Watch out MLS! The Seattle Sounders have won four in a row to charge up the standings and present a solid argument for top team in the league. After a hard-fought 2-1 win in Vancouver it is apparent we are a resilient club. Missing Dempsey, Lodeiro, Ivanschitz, and losing Fernandez early were only speed bumps as once again Seattle overcame a deficit and persevered to grind out a positive result. This theme of the Schmetzer-led Sounders is one that bodes well for playoffs.
Stefan Frei – 7 | Community – 7.2
Frei didn’t have to do a ton of work, and he wasn’t standing on his head making saves against unending pressure. What he did, once again, was be the tipping point from which the team drew inspiration.
Seattle started slow, allowing an unmarked Pedro Morales loose to fire from 18 yards away and he put one off the post, although Stefan likely had any goal-ward attempt covered. Unfortunately, his teammate conceded a PK, and Frei guessed the wrong direction for a 0-1 deficit.
After the early penalty kick, Seattle was at a familiar crossroads where someone needed to make a play that kick-started our game. Once again it was Frei coming up HUGE in the 29th minute to stone Alphonso Davies from 10 yards out. This not only prevented a second goal; it worked to invigorate the Sounders.
Stefan was active in keeping Vancouver from getting another good chance, for instance coming out fast to deny Davies right before half and preventing a header from Giles Barnes early in the second. After a corner kick Frei was strong to come out and punch in traffic, earning a free kick when he was clattered into. In the 51st it was again Frei charging off his line to beat Erik Hurtado to a through ball.
Frei finished his game with a nice play in the 90th to corral a ball in the box and ended the day with three official saves. However, his ability to keep the team in the game long enough to catch up was his best contribution. Once again, Frei did what he had to and kept this game close, allowing his teammates time to earn the win. Interesting stat: Stefan gave up three goals to Vancouver this year, all via penalty kicks.
Joevin Jones – 6 | Community – 6.5
Joevin had an up and down game, and it was difficult to rate him as his role changed multiple times throughout the match.
Jones started out as a left back and had a rough time with Davies before an injury forced him into a midfield role. In the 1st minute he overran the young Whitecaps player and fouled him, and in the 2nd against pressure dribbled the ball out of bounds. After he moved to the wing with Fisher behind him, Jones looked comfortable, immediately finding Morris in the 12th. In the 22nd he was part of a nice attack, pulling a pass back across the box rather than taking a shot. Seventeen minutes later he did a similar thing, and after being very patient his cross found Alonso for the equalizing goal. This was smart offense; instead of urgently forcing the ball at the goal, he picked his head up and found an assist – very impressive.
After this play Jones faded from the game, consistently coming inside but failing to work through the middle or overlap with Fisher with any frequency or success. He had one nice attempted cross for Morris in the 61st, but was otherwise ineffective as an attacking player in the second half. After moving back to the left back position, he was too passive, getting back slowly on defense and failing to close down wing attacks as if he was still in the midfield. I love how versatile Jones is, and he really showed some quality patience, but he does too much standing and watching from the midfield.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.5
Once again, this center backline pairing served up a large helping of great defense, and other than the PK mistake from an outside back they bottled up the Vancouver offense all night. Although the defense gave up 15 shots, only three were on target other than the penalty, and these were generally limited to weak headers.
Marshall started the game off strong with a chest pass to Alonso in the 2nd to neatly keep possession and then he and Torres were excellent on a 4th minute 3v2 Vancouver break. The communication between these two was perfect, one stepping to the ball and the other in sync with his movement to cut off any openings. A few moments later it was Marshall again saving the day, defending a Vancouver break created by a rare Alonso miscue.
Chad showed some amazing agility for such a big man in the 21st, going to ground to prevent Hurtado from shooting near post then jumping back to his feet immediately to cut off another angle. Hurtado was almost completely ineffective against Marshall, constantly being either bodied off the ball or trying to turn into a brick wall and losing possession. Marshall had a few passes that went to no one, but they were generally clearances that were just alleviating pressure. He dominated the back with ten clearances and four interceptions, stellar numbers as usual.
One of my favorite things about the new pairing is their interchangeability, like in the 37th when Marshall came across the field to help Torres who then slipped in behind. In the 43rd it was again Chad covering defensively on Hurtado so well that Vancouver’s mini-break was completely stalled. This communication is only improving, and I noted multiple times this game where a glance, a quick word, and their common tactical superiority allowed these two giants to seamlessly transition to dangerous spaces. The gaps that were very apparent a few matches ago are rapidly shrinking.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 7.3
Torres’ play is surprisingly polished for just coming off a major knee surgery. Possessing remarkable size and agility, Roman is very fluid in the open field with possession. He is by no means a dribbling threat but for someone with such great aerial and physical prowess, I am more and more impressed with his foot skills.
Torres had a few no-nonsense clearances early before settling in and finding people’s feet for more possession-based play. Mears/Gomez were not giving many early options, and it took Roman a while to understand the movement of Friberg and Roldan in the new formation. As mentioned above, Torres and Marshall collaborated to stop a 3v2 break against them, with Marshall covering while Roman stepped to the ball and stood up the attacker.
Roman had a quiet second half, but there were multiple times where he stepped up to deny Hurtado or other attackers any service, especially after Vancouver went down a player. Torres did ok at supporting his side when the ball was frequently switched around the back looking for openings. Roman had a great clearance in the 88th to help hold the win and overall was strong individually, but even stronger in combination with Marshall.
Tyrone Mears – 6 | Community – 6.3
Mears struggled with yet another midfielder in front of him, and while he did some good things he is prone to making bad decisions and was lucky that his team didn’t suffer for some of the mistakes he made.
It was obvious early that the right side wasn’t on the same page, and while Gomez attempted to give an option to Tyrone, they struggled to connect. It wasn’t just passing, it was general communication, and at times Mears was unsure when to go forward or how to support the wing. This was most apparent in the 4th minute, when Tyrone was too slow to give Friberg a dropping option, and then at the last minute tried to overlap and ran himself completely out of the play – a turnover by the befuddled Swede turned into a 3v2 break for the Whitecaps. Mears compounded his slow decision making with a few bad passes from the back and generally struggled to get involved early.
Tyrone was strong on defense, notably in the 22nd when he was isolated 1v1 against Barnes and calmly defended him and bottled him up almost the entire night. When Tyrone did figure out how/when to get forward a few good things happened, like in the 36th when he cherry-picked Jordan Harvey and found Friberg forward, or in the 39th when his dangerous cross almost found Morris’ head. This last play was important, as the deflection was recycled by Jones into the first Sounders score.
Mears completely lost Harvey on the backside in the 46th minute in what should have been a goal for a non-left back. This was just bad defense, and Tyrone was caught ball watching and helping Marshall mark a patch of grass in the box instead of finding his man. Mears improved during the brief cameo by Evans, finally utilizing some of the space created by the Sheriff, but his 0/5 accurate crosses and 3/9 long balls stats show that when pressured, he stills struggles to find the right pass.
Osvaldo Alonso – 8 MOTM | Community – 8.6 MOTM
Alonso started out in his old role as single defensive midfielder and he was merely OK. I understand the intent of the lineup, especially with the people missing, but luckily this tinkering was corrected in the second half.
Merely OK for Alonso this year means consistently dropping into passing lanes and being in perfect spots early defensively. This included a 23rd minute highlight reel play where he controlled the ball in traffic, split two defenders creating huge space in the middle, passed the ball to the wing before getting into the box and attempting a bicycle kick on a pass behind him. His control in tight areas is so good. There were a few more than usual rough passes, and while his passing percentage was still a great 88%, the misplays were unusually poor, such as a 7th minute drop that gave a 2v1 directly to Vancouver, and a 51st minute pass directly to Morales that allowed the Whitecaps player to put Hurtado through.
Alonso has learned to choose his spots to go forward, and in the 39th he charged into the box and finished a lovely Jones cross to tie the score. This play was impressive because Ozzie picked his timing perfectly, confused a defense that hadn’t seen him range forward much at all, found a pocket of space, and redirected his shot on frame off a tough bounce. This was a harder finish than it looked and it, along with a 69th minute volley that was blocked, are great examples of how Alonso is keeping his shots low and on frame this season, to great results.
When opened up with a defender next to him Alonso shone in the second half, and was everywhere both offensively and defensively. My highlights were a 65th minute through ball for Morris that beat FOUR defenders, skipped a line, and put the striker into the box for a shot, and an 87th minute vintage anticipation play to steal a pass and dribble 40 yards into the box. It’s like putting that second defensive mid back there just takes the training wheels off and Alonso shines, with confidence to go forward, roam to destroy, and dominate the game from a deep lying position.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 7.6
Roldan was immense in this game yet again, showing range and endurance and really impressing with his play. He just blew up the stat sheet with 90% passing, five tackles, two interceptions, 3/3 on long balls and even a nice shot on goal. His game is really blossoming, and it’s fun to see him influence the match from different angles and roles.
The rapport between Morris and Roldan is well-documented and translates to the field with plays like Cristian’s one-time pass to Morris in the 14th, a no-look dink forward that almost sprung Jordan. Morris might want to remind Cristian who leads the team in goals though, as Roldan took a shot in the 28th with Jordan open to his left. In the 22nd a smart header from Roldan opened Jones into a swath of open field, and a minute later he was back covering for Tyrone on the other side. Later in the half Roldan was winning the ball in the middle, joining attack, and being the most active midfielder on the field.
Roldan got manhandled off the ball by Parker’s physicality in the 17th and Smith in the 27th, but Cristian seemed to have learned his lesson by the 43rd. He basically carried Christian Bolanos 40 yards, dribbling with the Vancouver player draped all over him, and a few minutes later fought off blatant fouls from David Edgar and Harvey to keep possession and put Morris through.
Roldan moved back in the second half and showed off more defensive skills, combining with Alonso in the 60th to eat an attack before going solo ten minutes later to dominate Bolanos. I loved seeing Roldan win a foul in the 93rd minute, still playing hard and holding his dribble against Blas Perez.
Herculez Gomez – 6 | Community – 5.9
This was the best game for Gomez as a Sounder, and I was impressed with his dedication to defense. In the 3rd minute he was already tracking back well, supporting Mears on the right. Gomez showed some sprightly legs in the 6th minute, picking up a loose ball after a corner and going on a one-man break vs. Vancouver before attempting a Carli-Lloyd-esque shot from just over midfield.
Herc was in charge of corner service and he did well, putting in consistently dangerous passes that gave SSFC a chance to attack them. His offensive run of play contributions were pretty minimal other than a late cross, but again his defensive work rate cannot be overlooked. I noted him for extensive defensive hustle in the 45th and 50th, before really impressing in the 57th on a play where he busted his ass to cover for Mears, then moved forward when the ball reversed to Parker. This was surprising energy and great dedication to pressing the ball.
Gomez had a few blunders, like a header back to the middle in the 38th and a bad pass that almost handcuffed Friberg a few minutes later and could have been disastrous, but Herculez was generally solid, if not exciting.
Alvaro Fernandez – 5 | Community – 5.3 (off 9’)
Flaco started quietly, but it was apparent he was going to be the most offensive of the four attacking midfielders. He was consistently the most advanced man on the field and was playing almost like Lodeiro does, pressing high with Morris at times dropping in behind. In the 3rd minute this paid off, winning possession. It is a shame he got hurt, because this was a great opportunity to see what we had in this player and whether he should get more time going forward.
Erik Friberg – 6 | Community – 5.7 (off 79’)
Friberg worked hard in this game as always, but just struggled to get involved from an attacking midfield position. Other than a 4th minute blunder losing possession in the midfield that led to a Vancouver break, Erik was calm and solid possessing the ball. He showcased 87% passing and chipped in with two key passes to lead the team.
Erik roamed around the pitch attempting to link up with others but was most effective pressing the Whitecaps midfield into mistakes and then transitioning the turnovers into a teammate’s path. One such time was in the 28th to earn Roldan a shot. In the 35th the combination of Roldan/Friberg/Jones worked the ball excellently from a wide position through the middle and into a break via quick passing and off ball movement.
Friberg was calm in the back, and did well to control the ball when it came to him before finding a pass. He missed an open Evans in the 77th but otherwise was solid, if a bit boring in the middle.
Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.9
Unless you were paying attention, you might think Morris didn’t play that well in this game. He only recorded one shot (on frame) to go with a key pass and a few dribbles and holdups. What he did do was continually move, tire Vancouver’s defense out with incessant cross field runs, and create space for teammates.
Early on Morris flicked wide to the willing run of Fernandez, and just as these two started to work well together Alvaro got injured. This took some precision out of the offense, as Jones took a more roaming role on the wing which left Morris moving side to side looking for service. Jordan had some nice holdup play in the 22nd and again in the 39th, this second one being especially important as it brought eventual goal scorer Alonso into the attacking third. Jordan’s best offensive play came in the 65th on a darting direct run that received a perfect Ozzie through ball. This run split the defense, and although Morris got off a decent shot after a touch, this hurt the angle on the attempt, and I would have loved to see the confidence to just run onto this ball and hit it cross-post with a first time shot.
Jordan had a few turnovers and missed a through ball to Jones that might have created a 1v1 with keeper David Ousted, but otherwise was very tidy with the ball. His work rate up top and willingness to drop into defense were impressive. It was fantastic to see him cover for Roldan in the 43rd that held off an attack right before half. In the 70th he immediately recognized Jones was caught too high and unable to defend and shifted over to cover Davies on the wing. In the 92nd he helped finish the game out by sealing Harvey off from a backside run, all the way inside his own 6-yard box. This desire and willingness to do whatever it takes shows exactly how much Morris wants to win, impacting the game positively even when not scoring or assisting.
Oniel Fisher – 4 | Community – 4.0 (on 9’, off 65’)
Fisher was put in a tough spot, dropped into a game cold and asked to match the speed and elusiveness of the young Davies. The re-watch showed me that Fisher played pretty well on defense, but made four major mistakes. Unfortunately, these mistakes were almost all capitalized on, and you simply can’t allow that many good opportunities.
The first and most egregious was in the 24th, with Davies getting past Fisher and showing awesome balance to tiptoe the end line and approach the box. Fisher is a physical player and seeing his mistake tried to body up the elusive player who put a toe into the box and hit the deck. Oniel simply wasn’t prepared for the pace and balance of Davies on this play, and his attempt to body the player instead of contain him was a huge mistake. The second error occurred in the 29th, and on this play Davies cut inside Fisher to obtain the ball and get a shot off. This occurred because Fisher lost track of his man, and while ball watching didn’t realize Davies would cut inside. Oniel’s first move was wide towards where the ball was going, and the opponent simply cut inside and had a free look. Davies got in behind Fisher again in the 46th right at the end of the half but luckily nothing came of it. Oniel was carded for a bad foul a moment into the second half when he clattered into Davies, but the replay showed this to be a simple slip on the field.
These four mistakes were tough, and that matters, but for the rest of the time I thought Fisher played fairly well. His overlapping with pace in the 13th and 22nd were great, and he stood up Davies in the 21st on defense prior to their goal. In the 33rd he beat Davies on offense, winning a set piece for Seattle in a great spot. In the 37th he was across well and when confronted with Davies 1v1 forced the Vancouver player wide, before dispossessing him two minutes later. He constantly hustled back on defense and his 52nd minute anticipation/steal was impressive.
I am not ready to give up on Fisher even though he struggled. He tends to be overly physical when it isn’t needed instead of using his quality pace, and he can get caught out of position. Unfortunately, in this one his mistakes were punished, and he must reduce the huge, game defining errors.
Brad Evans - 4 | Community – 5.7 (on 65’, RC 84’)
Evans looked great for the first 17 or so minutes he was on the field. His two-way play was intelligent, he was active and making runs on the wing that were very dangerous. In the 77th he was open but Friberg’s pass was blocked. He made no mistake in the 80th, getting the ball in a wide spot and crossing into danger, forcing a PK. Evans calmly stepped up and buried it, to stay perfect from the spot as a Sounder.
It was after this score that he seemed to start jabbering at Harvey, and this proved an issue. After another wide open look was fumbled away by Valdez, Evans took grave offense to a foul on the ensuing corner and gesticulated with his face to make his point. That was enough to satisfy the quick trigger finger of referee Salazar, and off to the showers he went. This simply can’t happen from the captain. You are winning, in a rivalry game that is going to knock them out of the playoffs. I get that you are tightly wound up, but it’s simply unacceptable to lose your cool in that manner. I don’t care if there was “intent” to head-butt. You simply can’t give the referee (especially that one) any reason to toss you, and that was more than enough reason. My (unproven) theory is that Salazar is more likely to give a second red than most, and from commentary after the game it seemed that he was looking for any reason to even up the sides; dumb move by Brad to give him that chance.
It’s a shame that it went down like it did, because Evans offers good work from a wide attacking position, and the Evans-Mears partnership might work well.
Nelson Valdez – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 79’)
Once again the closer was put on and once again Valdez impressed. It was Valdez who immediately pressed Edgar into a turnover right to Morris, and Jordan found Evans for the PK call. On this play Nelson continued his run, and it was his positioning that helped create the need to handle the ball.
In the 83rd Valdez hustled hard to get to a ball that probably should have been left for Evans to strike, and unfortunately he was only able to earn a corner from it. (the same corner Evans got sent off during). Nelson had a couple great holdup plays and his control in traffic using his body is excellent. He even earned a late foul in the 88th to help kill some time.
Ricardo Salazar – 8 | Community – 5.4
Salazar has history with Sounders fans, but lately he’s been relatively good as a referee. He was consistent with his whistle, was in position to make the big calls he was forced to make, and I thought he got the big plays correct.
In the 20th he correctly called Alonso for a foul, letting everyone know clearly where his line was for physicality. This set up his excellent call on Barnes in the 32nd minute, a play where Salazar not only gave the necessary caution, but allowed the play to continue to its completion before returning to the player and giving a retroactive card. This is something not enough referees do! The penalty kick was fairly easy to call; even though contact may have started outside the box or even out of bounds, there was really no defending the play from Fisher that was both clumsy and ended firmly in the area.
The yellow card on Fisher in the second half was the correct call, but I think Ricardo also correctly assessed this clumsy challenge as a slip from the defender and didn’t show red. I thought Davies got away with a late hack in the 52nd, and somehow the young player has managed to commit a ton of dangerous fouls against Seattle without being shown a card in both recent games. In the 53rd minute Salazar nicely allowed advantage to be played after a handball, and this was incredibly important because 10 seconds later Morales was stupidly elbowing Roldan and being sent off. Credit to the ref for the advantage call AND for seeing this foul behind the play.
The 80th minute handball was aided by the near side AR, but there was no hesitation from Salazar, nor any delay in giving Blas Perez a yellow after being warned to shut it earlier. The red card to Evans is hard to argue, any aggressive motion towards the head can be perceived as an attempted strike and you have to send off there. I did think Perez could have been also sent off for his stomp and kick on Gomez or a 94th minute elbow to Torres, all which went unpunished.
A decisive victory by the youngster Alphonso Davies in this weeks voting. He earned the penalty to help provide his team the lead, and caused constant trouble on his side of the pitch.
I have been in the minority with my positive outlook on this team throughout the year, especially as the summer wore on and the team still struggled, and even I had my doubts. I never questioned whether we had the talent to win games though, and we were often playing well but not getting results. It looks like a lot of that was mentality and suddenly we are winning games we would have squandered in the past. It’s incredibly exciting to watch a game with a sense of hope and optimism instead of dread and despair. Since we are now almost assured of playoffs it’s time to get #hellagreedy and look for seeding, home matches, and how we can navigate the bracket. To do that keeping everyone healthy is essential and earning a positive result at home against Houston is important.