I had such a great feeling after leaving this game - a gorgeous summer day and a 4-0 thrashing of Orlando made me forget I had contracted some gross cold in Holland. The best part of the experience for me was knowing that even though we looked awesome the entire game, we still have more firepower (Osvaldo Alonso, Clint Dempsey, Andreas Ivanschitz, Marco Pappa) to add to this team as well as room for many to still improve and learn their teammates better. For the first time in quite some time I genuinely looked forward to re-watching a game and analyzing all the wonderful ways the Sounders clicked vs Orlando.
It was a pleasure reliving how perfectly the new and returning players melded with the current starters and how much confidence this brought to the entire organization. I have been preaching a "glass half full" opinion of the squad and for at least one day, we have seen how great this team can play when it executes well. I think this is a compliment to the resiliency of the squad and I am impressed how well the coaching staff was able to integrate all these new and different parts into a dominant soccer performance.
The worst part of my rewatch was seeing the ECS drummer actually stopping his drumming to tell the camera to f off while flipping the bird in the 27th minute. You stay classy drummer guy.
Editor's Note: A gigantic 755 people submitted valid ratings and 71% of them thought that Tally Hall was the best non-Sounder.
Community - 6.83
Realio - 7
Rating the keeper after a 4-0 game in which he didn't have to make a save can be tricky, but luckily Frei gave me plenty to analyze. It was clear as early as minute number two that the options in the back were changed. Stefan moved from short possession to longer yet accurate kicks to the wings, usually in the direction of Rose or Valdez who both proved capable of retaining possession from long passes. With new left and center backs it made a lot of sense to take no chances being caught in the back, and SSFC did that well without putting undue pressure on the midfield. Frei was very assertive to come off his line in the 15th, following that up by throwing out to Neagle for a darting counter attack Stefan was dominant coming off his line to corral a cross in the 46th and again in the 47th. A final assertive punch in the 71st thwarted an attempt and also had the bonus of beating up Aurelien Collin.
I also want to give credit to Frei for organizing a defense with two new defenders, one of whom doesn't speak English. Communication is essential and the Sounders made it look easy - in large part due to the leadership and direction from the keeper who started everything from the back and kept a clean sheet while making it look simple.
Community - 6.39
Realio - 6
I wasn't as enthralled with Fisher's performance on Sunday as many in the comments, and for me he had an average game that was both up and down throughout.
On the positive side I really like his confidence. Fisher passes the physicality eye test, looks ready to play and doesn't seem overwhelmed at all by the situations he is pressed into. He assertively stepped to the ball in the 14th minute showing all the confidence of a weathered veteran. In the 22nd Oniel overlapped down the left side and got a cross in. During this play he showed a propensity to cut into the box towards the goal after gaining separation, where I think a naturally left footed player would continue down the line. It's an interesting difference and one I'll be watching for results.
Pressure on Fisher can result in mistakes, as his 4th minute turnover evidenced. One thing he will need to learn is how to minimize the damage when put into a situation where it's inevitable to lose possession. Oniel was called for a foul throw in the 12th minute (odd) and he was forced to foul Winter in the 43rd after being beat. He had some poor passes and dribbled into trouble in the 79th. I would like to see him work on service if he is going to attack wide but I am intrigued by the angles he takes in attack.
Community - 7.34
Realio - 8
Chad turned in a simply great performance next to a new central partner. Marshall had 6 interceptions and seemed to be in the right place anytime someone slipped up. Did I mention how dangerous Marshall looked on corners? Orlando agreed with me, fouling Chad to earn the Sounders a penalty kick.
I didn't have a single negative mark for Marshall, which is amazing considering he was starting next to a center back he has probably known for about a week. I was very pleased with the communication throughout the game by the entire defense, and while the man advantage obviously helped, I give a lot of credit to the team and coaching staff to integrate a completely new player into the game seamlessly. It remains to be seen how our twin towers work against a smaller, quicker forward corps, but against the prototypical target forward they were absolutely dominant. In this game, Marshall hardly put a foot wrong and completely destroyed Cyle Larin throughout the match while being a monster on set pieces. With the central midfield shuttling any attacks wide, Orlando's few scoring chances were built around crossing into the minefield of Torres, Marshall, and Frei - to little success.
Community - 7.65
Realio - 7
Torres started his Sounders career off with an easy above average rating, equaling the best score given to Zack Scott all year. Roman announced his arrival with a thundering header in the 1st minute, and then showed he is not all brute force with an intelligent calm control in the 2nd minute instead of just clearing long. Torres attacks a ball in the air as well as I have seen anyone in the league, and he looks to have well above average flight tracking, allowing him to beat players to a spot. Couple this with tremendous leaping ability and Roman Torres is a veritable force in the air. I was impressed as well with his composure, using Frei as an option multiple times and looking comfortable with both feet.
Roman wasn't perfect in his debut, forcing a long ball for a turnover in the 8th minute and heading a ball back to the dangerous center in the 14th. He was beat while diving in on an Orlando attacker and required the ever present Marshall to bail him out. I noted that Torres pressed higher and higher in the game, at times well over the midline which I believe was just a side effect of the man advantage. As the game wore on Roman looked to be more offensive, staying up after corner kicks and looking to present a big target forward. Torres on free kicks is an imposing presence and he creates huge amounts of space for others; Marshall created the PK from a nice rub move from Torres. I am expecting big things from set piece offense with all these options.
I was also impressed with Torres' long ball control, picking out Fisher on the left wing with an amazing 40-yard switching pass in the 80th minute. He topped this in the 92nd with a perfect over the top pass to Thomas that earned Torres an assist on the night.
Community - 6.90
Realio - 6
I am not sure where Mears was this week. After an early overlap in the 2nd minute he didn't show up in my notes until the 88th for a perfect crossing pass from the right. In between those points of interest Mears didn't do anything particularly notable, but I did notice how consistent the pressure from his side (with Rose) was and how compact the shape was. As Andy supported in behind the forwards Tyrone was very effective in defending his space as well as working with Torres throughout the game. Rose and Mears were very fluid in their defensive work and looked comfortable switching as necessary.
I was happy to see Mears support the slower center backs when needed as their lack of pace may be the only possible weakness. I fully expect Mears to be more involved in games where we need extra width and dynamic outside attacks around inverted wingers, but especially with the man advantage there wasn't much need for Tyrone to advance often.
Community - 6.29
Realio - 7
I thought his first-half performance was one of Lamar's best of the entire year. Freed from being any sort of attacking fulcrum or centerpiece, Neagle was allowed to float in from the wings and attack from the width, which played perfectly to his strengths.
In the first half Lamar had a massive impact on the ratings sheet, with his lone negative mark coming in the 28th minute when he fell in the box, losing possession. His positive marks were many, starting in the very first minute with a ball pressure and following this up in the 6th minute with a sneaky move across the keeper that almost caught Tally Hall unawares. I marked Neagle down for a tremendous run to get a header on goal in the 13th from the back post followed almost immediately by his assist. Practice paid off as he expertly held position and instead of trying to control the ball just redirected it into the path of the Locobamotive.
Lamar was active both directions, hustling to get position on Tyler Turner in the 28th and tracking back in the 32nd minute to win the ball. It was Neagle's supreme hustle to first dispossess then force a foul from Turner that ultimately saw the Orlando player sent off in the 40th minute.
Unfortunately the second half saw a large drop-off in success by the Sounder player who was eventually pushed forward to striker. I noted poor crosses in the 46th and 55th minutes, and a crummy pass to the middle in the 49th that had no chance. Neagle was much slower in the second half and as soon as he was pushed to an advanced position from the wing he was constantly walking. To top off a forgettable second half he missed a wonderful opportunity in the 60th minute when Friberg put him 1v1 with Hall and he put his shot in the vicinity of drummer guy.
I really was happy with Neagle's performance in the first half and I think he may be best utilized in small doses coming off the wing as an auxiliary player as the newer players get more acclimated. He at least proved to me that he still remains very dangerous when allowed to be a 3rd or 4th option in bursts.
Community - 8.33
Realio - 9 (MotM)
Masterful performance by our Swede this week who was the best player on the pitch. It is hard for me to put into words the dominance that Friberg exhibited in the center of the park this week. I marked a poor free kick taken direct and one poor pass turnover in the 68th. Other than that, my entire negative side of the book was filled with overflow from the positive side.
Friberg's service all afternoon was great. His cross in the 6th minute was dangerous and his set piece in the 8th was spot on. You can just see the confidence increase as Friberg gets into game shape, and it's showing up with defensive pressure. I noted recoveries in the 23rd, 47th, 49th (this final one eerily Ozzie Alonso'esque as he just destroyed Kaka physically and turned up field). His fitness coming along allows Erik to pressure more. This showed up in a new burst speed, and he used it to pillage the midfield creating counter attacks and breaking up any chances Orlando tried through his zone. Early on he sprinted to steal a ball, found Valdez and culminated in an Oba shot. Another time Erik had a sweet one touch pass to Valdez for a cross that ended on Neagle's head.
Friberg was everywhere, his pin point passes driving the Sounders tank while it plowed through the Orlando defense. Set piece delivery was perfect in the 24th, and corners in the 22nd and 29th (this one forcing the PK) were particularly dangerous.
Friberg only got better in the second half. He started off in the 51st minute with a perfectly executed short corner service to Valdez who buried the header for a really important second goal. A few minutes later in the 55th minute he put Neagle in for a good chance and again in the 60th an even better chance was handed to Neagle via Friberg's sweet service. The trifecta of services to Neagle ended in the 74th minute and resulted in a just-missed header. Erik finished off his amazing day with a perfect pass over the defense to Jones in the 91st minute truly dominating the midfield for the entire game.
I am not sure that I have seen an attacking midfielder play as well for the Sounders, certainly not this year. When I wrote this: This Friberg guy is pretty good I conjectured what he could bring to this offense. This effort from Sunday checks off just about every single one of those points. Adding more quality players around Erik just increases his effectiveness.
Brad Evans (off 80')
Community - 7.33
Realio - 8
The time at center back really helped how Evans looks at the game, and this was in evidence throughout his performance vs. Orlando. Brad was flying around the field delivering tackles and dispossessing any player in range. In the first half alone I marked him with tremendous defense in the 4th, 7th, 13th, 28th, and 34th. Many of these were turned into counter attacks the other direction. I noted two great counters originating in the 63rd and 77th specifically from Evans' defensive actions.
Brad did have a poor cross in the 2nd minute which was amidst one of his few vertical runs, and a pass or two went awry. I am a bit concerned that Evans gets beat up in the middle of the field and he was down multiple times in worrisome fashion. My favorite aspect of the game turned in by Brad was his complete awareness of game state. Multiple times Orlando looked set to break out after a corner or advance play but each time Evans immediately put massive pressure on the ball, often forcing the attack back or at least stopping progress and earning a throw in. Any of these plays could have been dangerous but Brad effectively pinched off the attack before it could be executed. This allowed the defense to return to position and shows what a fantastic tactical mind our captain possesses.
Kaka was turned into a nonthreatening observer for most of the game due to the positioning of the internal two midfielders. The communication and cohesiveness between Friberg and Evans was simply fantastic and they completely dominated the midfield in both directions for the game's entirety. Their central defense turned all attacks to the wings, and I doubt many teams have luck crossing from the wings against this central pairing.
Community - 6.26
Realio - 7
Andy Rose had an underappreciated but great game against Orlando. When you have a team with as many stars as the Sounders do, you need some "glue" guys who can do all the little dirty work needed to make the unit cohesive. I saw a ton of this from Rose this weekend. Every time the forwards put in work in diagonal runs Rose dropped underneath to force pressure back into the offensive third and allowed Evans and Friberg to sweep underneath.
Rose and Mears were a seamless defensive unit on the right side, switching often without skipping a beat and stopping any attacks from the left of the opponents. Often both would advance such as in the 9th minute when Mears' pressure earned a shot or the 18th when the combination won possession in an advanced position for the good guys.
Often targeted from passes in the back, Rose won a majority of long ball headers, keeping possession to a teammate. An example of this was in minute 2: he had a great flick to Oba off a long ball from Frei which shows great awareness from all three Sounder players involved. Rose's head proved to be a popular choice from the back line, and Rose was adept at passing the flicks off towards the ever-moving forwards.
The most impressive part of the game from Rose was his lockdown man marking of Kaka and clogging of the passing lanes throughout the game and I think even with more players arriving we will need someone willing to do this level of team-first play.
Nelson Haedo Valdez (off 55')
Community - 8.19
Realio - 9
Wow. This guy is REALLY good. He was another player I didn't mark a single negative in his entire shift. And boy, did he fill up the positive side during his limited time. Constantly moving, Valdez was a force of nature in the front and sides of the Sounders attack. So many times I was amazed to see him control the ball in traffic and keep plays alive in ways that only Clint Dempsey has done this year.
Nelson introduced himself to the fans in the 3rd minute with perfect hold up play. His great control actually started the sequence that resulted in his first Sounders shot on goal in the 6th minute. It's obvious that there is chemistry already between Nelson and Oba, which he displayed in the 9th minute with a beautiful one touch over the top to find his strike mate. In the 10th minute he won a header from a goal kick and directed it flawlessly to Martins again.
Perfect holdup play was in evidence all night, and his control in the air was spectacular. I noted simply "wow" for his control in traffic and holdup play in the 42nd minute. Whether it was chest traps, controlled headers to others, or touches in tight spaces, Valdez's touch was simple perfection. When not showing off his control Nelson was all over the place, forcing pressure, creating chances, and ultimately creating a yellow card in the 23rd minute due to hustle.
In the 51st minute Valdez showed exactly how to attack a header and snap the ball's own momentum to get immense power; Tally Hall had no chance to save his perfectly placed shot. He didn't quit there, I noted 4 minutes later Nelson in the right corner helping Mears on defense briefly before being subbed in the 55th minute.
This was as complete a performance as we have had all year from a forward, putting in the work to bring others into attack, setting up shots for teammates, being a consistent target through and in the air, and finishing chances. I am super excited to see just how good he can be for our team.
Obafemi Martins (off 65')
Community - 9.27 (MotM)
Realio - 9
Oba is back and the emotional difference that made for the team cannot be understated. He changes the game completely by giving a viable attacking threat that can alter things simply on his own merits. He did this by taking the game by the throat in the 18th minute on an incredible run through traffic with help from Friberg and Neagle. I have no idea how he kept his balance slaloming through the defense and somehow finishing true. He is just amazing.
I thought a bit quicker of a step might have given him a goal earlier with his feet off a nice Valdez pass in the 9th that Oba elected to slow up and try to head unsuccessfully. Martins' continual movement was apparent all game and he definitely has his burst speed back. Another calm finish (take notes Neagle) in the 62nd capped off a two goal game that could have been three or more.
Oba had his usual errors, some errant passing being common and the most egregious a missed Penalty Kick. But we don't care about that, we care that a guy who is one of the true MLS game changers is back and looks in prime shape to finish out the year on a high. He was dominant in all facets of the game; his holdup and interchange with Valdez was flawless, and I just can't wait to add Dempsey to this strike force. It's going to be exciting!
Thomas Bedinelli (55')
Community - 6.92
Realio - 8
Thomas entered in the 56th minute and was allowed to float around the midfield underneath the strikers. I liked this freedom allowed the Brazilian, and he responded by being a creative force for the last half hour of the game.
Thomas plays with his head up, and it was his pressure on the ball/deflection that bounced to Oba for goal number three. Thomas showed a nice ability to hold up and turn on the ball in the 68th minute and turned in a perfect pass to Jones in the 89th.
I marked him down for a poor back heel in the 64th and a turnover in the 66th to go with a bad pass in the 87th. Thomas was too slow on the ball to shoot in the 91st minute but when given another opportunity a minute later showed he had learned his lesson. Acquiring a pinpoint long ball from Torres in the back Thomas controlled the ball well, attacked the goal, and finished the scoring on the night by slotting a shot home. A goal and an assist from this young player made for a very productive substitute outing.
Darwin Jones (65')
Community - 5.59
Realio - 7
I think this may have been Darwin's best outing as a Sounder, and he impressed from the wing. Instead of being slotted up front as he has most of the season, Sigi made a great tactical decision to leave Thomas up front and have the fresh legs of Jones run up the left wing. Being a right footed player, Jones consistently cut into the middle of the field but was very effective attacking goal all night. His shot on goal in the 79th minute after a cut inside was tremendous and he had a nice run in the 89th that received a pass from Thomas. I think Jones can be a part of the future if he continues to improve whenever he gets playing time, but his development has been slow.
Cristian Roldan (80')
Community - 5.52
Realio - 6
Instead of being on the wing, Sigi chose to leave Rose wide and allowed Roldan time in the middle of the field. Cristian looked very comfortable in the middle and was consistently in good position. He was solid and calm on the ball whenever he touched it, maintaining a lock on the midfield of Orlando. Cristian still needs to work on his touch since a lot of his time is spent chasing his own rough control, and he was too slow to pull the trigger in the 89th minute, but I thought Roldan looked pretty good this game.
Community - 6.30
Realio - 6
For a game with as many huge calls in it, I actually didn't think that Stott had much to do in this one. The yellow card for a foul committed against Valdez was correct, and while soft I think the shirt pull warranted a second yellow. I like that Stott wasn't going to allow fouls just because the player was on a yellow already. I think the PK was pretty obvious and correctly noticed. Some debate can be had about the Darwin Ceren foul (red or yellow).
Stott missed a few calls in this one; one was a very dangerous foul against Oba early that I thought deserved at least a whistle. I think Stott missed a handball on Ceren in the 60th right in front of him and Rose pulled Kaka fairly blatantly in the 68th for no call.
Stott allows physical play and I am not sure it would have been a good game should the teams have been more evenly matched. Because of the score and red card, we luckily didn't have to find out if letting the physical play would penalize us as much as it seemed to disrupt the Orlando midfield. I think Kaka especially was not able to adjust to the physical play that was allowed against him and without numbers Orlando was overwhelmed in the center of the park.
This was a feel good game and I hope it is a sign of things to come. The team looked absolutely dominant and complete in all facets of the game. I am excited to see the ability to defend all over the field as well as attack in different ways. Set pieces are now a strength and I am not sure how anyone is going to be able to hold off our multifaceted attack. Adding in more pieces is just amazingly exciting and at this point it is really on our coaching staff to figure out a way to make it all work. Thanks to the team for welcoming me back to the USA with a complete performance, now for 9 more in a row #hellagreedy