A 1-1 tie with San Jose away is surprisingly a good result, especially given the Sounders difficulties against the Earthquakes in the recent past. This game was marred by some serious injuries though, and it is hard to take away a good feeling from a game where so much went wrong. I think it's important to do just this though, and concentrate on the very positive result, the increased playoffs chance, and the inclusion of another intriguing hydra head.
Community - 7.20
San Jose failed to put pressure on Stefan's goal during this game, registering only two shots on goal (one of which scored). I rated Frei highly for his game management and his assertiveness when attacking the ball.
The first evidence of this was in the 24th minute when he came out quickly for a ball and instantly threw to Valdez to jump start a counterattack. He was again off his line and out to catch dangerous balls in the 61st and 64th. Although Chris Wondolowski managed a blind shot in the 37th minute, Stefan had the goal covered and the shot merely bounced off the post.
I thought Frei stepped a little bit slowly in the 30th minute, but otherwise he did a great job organizing the defense in front of him, especially with the subs that occurred.
Realio - 5
I considered this an off game for Fisher, and San Jose smartly attacked almost exclusively down his side of the defense. Although small, Fisher tends to play very physical defense and often is grabbing and clutching at defenders in sneaky and effective ways. Unfortunately when you rely on these tricks over solid footwork, fast players like Cordell Cato can make your life miserable.
Cato did just that in the 69th minute earning the free kick, yellow card, and eventual goal scoring play. Although it was not much of a foul, this play was indicative of past actions as Fisher was again caught pushing a player who had beat him. In the 75th minute, he was too handsy with Wondo but got away with it, and this was a precursor to the 95th minute hold on the same player that could have cost the team two points.
Oniel needs to work on his composure on the ball: for example, in the 12th minute a scramble happened around the Sounder defensive box and Oniel should have held the ball to give his team a breather. Instead he chose to push the ball into danger, which resulted in a turnover and more pressure. These decisions are just going to take time for the rookie to learn, but we are running out of season to learn on the fly. As teams continue to pick on the Sounder left side of defense, Fisher will need to step his game up to the pressure he will inevitably face.
Community - 6.80
Realio - 7
Chad played well in this game, and credit needs to be given for adjusting smoothly to a different center back and defensive mid during the match. Throughout the season Marshall has been remarkably steady, and he does so many small things that fail to get on my score sheet but are added into my final rating.
Chad's defensive cover in the 9th and 25th minute both saved Fisher after he was beat and Chad did the same for Scott on occasion. Marshall won his duels, distributed the ball well and was a threat on set pieces. His 54th minute solo defensive effort was fantastic. I cannot overstate how well Marshall and Mears have played all season while adapting to any situations they are thrown into.
Roman Torres (off 45')
Community - 6.41
Realio - 6
Up until he was injured, I really enjoyed watching the two big guys in the back dominate the game. I counted five won headers from Torres and he was the physical imposing defender we have come to expect in the short few weeks he has been in Seattle. He learned who Wondo is after being beat on the San Jose forward's quick turn and shot off the post, but other than that, Torres failed to put a boot wrong on defense in his half of play.
I questioned why he didn't go forward on a free kick in the 7th minute. I can only dream what he would be able to do with Ivanschitz service. I was really impressed by a 30th minute one touch pass to Friberg through the defense and am consistently surprised that such a big man has such deft touch and control. I am sad that such a star player was injured and will be out for a long time. We will miss you, Roman. L
Community - 6.41
Realio - 6
Mears again earned an average score by doing a lot of good things and locking his side down on defense for a majority of the game. I was concerned when he took first-touch long ball clearances in the 1st and 8th minutes but Mears settled down after that and returned to his habit of utilizing Frei as an outlet.
When Tyrone had an early overlap (2') I thought we were in for a return to the attacking right back form but Mears didn't aggressively overlap much for the rest of the game, preferring to be brought into the play by possession and dropped passes from a high winger in front of him. When doing so he was able to get a few nice balls in from the wing. I noted a free kick in the 19th that was on target as well.
In this game Mears wasn't called on to defend a ton with the Earthquakes choosing to attack Fisher almost exclusively, but he did have a great save on a Scott blunder in the 62nd and even a defensive header in the 88th which showed that until the end he remained active to support the defense. When coupled with Ivanschitz the right side was a barren wasteland for attackers.
Nelson Haedo Valdez (off 59')
Community - 7.23
Realio - 7
I really hope this guy doesn't get beaten out of this league, because when he is given a chance to be on the ball he has been exciting. He looks comfortable and natural on the wing, cutting in as a high attacker who also has the added desire to be an effective two way defender as well. If he hadn't been injured in this one he was well on his way to MOTM honors.
In his limited time on the field I didn't have Valdez down for any negative marks, and the positive were many and varied: steal and through ball to Oba (16'), corner header won on defense (24'), amazing touch over the top toe control (25'). Nelson directly affected both ends of the field and it was unfortunate that he appeared to aggravate a calf injury in the 32nd minute which eventually forced his early exit. I really like what he brings to the team as another very skilled player with great touch who has the benefit of working extremely hard on multiple facets of the game. I would like to see him combine a bit more with the feet of the strikers in front of him as well as receive the ball more often when he makes the surging outside runs he has been committing.
Community - 5.76
Realio - 5
In the first half Pineda started the game off with a nice switch in the 2nd minute, followed it up with great control in minute 21 and even had a steal by outrunning a player (!) and taking the ball in the 47th minute.
Unfortunately for Gonzalo the usual mistakes were also there early, such as overrunning the play in the 12th minute and poor passing in the 22nd and 30th minutes. His blind cross in the 36th minute was a mirror of his season, with a rather nice run followed up by panicked ball across to no one and lost to the opponents.
Without a sub to be found, Pineda was forced to play a full 90 minutes and his production tailed off abruptly in the second half. After a good defensive play and pass in the 57th minute there was nothing but poor marks for Gonzalo. He tried very hard and was able to get into position to help, but it was soon clear that the Sounders were just bypassing him when moving the ball forward.
I wonder if Pineda was one of the subs that were stolen from Coach Brian Schmetzer on Saturday. That would make a lot of sense to me with Pineda tiring rapidly late and showing decreased effectiveness after about minute sixty. I expect Pineda to get less opportunity to play full nineties in the remaining games.
Community - 6.54
Realio - 6
This was another up and down game for Friberg who was forced to run around a traffic cone dressed as Pineda for the last third of the match. Without a center pairing that was able to find the incisive passes needed to spring the forwards, Friberg impressed with his defensive work and willingness to drop into the pocket in front of the center backs and mark the withdrawn Wondo.
I noticed that Erik was more calm on the ball this week and although it may have been a change in opponent pressure, there were a number of times that Friberg took the opportunity to turn with the ball, opening up more of the field. Erik forced a pass in the 2nd minute but followed that up with a great forward pass in the 9th minute to pick out Dempsey. This polar sort of result followed him often in this game, especially in the 46th minute when a great shield and turn with the ball was followed up with a forced pass turnover.
Friberg had one awful corner kick that not only was a balloon ball and missed everyone; it broke a Panamanian center back upon landing. After this play Friberg had a number of very nice passes involving finding Dempsey forward, his perfectly weighted over the top ball in the 58th being a wonderful look. Friberg even had an attacking dribble into a dangerous spot but was crushed with no foul called. I thought Erik had a very average game and without a defensive presence beside him had to spend too much time covering and not enough time looking for the killer pass of which he is capable.
Brad Evans (off half)
Community - 6.04
Realio - 6
Before being hit in the side of the head by a Clarence Goodson clearance in the 10th minute, Brad played very well. He won a 50/50 ball and pushed it forward to Martins in the 2nd minute and forced two more turnovers in the 3rd and 7th minutes with pressure from his wide midfield position.
After the head injury Evans wasn't in the scorebook for anything other than a backside run in the 35th minute. Even though injured Brad played strong defense, it wasn't readily obvious that he wasn't right. I hope he is better soon, now that we have a giant hole at center back. I think his composure and creation from the back should fit nicely with the new pieces on the team.
Community - 7.89 (MotM)
Realio - 7 (MotM)
Oba didn't have a spectacular game from my ratings book but man, the guy just keeps producing. His goal scoring rate is phenomenal and again, when we needed it most he finished his opportunity. This one was an 82nd minute volley in traffic, and it was impressive to me for just how fast Oba reacts to the ball to get his foot on it first. He just sees the game quicker than the players around him and is able to do things with finesse that no one else in the league can. This guy is a born goal scorer and someone who rarely misses when he touches a ball inside the six yard box.
I noted some holdup early and a nice run/pass combo in the 16th minute. His flick to Dempsey in the 20th minute and follow up run was interrupted by a trip just outside the box and could have been a turning point had the foul been given.
Other than these few marks and some quality runs this game is more notable for Oba creating a point out of nothing more than anything else. I even noted his poor effort on an 8th minute run, bad passes in the 15th, 53rd, and 58th minute and had foolishly written Martins off for the score sheet by an abnormally lackluster performance.
This is exactly what was missing this summer, the guy who can reach out and snatch points, earn a tie, and keep the season alive by being a superior player to those that he replaced.
Community - 6.51
Realio - 6
This was a quiet game from Dempsey standards, with the US National teamer unable to stamp his mark on the game with much regularity. I didn't see a ton of opportunity to do anything spectacular and the San Jose defense did a good job of limiting the Oba/Clint central path.
Dempsey was able to find Oba over the top in the 9th minute and again in the 35th on a beautiful back heel that was amazing in its fluidity on a tough entry pass. Clint's control in the 20th minute to create a shot opportunity was great but he followed it up with a harmless kick into Goodson in what ended up being one of the best chances of the entire game. I would like to see him do more there. I was impressed with Dempsey's dedication to corner kick defense, and his 46th and 75th minute header clearances were clutch for a unit struggling mightily on set pieces.
Clint had a bad free kick take in the 7th minute and a poor pass over the top to Oba in the 57th but this wasn't a game that featured a lot of play with the ball at Dempsey's feet. I would like to see him find a way to impose his will upon games when things aren't going great for Oba and be a bit more assertive when the team is scrambling for a result.
Andreas Ivanschitz (on 45')
Community - 7.09
Realio - 6
Ivanschitz started out meekly, looking tentative in front of Mears on the right side of the midfield offensively. His defensive desire was more Pappa than Valdez, and he tended to drop off players and play cautiously on the defensive rather than challenge for possession of the ball. His positioning was phenomenal though, and enabled the right side pairing to completely lock down any effort from San Jose to attack in that direction.
As Andreas warmed into the game, he started to drift inside underneath the forwards and help Friberg with the issues in the middle. After switching to the left side he came alive offensively, surging forward and linking up with both Clint and Oba multiple times and looking dynamic and aggressive.
The first service of the Ivanschitz era was a perfect set piece in the 78th minute off a foul he earned himself. The inch perfect curled ball hit Neagle on the head and the Sounders winger continued his struggles. A minute later Andreas showed off his tremendous on-ball technical ability, controlling, passing and moving through the midfield by the cone and up the field to connect with Clint and Oba.
An 80th minute corner kick was another beauty and was barely missed by a lunging Chad Marshall, however he would get another chance 2 minutes later and picked out the head of Scott. This header created the goal after being parried by San Jose goalkeeper Bingham right to a waiting Oba Martins.
To top off a great debut, Andreas actually scored a winning goal with a deft chest control and finish in the 86th minute but was incorrectly whistled for a handball. I have no idea what his fitness is but the set piece service alone was worth the price of admission. I hope this player can be ready for big minutes soon; he already looks comfortable linking with our big guns up front.
Zach Scott (on 45')
Community - 6.31
Realio - 5
Another subpar outing for Scott and I think it's fair to say he just isn't performing at MLS average levels anymore. Even getting a great header in the 82nd from Ivanschitz service wasn't enough to earn even an average rating this week.
A foul in the minute he subbed into the game (47') was an indicator of Scott's evening. With the set piece defense in shambles it is more important than ever that we don't give up pointless fouls around the box; however this is exactly what happened in minute 55 courtesy of another Scott foul.
Luckily for Zach his right back Mears was alert when he was beaten badly by Shea Salinas in minute 62 for a big chance thwarted by a sliding tackle. In the 84th minute Scott again lost his man on a free kick - this time luckily Adam Jahn was unable to keep his free header on frame.
Not playing solid defense, getting routinely beat on things that are supposed to be strengths (set pieces), and giving up fouls in bad spots are a few reasons I expect to see Brad Evans back to center back soon.
Lamar Neagle (on 59')
Community - 4.11
Realio - 4
Neagle's first touch was a good pass in the 65th minute that Oba fumbled away and was a dangerous chance. After that there is nothing but bad marks in my notes. The set piece goal against was another Neagle failure to mark, which is now an epidemic. Neagle followed this up with a very poor pass in the 77th, missing a WIDE open header from a set piece in the 78th, and finished with a poor clearance in the 87th. This final mark was especially annoying as he had plenty of time to control the ball and keep possession and instead kicked it to the middle where it was immediately thrust back down the defense's throat.
Realio - 6
I rated this one an average MLS referee performance and this is based on a lot of good calls as well as a lot of questionable ones.
The good calls included calling Goodson for a foul in the 6th minute and Fatai Alashe for kicking Marshall in the 20th. I thought the yellows on Godoy, Alashe, and Pineda were all warranted and fair calls. I was surprised at the advantage given in the 64th minute when Friberg blatantly held Wondolowski.
There were plenty of questionable calls as well. I thought Anibal Godoy could have gotten more for his power slam in the 14th and after fouling Friberg and Oba in succession I thought Marc Pelosi might get a card. Pelosi particularly seemed to get in a lot of late tackles that were after the ball was well gone. At some point referees have to protect Valdez better, he was just getting crushed behind the ball throughout and I would have liked to see him earn a few calls for these.
Many specific calls frustrated me about this ref. The first was Clarence Goodson leading with an elbow on Marshall, but earning nothing because Marshall played through it and stayed up, and the second Cordell Cato flopping on a light Fisher push in the 69th and earning a card. This shows a pretty dramatic bias towards selling the call, something I really would like to see the opposite of. The third call was a blatant hold by Fatai Alashe in the 81st that didn't warrant his second yellow from the referee who seemed afraid to send off the Earthquake player. Finally, the handball on Ivanschitz was not a handball to me and from my angle looked to be a pectoral or shoulder touch.
This was a game that the Sounders desperately needed to earn a result and they did just that, grinding out a road point against a team they have struggled mightily against. Obviously the injuries are very rough to deal with, but I thought the team controlled the game for long stretches and there is a lot of merit to doing something this team was unable to accomplish all summer. Ivanschitz is an intriguing addition and I fully believe that the defense will continue to be very strong even with the absence of Roman Torres.