the field of play. Evans didn't just change this game with his pressure, he won headers offensively, put perfect incisive passes forward, and looked goal dangerous while still connecting with the forwards.
Obafemi Martins (61')
Community - 7.98 (100% rated)
Realio - 8
Perhaps everyone can be a coaching genius if they have the luxury of subbing in USMNT hero Evans and freak athlete and masked predator Obafemi Martins. Oba was instantly and consistently dangerous, linking with Dempsey and forcing the backline of Dallas onto their heels for his entire thirty minute shift. Oba's individual effort in the 70th along with a great run in the 72nd were not rewarded with scores, but his 73rd minute finish was just pure beast mode. Oba completely outmuscled the bigger Kyle Bekker for position and his spin and finish on Kennedy was perfect. Obafemi's combination of power and finesse is just amazing on plays like these. It was again on display in the build up to the final goal as Martins held off a defender, spun and put a perfect pass to Neagle for an eventual goal.
Leo Gonzalez (77')
Community - 7.82 (83% rated)
Realio - 8
I wanted to call Brad or Oba Martins appearance as the best sub of the season, but that honor must go to Leo. I can't say enough about what this guy brings to the team. The lady behind me made a comment about "poor guy only gets 2 minutes after training as hard as everyone else all week". I explained to her that not only does Leo train as hard (harder) than everyone week in and week out but is directly responsible for the development of many of the younger players; most notably Dylan Remick who took his starting spot. Even knowing that he has been passed on the depth chart Leo continues to make those around him better and his competitive spirit shows. I just heard a great Leo story detailing when he untied an opposing player's shoes when he went down with injury so he had to tie both before subbing back in. That kind of competitive fire can burn through an entire organization.
What more can I say about his appearance? Leo made the right run, got the right pass, and performed the right finish. I have never seen such pure joy for another player's success as I saw on his teammates' faces when Gonzales scored. You simply can't ask for more from a player and it was obvious that this goal meant a lot to the entire team.
Leo Gonzales is one of the most consummate professionals I have ever had the honor of meeting and a true representative of what this organization should be about. If Leo indeed goes back to Costa Rica next year, there will be a giant smile and huge locker room presence missing from the Sounders.
Community - 7.11
Realio - 9
A nine rating = All Star, and this was an all star performance from the referee. I just LOVE that midway through the first half I wrote the note "is Kelly even there" due to his complete control of the game flow without whistles and cards. He correctly brought back a ball after allowing some advantage to play out in the 46th minute, and I have no issue with any of the 3 yellows given. Although 20+ fouls were called, they were amidst the play and Kelly was very good in controlling without becoming part of the match. I though this communication with the players and warnings spot on. When the only complaint I could muster was "ended first half during start of potential counter attack" you know the referee did an outstanding job. I thought this the best ref performance of the season so far.