Remember that good feeling? Most of it dried up upon watching the mighty Sounders lose to RSL 0-2 on Saturday, turning in a listless, uninspired performance.
Editor's Note: 232 people entered valid ratings for the loss. That's pretty good for a loss. Kyle Beckerman was the best non-Sounder, but he only had 38% of a quite distributed vote.
Community - 6.24 (MotM)
Realio - 6
Stefan had an okay game this week; unfortunately he had very little chance to stop either goal that was scored against him. Frei's first recorded action was a header (hah!) outside the box in the 7th minute which cleared some danger. A minute later Frei was in perfect position to save a tough Kyle Beckerman shot. He looked to start the quick counter with throws, often to Fisher on the wide open left side.
The highlight of the game for the Sounders keeper was stopping Sebastian Jaime in the 11th minute on a 1v1 shot with a perfect athletic save to prevent a tremendous scoring opportunity for RSL. Unfortunately the home team would score a minute later via a debatable PK call that he had little chance to save when Javier Morales was allowed to stop and start and other shenanigans while shooting.
I watched goal #2 in the 19th minute and I think Frei may have "Hollywooded" a bit. He looked every bit beat by a Luke Mulholland shot that ricocheted off the crossbar/post and dove quite late. Unfortunately this took him completely out of the picture for the follow up header from Jaime.
Stefan only made a few mistakes in this one, the aforementioned questionable dive and a weak punch out in the 73rd that came back to hit the crossbar via a Jamison Olave header that same minute. I noted that again there were few short options for Frei to use, and he was forced to go consistently long all game. Few of the long passes amounted to much.
Community - 4.71
Realio - 5
Another step back for Fisher; this time he was the source of troublesome results on both defense and offense. He started the game off with a poor header in the 5th minute back to the middle and right to Mulholland. His free kick in the 11th was wasted and I am not sure why he was taking kicks in the first place. In that same sequence, Fisher lost possession when trying to run a quick counter attack and this led to Jaime getting a free look on goal.
I was disappointed with three guys on the back line during the second goal as they were all ball watching and slow to react. Fisher was one of them.
A lofted ball forward in the 6th minute found the industrious head of Rose and led to a Valdez dangerous opportunity. I noted Fisher stepping very well in the 35th minute and his defense stopped counter attacks in the 41st and 48th minutes.
Oniel was very active in the game and with RSL playing a slim midfield he was often tucked right in next to Marshall. This became problematic for a team needing width from its outside backs, and Fisher looked positionally lost all night. When asked to move the ball forward, Oniel had trouble linking with anyone, and he never seemed to be on the same page as Kovar in front of him. Early in the second half he gave up trying to work through the midfield and resorted to just chunking balls forward, which worked against the team. Both of the outside defenders looked to be badly out of position for long periods of time and the entire back line looked out of sync.
Community - 5.37
Realio - 6
Marshall was very quiet in this game. He has a drastically reduced role in winning aerials with Torres next to him. RSL no longer plays a target forward system, instead floating Jaime across the CBs and into channels on the wings with Plata and Silva tucking underneath. This meant that Chad spent a lot of the game chasing smaller, quicker players around the field. He handled himself well, and for the most part kept these guys in front of him where he could use his size and strength to turn them from goal.
Unfortunately in the 2nd minute he was caught forward and beat for a foul in a rough position, and later Chad was more reluctant to venture too high. An Alonso-sized pocket emerged directly in front of the CBs and was utilized consistently by the RSL attack.
Marshall was likely the most egregious offender of the three ball watchers who were beat to the header (and goal) by Jaime.
The team needs to figure out a way to protect the big guys in the back from having to chase too far forward, especially when their wide defense isn't in position to tuck in behind. Marshall can't spend more games constantly running to offset the positional errors of the other three defenders.
Community - 5.35
Realio - 5
I wasn't impressed with the game played by Torres in Utah, and there were times it was apparent that he hadn't meshed with the rest of the team yet. The first twenty minutes were very rough on the Panamanian central defender, with a poor clear in the 3rd minute, misplaying a long ball badly, which forced a keeper header clearance in the 7th, and being completely beat by Jaime in the 11th where Torres was again saved by the mighty Frei.
The PK call is one that is hard for me to really understand. My friend Dave sent me this link and some good analysis but I am still unsure. http://www.sounderatheart.com/2015/8/22/9192855/heres-that-ball-to-hand-call-that-went-against-torres has a nice vine video of the exact angle that the referee has and it's basically a judgment call if he thought ball to hand but gee, Torres flopping his arm up sure didn't help his case. We had a right back run outta town for something like this once.
Torres was the third of the players watching goal number two happen right in front of them, and I think this just showed how fuzzy their mental game was at that point in the match. He lost his mark in the 64th minute to give Silva a wide open look on a cross that luckily was whiffed on.
Torres gives us a lot of good individual defensive play, and I think when he is more acclimated to the team his tactical position will improve. This needs to happen very soon if we are to have any chance this season to pick up points. Right now he has very little chemistry with Mears, choosing instead to put long balls over the top. At times this is very effective, such as his ball in the 71st to Neagle, but we can't just resort to shipping the long ball as often as we did vs. Salt Lake. I thought Torres dangerous on all set piece offense, and may have deserved a PK of his own in the 27th when he was sandwiched between two defenders on a corner.
Community - 5.44
Realio - 5
Unlike last week where Mears did little to get in the notebook, this week Mears had a lot of notes. Unfortunately it graded out to a below average outing. I don't know where the best right back in the league went, but he was not in evidence for the Sounders this week.
On the positive side Mears was active early to run up the wing in the 17th minute and delivered a pin point accurate cross to Valdez's head. Another dangerous overlap in the 53rd was stopped by some excellent desperation Kyle Beckerman defense. Overall the defense was ok, and I marked a nice step to steal and create a counter in the 28th.
I had a lot of negative marks for our Englishman. In the 3rd minute Mears found an RSL player with a perfect pass. What happened to the service that was so good earlier this year? In the 4th (and 23rd) he was given free kick opportunities that were horribly squandered. Same with passes from the run of play in the 35th and 90th. In the 80th he was beat to the end line and saved by a nice Neagle tackle.
The most alarming thing about Mears lately for me is his lack of forward progress. Earlier this year he was storming up the wing providing width and tremendous service. This has completely dried up. I counted FOURTEEN backwards passes in the game with ten in the first half. I understand keeping possession and the lack of midfield options was problematic but that is way too passive from a position that we need to get incisive play from. An example of a frustrating play was in the 20th minute where the team worked the ball around and Marshall skipped Torres to a wide open Mears with tons of space in front of him. Tyrone took three dribbles, turned around relatively unmarked and dropped it to Frei for a long clearance. Is Evans composure on the ball that much missed in the back? This is an issue that needs to be addressed tactically if we are going to continue to use the right back as a one way checkpoint towards our own goal.
Aaron Kovar (off 56')
Community - 4.76
Realio - 6
At times Kovar looked in over his head, and at other times he looked like one of the few players willing to attack the RSL defense and provide an offensive spark. The defensive work rate is already there, and was in evidence throughout the game. Often forced to mark the space vacated by Fisher following the much inverted wing play of RSL, I thought Aaron did well to offset the rough outside fullback play from the player immediately behind him.
Kovar managed to have a few very dangerous passes, the first being a chip that just missed the foot of Martins which could have been a goal. The second found Oba's foot, but unfortunately the shot hit the crossbar.
By this point in his career we know that Aaron is good for great service (48th minute free kick for example) but there needs to be more integration with those around him. Also, his touch lets him down at the worst times. I see him make a fantastic trap on a rough ball going out of bounds and think he has amazing touch, only to see him fumble away a great Valdez pass on goal (15'). Another issue I see is the speed of play is still an adjustment for Kovar. In the 30th vs. Morales and 33rd vs. Beckerman Aaron was too slow to get the ball off his feet, resulting in turnovers.
There is a lot of potential here, and the width Kovar brings to the attack really opens up space for the forwards to work. Aaron will need to develop some Neagle'esque direct play to go with his crosses if he wants to be any more than he was in this game: an average player.
Community - 5.66
Realio - 7 (MotM)
This is the second straight Man of the Match award for Friberg, but one that was quite a bit less impressive than last week's. I marked a bad pass in the 9th and 43rd and a forced pass to Martins in the 45th that was poorly taken.
In this one there obviously weren't any assists but Friberg by far had the most touches and also had the most positive plays in my book.
Throughout the game I thought Friberg maintained great defensive intensity. I marked him for recoveries in the 4th, 11th (saving Torres), and as late as the 90th minute. A consummate two way player, Erik got marks in the 45th for pressuring a ball tenaciously in their box forcing a turnover and then in the 54th making a saving tackle in our own eighteen. He really covers a lot of ground. Friberg had good service on corners, the best in the 27th that from my vantage point deserved a PK for a tackled Torres.
My favorite Friberg play on the night was in the 58th minute. After three Sounders looked boxed in on the near sideline, Evans managed to get the ball to Erik who one-touch lifted a perfect pass to Oba over the top of the defense while being pressured by two opponents. It was just a magical piece of skill and vision and shows how much Friberg is aware of those around him and ready to set players up at any time. Unfortunately in this game Friberg and Evans rarely looked connected.
Community - 5.25
Realio - 5
The reason Evans gets such a low score from me in spite of contributing 2 key passes was this complete disjunction in the midfield, which I attributed to him struggling mightily to offset the RSL central players. Unlike Beckerman and Mulholland who played tremendously together and quashed most attacks, Evans especially had a hard time putting out fires.
Time and time again I saw Evans over commit on plays, and often was easily turned and lost by the attackers from Salt Lake. The quick thinking, high pressure from the Orlando game was there, only Brad was repeatedly beat and instead of stopping the attack forced a domino effect of pressure through the core of the Sounders defense. I still think the pressure can be a good idea but it's a high risk/reward play and in this game there was little reward.
I marked Brad down for bad touches, poor passes, and a general inability to connect with anyone. Most alarmingly was his inability to get a pass to go to his center partner Friberg. This lack of connection in the midfield from Brad to Erik stymied any midfield movement and there was a giant wasteland bereft of possession in the central third. There was more success in traffic from Friberg to Evans than vice versa, but both were very rare, often with Friberg looking forward instead of to Brad.
Evans looked tired in this game and I think the altitude, combined with playing some Wednesday and travelling and not being central midfield fit all had a factor in his poor performance. If he is going to continue to play in the middle he will need to be more ball dominant and more active.
Andy Rose (off 76')
Community - 4.63
Realio - 6
I had Rose with between a 5 and a 6 for this game and settled on a 6 based on his settling in to do the things that someone had to do in this game. In a game with major poor play, someone needed to push into the midfield and help stop the RSL central domination. Andy did that, consistently tucking in to help Evans against Mulholland, Beckerman, and Morales. Someone needed to give an outlet to the defense suddenly without options out of the back. Rose accomplished that, offering headers in the 5th, 6th, 8th, 17th, 26th, and 33rd minutes in the first half alone. The 6th minute header was nodded down to Valdez for a great look on goal as well.
Later in the game Rose was playing fairly central, and he did an excellent job clogging the passing lanes through the middle. I noted a really heads up inside-out run and cross from the central midfield in the 62nd minute that unfortunately Nick Rimando read perfectly.
At times Rose disappeared, and he just doesn't have the skill and ability to be a creative force from the wing. Rose should not be tasked with creating, and when he tries (such as minute 40) things go wrong and he gets a yellow card.
I am not sure what happened to the cohesion between Mears and Rose in this game, Tyrone sat consistently very deep and Andy drifted internally so often to combat the narrow RSL formation that neither was effective at offering width to the attack. This coupled with a lack of striker wide runs to develop the space in front of the wingers made for a very rocky game from Rose and forced a lot of chasing. Hopefully soon the depth will be to a point that Rose can move back to the middle where he seems much more successful.
Nelson Haedo Valdez (off 69')
Community - 5.83
Realio - 6
After a tremendous introductory game, Nelson's score fell back to earth and he was reduced to mere average play in Utah. I didn't mark a ton of errors (a poor back pass in the 18th that started a counter attack being the biggest mistake) but I noted a marked drop off in success for the new Designated Player.
He will need to get used to being beat on constantly by guys the size of Olave. Valdez was just physically manhandled all game and will need to adjust accordingly. One thing that works against this sort of pressing is to move quickly, and Nelson showed fancy feet to make a sweet little turn on a defender to put Kovar in on goal in the 15th minute. This agility and quickness has done wonders for his strike partner against MLS opponents for a few years now and Nelson will need to continue to play quickly before he is hammered by defenses. In the 17th Valdez showed great ability to drift into space in between two defenders and challenge for a header on goal, which ended up as a corner kick.
The work rate exhibited last week was still there as well, and I liked seeing Nelson trying to hold the ball up as well as dropping into the midfield to help the struggle there. The fitness is returning and he stayed on the field for about fifteen more minutes this game. For a guy that bases a lot of his game around work rate, it is essential for him to get full 90 fit soon to optimize his abilities. I think there will be a lot more games with teams defending Valdes this way and he will need to show the ability to make plays even while being pushed around.
Community - 5.42
Realio - 5
This was Oba's first under average game rating for me and I was VERY disappointed with how he played. After seeing him look so fit and explosive last week I was expecting much more than the slow, tentative, uninterested performance we saw against RSL.
In the 3rd minute Oba put an over the top pass to absolutely no one and the communication with his teammates didn't get much better from there. After a great Kovar 24th minute pass put him on goal, Oba whiffed on a shot that he couldn't reach and then he yelled at Kovar for not putting the ball on the ground to him. Now, I understand wanting the ball on your foot but this is the second pass in two games where Oba had an over the top opportunity that he didn't attack with his usual aggression and it may have cost him two goals. This wasn't the only time I thought he looked slow and non-involved; after losing possession in the 25th minute he merely walked back toward the middle of the field.
I have never before questioned Martins' effort until the 27th minute where it really appeared to me that Oba never got off the plane. A rough touch in the 41st minute was followed by lousier body language, and a feeble attempt to help the defense allowed Beckerman an open look in the 55th.
Throughout all this Oba still had perhaps the three best opportunities: the Kovar pass above, another Kovar cross that Martins put off the crossbar, and a 57th minute shot. Even though he mightily struggled and I questioned his play all game, Oba still was dangerous at times.
Lamar Neagle (56')
Community - 4.96
Realio - 6
This was a respectable substitute shift for Neagle. He was an immediate game changer with good passes in the 60th and 63rd minutes. His run over the top onto a Torres pass in the 71st won a corner and he even helped on defense at times. This game needed more Neagle, which is something that feels weird to type.
Thomas Bedinelli (70')
Community - 4.66
Realio - 5
Zilch. Nothing in the positive stood out. He had a poor pass to a non-hustling Oba in the 79th that had no chance and a bad corner taken in the 89th.
Gonzalo Pineda (77')
Community - 4.21
Realio - 5
Less than zilch. No positive marks and struggled mightily when he touched the ball. His over the top attempts in the 78th and 81st went wanting (although by this point only Neagle was running up top) and his pass in transition in the 80th was poor.
Community - 3.99
Realio - 4
I am not even sure this was a USL worthy performance. The ref didn't decide the game but boy did the calls really add to the Sounders frustration. I was particularly upset with some plays that were very deliberately dirty and not called as such.
The first was Beltran failing to play the ball and aiming for Kovar in the 7th minute which was ignored. Even more egregious was Jaime in the 18th minute just cleaning out Andy Rose long after Rose had delivered a pass. It was VERY deliberate and I have no idea why this was missed. This same clinical wack was called on Jaime in the 32nd minute and I am confused why he is allowed to get away with no card when committing dangerous fouls after the play (he had ANOTHER on Fisher in the 50th!) Same goes for Morales who did similar throughout the game especially in the 79th minute when he was beaten by Torres and just left a leg in cynically to leave a mark. These kinds of plays need to be regulated by a ref.
Friberg's first foul earned him a yellow card, as did Rose's. Olmes Garcia on Marshall did as well. Compare that to Mulholland who picked up a foul in the 15th minute, and again in the 21st to earn a warning. He committed another foul in the 35th and received his second "final" warning in the 47th minute after foul number four. I counted two more fouls committed that went uncalled before Mulholland was again called for whistle number five in the 66th minute. This received a third "final" warning. This makes no sense to me to give yellows for first infractions but fail to book a guy who has committed SEVEN and received no less than three warnings as well. The RSL midfield dominated the Sounders with their physicality and allowing this amount of warnings just perpetuated their game plan to disrupt the Seattle flow through the middle. It worked perfectly.
There is a lot of work to be done to get this team to mesh, and it needs to happen quickly. Evans in back/Dempsey in the midfield protected our fullbacks from needing to chunk the ball forward needlessly, and we will need to game plan a way to keep possession with the new defensive setup. We really missed Osvaldo Alonso against Salt Lake, as his defensive presence in front of the back line and composure on the ball was sorely lacking from our midfield. It is do or die time now guys. I sincerely hope that I will be writing next about a home win over Portland.