Three games in a week? No problem! This Sounders team is showing depth and determination - Sunday to the tune of a 2-1 comeback victory over New York Red Bulls.
Editor's Note: Dave failed to post the Community Ratings Form so there aren't community ratings. He will be shot.
Stefan Frei - 7
Finally, Stefan Frei is getting some deserved chatter about being the best keeper in the league, and if he wins the award it will be based on games like this. No, he didn't earn a shutout and he didn't spend all game standing on his head saving goals. What he did and has been doing consistently all year is play great positional soccer: make all the saves you are supposed to with an occasional amazing save that keeps your team in the game while organizing a solid defense.
Sounder possession builds out of the back, and I noted six short distributions from Stefan, either small passes or roll outs to go with a short goal kick. Three times the ball came back to Frei and he was forced to kick long, something to keep an eye on as the season progresses (an article on this very site did some great research about Frei's distribution patterns this season-check it out). When not going long, Frei started good counter attacks with throws in the 15th, 20th, and 38th minutes.
In the back late there were some communication issues before clearance I would like to see addressed, as well as a bad angle on a free kick that I'm sure GK coach Tommy Dutra noted. In the goal against it was more notable that Frei almost saved it than any blame for the Sounders keeper. Clint Irwin could learn a lot by watching a tape of the awesome 61st minute curler save from Frei.
Dylan Remick - 7
Dylan didn't miss a beat from sitting midweek, slotting back into a starting role and playing very well against New York. His offensive game was on display almost from the outset, and he eagerly overlapped an inside-cutting Pappa throughout. Showing pace and persistence, the majority of the width on the left was through Remick runs. He showed off his fitness in the 78th minute with an over 70-yard run from box to box culminating in a cross to Neagle.
Dylan wasn't all offense in this game though, and I marked him down for a lot of effective defensive plays. Early on when Marshall gave Bradley Wright-Phillips the inside lane, Remick smartly switched over and stepped in to help. Dylan's 1v1 defense was on display, none better than in the 13th when he stoned Lloyd Sam. Remick even won four headers in this game, something he is not often noted for.
There were a few mistakes that kept this rating from being higher, mostly small unforced turnovers and positioning errors. A late 90th minute bad pass had a chance to end up rough for the Sounders. I would love his crosses and decision making on forward runs to equal the quality of his overlapping sets.
Chad Marshall - 7
Chad had a very even, consistent game. I noted a few missed passes, a couple of times where he gave the inside angle to a faster player (Remick helped out at least once on these) and a few desperation touches but nothing to really be upset with. I do question his decision to head back to the middle on the play that gave NY their free kick later converted to a goal. Perhaps it is hindsight, but an easy wide header would have been more effective in this case (and missed Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Evans).
Chad was a monster in clogging the passing lanes, making six interceptions and winning multiple headers. Marshall is starting to pop up on the offensive sheet as well lately, and I loved when he stayed forward after a set piece and headed down to Oba for a good chance on a recycled play. Chad looks more and more comfortable on the field with his role in the new Sounders defense and I hope this will lead to him being more effective on offensive set pieces which have been a giant void this year. (The Sounders have yet to score from a corner kick or free kick this year.)
Brad Evans - 6
For the first time since weeks 1 and 2, Evans earned a lower grade than Marshall from me. This isn't to say he was bad, as he was entirely adequate in this game, but Evans didn't fill the stat sheet like the last few games.
Brad still had multiple tackles, clearances, five won headers along with a lot of positional defense that was exceptional. Twice in this game Evans had to make perfect slide tackles (4th minute and 24th) to stop dangerous offensive attacks from the Red Bulls. This wasn't the early season Evans who was out of position and forced to slide to save himself, but a calm center defender using every weapon in his arsenal to quell a dangerous threat.
Although I didn't mark down a lot of notes for Evans, he was still active with pushing the ball into the attack from the back, and made good choices on when to push and when to hold on defenders. I think Evans is quite lucky not to have been called for a penalty in this game. However, Remick played good defense, the cross came from nothing and flicked off Marshall, and BWP caught the ball with his arm. I am not sure what else Evans could have done there.
Tyrone Mears - 8
The Red Bulls game came down to a two-person contest for MOTM with Tyrone missing by a hair. Mears has been playing well this year and in this game he filled the notebook to the tune of a +10 score. On the negative side I had Tyrone being beaten once, and a header in the 34th minute that went to the middle and was dangerous. The positive side was a different story:
This game showcased the all around game that Mears brings to the table. His positional defense was impeccable throughout and 1v1 tracking solid, but where he really excelled was in his contributions to the offense. Mears overlapped consistently from minute 1 through 93 and punctuated his forward runs with tremendous service.
A few highlights from my notebook: "Great look to Dempsey" (41', 77'), "Nice overlap and back post cross" (48'), "Wonderful skill to put Neagle over the top" (74'). His head is always up looking for a pass and he is able to see runs develop quickly, following up with deadly accurate service. In the 33rd minute he shows this perfectly. After a set piece the ball moves around and ends up at Tyrone. He advances, realizes that Marshall is still forward, and puts in a great pass that Marshall nods down to Oba. This quick thinking almost created a goal. I have long been a proponent of Tyrone getting a look on set pieces and twice he was called upon. A 53rd minute try went into the wall, but the 61st minute free kick was very dangerous. I hope he continues to get more chances from dead balls, as taking these is a consistent weakness on the team.
The game-winning assist looks like a soccer textbook diagram. First, the overlapping run of Mears is found by Dempsey, and his cross pulls Robles off his line. This service started out looking like an easy grab for the keeper, before wickedly tailing away to the back post. After taking 2 steps forward to catch the cross, the NYRB keeper realizes he can't reach it. By the time the ball lands on Dempsey, Robles is caught in no man's land off his line and tries to step back to cover a near corner header. This leaves Clint with an entire goal to slot to. I was really impressed with Mears this game, and this series was a perfect example of how he can affect the score line.
Cristian Roldan (off 64') - 6
Roldan showed he can play back-to-back games on short rest and still bring a lot of energy and vigor to the field. This game he wasn't as effective, only earning a plus 2 in my book. It could have been higher should the 12th minute header off a set piece have gone differently. His placement (low and away) was perfect and I wouldn't be surprised if Robles' great save earns many Save of the Week votes.
I saw a lot more of Cristian tucking inside this game, and I am not sure if that was by design to get Mears down the line or because of diagonal runs from Rose or Oba or what. Roldan didn't look too comfortable in the middle and dribbled into trouble a few times. This caused a number of turnovers and forced him to foul in the 15th minute, giving up a dangerous free kick.
Cristian seemed much more active in the first half than the second and almost all his positive marks are early in the game once again. He tends to combine well with Rose, although both disappeared for long stretches after halftime. In the 57th minute I noted he had finally joined the team with a nice run down the wing and some crosses. I understand why he was subbed, and if Roldan wants to be seriously considered for more permanent playing time he will need to remain focused and part of the game for longer than 45 minutes.
Andy Rose - 6
After a tremendous midweek game, Rose fell back to average this weekend. As mentioned above, Andy may have been fatigued some, leading to his scores tailing off as the game proceeded. The score book for Rose only had a few negative marks (rough touch, or mistimed run) but just didn't have enough on the positive to warrant more than an "average MLS player" rating.
The positives were the usual, winning the ball in midfield and especially clogging passing lanes. Rose isn't the physical destroyer that Alonso is, but he uses his size and has good instinct defensively. On offense he is showing much better touch and continues to be more vertical minded when he is on the ball. His vision and pass was the outlet to Martins, who found Pappa for the first Sounder tally on the afternoon.
I like what Andy Rose brings to the midfield, but I think he needs to be fresh in order to utilize his superior hustle and continue to make 3rd man runs well into the second half.
Osvaldo Alonso - 7
Ozzie has been inconsistent this year with his play but one thing that has been evident throughout is his willingness to mix it up and do so early. The game wasn't even a minute old and Alonso had shown his intentions with a very physical challenge in the middle. These takeaways in the midfield continued all game, and he controlled the tempo well.
Unfortunately this physical play style has gotten him in trouble a few times already this year. It didn't necessarily hurt the team in this game, but Ozzie needs to be careful that he doesn't rack up too many yellows and disciplinary suspensions. His foul in the 46th on the sideline was completely unnecessary and seemed retaliatory for being beat up in the first half. His yellow was deserved and while I totally understand the foul discrepancy in the game contributing to some harsh feelings, he shouldn't take it upon himself to right all wrongs.
I was impressed again with Alonso's cross field switching, often finding Pappa in yards of open space. His steal and pass to Oba in the 88th minute probably should have had better results.
Marco Pappa - 8 (off 89') MOTM
Marco Pappa is one of the hardest players to rate week in and week out. He does a TON of stuff that is really hard to quantify, and won't show up on any stat sheet. He also makes a lot of mistakes that can end up pretty badly. In this game, the good vastly surpassed the bad to the tone of a MOTM-worthy performance from the Guatemalan winger. Every time he touched the ball, Pappa was goal dangerous creating many chances and finishing one of his own to boot. Pappa is going to have some bad giveaways across the middle, and against NYRB this happened late in the first half. Luckily both that I noted didn't amount to anything. Marco had a few turnovers and rough touches, but most of these were due to his increased workload driving the creative attack through the midfield.
The Sounders haven't scored a set piece goal in about 20 games and Pappa was both good and bad in this one as the main distributor. Two of his five weren't taken well; in fact the New York goal came off a short service from Pappa that failed. He also had the great service to Roldan in the 12th minute as well as a 52nd minute beauty. I would like to see more consistency in set pieces which may lead to more success in finishing.
One thing that Pappa continuously does well is open field crossing. When he is running full speed (or juking someone out of their shoes with stopovers like in the 41st) Pappa delivers perfect crosses into dangerous spots. Pappa also has taken on increased creation duty, and responded to the tune of 4 key passes. Marco's moves and finish ended in a great goal (GOALS CHANGE GAMES) and he was deserving of an assist as well from his numerous great service from open play.
Obafemi Martins - 6
Oba struggled for most of this game, but bounced back late and contributed quite a few positive marks in the last 20 minutes. With a hurt leg and a broken nose, I can give Oba a pass for not being his usual dominant self.
Oba's troubles seemed evident with his hold-up play. He was either unwilling or unable to do much shielding of the ball, and he lost possession multiple times when confronted with tight defense. His 33rd minute trip in the box on a wide open look was fairly representative of his first half struggles.
Luckily for SSFC, a struggling Obafemi Martins is still a nuisance and average MLS player. Even surrounded by a lot of negative marks, Oba found Dempsey in the 14th on a good pass and was actively making great runs; in the 41st minute he almost reached a Pappa cross before Robles. In the second half he was even more effective, finding Dempsey and the wingers more consistently. It was his hold-up and switch-of-field to Pappa that resulted in the first goal (and on that play he was WIDE open for a return pass that may have been an easier finish than the one that ultimately scored). Ever the professional, Oba's hustle in the 77th minute earned a corner and twice in the last five minutes he pulled three defenders away from others to create space.
This wasn't a great game for Oba, but it is telling that even having a rough game he can still contribute.
Clint Dempsey - 7
Clint also had a slow game at times, but just like his strike partner he showed up when it was really necessary. Unlike Oba, Clint didn't litter the field with rough touches and turnovers, but he did disappear for long stretches as he turned decoy, making runs to open space for others.
Dempsey may have filled the stat sheet more had his teammates performed. His perfect pass to put Martins through in the 28th was squandered, and he repeated a similar touch to give Pappa a look in the 32nd. Throughout the game Clint looked to spring players but wasn't able to influence the ball a lot.
Deuce tried to take on too many people a few times. When teams clog the middle and press, Clint is so valuable when he drops back and assumes the deep-lying playmaker role, but he needs to pass out of this and not try to dribble through three uys. This works best when the other forward and a winger make vertical runs off him though, (see Barrett, Chad) and there wasn't enough movement to allow him much purchase in the midfield against New York.
Lamar Neagle (on 64') - 6
Lamar was given an extra 10 minutes Sunday and did markedly better than the midweek game. Unfortunately while better, it was still a rough outing. A few bad touches, a pointless foul, and two giveaways on the same play were the lowlights of his shift.
On the other hand, Neagle was a willing runner in this one, playing centralized defense and had a good pass to Oba in the 80th that created some trouble. I also liked his movement to draw defenders multiple times in the last 10 minutes and create space for the forwards.
Zach Scott (on 75') -- 6
Scott did an average MLS center back job this week, pressed into service with Evans picking up a knock. There wasn't a lot in the notes about him, other than I really like his willingness to go near post on corner kicks. Scott was also late on Richards in the 88th which could have been a disaster. Scott's game is all about minimizing the mistakes and integrating well with those around him, something we should see next game with Evans out.
Chad Barrett (on 89') - 7
Barrett proves that it doesn't matter how long you are on the pitch, you can make an impact. He was active on both ends of the field, especially impressing me in the 90th minute where he combined with Mears to calmly play the ball out of his own 18-yard box and start a counter. The same player making defensive actions in his own box also followed up Dempsey's magic touch and ensured SSFC took all three points.
Juan Carlos Rivero - 6
Rivero was pretty good in this one, but I really hate when referees allow one team to continually crush another without repercussions. In this game NY committed 19 fouls and they were mostly midfield, tactical hacks. I would like to see the players protected more. Two minutes into the game Alonso was blatantly tripped and even though the ref played on advantage correctly, this was a yellow card every day and he should have revisited the play after it was over to give the caution. Instead, players on both sides were allowed to continually play over-aggressive without getting penalized.
Rivero was consistently close to the play, and I think correct in awarding yellows to Perinelle for a foul, Felipe for audible screaming profanity, and Ozzie for his foul. What I don't understand is McCarty being warned in the 39th then stopping a counter in the 60th with a tactical foul - no yellow. Perinelle was on a yellow before giving Alonso a high elbow (right before his kick out) that was to the head. Felipe who was warned in the 2nd minute gets a card for dissent, but not for persistent fouls?
Sam did receive the aforementioned persistent fouls card, and the loop di loop signal used was quite cute, but I think Rivero missed a penalty committed by Evans (as well as a hand ball prior to the Evans tackle). There was just too much let go here to give anything other than an average rating this week.
I almost forgot, I tweeted out a promise to clue everyone in on a secret for blah matches so here it is courtesy of the guy behind me at the game. Because there was a lot of possession and passing around the back, it seems this loud fellow had derived his own Sounders Possession Drinking Game (SPDG?). There is only one rule: Every time Tyrone Mears touches the ball, take a drink! Then scream loudly "BEERS FOR MEARS". If he doesn't touch the ball for a while, start yelling "switch Dempsey and Mears, put Mears at forward" constantly until Tyrone touches the ball, at which point you cheer and take a drink. Heartily attempt to get everyone around you to join in, and make sure to continually yell "MEARS FOR BEERS". Somehow, this guy avoided being stupid and annoying and was instead amusing and fun, although a bit hard to explain to the in-laws who were in town from Illinois and attending their first Sounders match. Maybe it was just less annoying because I was surrounded by good friends and we won.
Finally, I want to give a very special happy birthday to my mother Diane Perry, who not only edits this column for me every week (fixing all my thens and thans), but is an amazingly inspiring person, avid soccer fan, and my biggest supporter in life. Happy birthday mom.