In order to do my re-watch of a 1-4 loss to the Portland Timbers I muted the game. The production of the game just seemed awful to me - I couldn't stand to count the many times they showed the TA or cut to Joey during live game play or show 5 (FIVE!) replays of Valeri's close shot but not a single replay of Craven's diving header, and I DEFINITELY didn't want to hear the love affair from the announcers (Freidel with an absolute man crush on Gaston Fernandez and PTFC). It made for very quiet but slightly less excruciating experience. The ratings this week are low, and deservedly so.
The consensus from the 241 raters was rather low. It was the tightest contest between opposing players. Fenando Adi was judged best non-Sounder by 44% of raters. Darlington Nagbe earned that mark from 43%.
Stefan Frei (MotM)
Community - 7.09
Realio - 7
I am not sure how anyone gives up 4 goals but manages to earn Man of the Match, but Frei accomplished it. Seattle would have been scored on a few more times without some stellar goalkeeping. The first was a big save on a deflected shot in the 9th minute, diving to his right to stop a goal. The best was a reflex save off the line in the 52nd that was just fantastic and kept Seattle at least in the hunt for a point. These big saves sandwiched a number of other positional saves from the 20-plus shots that Portland managed on the night.
I didn't have a ton of issue with Stefan's distribution. He chose to go long more often this game to try to spring the forwards on counters and give the back a break, which worked a few times. He did have a clearance out of bounds and it is possible some of the problems with defensive positioning could have been alleviated by the keeper, but that seems like a long shot.
I replayed all the goals and it really didn't look to me like anyone saves any of the Timber goals. Frei was heartily let down by his defense in this one.
Community - 5.61
Realio - 6
Assists Change Games. I'll readily admit this was close to a 5 rating without the assist, but as I have continually stated this season Mears should take more set pieces. The highlight was his pinpoint set piece in the 38th that found Neagle for the only Sounder tally on the night. I want to see Mears taking more of a set piece burden as he continues to put pressure on the defense with consistent placement on free kicks.
Mears had some overlaps into space and almost found Craven in the 62nd minute for a goal that would have completely changed the game. The rest of his service was merely ok.
The entire back line was very disconnected in this game and Mears consistently dropped way too far in defense and failed to rotate over for cover when central defense stepped up. The center backs switched position multiple times during this game for tactical reasons and that may have added to the confusion, but Mears needs to protect the weak side better. An example of this was Adi's first goal in the 74th minute: as the defense broke down Mears was late to support.
Tyrone seemed to really struggle moving the ball up his wing and connecting with the halfbacks, and with roster churn I am not sure how much this will improve. Right now he seems tentative and without strong central play it might be best for Mears to just suck inside and clog the middle more instead of trying to give the team width from the back.
Community - 5.18
Realio - 6
I gave Brad an average score because I don't believe there was a ton an average MLS player would have done differently on most of the Timber's successes.
I marked Evans for winning a few aerials and having some good defensive plays 1v1. His sliding save on a dangerous chance in the box in the 41st was a great play and he had another stuff in the 68th that showed his tackling to be top notch. His stand up defense in the 60th minute was notable as well as the step to stop a break in the 73rd.
This last note was right before the wheels came off and showed good defending under a lot of sustained Portland pressure. Soon thereafter Brad was caught completely in no man's land, allowing Adi to score his first. On Adi's second, Evans dove in unnecessarily in a very advanced position and allowed a break to develop behind him.
I have no idea what happened to the defensive shape that we have come to rely on this season but it wasn't evident in the last 15 minutes of the game. The bend but don't break defense was actually very successful in limiting quality chances up until this point, and then the floodgates opened. Brad is culpable in the tactical issues, and I also hold him responsible for some of the mental weakness I saw after the goal. As the captain, he cannot allow the team to quit, and there was a lot of resignation after the Timbers regained the lead.
Community - 5.53
Realio - 5
I wasn't a fan of flying Marshall to Philly midweek and he turned in another lousy performance after a long travel day. I marked him twice in the book for good defensive actions (6', 48') and other than a few ok interceptions, Marshall had a dud from my vantage point.
As mentioned above, the Sounders switched center backs around a lot. I assume this was to keep Marshall on Fanendo Adi, but this wasn't skinny Starfire to compact the field. When Adi pulled Marshall away there was a lot of hesitation from the back. Because of this spacing issue, I felt that Chad was way too slow to close on Adi multiple times. Marshall was disconnected from Evans for long stretches of time, often backpedaling and leaving too much room between his line and the midfielders. This showed up fantastically bad on the second Adi goal where Evans stepped and Marshall was a good fifteen yards behind him. Without cohesion in the back center, Frei was left out to dry.
Like Mears, Marshall has the ability to supplement his defensive role, but his influence on the offensive side of set pieces has been dreadful to date. I want to just chalk this one up to travel, needing some rest, and a bad day. I know both Marshall and Evans can play better than this.
Community - 4.55
Realio - 5
After being a surprise in the Open Cup game, Fisher was switched to the left in this game against the same opponent. Oniel started off well in this one, with a nice overlap in the 5th minute. Unfortunately on the 12th minute goal Fisher started towards the ball and then stopped midway, permitting a shot that found the net.
Fisher seemed very tentative, often looking unsure when to bomb forward and when to support inside on defense. He looked especially unconnected to Pappa who roamed all over in front of him.
Fisher did show some great pace to close down Darlington Nagbe in the 20th and did the same in the 28th on Diego Valeri. Plays like these give every indication that he could develop into a solid outside back, but he needs to learn the position a bit better. Unfortunately this showed in the 74th minute when Oniel lost the ball after overlapping and then instead of recovering his position chased the ball to the middle of the field and trailed the play until the ball was behind Frei.
It looked to me like Fisher tired, and his touch and positioning were a complete mess after about 70 minutes or so. There is a lot of raw ability there, and I think backup right back is his position. Some headers are going to the middle and need to go wide, some passes are forced, and positioning in the Sounders system can be greatly improved. He needs to work a lot more on reading the game if he wants to play at MLS average level (just like another young right back we had once).
Andy Rose (off 69')
Community - 4.51
Realio - 6
Andy Rose showed up rarely in my notebook but what he didn't do is commit turnovers or actions that put the Sounders in bad spots. Rose played solid 2 way soccer, supporting what little attack the team mustered as well as committing fully to the defensive side of the ball. Knowing the central midfield was getting overrun, Rose moved more to the middle in the second half to help. It was very telling for me that Portland immediately started to dominate the game as soon as Rose subbed off, and they scored only 5 minutes later.
I think this was because Rose did a lot of little things that allowed Pineda and Azira to play slightly better. Multiple times I have notes that just say "Rose changes shape in midfield - Azira wins ball" or the like, where the support from the outside in took some pressure off the guys struggling. When Rose left the field, suddenly the middle was overrun and had no answers without an extra player willing to do the defensive dirty work that Andy turned in.
Andy dribbled out of bounds once and didn't come back hard for a checking run that ended in a Portland shot, but otherwise I thought Rose put in a nice effort.
Community - 3.79
Realio - 4
I hope the Erik Friberg signing allows positional flexibility that rests Pineda. When he subbed on late a few games ago he looked great, but he has failed to impress during any long stretches of playing time lately. It seems apparent that he is slowing down and conserving himself which only works if you have a phenomenal player behind him to support.
In small doses you can see the flair that Pineda brings to the field, showing some passing ability in the 18th and 22nd to find people in the box. He switches the ball well and has good control on balls at his feet. Unfortunately, this was an awful outing for Gonzalo outside of those notes.
Pineda picked up a foul in the 10th, 12th and a yellow after a 17th minute foul. His pace caused him to lose his mark (Nagbe) on the first goal. Soon after, Nagbe again eluded him for a shot (30'). Gonzalo was consistently dribbled around by quicker, more agile players and with no Ozzie Alonso behind him to clean up, the Timbers feasted on the space in the middle.
At this point I am ready to concede the leadership of Pineda to get a player who is more able to cover the ground in the middle of the field. Gonzalo played great last year and has shown similar effort at times in 2015, but he is too big of a liability pace-wise right now and with the current players around him.
Community - 3.91
Azira had a very up and down game vs. Portland. There were times when he did some good things, and then others where he was downright atrocious. Sharing the central midfield with a slow and ineffective Pineda didn't help Micheal's production, and there just wasn't much in the middle to be happy about.
On the plus side for Azira he won a lot of balls in the midfield. He plays a pretty good destroyer and his pressure forced turnovers from the Timber midfield. Although he doesn't get forward very often, he did get unmarked in the box in the 38th minute. Unfortunately like the rest of his game, this small positive was quickly diminished as he fumbled a spectacular chance away.
Micheal was forced to foul in the very first minute after some bad defense. The only thing keeping his mistakes from costing the Sounders more goals in the first half was some desperation defending to win the ball back. I lost count of the number of bad passes and plays that put others around him in bad positions.
It was Azira's lost possession that directly led to the second Adi goal and the final goal was also off an Azira miscue. Especially with Pineda, Micheal just CANNOT lose possession in the central midfield with no central support.
Azira spent most of this game running around trying to put out fires created by poor midfield spacing and lack of defensive pressure. I think he is a decent backup player, but we need to change the central midfield if we are going to expect better results.
Community - 5.31
Realio - 5
Marco is a creative player but he cannot function without support. He works best when surrounded by other skilled players he can work off of or when allowed space to create for other teammates who are moving for him. Unfortunately without the other skilled players around him, the Timbers had no fear in putting high pressure defense on Marco that limited his ability to create for others. Add to this a lack of movement when he had the ball and Pappa turned into a black hole of possession.
When presented with opportunities to put others in good spots Marco was dreadful in this one, taking a poor free kick in the 15th, putting a bad over the top ball in the 16th, and generally not moving the ball quick enough to alleviate pressure. The poor service continued in the 54th and 56th minute with bad passes that turned into turnovers. A lot of the issues were created by people watching him when he had the ball and not moving to open up passing lanes. However Marco was also to blame for not being very active himself. He was caught walking on the first Adi goal.
Marco had a few good defensive plays; his on the ball defense and support lately has been very good. He didn't work well with Fisher and flat out missed him on overlaps numerous times. I am not sure if this is due to unfamiliarity or a lack of faith in the younger player. At some point Pappa needs to pick his head up and move the ball quicker and just have faith he will get it back instead of trying to take on an entire team.
Chad Barrett (off 60')
Community - 4.54
Realio - 6
I liked a lot of what I saw from Barrett in limited minutes back from injury. He immediately alleviates a lot of pressure on Neagle to be a lone striker, and showed as early as the 6th minute that he could properly execute a checking run from the front. In the 8th he was active and attacked the 6 yard box, something sorely lacking as of late.
I like that Barrett has the ability to find the little spaces in the defense, from checking at angles to give a big target, to making vertical runs perfectly placed to occupy the center backs. He makes a lot of very smart decisions and I think his work rate from the front was very helpful for the Sounders' defensive efforts.
Chad dropped back and then both found and fed Azira perfectly in the 38th minute that should have been a goal. This sort of play has been lacking from the front and allows so many more layers to a team when there is activity and depth.
I did mark Barrett down for some poor passing and it was obvious he was tiring early. I also noted that he and Rose consistently made the same near post runs and were allowing a single player to mark them, something they need to figure out if in this situation again. But overall, Chad had a solid, workmanlike shift in his return from injury.
Lamar Neagle (off 82')
Community - 5.44
Realio - 5
Neagle was slightly improved with another striker up front with him, but still fell prone to a lot of the same issues we're noticing this season. I think Lamar is tired, and I would love for him to get a rest somehow. It is hard to watch a player who is usually so aggressive showing zero fight for a ball as early as the 5th minute of a Cascadia match.
Neagle had his usual turnovers, and Alvas Powell in particular seemed to consistently destroy Lamar. I have given up on Neagle holding onto a ball in possession. At this point I am just hoping he turns and runs at people every time he touches the ball. His bad touches killed multiple promising counter attacks when Seattle still had a chance for points.
The introduction of another target did allow Lamar to be more effective up front and he earned a nice free kick in the 14th after some hustle. His layoff in the 25th was an example of how to use his skillset. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the great concentration and nice finish on the perfect Mears free kick for the only goal of the game by the good guys.
Andy Craven (60')
Community - 4.51 (89% rated)
Realio - 5
Craven brought the 2 H's: Hair and Hustle. He immediately caused a turnover by pressuring a defender. In the 62nd minute Craven had a great near post run that saw him try the athletic diving header only to miss the ball by a small margin.
Craven exhibited little ability to show to the ball or link with Neagle, in fact I am not sure they managed a pass between them. Like Yedlin and Roldan before him, Andy needs to learn the speed and physicality of the MLS level. He was completely dominated by the Portland center backs in an ineffective final 28 minutes.
Cristian Roldan (69')
Community - 4.47 (88% rated)
Realio - 4
I credited Cristian for a nice cross in the 78th minute. Unfortunately that is the entirety of his positive marks.
On the first Adi goal, Roldan merely jogged back on defense even though subbing on merely minutes before. He was really late checking to Azira on the second Adi goal and needs to stay mentally in the game. This concentration lapse made it more difficult for Azira to get the ball off his foot. Cristian kicked the ball out of bounds in the 78th minute during one of the few times he touched the ball during his 30 minute shift.
When given opportunities to earn more playing time lately, Roldan has completely failed to impress. Against Portland he failed to give the amount of defensive help that Rose did and was basically invisible through most of his time on the field.
Darwin Jones (82')
Community - 4.18 (46% rated)
Realio - 4
Other than some good pressure on the fullbacks at times, Jones was ineffective. He was somehow off sides in the 87th minute and had a poor pass back in the 93rd that created a counter for the Timbers. Not a very good showing in those few minutes for Jones.
Community - 6.11
Realio - 5
I heard a bit of chatter about Marrufo having a good game, but my notes just didn't back this assertion up after my re-watch. He played advantage a few times correctly (even giving Rose a delayed yellow card) and most of his cards made sense. Unfortunately, not much else was consistent about this game.
While this wasn't the 29 fouls missed disaster of his first Sounders referee job, I still counted over 12 definite fouls not called and another 8 that were called but I thought didn't warrant a whistle. This made for a very choppy game where players had no clue what was in Marrufo's foul range and what wasn't.
Chara and others successfully pressured Marrufo into a card early on Pineda for repetitive fouls in the 17th minute, yet Fernandez didn't receive the same treatment a mere seven minutes later when committing similar indiscretions. Marrufo missed blatant fouls throughout and let physical play continue even after setting this early yellow precedent designed to curb persistence. Paparatto consistently went in very high (the most egregious being the 65th minute) without as much as a warning while Marshall lay on the ground after getting an elbow to the head. Evans was just destroyed in the box in the71st minute with nary a call. Seattle got away with plenty of rough play as well, Adi being manhandled every time he was near the ball.
Even the petty things that Jair Marrufo seems to always call went wanting such as the twice in two minutes where Will Johnson both kicked and threw the ball away after a foul call against with no caution (or even warning for delay). There was so much inconsistency with the amount and types of calls being made that both sides were very frustrated until Portland broke open the game. If this had been a closer game I think people would have noticed how many errors the referee committed.
No inspirational thoughts at the end of this one other than hoping the team can tread water, get guys healthy and rested, and get our full squad back to ass kicking mode sooner rather than later.