There is nothing better than beating your biggest rival in front of 65000 fans at home. A 2-1 win on Sunday enters the Seattle Sounders into September having won 2 of 3, some guys getting healthy, and a slower pace of upcoming games. There is a lot of soccer left and with players getting healthy and the team coming together in their roles I have a lot of hope that the we are on the upswing. My ratings reflect the tremendous highs and lows of a rivalry game late in the season.
Editor's Note: There were 550 valid responses after the win with 37% thinking that Diego Valeri was the best non-Sounder. Other got an large 8% vote.
Community - 8.96 (MotM)
Realio - 10 (MotM)
Welcome to the 10 club Mister Frei. Someone recently asked about Frei being overvalued and not making saves. We can put that idea to rest. In this game the Sounder goalkeeper was simply fabulous. For a team that is learning on the fly how to defend with new personnel, sometimes we need one player to step up and refuse to let the other team win. In this game, that was Stefan Frei, who was the difference in the score line by making big save after big save.
Starting with perhaps his best play of the night, Frei introduced himself to the Timbers by stopping a point blank near post shot from Jack Jewsbury in minute 17. Using amazing reflexes Frei lunged to the side to block the attempt. Eight minutes later an unmarked Diego Valeri let fly but Frei was again up to the task - parrying the attempt away.
In the 29th minute Jewsbury again had an open look but this one was easily covered by Frei. That was just a warm-up as less than a minute later Melano was sprung on a 1v1 with Stefan and was shut down exceptionally. In this instance, Frei drifted to his right, cut off the angle and surged to both stop the ball and secure the rebound. This play was just perfectly executed and exhibits the Sounders keeper's ability to change games directly with his skill. This was a goalkeeper of the year type save that changed momentum and kept a fragile season moving forward.
A poor back pass header from Torres in the 34th was skillfully dealt with. Late in the game Frei was locked in completely, stepping out to dangerous crosses in the 86th and 89th minutes to ensure the home team held its lead. He was not going to be beat on Sunday and turned in the most important performance of the year.
Community - 6.20
Realio - 6
Fisher again turned in an up and down game, but seems to be improving quickly and seemed much more solid throughout the contest than in recent memory. He looks very comfortable on the ball and I would rate his ball skills as very good for a left back. I liked to see him get marks for good defense (39', 65') and not just have everything be about his offensive output. I was really impressed with Oniel's endurance, and noted in particular great anticipation and energy to step up and steal passes from the Timbers in the 74th and 81st minutes. This shows a player who is able to keep a high level of intensity for a full game.
There were some issues where I thought Fisher took some very bad angles on balls, letting players get past him easily, and there is still a general lack of tactical positioning that while improved, still needs a lot of work. Fisher tends to chase the ball and hope his speed and athleticism get him to a good defensive position instead of first getting to the right spot and then attacking the ball. This put him in trouble in the 57th minute when after being beat by Alvas Powell to the end line he just pushed Powell instead of attempting a defensive play. Marshall was forced to come save the day but was only able to put the ball out for a corner that ended up being converted to a goal against.
Overall I was happy that Fisher didn't look completely out of place, especially vs. the likes of Nagbe and Powell on his side. I think he held his own with the rough play and has the athleticism to make plays on both sides of the ball. I would like him to work on the technical part of his game; he needs to learn the game better and not rely solely on physical attributes. At times, guarding a 2-1 lead late he was way too aggressive going forward and needs to focus his abilities more on defense first.
Community - 6.94
Realio - 8
An 8 for a guy who just continues to look good no matter who is in the back next to him. In this one he had the unenviable job of banging with Fanendo Adi all game, and these two smashed into each other frequently. I think Marshall did an admirable job of stopping anything forward from Adi, turning the Timbers player into a completely one-directional hold up player. Adi was very effective at bringing in the midfield with his layoffs, but not once was he able to turn or move forward in attack due to the Marshall defense.
When not pounding into Adi, Marshall was drifting around the defense putting out fires and stopping good looking attacks from the Timbers. A great example of this was in the 27th minute where Chad stopped the ball three times on a single series of plays; he was just a brick wall there. Another time was in the 92nd minute where Marshall comes all the way across the face of the goal on defense to slide and clear a cross at the near post showing determination late.
Chad pushed forward to attack many free kicks offensively, and with all the other weapons around him he only really had one good offensive look, managing to redirect a ball to Pappa for a shot in the 57th. On the flip side his mark on defensive set pieces (Nat Borchers) was rendered a non-threat other than a 17th minute header.
I thought this was a very good game for Marshall and showed how tactically smart he is. He is already adjusting well to Torres/Fisher around him and is quickly changing his positioning as he acclimates to their tendencies. He looked to be more comfortable than against RSL with the defensive plan the coaches have set up.
Community - 6.55
Realio - 6
After a bit of a hiccup against Salt Lake, we again saw the immense potential of Torres against Portland. He looked more confident early in this one, stepping up to win a ball in the 3rd minute and announcing himself as an offensive threat with a free kick header in the 6th. It remains to see how the rest of the year will work with new players, but Torres looked to clear the ball long early and often, bypassing the midfield countless times. This can work as long as the forwards/wingers give him options; in this game it was hit or miss for this plan.
For the second time in two games Torres showed very confident feet in the back, dribbling around threats in the defensive third. This mostly worked out okay, except for a back header in the 34th, and only an ever-alert Frei prevented a scoring chance off the poor pass.
I have some concerns about the Torres/Mears right side communication. Multiple times early they were not on the same page and it almost cost SSFC horribly in the 30th. When a player like Lucas Melano is splitting two defenders, they need perfect communication to hand him off to each other and confirm that one of the two is indeed covering him. This was a disaster in the first half, but seemed to improve some in the second.
The defensive potential I spoke of was in evidence by Roman's complete demolishing of Adi in the 38th and 81st and Melano in the 52nd, all 1v1 masterful defensive plays where Torres dominated the Timbers attacker and turned the ball the other way.
I am not sure why after around the 60th minute Torres stopped advancing on free kicks, perhaps he was tired? Roman has a ton of potential and if he can work better with Mears the physical ability to dominate games on both ends will hopefully start to show.
Community - 6.26
Realio - 6
The best right back in the league talk has died down, due to some lackluster performances lately from Mears. I have to think the revolving door both in front and to his left for the last 2 months has not helped Tyrone's ability to settle into a role and this is reflected in his effectiveness. Against the Timbers I saw a lot of issues early between Mears and Torres, as well as a lack of interplay with Pappa.
Melano split the two right defenders in the 5th, 30th and 68th minutes all due to communication errors. I put a lot of this blame on Mears as Melano started wide and cut inside of him. In the 30th minute play Tyrone actually stops for some unknown reason. I must point out the tremendous recovery speed Mears did show in chasing this attack down - his slide helped channel the Timbers DP to an angle that gave Frei a chance and the Sounder keeper did the rest. Another time Mears took a bad angle and wasn't goal side on his man.
These things need to be addressed by the coaching staff, and I think as soon as these two players get on the same page we will see a much stronger defensive effort from the right.
Mears still put the ball backwards too much for me - 6 times (5 in the first half) yet when he DID decide to go forward with the ball he found a perfect over the top ball to Oba for the 41st minute penalty. This kind of play reminds us that the best right back in the league is still in there somewhere.
Lamar Neagle (off 66')
Community - 4.76
Realio - 3
Give this guy a break already. He is obviously tired and he already had a hard time making good decisions when fully rested. I had Neagle down for a pressure in the 37th and a free kick earned in the 64th.
Most of the game Neagle was very poor. I thought he had a dirty high elbow in the 6th minute on Darlington Nagbe that seemed to signify a rough game was imminent. A poor pass in the 6th minute was followed by another turnover in the 16th that killed one of the few Sounders consistent possessions of the half. Time and time again Neagle was jogging or not moving on defense and putting undue pressure on Fisher behind him. As early as the 8th minute of this game I noted Lamar standing and in the 28th he didn't even move as Valdez and others had to cover his position.
I had 8 more errors written down but all paled in comparison of his set piece defense. Neagle's assignment was Jack Jewsbury who pretty much had free shots any time he wanted on set pieces, including the 17th minute shot that somehow Frei kept from scoring, as well as the eventual goal in the 58th where the unmarked Timbers player calmly finished from a few yards out. Lamar needs a rest.
Erik Friberg (off 79')
Community - 5.80
Realio - 5
After a couple MOTM awards in a row Erik had a slipup here, with a few of his weaknesses being exposed by Portland. A lot of times under pressure Friberg tends to chunk the ball over the top, and these low percentage passes were often turnovers. I noted this in the 3, 5, 18, 22, and 65th minutes. While this is an upgrade over holding the ball in the middle and losing it in a worse position, we need Friberg to be more comfortable controlling the ball in traffic. Too many times our offense tried to force the ball to Oba and we need to be more patient.
Until Andreas Ivanschitz gets on the field Friberg is going to get opportunities to take set pieces and he will need to be better than Sunday, where there was little consistency from his service.
I liked Erik's continued dedication to defensive help and until apparent injury he was in the Valdez/Evans level of work rate in this game. Friberg did manage to be dangerous vertically at times (Oba over the top in the 13th, Neagle in the 64th) but he will need to be much better with possession to continue to be effective.
Community - 6.46
Realio - 6
This was an average performance punctuated by a simply massive feat of endurance and heart from the Sounders skipper. I had a lot of poor plays where Evans either dove in (19th) or was beat on defense (Melano 78') but what was most alarming for me was the complete lack of set piece defensive ability shown. For a center back that was very good this year Evans completely got schooled by Liam Ridgewell in the 26th, 28th, 32nd and 58th minutes. If Jewsbury hadn't scored Ridgewell would have in the 58th. He just simply has to be better on set pieces. However, if I judge his season as a whole I think he should be fine as he has showed plenty of ability to mark correctly in the past 5 months.
Even with the errors technically Brad didn't allow any goals and he did score one. The guy is completely unflappable on Penalty Kicks and getting that second goal in the back of the net was huge. I should mention his hustle kept the play alive on the first goal giving him a massive role in both Sounders scores.
Perhaps the most impressive thing for me was seeing Brad seamlessly move to right winger, hustle his ass off and still outrun people to balls in the corner in the 82nd minute. The guy ran so hard the entire game and his exemplary leadership by example cannot be understated.
Marco Pappa (off 63')
Community - 5.58
Realio - 5
The fans welcomed back Marco to a starting role and he turned in a very polar performance. On the negative side of the sheet I marked him losing possession in the 36th, passing over the top to no one in the 46th (twice), trying to force the ball to Oba in the 49th and 53rd and a poor clearance in the 51st. This all seems like a lot of turnovers and it was, although many did not hurt the home team.
It was obvious that there was a lot of rust in Pappa's game and his lack of practice with some of the new players showed. What Marco did bring was the massively needed ability to hold the ball, and some calmness on the field when the rest of the team seemed unable to possess for more than a few seconds. It can't be underestimated how important it was for one guy to be able to keep the ball and that player was Pappa. I liked to see the winger take the space available to him in on the right and he lifted a perfect over the top ball to Valdez in the 6th minute that eventually opened the scoring. He put Valdez in on another great transition opportunity that was squandered in the 19th. This performance was a bit below average, with some moments of great play sprinkled in that should improve as he gets back to fitness.
Nelson Haedo Valdez
Community - 6.57
Realio - 8
I was really impressed with Valdez in this game, and he did all these amazing little things I really appreciated throughout a massively strenuous full ninety. Nelson brings an alluring combination of holdup play, defense, off the ball runs, physical play and intensity that is just special.
I thought Valdez was actually the better of the two forwards, and it was his diagonal run in the 6th minute that Pappa spotted over the top to start the scoring play. Although let down by his touch, Valdez stayed with the play and makes a crucial tackle on Borchers to spring the ball loose. This guy is such a hard worker, his won header and hustle play on the 25th minute corner is highlighted by him making up five yards on a slow to react Neagle. In fact, I often noted Nelson farther back on defense than Neagle including the 50th minute, the 65th, and in the 77th and 82nd Valdez popped up man marking Diego Valeri in the Sounders defensive third.
Valdez added some holdup play to alleviate pressure on the beleaguered defense in the 62nd and 67th minutes and earned a few corners for his efforts.
One deficit in the Nelson Valdez stat line is his lack of shots, being unable to create much danger for himself. Often times his touch would fail him in critical areas, such as the Pappa pass mentioned before. I noted four other times where a better touch would put Valdez in on goal with possible scoring opportunities, and based on the small sample size I have seen I am confident this touch will come around as he gets into better shape and is more familiar with the team.
Community - 7.80
Realio - 7
I am almost certain this score will be below the community average and I hope there is good discussion to follow. I wasn't super impressed with Oba this game and while he is still amazing I see a lot of small things that frustrate me when I re-watch lately.
Some such things: an awful pass in the 8th minute, zero effort to hold up the ball in the 27th minute, a poor pass to no one on a free kick taken short in the 59th etc. At times I see very little movement from Oba. Trying to hold onto a lead late I marked poor passes to lose possession in the 69th and 73rd minutes when we desperately needed Martins to step up and give our players behind him a break. Defense starts from the front and without any discernible effort from Oba the Timbers were free to enter into the attack from very deep in the Sounders third most of the game. This forced Valdez to run a ton and drop in deep midfield to support.
Obviously Oba is one of the few players in the league who can do all of the above and still somehow dominate a game. This is because of his knack of turning small plays into huge results.
The first goal is a scrum around the box but it exhibits two things that Oba has that few in the league do. First his balance is sublime, and he is able to keep his feet through the tumultuous scrum in the box. Secondly, Oba is a pure finisher and he rarely misses these chances. He didn't Sunday, somehow finding the ball and putting it into the side net perfectly.
The second goal may be even more typical Oba skill as it came from absolutely nothing. A ball over the top and suddenly Martins finds a gear no one else has, goes by two players, has the vision and touch to get on the end of the ball, absorbs contact by a beaten Adam Kwarasey and earns a Penalty Kick. This is just a fantastic physical feat that is unique and amazing.
So there you have it. I scored this performance above MLS average for Oba's ability to take a game over in enough small bursts to get a result; however he was docked heavily for the mistakes and lack of effort in evidence at times that was needed when hanging onto a result.
Cristian Roldan (on 63')
Community - 5.90
Realio - 6
This was an energetic shift from Roldan who immediately showed a nice run in the 65th after being subbed in. His pace offered some width on the left and his smart positioning often opened things up for others. I thought Roldan was physically outmuscled by Powell at times and a poor offside penalty killed an attack but I was very happy with his awareness to see Fisher roaming high and consequently staying back to cover for his left back. In the 88th he missed a cutback to Martins that may have sealed the game but it was a great run to get there and I am not completely convinced he could get the pass off.
Osvaldo Alonso (on 66')
Community - 6.91
Realio - 7
Welcome back (again). Alonso immediately settled down the Sounders midfield with his tight control and composure on the ball. He has the ability to open his hips and swivel so quickly with the ball on his foot and change direction that he opposing team can't contain him. Seeing his defense on Dairon Asprilla in the 84th minute was a breath of fresh air.
Alonso did miss picking up the thrower in the 78th minute who crossed in a ball that should have been volleyed home for half the points.
Gonzalo Pineda (on 79')
Community - 5.77
Realio - 5
He helped on defense in the 85th minute.
Community - 5.39
Realio - 5
This was an average, very physical game in which I believe Kelly got the big calls right and missed a lot of small ones. The big calls were on our goals, which I think he got correct on both. I saw no fouls warranted to annul the first goal, and the second looks to me like Kwarasey moves to contact Martins. While I doubt a sprinting Oba doesn't beat Borchers to the ball, I can be convinced that is what the referee thought and the non-DOGSO makes sense in that light.
The yellow cards to Evans, Ridgewell, Valeri all were correct in my mind, however I thought Neagle in the 4th, and Adi in the 46th deserved cautions for elbows to the head. Protecting players should be the first goal and these and Valeri's late kick to Marshall in the 12th minute were blatant. Marshall was down for a long time without so much as a stoppage of play-this should be unacceptable for a referee to allow. It is always annoying to see a player consistently be in the referee's face (Dempsey, others do this as well) and I kept hoping that Valeri would earn the dissent card he seemed worthy of after consistently getting in Kelly's face and throwing the ball away/other histrionics. I thought the ref prudent in talking to Jewsbury in the 13th instead of issuing a card as well as his no call on a Powell dive in the 46th.
The biggest complaint about Kelly for me was his handling of George Fochive. This player took on the Diego Chara hacking midfield role and was whistled for a foul in the 2nd, 11th, and 39th minutes. Kelly rightly counted off the three and gave him a final warning for persistent fouls. Yet, in the 52nd Fochive was allowed to wrap a hand around Pappa's neck and wack Friberg in the 54th. In the 69th he hacked Alonso not one but two times in one series, the second of which was whistled but inexplicably wasn't accompanied by a card. Allowing a midfielder to foul seven times without repercussions isn't something I like to see from a ref.
Finally, I don't understand how Adi wins a free kick in the 94th minute while pulling Marshall's shirt, a carbon copy of a foul given against Evans five minutes prior. This sort of inconsistency needs to be fixed. On the positive side, his positioning was tremendous.
* * *
There isn't time to drop points as we gel, this team needs to grind out results exactly like they did this week as they find their stride and incorporate new and old parts into a hopefully winning team for the rest of the season. What is most exciting for me was that even though we didn't play particularly well as a team, we won and should only improve through the end of the year.