Man, I struggle to put into words how upsetting it was to watch the Sounders lose 1-2 on my birthday to the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps. If you had turned around for a beer in the 11th and 75th minutes and just watched the game you would think the Sounders won by 4. The home team vastly controlled the game throughout, and rarely looked challenged on defense. There is definitely some work to be done to finish chances and the giant hole behind the forward line needs to be addressed, but this was a good performance with a terrible result aided by a very, very poor referee outing.
Stefan Frei - 7 | Community - 6.5
Someone posted on here that Frei was a bad keeper and I just see zero evidence of that. In this game he had a rough left footed clear on a tough back pass in the 60th minute and the rest of the game played flawless.
He had strong saves in the 15 and 34th minutes, and showed an early willingness to come far off his line to help out the center backs. A smart header in the 23rd and out quickly in the 42nd to beat Bolaños from his line showed his ability to condense the defense up the field. In the 40th he demonstrated for Tyler Miller a textbook punch out of a dangerous cross that he wasn't going to be able to corral, and he made a nice positional save in the 57th.
Frei didn't have a lot to do since the other team was gifted two penalties, but when called on to make saves he could logically do, he made them admirably. He used more of his feet this game and took some short goal kicks which is something to watch out for in the future. I saw no signs of elbow issues.
Joevin Jones - 7 | Community - 6.6
Joevin had another great game yet was again directly responsible for a play that, although not his fault, contributed to a goal scored against. He most definitely didn't foul Christian Bolaños for a penalty kick, but I am somewhat concerned about the play in general. First off he was caught too high challenging for a header off a David Ousted clearance, and he missed badly. Bolaños fouled him by undercutting the Seattle left back and as usual Jones kept his feet and played through. I don't begrudge him this, although I think if he falls down there he gets a call. Unfortunately, after not getting a whistle Jones took a bad angle to recover on defense, and this allowed Blas Perez to put Bolaños into the goal area. With Marshall following the missed header ball out to close down Perez, Jones needs to step back and support the hole behind Chad, and this small lapse in disciplined defense put him in a bad position to chase. The chase allowed that garbage call to be made.
This was one of a few issues with poor angles taken by Jones, but none were particularly flagrant and he had a great game otherwise.
His positioning improves by the week, and he is perfectly choosing when to attack. His 6th minute run created a corner, and later in the half he correctly read the game to combine with Valdez to double team a Vancouver player and counter off the ensuing steal. The timing on his runs is getting better and better and he is forcing defenses to adjust to his pace and ability.
One thing that illustrates just how quickly this guy is improving was a note from the 78th minute that has him missing a wide open Dempsey at the top of the box on an attack up the wing. After a word with Clint he found the Sounders striker two minutes later wide open for what should have been an easy assist. I am really impressed with both directions of gameplay from Jones, and the more the team learns the system the more he should excel.
Chad Marshall - 6 | Community - 6.2
Up until the one crazy play, Chad was having a solid, yet quiet, evening. Tasked with bodying up Blas Perez and shutting off crossing angles, Marshall did everything you would expect him to do. He shut down Perez, rebuked any service in to the area, and supported the midfield by stepping into the hole and recycling the ball to the width. Marshall even got involved again on the offensive side of the ball, winning a free kick on the edge of the box after a corner and almost putting away a direct kick service from Ivanschitz in the 48th. I would like to see him do better with these wide open looks from set pieces, and if he can't score directly I want to see players start to run off him so he can look to pass back post.
The biggest play of the game for Chad was obviously the penalty awarded in the 74th minute against him. There is a lot to look at in this one, but he has earned the benefit of the doubt that others in his position have not. He doesn't make poor tackles, and in review I didn't see this as a bad tackle in any way. What I saw was Perez gearing up to shoulder tackle Marshall but Chad went for the slide tackle instead. I have no doubt that if Marshall keeps his feet and they hit shoulder to shoulder that Blas flops anyway, but it is worth noting that Perez is looking to initiate contact and hits Marshall in the face while doing so. Marshall gets the ball cleanly and the rest is history.
Yes, I think he should have played positional defense and relied on Frei/Scott to help him by keeping his feet. No I don't blame him for his choice and think it's a ridiculous call that's rarely a foul anywhere else on the field - and in no way a penalty kick. Until this becomes a habit, I am chalking this one up to
Zach Scott - 6 | Community - 5.7
Scott has quietly put together a few average games in a row subbing for the injured Brad Evans. He is not doing anything fancy, and offers very little other than decent positional defense and lots of aerial dominance, but Zach has also reduced the big errors that plagued him last season. Unfortunately for the team they gave up the early penalty goal, but this also served to allow Vancouver to bunker, which gave the defense a very light workload.
It was obvious early when the Sounders passed it around the back for a 10-pass sequence ending in a Scott over-the-top-to-no-one pass that the Whitecaps would be funneling distribution towards him in the back. This 4th minute mistake and another 4 minutes later were his most egregious errors in the first half, as he settled down and looked to find feet quickly thereafter. In the second half, Scott made back to back awful cross field passes in the 56th and 60th minute but again found a way to return to calmer, possession soccer. His passing is still not soft and he makes those in front of him work hard to retain the ball.
On the plus side I liked seeing Scott's 7th minute aggression on Vancouver net-minder Ousted to keep pressure on the Whitecap goal. Multiple times Scott did very well to step forward and anticipate attacks through the middle, and he had particularly good 1v1 defense in the 68th minute to track a run through his zone. Unfortunately, Scott is still likely to follow up a good play like his 76th minute interception with an immediate turnover, and we heartily miss the offensive direction that Evans can provide from the back.
Tyrone Mears - 5 | Community - 6.4
After a good week against RSL I thought Mears was again poor this Saturday. Once again Mears was very active on offense, continually looking to get involved via overlapping the midfield and keeping width on the right side. Unfortunately, many of his runs were not particularly well designed, and he often looked lost for options. When he did get forward, his service was severely lacking.
Last season I was a huge proponent of the passing that Mears provided from the wing, and I still think he can offer this, but he has to learn that he can't just chunk in crosses toward the likes of Kendall Waston. In the 8th minute his poor cross after a nice overlapping run jump-started a counter attack the other way. He followed up runs with bad crosses in the 33rd and 45th and frankly looked lost on what to do offensively. Someone needs to tell him to dive into the box at an angle or try to get to the end line, instead of the same angle, same cross every time.
Mears did get a few decent crosses in, the best being a ball to Dempsey that was miss headed in the 33rd. I was really impressed with a 40th minute recovery across the field after Marshall was thrown down and it was Tyrone's superior speed and awareness that allowed him to come across the six and save a great Vancouver chance from materializing.
I just don't really know what to do about Mears. At times he looks solid on defense, and then he just completely loses Techera in the 93rd for an open goal. His offensive contributions are minimal at this point, and I don't see him combining well with Morris at all. In order to balance out Jones' effort we need more from the right side.
Osvaldo Alonso - 8 | Community - 7.7 (MotM)
Alonso put in another great performance on Saturday night and I marked him down for exactly two bad plays. One was an ill-advised shot in the 7th minute when I think he should have laid the ball off to an open Dempsey, and the second was a bad giveaway across the middle of the field in the 11th minute. Yep, I didn't have another major error from Alonso for the final 80 minutes of the game, showing just how well he played.
Because of the game state, Alonso became more of a manager of the midfield, not being forced as much as usual to be a destroyer but he adjusted to this well and worked often to change the point of attack. In the 23rd minute I noted a bit of midfield magic to get out of trouble and spark a counter and he repeated this play in the 60th, even going so far as to cherry pick defenders, showing immense confidence in his pace. In the 24th minute he had one of his few defensive recoveries, and immediately found a through ball to Valdez. When dropping in between the center backs to support distribution, he nicely found Jones in the 38th. It was an Alonso through ball that found Jones again in the 80th for the shot that Dempsey put wide.
I wrote earlier this year about being worried about Ozzie, and although I have concerns still that he doesn't do enough to prevent injury, he has looked very strong in the middle through the first month of the season. I think getting Friberg back should improve Ozzie's effectiveness and allow him to be even more of a factor in games.
Cristian Roldan - 6 | Community - 5.6
I liked what I saw this week from Cristian, and it was a huge improvement over his play thus far this season. A lot of that may be due to Vancouver being gifted a road goal and subsequently settling for a deep counter strategy, but Roldan deserves a lot of credit for improved spacing this week.
Cristian is a two-way player and his 8th minute recovery shut down a counter, with another attempt in the 16th thwarted by smart play as well. It was a Roldan attack up the middle in the 20th that earned a free kick and throughout the game there was plenty of 1v1 defending with great tenacity.
There were definitely a lot of poor decisions with Cristian's game this week. Taking a pointless shot, a bad angle on defense which allowed Kekuta Manneh to run easily on goal, and a slow rotational effort all made the book.
One thing I see significantly improved is Roldan's conditioning. After fading noticeably last season in the second half, I saw zero decline in Cristian's effort and some very nice plays after the 80th minute. There are still spacing issues and I don't think Roldan and Alonso offer much in the way of an offensive partnership, but the improving tactical shape from the middle is great to see.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 8 (off 88') MotM | Community - 7.4
I thought Andreas very strong in this game and along with Alonso played very well. Consistently dangerous whenever on the ball, I also saw Andreas add some defensive effort in the 5th and 33rd minutes and looked to drop into the hole more often to facilitate attacks. I would still like to test him at a pure wide forward position, but he is making the most of his time in the middle.
Ivanschitz is a key pass waiting to happen. I think I counted 7 with 2-3 others that could very well have been. He is just so vertically dynamic; I really hope the team finds a way to combine in ways to create goals from these looks. One thing that Andreas does well is make runs off of the forwards (better than they do with each other in fact). The set piece delivery is the best it has ever been here, and I love seeing how varying the service is. Sometimes long, sometimes near post, the ball comes off with such great power that it's giving the Sounders a ton of opportunities to score. His 44th and 48th minute services both deserved goals, they were that good.
Andreas had some bad touches, and missed a few passes forward that might have turned into something. Two free kicks were easily gobbled up by Ousted. These are all ok, because every time he stands over the ball he can make magic, and his 52nd minute goal was simply perfect. I have been lobbying for him to get a few looks direct, if only to balance out Clint and man, he showed we have a truly dynamic pair of direct free kick takers. This is going to make it impossible for opponent goalkeepers to cheat on set pieces.
Clint Dempsey - 6 | Community - 6.1
I have come to expect more than average performances out of Clint, but missing a very make-able shot in the 80th minute dropped him down to exactly that. A player of his quality must make that, and it would have changed a ton for this team. He has to do better.
That wasn't his only error either; I noted multiple times where Dempsey dropped back to get the ball and made unusually bad decisions. In the 13th and 24th I thought the team failed to give him very good options, but he simply HAS to get on the same page with Valdez. In the 68th and 73rd they missed each other, and each time was an opportunity to combine up the middle (a 'la Oba). This part of the offense needs to be fixed, and if they can get that chemistry improved they will both look better.
Clint still managed to put his footprint on the game, continually dropping and opening up the field, like a nice Tyrone Mears run in the 5th or Jones in the 20th. It was Dempsey's aggressive and direct run straight on goal that earned the free kick which Ivanschitz converted on. In the 63rd Clint spearheaded a vintage Sounders counter that looked fantastic.
Dempsey still looks to find the game and the lack of cohesion from the forwards is definitely an issue, but I don't think he'll miss that twelve yard shot again. He helped create quite a few situations that should be dangerous as the season continues.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 6 | Community - 5.8
Nelson had a pretty regular game for his standards, holding the ball up and dropping it off, at times combining with others to move forward. Valdez is always moving and this stresses a defense and opens channels that really need to be better utilized from his teammates.
Other than a flick header to AI in space early and continually coming back to control iffy Scott clearances, there weren't a lot of specific notes from my book about Valdez. I'd like to see him work better at angled runs stretching the defense instead of always checking back to the ball. His runs on set plays are very strong and at one point he was beat for a wide open header by Chad Marshall of all people.
I have seen too many mistakes in huge moments to be satisfied with Valdez this season. In this one I thought his bad touch on an Alonso through ball really cost the team a great scoring chance. He would have been 1v1 against Waston, and it is frustrating to see these big chances squandered.
Jordan Morris - 6 (off 71') | Community - 5.5
Morris had an equally quiet evening as Valdez, working hard to make something happen but not being willing or able to create for himself. I would like to see more from Jordan, and while he is doing some very good things spacing and shape-wise, he needs to be much, much more goal dangerous.
I did like seeing him use his other right foot in the 14th minute shot, and Morris is adding a ton to the team defensively. It was his defense in the middle in the 25th minute that started a dangerous counter attack. This was noticeable for just how hard Morris worked to get goal-side and cut off passing lanes.
I think there is potential for Morris to affect the scoresheet, and he made a perfect run in the 29th that Jones just missed. He almost got on the end of a 44th minute AI free kick, and in the 55th he ran forward strong at goal but was without support. These all bode well for him to be more effective, but I would like to see more directness to his game.
Jmo definitely is getting tired and may still have some fitness issues. He had very few impact plays in the second half and I would love to see if Mears/Fisher/Roldan can provide more attacking impetus from his side so he doesn't have to constantly make long, energy-depleting runs all game on his own.
Oalex Anderson - 5 (on 71') | Community - 5.6
Well, I will say that Anderson plays VERTICAL. He has one direction and that is on goal, something lacking from a majority of our forwards. Unfortunately, his decision making is behind his athleticism, and while showing lots of promise, Anderson doesn't seem ready to push for a ton of time. I noted two very bad passes and he only completed a very small percentage of his few touches.
Oalex did nicely get on the end of a header in the 78th but put it well over. His pace forced Tim Parker into a bad foul in the 91st and earned a free kick in a dangerous spot that came to nothing. For a 20-minute shift, I was severely underwhelmed.
Aaron Kovar - 6 (on 88') | Community - 4.9
There again wasn't a lot to grade Kovar on this week, but he made the most of his few minutes on the field. For a sub that was most likely to keep Ivanschitz from getting his second yellow, I thought Aaron made a smart decision to go to Mears short and down the line in the 89th minute, catching the defense napping. He had a nice corner service in the 92nd.
Matt Geiger - 2 | Community - 1.7
I debated the 1 here. The reason I didn't give it was Geiger made a number of good calls and kept up with play well. This wasn't a Daniel Radford level ****show, but let's face it, he drastically affected the entire score line and 90% of the gameplay due to poor officiating.
He correctly called a foul on Perez after the play for cleaning out Scott in the 6th minute. I thought the yellow cards on Rivero and Mears were reasonable. At times the advantage play was correct and yet, literally everything else in my book was negative.
I think that Geiger is completely caught up in his own hype. He got the reputation at some point as a referee not afraid to make the "tough" call, and I think this creates a situation where he feels the need to make big calls, and in pressure situations like Century Link simply fails. It makes him miss many smaller fouls if players fail to sell them. Geiger is especially susceptible to dives as he is looking to make that game-defining call. A hard foul in the middle of the field is ignored, yet a softer play in the box is a PK or Red Card immediately.
A perfect example of this was in the 9th minute when the ref failed to call a foul against Bolaños for undercutting Jones, who to his credit plays through the foul. This is further compounded when he rushes to call a penalty when there was no contact. Where is the AR on that side to help with this call? More evidence was the number of times that Fraser Aird was allowed to continually hack and foul persistently without a caution, especially an awful 20th minute tackle that illustrates my above point about location; it was eerily similar to the Marshall challenge that later was worthy of a penalty yet wasn't even called as a foul. Then he later deliberately checked Ivanschitz on the sideline well after the ball was away - yellow on AI of course.
The second half wasn't any better. Manneh most certainly should have seen Orange for his 56th minute challenge on Mears, had Tyrone stayed in he could have had his leg broken (NO CALL... RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE AR). I thought that Scott being called for a foul over the back in the 72nd was iffy at best, especially since by that point Perez had simply stopped going for headers and was only looking for contact like he got for his PK. Obviously Geiger rushes to give this second penalty, and then awards a half assed make up yellow for Perez in the 83rd. I have no idea why Matias Laba gets a free kick when he tries to do a diving header at Andreas' knee height and Ivanschitz pulls his foot back. I am not even going to get into the Waston two handed shove on Valdez that didn't get carded when he makes ZERO play on the ball.
Games shouldn't be dominated by a referee. Changing the entire game state so early off a bad call was horrible; doing it again late was just unforgiveable. Geiger should be ashamed by this outing.
I hate that this season has gone this way, and it's hard to be thinking "what if" already about some pretty easily fixable mistakes that are costing us games. One thing we can't do is make any suspect plays and expect to get a call from the referee. We need to vastly limit our mistakes and capitalize on the opportunities we have and we should be fine. A two-week break may be just what this team needs to get a few of the players in sync and return to health. I haven't seen enough (other than results) that makes me think this isn't a great team waiting to wake up. Seeya in two weeks!
As a community the best Vancouver Whitecaps player was Pedro Morales, but he did not get the most votes. A full 35% of voters said "Other" was the best player. Based on responses around Sounder at Heart, those were probably votes for Geiger. Morales received 24% of the vote. Somehow 12% of readers though Blas Perez played the best game in a Whitecaps shirt.