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Sounders vs. Dynamo, ratings: Stefan Frei stands out

Goalkeeper was biggest reason Sounders salvaged at least a point. [Updated with community ratings]

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time the Brian Schmetzer Orchestra failed to get a result that many of us had penciled in as 3 points. With Morris and Lodeiro back from international duty and a fairly healthy team the midweek home match against bottom dwelling Houston had win written all over it leading up to the game. Then a combination of injury, silly play, and lack of finishing combined in a game where both the home Seattle Sounders and visiting Dynamo split the points in a tame 0-0 draw.


Ratings

KEEPER:

Stefan Frei – 8 MOTM | Community – 7.9 MOTM

Stefan Frei doesn’t care about your “trap” game or any of that business. He cares about filling my freezer with pizzas. Once again it was the underrated Frei keeping a clean sheet, his third straight at home. He didn’t put a foot wrong all day, using a combination of positioning and footwork to make most shots pedestrian, while keeping focus enough to make the spectacular game changing saves when needed.

I noted 2nd, 8th, and 68th minute saves made to look easy by quality positioning. Stefan takes smart angles in his box and rarely (if ever) gets beat by shots that aren’t perfect. Part of this is organizing the giants in front of him, and we have seen much improved communication with the central defenders and keeper.

In the 30th minute Stefan made the huge, game defining save that he is starting to get a reputation for. Out of almost nothing, Houston forward Will Bruin hit a great shot that was curling inside Frei’s left post for a potential momentum killing first goal. Stefan was up to the challenge though, diving, stretching full and managing to get a finger on the shot, deflecting it off the post and out, preserving the shutout. I have been critical of Frei in the past for not making this sort of spectacular save, but he has shown in the last few months the ability to do just that. He wasn’t done, and 10 minutes later made another impressive save down to his right off a shot that he was shielded from. Early in the second half he was off his line quickly to beat Jose Escalante from a ball that was dangerously on goal in the middle.

Late game (and down a man) Houston managed some sustained pressure and Frei bravely waded into the big bodies in the 79th and 84th to punch away crosses and clear his area assertively. He even dealt with an overly strong Mears dropped pass, clearing the danger with his feet expertly. Stefan really showed it all this game, and he is getting stronger and stronger as the season goes on. Tremendous play from the keeper.

DEFENSE:

Tony Alfaro – 6 | Community – 5.9

Alfaro offered something a bit different from the left back position against Houston than we are used to. The rookie CB making his first start on the left — the Sounders were missing their top four choices — was a bit of a surprise, but he acquitted himself well I thought and while being a bit more stay at home than others, was solid defensively while showing off a cultured passing ability with either foot.

Tony started off well, and looked very comfortable behind Ivanschitz. Andreas is great at opening space for overlaps from outside backs, but realizing Alfaro wasn’t as mobile as Jones or Remick dove straight at goal in the 3rd minute. Alfaro played a perfectly weighted pass onto his run and Andreas got in behind. This wasn’t a fluke, Tony reproduced this ability to put players on with deft touch up the wing multiple times, including a 23rd minute through ball to Morris and a 49th minute pass that put Gomez into the box. Alfaro continually found smart forward passes, and he plays with his head up and looking to attack in a very impressive fashion

Alfaro struggled some and looked a bit nervous early as the ball got held up on his foot in the 8th. His defense was at times a mess, and he benefitted from Houston’s lack of polish and Marshall’s constant attentions to keep up with his defensive duties. He completely lost Andrew Wenger on the left similarly to Fisher last week and only a whiff stopped Houston from a huge chance from 8 yards out. Later in the first half he played good defense on a corner kick but Keyner Brown was able to get contact and put his header luckily off the outside of the crossbar. Throughout his tackling was crisp and he looked at home with the first team.

I am intrigued by Tony’s style of left back -Alfaro only overlapped once, opened up in the 55th by a nifty Lodeiro back heel that he rewarded with a too-heavily weighted cross that missed everyone. He still managed to join the attack with long passes that fed into movement in front of him. Alfaro needs to clean up some of his positioning if he is going to be an outside back, but showed promise.

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.0

Marshall continues to impress me, this time playing alongside the umpteenth different left back of the season and still coming out with a shutout. He is doing it in different ways seemingly every game, but the biggest improvement fueling the recent defensive success is the fluid combination with Torres in the center.

Chad’s stat line was phenomenal. He went an astonishing 59/60 passing, including 2/2 on long balls, one of which opened Gomez in the 10th. Three interceptions, 2 clearances, and every single header won to a teammate filled out the book. I noted Chad being beat in the 20th inside by Will Bruin, but recovered and received help from Alonso to usher the threat away. He spent the entire rest of the game ingesting Bruin, but had no problem finding room to stuff Sheanon Williams in the 20th. Marshall spent time covering behind Alfaro in the first half, but as Tony figured out his positioning Chad was able to remain more centralized and stuffed everything in the middle.

I thought Marshall had another goal in the 47th, finding an open look on a corner kick but he pushed it over. One thing I would love to see the Sounders do more of on set pieces is look for the drop down (think Alan Gordon style), and on this play if Marshall had redirected the ball to the far post Morris was wide open for a tap in. This is being nitpicky though, and Marshall was fabulous on the night

Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.7

Roman and Chad are such a physically impressive duo, they are really imposing their will on defenses. Houston tried to run a single forward up against them and you could see Bruin’s effectiveness fading as the game went on and these two monsters bodied him time and time again. I keep expecting a quick player to come in and really take advantage of the pace deficit that SHOULD be there in the back but both Marshall and Torres are positionally sound and use their size and tackling ability to offset any speed issues.

Torres combined with the defense around him for a shutout so it’s hard to be super critical, but I noted a few things that a better team will take advantage of. The biggest issue is I think he is not yet confident in his lateral movement and pace, and he is leaning on slide tackles to cover for the speed discrepancy I mentioned above. This can be very effective when forcing a player wide and blocking a pass or shot, but the problem with this defensive positioning is it gives an opponent a bit more space than is optimal. Bruin took advantage of this in the 30th and Seattle needed Frei standing on his head to keep the score line even. I think as Roman gets more comfortable with his fitness and the opponents’ tendencies he will close that gap, but right now it can be exploited. Torres was beat on a 32nd minute flick through and vacated the middle at times leaving a big hole behind an absent Mears.

Roman was also great distributing from the back, and was near 90% completion rate while still being a threat (7/12) with long balls. I was happy to see great communication in the 27th from Frei to come get a ball that Torres would have cleared into the stands a few games ago. He almost scored from a corner kick in the 61st that was just missed wide from an open header. Roman continually forced Houston into predictable shots and was a big part of the shutout effort.

Tyrone Mears – 5 | Community – 6.0

Mears got his second straight game with Gomez in front of him and didn’t show any added improvements up the right wing. His passing was ok, but he failed to bring anything going forward.

In the 2nd minute, Mears tried to push the ball over the top, but his chip went awry. He then chased this pass and got caught too far forward, and this led to a Bruin shot originating from the hole he vacated. I wasn’t impressed with him walking back after another lousy forward pass in the 6th and Tyrone was consistently not on the same page as players going forward. In the 30th he was again slow to recover, jogging behind the play and leaving Gomez hung out to dry defensively.

Tyrone still has above average pace and it showed in the 32nd as he recovered well and tracked down Escalante who thought he was through. In the 51st he again shut down Escalante, displaying excellent 1v1 defense vs. the Houston player and completely dominating his opponent to shut down the attack. He was beat by Escalante 3 minutes later as well, but did just enough to force a touch long enough that an ever-alert Frei gobbled up.

Mears was 1/3 on crosses and 2/6 on long balls and at this point shouldn’t be expected to join nor influence the attack much.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD:

Osvaldo Alonso – 4 | Community – 5.1

I saw some chatter about how great Alonso was before his card, and while his passing numbers were just ok (for him – 90%) they weren’t great in attacking spaces and he didn’t have many trackable defensive actions. I didn’t have a lot that showed up in the stat book either.

In the 20th I noted Alonso across to help Marshall on Bruin, who had one of his few successes getting inside the central defender. In the 37th Ozzie denied the Houston attack from transitioning into the final third, and this was his best impact on the game; I noted a few times where Houston would try to switch from the back into attack and Alonso would anticipate well from his deep lying position and step up where appropriate to thwart Houston before they even started. This 37th minute play had the added impact of creating a turnover which then converted quickly through Friberg and Nico directly to a chance by Morris on goal. In the 45th was a similar play that started a counter attack from anticipation by Alonso to Nico who found Morris again.

In the 63rd minute Alonso was fouled from behind by Bruin who was dispossessed and made an awkward forward’s attempt to regain the ball. He lost his balance and fell, with his legs swinging into Alonso’s legs from behind and it appears to be this “finishing” of the foul that Ozzie took grave umbrage to. I can understand how Alonso thought that Bruin was just taking a free whack at his legs, but I wasn’t able to see a ton of intent from the way he fell. Alonso ignored the play (Nico free in the attack found Valdez and the Sounders had a nice push happening) to turn around and confront Bruin. He initiated contact with Bruin who held onto Alonso as the Sounder pushed and shoved him. Eventually Alonso’s hands went to the face and that is a pretty easy red card to call, and a very, very stupid card that stopped tremendous momentum that Seattle was building. In the previous 10 minutes Seattle had out-possessed Houston 65-34 and was dominating. This dropped immediately to a deficit of 42-58 (Houston).

Look, I understand being annoyed at fouls, and that was the ~6th foul he had suffered (3 called). While getting hacked sucks, Alonso HAS to keep his cool, and this trend of players getting carded for silly things needs to end now. Alonso had no need to repeatedly strike at Bruin’s face. The red is the same as a yellow for him though, and either way he would have missed the Dallas game. I did like seeing Alfaro and Roldan keeping their cool as the young players tried to mediate the situation.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.3

Roldan was all over the place in the midfield (and later fullback) and seamlessly filled any holes on the team. I had him with trackable actions in all quadrants of the field, often popping up in attack or dropping into passing lanes. He had 90% passing, to go with a massive 6 tackles on the defensive side.

The 24th minute was one of those times where Roldan just popped up, this time in the attack. He received a Lodeiro through-ball that was barely behind him and forced a juggling shot he just missed getting good contact on. In the 28th it was Cristian’s high press that created a turnover, and he then dribbled past three defenders before having a cross blocked. A similar play occurred in the 37th, but he lost the ball in the midfield after another Houston defensive play.

We have seen Roldan’s strength and balance on display lately, and in the 52nd he somehow rode out 3 harsh tackles in the defense before bursting forward and finding Jordan through on goal; it was really impressive. I LOVED seeing him refuse to give up on a ball that looked to be going over the end line for a goal kick, and his continuous pressure forced a Houston mistouch and earned a free corner in the 54th. When moved to left back in the 72nd it was a fluid transition, with Houston unable to pick on his side with any success. The versatility and composure of Roldan continues to impress.

Herculez Gomez – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 62’)

At this point Gomez has been relegated to a “hustle guy”. With little support from Mears, Herc was unable to do much of anything against Houston. His 71% passing and few notable actions were indicative of a game where Gomez was game to play defense and tried hard, but just failed to leave any mark on the match

At times even Gomez’s hustle was misguided and created problems, as he got out of position continually trying to find the ball. There was just zero cohesion with Mears in the attack and he missed Tyrone on an underlap in the 6th and again in the 7th before giving up on using his outside back as an option for the rest of the game. Herculez worked hard across the middle to support when Lodeiro would roam, and I liked his work in the passing lanes to force Houston wide and into more predictable attacks but there was nothing dangerous or noteworthy about his movement.

After being easily pushed off the ball by Brown in the 10th Herc was abused by Beasely in the 30th. A rare offensive 49th minute break up the left side saw him cross the ball back to no one, instead of finding a Morris run to the near post. I thought maybe he had a chance to do some damage upon receiving a Nico pass on the 6 midway through the second half, but he turned away from goal and walked the ball back outside the 18. This was a disappointing performance.

Andreas Ivanschitz – 6 | Community – 5.6 (off 11’)

AI looked great for the first 10 minutes of the game. He was active early, looking to make vertical runs and working well with Alfaro behind him. Recognizing the service available, in the 3rd minute Andreas drove directly at goal in a startling run that got in behind the Houston defense. Ivanschitz had nice service on his one corner taken as a result of this play.

In the 10th Andreas drove at goal aggressively, getting off a right footed shot that was blocked followed by another that was blocked and finalizing with a left footed attempt that Houston keeper Joe Willis did great to deny. In hind sight, Lodeiro and Morris both made runs to the center of the goal and likely would have tapped in a cross, but Ivanschitz did well with this attempt. It is a shame he got hurt, he looked very spry and active prior to his injury on this play and in a game that featured 11 Seattle corners and various set pieces, he was missed.

Nicolas Lodeiro - 7 | Community – 6.8

On first watch I thought Nico was quiet, but going back and watching more I started to see his massive influence on this game. He never stops moving! I had 2 negative marks, a corner kick that was too easy for Willis to grab and a time he lost possession in the midfield, but other than that Nico was clean and active. For a guy touching the ball nearly 100 times this game in mostly attacking spaces, he still managed 77% passing and was the big facilitator once again, chipping in a whopping SIX key passes.

These were a combination of through balls to Morris, well placed corner kicks (I thought 9 of his 10 were great) and individual play. The speed at which he created attacks off turnovers was exemplary, often one- or two-touching through to Jordan. He beat Sheanon Williams on the end line and earned a free kick in the 14th on personal will alone and almost scored by forcing an own goal in the 63rd from individual dribbling and a well placed cross.

Lodeiro should have had multiple assists, for the amount of times he put Friberg, Roldan, Morris, etc. into positions to score, but Willis was especially good 1v1 and Seattle failed to follow up any bobbles. This game was the first that we really saw an offense missing that Dempsey-sized hole in its movement and finishing up front.

FORWARD:

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.0

Jordan worked hard to get chances, but without a lot of midfield attacking support was left on an island up front at times. When put into good positions, the Houston defenders (especially David Horst) did an excellent job of refusing to be beat by pace and funneling all of his attacks wide. Many in the first half had the added difficulty of going to his left, and without constructive runs on the back side or a cutback, Morris was often denied anything but tough angle shots from his weaker foot in the 37th, 42nd and 45th.

He did better in the second half, adding some holdup play to try to bring more attackers in and making diagonals to the right. A near post run in the 49th saw Gomez pass well behind him. In the 52nd Jordan had a great run but failed to finish it with an adequate cross. After the injection of Valdez into the attack Morris looked just a matter of moments from breaking the scoreless tie. I was really impressed with Morris’ defensive work late, and he looked good on the wing defensively. In the 85th there was still gas in the tank for a long run forward.

SUBS:

Erik Friberg – 7 | Community – 5.6 (on 16’)

It took Erik a long time to get into the flow of the game. “Oh, is Friberg playing” (Realio: 33’). In the 40th Friberg broke through the defensive line and managed 3 shots off, all which were saved. The rest of the game until the red card he was just a midfield pest, winning balls, controlling the ball when he had the opportunity and closing down defensively well.

Where Erik really shone in this game, though, was after Alonso was sent off. I have a lot of hope for this weekend after seeing this performance, I thought Friberg one of the best players on the field from the 65th minute on. Without him I do not think the home team keeps a shutout. He was a tireless workhorse in the middle, and it was his communication that was leading the Sounders defense and transition forward. With his head on a constant swivel, Friberg sat in front of the center backs and marked everyone into that zone. He was calling Mears central to support, dropping in behind Torres on crosses and playing the ball cleanly out of the back. Somewhere amidst all that he managed both of his key passes, his best when putting Oalex through in the 80th.

Friberg had a rough turnover after a lot of Seattle possession in the 43rd and an awful square pass in the 47th but this game was all about how well he looked down a man. Erik really stepped up and solidified the defense of the entire team playing short and was a huge reason that Seattle continued to look the better team even playing without Alonso.

Nelson Haedo Valdez - 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 62’)

Valdez looks so good as a sub, once again instantly linking up with Nico upon entering. His holdup and communication in the 69th allowed him to dive at the goal and forced a save off Willis at the near post. In the 72nd he was holding up the ball and even helping Seattle be the aggressor down a man. His control wasn’t only an offensive tool, when under siege late the Sounders found a positive outlet by putting balls into Valdez’s area, and he would fend off defenders, obtain, hold, and alleviate pressure.

Nelson gets in good positions and does many things well, but his endurance and playstyle precludes him from long stints and he is lacking half a step that would allow him to create consistent goal dangerous pressure.

Oalex Anderson – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 74’)

The people clamoring for Anderson got to see exactly what he has to offer. Lots of pace, very little tactical awareness, and a single mindedness that detracts from team play. In the 80th he surged into the attack well, only to scuff a left footed shot while leaving 2 “decent” attackers in Morris and Nico wanting for passes. In the 90th he was in a dangerous spot and chose to needlessly back heel the ball towards Valdez through 3 defenders. In the 91st he was again thoroughly kicking the ground on a shot.

The biggest issue I have with Anderson isn’t any of the above, it was his consistent watching of the play and lack of any cohesive off ball movement. He simply doesn’t create anything for the tactical side of the attack unless the ball is at his feet, and then his decision making is hurried and suspect.

REFEREE:

Drew Fischer – 6 | Community – 4.2

Fischer had a mostly quiet game, smartly warning Brown early after a 25th minute foul and carding Ricardo Clark correctly for his cynical foul on Roldan in the 43rd. I thought he could have given Williams a card for his take down of Lodeiro after being beat in the 14th but the warning was acceptable.

On the red/yellow card exchange from Alonso and Bruin I thought Drew did well to play advantage with Seattle on attack, and had no choice but to send Ozzie off. He smartly huddled with his AR and got the call right by my eye. Without Bruin going to the face it is hard to justify a double red there, but Alonso had to be removed for repeatedly striking the Houston player.

The one play I really disagreed with Fischer on came in the 77th and was a very big call. With Seattle down a man, I think Houston should also have been shown a red, with Clark kicking Roldan in the face in the box attempting some volley sort of thing. This is dangerous play and was called a foul, but the severity of it and in light of Clark’s multiple other plays I thought warranted a yellow. This would have been his second of the game and the final 13 minutes would have been played 10v10.

Other than this specific play, I would have generally liked to see a bit tighter fouls/card calling earlier. Houston ended up with 16 fouls committed which is a lot without a persistent card given. Allowing them to continually foul to disrupt attacks as well as frustrate players directly added to an overly physical game that aided Houston greatly.

DYNAMO MOTM:

There was not as clear a standout as in recent matches, but goalkeeper Joe Willis wins with nearly 42 percent of the vote, while Will Bruin earned nearly a third as well.


It’s hard for me to be too upset about getting a positive result within a game with so much adversity. I don’t think many are expecting a ton out of Seattle in Dallas this weekend, but I believe we have enough healthy bodies to earn road points. Let’s hope I am right, and we are playoff bound after this weekend’s games are through. Stay dry/safe kids.