It feels good to get off the donut. I have been bullish on this team for the entire year so far, and I saw nothing in the 1-0 win Saturday night at Century Link Field against the Montreal Impact to change my mind. I did see a team that has plenty of room for improvement, but I also saw a team that imposed its will until it got the result it deserved.
A few of the "other" votes were for Didier Drogba.
Stefan Frei - 8 | Community - 7.3
This was a calm, assertive keeper who dominated his area throughout. Against Montreal Frei was very cognizant of the speed of Dominic Oduro, and Stefan confidently came off his line often. In the 11th this quickness helped clean up a jumble in the box that could have been costly. Again in the 18th minute he was all the way to the 18 to make a save.
I noted several times how much calmer he looked overall, and having Evans as a security outlet showed. In the 30th Stefan stepped outside the 18 to make a clearance and nicely found the feet of Mears. Another time a great throw started a counter attack.
Frei had to make a few very important saves, like a 22nd minute 1v1 stuff of Oduro who had gotten in behind. Stefan cut the angle down perfectly and forced the Montreal striker into a savable effort. In the 28th he made easy work of a nasty knuckling shot from Ignacio Piatti, and in the 88th his positioning was superb to safely save a dangerous deflection.
Frei's best play of the night was his 89th minute assertive punch, a play where Stefan both made the right decision and executed perfectly, clearing the pressure from the Impact attack by rising above everyone and punching well clear. (Take note Tyler Miller). Although there weren't a ton of flashy saves, the all-around effort from Frei was just tremendous, and he earned a well-deserved first shutout of the season.
Dylan Remick - 6 (off 74') | Community - 6.2
I thought Remick looked really strong this game, and he fit in perfectly with the team. Dylan was active in the attack and solid in defense until being subbed off in the 74th with what looked to be a groin pull after being undercut.
Remick made many good decisions on when to join the attack and when to defend. His 6th minute run up the wing was perfect, and only bettered by his 13th minute overlap and service, which just missed a back post run. Remick showed off much improved wing service, and his passing was very sharp against Montreal.
Dylan wasn't all offense in this one, and I noted strong defensive positioning, especially a 23rd minute 1v1 effort where he blew up Hassoun Camara. Remick did let his mark get goal side of him in the 9th minute and in the 29th headed a defensive ball back towards the middle instead of wide.
In the second half Dylan wasn't as effective offensively, but he still performed well in his defensive duties. He needs to work on varying his service into the box some, and developing an attacking move other than crossing will be a huge bonus to his game. I hope that the unfortunate injury isn't anything serious. It seems every time in the last few years Remick plays well he gets injured, and I would hate to see his progression derailed yet again.
Chad Marshall - 7 | Community - 6.8
Marshall had a quiet game from specific notable actions, but this was due to being consistently in the exact right spot. It's obvious the chemistry that Evans and Marshall have in the center of the field and it's just fantastic to watch them work together when they are in this groove. They completely shut down anything in the middle of the field, funneling the speed of Dominic Oduro to the width.
In one of the few times Oduro did get into the box in a dangerous spot I liked seeing Chad keep his feet, clearly learning from last game. The first half was very quiet, winning some defensive headers and keeping possession while funneling the ball to Alonso and Evans.
The second half was a bit more exciting for Marshall, who in the 52nd minute had a perfect defensive challenge and followed it up with a sliding tackle to deny Lucas Ontivero. His passing throughout was great, completing 90+% and keeping possession well. Chad works best with a creative force next to him, and in this game he was allowed to keep great position while sliding in behind to support if anyone slipped up.
Brad Evans - 8 | Community - 6.8
Man I love having the captain back; he does so much for this team. While some of it isn't readily apparent, Brad filled up the stat sheet with constant positioning support and opening shape. It is no coincidence that the team got its first shutout, and Roldan had his best game playing in front of Evans.
In the 5th minute Evans attacked all the way forward past the Montreal 18-yard box. In the 8th he just missed Valdez over the top, displaying tremendous vision to see the forward's run. Brad did have a short over the top pass in the 3rd minute and was beat by Oduro's speed to a wide position in the box, but otherwise rarely put a foot wrong in this one.
I noted Brad's perfect control in the 11th minute, and he always looks comfortable when he's near the ball. His defense in this game was impeccable, receiving 7+ marks for positioning alone. This tactical awareness keeps the entire team in better shape. I noted multiple times that the back line was floating in perfect unison, and the midfielders adjusting well off of that. Evans just improves the entire back 6. I liked seeing a 75th minute header back to Frei to make a dangerous attack immediately alleviated.
The highlight for me was Brad's on-the-run, inch-perfect looping pass to Anderson in the 78th minute, completely unlocking the winger's speed and creating a situation that earned both a free kick and a yellow card (and subsequently the corner that the game winner was scored from). This play might be overlooked, but it's his vision and ability to transition to offense that can completely change the game.
Tyrone Mears - 6 | Community - 6.5
This was another of the bipolar Mears games I'm getting used to - lots of very good things get combined with some pretty awful decision-making and hesitancy.
On the good side was a 10th minute sliding tackle to support a simply awful dropping pass turnover from Dempsey, as well as an over-the-top pass to Kovar in the 16th that I was pleased to see Mears support, and eventually put in a nice cross after a drop. Tyrone's recovery run and tackle in the 49th led to an overlap ended by a low cross. I appreciate Mears changing up his delivery throughout a game and finding different angles on his entry passes.
He was beat by Piatti early, diving in on the Montreal star. At least twice I noted communication issues that created confusion and misplayed passes. Tyrone can be a beastly tackler, and maybe should have been reprimanded for a late lunge during transition defense. Again in this one Tyrone seemed lost late, making a poor decision in the 58th minute to push a ball all the way back to Evans when he was far forward in attack. In the 70th he just got stuck on the corner of the 18. This wasn't as bad as in the 88th, where the veteran player for unknown reasons refused to take the ball to the corner, instead losing the ball looking to pass backwards yet again.
I like Mears overall, but I am not sure where his head is at times. I would love to see him be a dynamic counter balance to Jones/Remick on the other side but his decision making is all over the place.
Osvaldo Alonso - 8 (MotM) | Community - 7.7 (MotM)
Another very strong MOTM performance from Alonso this week, something we are getting quite used to. From a straight up stat perspective Alonso killed it. 93% passing completion rate is stellar, and I liked seeing Ozzie back to the top of the touches number on the team (89) which is usually a mark of Seattle midfield playing well.
This formation played like a 4-2-3-1, and Alonso anchored the midfield well with Roldan right in front of the back four. He stayed very connected to the defense without having to range forward and support the players in front of him as much as prior weeks. This meant that Alonso had a lot of defensive actions, and completely destroyed any service through the middle to Oduro and other Impact attackers. In the 54th minute he started a 10-minute stretch where he played perfect defense inside his own box, made 3 strong tackles, and played 4 passes to both switch the field and transition to offense.
Alonso was quite pushy in this game (on his team and opponents) and he needs to be careful when retaliating (35') against Ontivero who was consistently trying to get under his skin. I noted only two bad passes all night.
Cristian Roldan - 7 | Community - 5.8
This was Roldan's best play as a Sounder. Tasked with being a pure destroyer to protect the back 4, and supported by Evans and Alonso on each side, Cristian was able to shine. With as many players as the Sounders send into the attack, it makes sense to have Roldan sit deep and destroy through his zone, and he was much improved this week in doing just that.
At first I was concerned to see Roldan matched up against a guy playing as well as anyone in the league in Ignacio Piatti, but Cristian not only stepped up to this challenge, he excelled at times. Roldan looked comfortable in this role, like in the 5th minute when Evans pushed forward he immediately dropped to cover for his teammate. Two minutes later he showed incredible defensive awareness and hustle to drop all the way to the right of Brad, this time to support a Tyrone Mears forward push. In the 9th he expertly sucked over to the middle to support and destroyed an attack, showing shades of his counterpart Alonso.
At times it looked like he was simply man marking Piatti, and doing well. In the 10th when Mears was beat reaching, it was Roldan there to shut him down. Another time the Montreal star tried a give and go and Cristian was ALL OVER the return pass. This is great to see.
While he was much improved, Roldan still has plenty to work on. At times he still forces passes and offers little to the attack. Some of his turnovers are in very bad places. I still catch him ball watching and following the play instead of keeping his shape; one such occurrence left Valdez stranded versus multiple players when a simple supporting run would have been very dangerous. I think the return of Evans allowed Cristian to play a less complicated game: to accentuate the things he is good at and minimize his deficits. Roldan was much less effective as the game wore on, and needs to keep his work rate high throughout.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 7 | Community - 6.5
It is hard to grade Ivanschitz because he tends to float in and out of games, but it is no coincidence he is involved whenever we score. Whether it's a 3rd minute classy give and go with Dempsey, flaring wide in the attack in the 6th minute, or consistent support positioning, Andreas does a lot of things that don't get remembered at the end of the game. Twice he was completely open backside but never received a pass, and we know what he can do from that left corner of the 18.
Against Montreal it looked like AI was the player most out of sorts with the formational and lineup changes. He didn't get as much opportunity to affect the game from the run of play. At times I thought he made uncharacteristic bad decisions, like a 48th minute turnover when on a break with options. This was a bad choice and in the 52nd he lost possession when 1v1. Let's face it, he should be adjusted to the league and he doesn't have the armband, so he needs to chill out on the refs a bit and let Brad do his job. There is no reason to have so many dissent cards, no matter how much the refs deserve the lecture.
As is becoming the norm, he still managed an incredible cross off a recycled free kick in the 32nd. His 76th minute free kick was devastatingly dangerous, and he consistently provides tremendous service that is completely unpredictable. Sometimes near post, sometimes far, he is always varying his passing and it wreaks havoc with the defenders and keepers he faces. After a near post corner to Evans, AI assisted the only goal of the game with a perfectly curled corner that caught Montreal keeper Evan Bush of two minds. When this guy is over the ball, just about every single service is goal dangerous, which is a huge luxury as the team works to find its offensive groove.
Aaron Kovar - 6 (off 57') | Community - 5.7
Well hello mister Kovar! The player surprisingly chosen to start as an inverted winger on the right paid off Coach Sigi Schmid's confidence in him with an energetic and productive 65 minutes. This was by far Aaron's best MLS stint, and he showed that he is capable of playing well against MLS opposition.
In the very first minute Aaron made a smart run across the box, diving towards the near six to beat a defender to an excellent cross. Unfortunately, when the ball bounced to a teammate for a shot, this hit Aaron in the ankle, or SSFC would have been up within seconds. Kovar's right wing play was very vertical, he was consistently pulling the Impact defenders high, and he often looked to make diagonal runs across the fullbacks. In the 13th he just missed a Remick cross when he lost his mark on the back post.
In the 4th minute Kovar showed no hesitation when given too much space, and took a strong shot that ended up over the bar. This was so important to show the willingness to shoot, something that has been lacking from the Sounders front line. He had another shot blocked, and this even opened up more space for Mears in behind as the defense started to collapse. For the remainder of the half Aaron worked hard to support both defensively and forward to Valdez. These two combined multiple times on the right sideline with intricate passing to hold the ball and alleviate pressure as well as open up overlaps and central options.
Aaron wasn't a star, but like Roldan earned high praise for both improvement and looking like he belonged on an MLS pitch. He had numerous mistakes, including forcing a few passes vertical that could have been better kept on his foot. When he briefly switched sides in the 35th he was immediately beaten by Hassoun Camara before moving back to the right. Sigi has maintained that he isn't fit enough for 90 yet, and he definitely lost his effectiveness after halftime. I liked what I saw from Kovar, and hope this is the springboard to yet another weapon for the team.
Clint Dempsey - 7 | Community - 7.4
Clint had a fairly quiet first half driving the attack through a central position. I would still like to see him refrain from dropping so deep, especially with Evans (and soon Friberg) back. When he has the ball going toward goal, good things happen. It was immediately apparent when he sprung loose in the 1st minute to cross into Kovar.
Although his hold up and distribution are usually great for alleviating pressure from the back, using his vision to switch the ball out of trouble, Clint struggled against Montreal. In the 10th his pass to Mears was woefully short and easily picked off for a Montreal attack. Another pass was similar, and it looked like he just didn't see defenders he should have noted. At least once (84') he was caught in possession and looking for a foul that didn't come.
I thought his 32nd minute free kick a better angle for Ivanschitz, and he under-hit it into the wall. Clint was perfectly placed in the 64th to receive a central pass inside the box that never game. This was about the time Clint started to heat up, and he seemed to get stronger as the game wore on. A minute later Clint's second set piece was a beauty, forcing a Bush save just over the crossbar. In the 66th he "tried some shit" and made the Montreal defense look silly, with a back heel-nutmeg combination releasing Mears on the wing.
Dempsey just didn't quit attacking, and in the 79th minute after battling every corner, he found some space and nodded down through traffic for the game winning goal. GOALS CHANGE GAMES. Even looking completely exhausted, Clint defended so hard in the 93rd minute that I cheered on the re-watch. That is the kind of effort you want to see from your DP.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 7 (off 68') | Community - 6.2
Nelson had another strong game this week, and seemed well equipped to fill the point of the Sounders attack. In the first minute he followed up a Kovar miss with a shot that was unfortunate to be deflected. Even though he was farthest up the field, Valdez ranged from side to side to provide options, as well as his usual stellar holdup.
Nelson's high press in the 5th minute forced a header from Bush for a throw-in and I loved his turn on the end line and dribble into the box in the 7th. This showed a very dangerous and unique angle for a pass, coming from behind the keeper. His vertical runs stretch the defense and he is very good at flaring these out to the width to support attacks on the wings.
Critics of Nelson's game should re-watch his 15th minute effort. Surrounded by 3 defenders, Valdez wins the ball and comes out of the crowd with it, surging forward, allowing Seattle to transition to attack. It was just a tremendous individual effort and something he does multiple times a game. He again beat 3 guys in the 28th minute, but received no support.
Valdez tired in the second half, and there were fewer actions either positive or negative, and this suggests that he needs more support up there. He was clearly tired when subbed out for the fresh legs of Anderson in the 68th minute, after a strong showing at a bit of a different role.
Jordan Morris - 5 (on 57') | Community - 5.5
After playing hard internationally, Morris returned to the Sounders in a reserve role. He still managed to get over a third of a game, but was largely unimpressive. More and more it's clear that Morris is struggling with the tactical side of the game, and just isn't sure where to be. There is hesitance in his play, and that is killing any momentum he can get in his development. He does so many good things with the ball, his play is just lacking the killer instinct to utilize his great talent.
In the 64th minute with Ivanschitz wide open, Jordan tried to dribble left through the box and failed. In the 71st he got a ball in space and instead of attacking the defense and being goal dangerous, he made an overly safe drop to Mears. In the 94th minute he tried to force a ball to Dempsey, when the smart play was to dribble to the corner and use his size to shield the ball and kill the clock.
Speaking of his size, posting Morris on the goalie on corner kicks finally paid off. Jordan is a very big person, and his presence completely flustered Bush on Dempsey's goal. Without fouling the keeper, Morris floated into the goalie's way and kept him from catching or punching the ball. This was a neat thing to see a young player do. I like Morris off the bench but he needs to find more of a direction in his play, as right now it's very disjointed.
Oalex Anderson - 4 (on 68') | Community - 5.6
Again Anderson came on and while he shows flashes of talent, he greatly underwhelmed. He immediately had a turnover upon entering and in the 72nd tried a spin move through traffic that might work at USL level but failed miserably here. To add insult to this play he had a wide open Remick on an overlap for a shot, cross or return pass.
In the 76th he tried an audacious volley when the ball dropped to him on the 6-yard box and he ended up kicking it backwards - a simple header to the back post was needed. His pass in the 77th went well long for an overlapping Tyrone Mears. At times I see Oalex trying complicated things when simple play is necessary and it's hard to watch.
The big positive mark for Anderson was that he made a few nice runs up the wing with pace, one off an Evans pass that earned a free kick + caution when he beat a defender. The other was an amazing nutmeg of Laurent Ciman on the way to a surging 60 yard run. This play was fantastic and shows his physical potential, however he completely flubbed any scoring chance by dribbling into the defense and missing no less than 3 wide open players and failing to get a shot off. This could have sealed the game and he MUST be better. He had another golden opportunity in the 93rd and put his shot wide.
I was very disappointed to see him then walk and watch the rest of the game, multiple times failing to support defensively at all when protecting a lead. He wanted a free kick from a tackle in the 89th and he visibly pouted and quit when he didn't receive it. There is a lot of talent here, but his discipline is lacking and I was quite let down.
Joevin Jones - 5 (on 74') | Community - 5.9
Another international who was pressed into substitution duty when Remick got hurt, I thought Jones did ok. He was obviously asked to stay home and he defended adequately. He earned a free kick in the 75th immediately upon entering and had little action other than being beat badly by Camara in the 88th.
Baldemero Toledo - 6 | Community - 5.7
Well, you knew going into the game that Toledo was going to let a lot go, and he did exactly that. He started off well calling a foul on AI getting hit on a header and again when Marshall was clipped after the play. After that Toledo called a ton of seemingly random things.
Alonso fouls Andreas, and then Camara... and gets a call. Marshall blatantly fouled Ontivero in the 15th and play on. A phantom foul called on Alonso in the 25th after a really late whistle was ridiculous, since Toledo was in great position. He allowed a ton of contact, and eventually the players seemed to adjust to stuff like shoulder tackles being allowed.
I thought Ontivero could have been carded earlier, as he was repetitively fouling everyone around him. I have noticed that forwards like Ontivero, Dwyer, Rivero, etc. seem to get away with a ton of fouls on defensive players, and the league has to do something to protect defenders going up for headers and being undercut. Another Sounder injured by an opponent making zero play for a ball. Ontivero got his yellow 6 minutes AFTER undercutting Remick. I liked seeing the rarely called back pass, but I definitely think if the referee is going to call a tactical foul like he did on Alexander in the 37th he needs to display yellow.
For the most part I was tolerant of Toledo's referee job. If every game was reffed like this I suppose I could deal with it, as long as the players adjusted to the allowed physicality. He didn't completely botch game changing plays regularly, so I suppose that is "average" these days.
Seattle has played well enough to win in almost every game this year, and it was a huge relief to see them earn 3 points for the first time. The defense is stout, and although they got lucky by giving a lot of half-chances, the clean sheet was earned. The offense has a lot of work to do, and at some point players need to figure out where they need to be and take advantage of the immense talent of those around them. After crushing people early in the season, Houston looks suddenly vulnerable and I expect Seattle to travel and play well on the road this weekend.