First off, if you didn't attend the game on Sunday, you missed one of the most entertaining events I have ever been to. You also missed Dave's birthday weekend.
I got to the game early, picked up a sweet #ZaknFriends scarf and found my seat, unsure what to expect after last year's wild game. I was joined by both my wife and my parents, including ratings editor mother. Apparently we talked loud enough that within 5 minutes the nice lady in front of me turned and asked "are you Realio"? Outed! Hello nice lady!
I was promised more competitive soccer this year than last and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of play. While it obviously wasn't full speed MLS, some of these guys looked simply fantastic. Others looked like retirement eating had been kind to them and while there were a few extra pounds on a few guys, you could still see the easy grace of the pro athlete throughout. If you like step overs this was the game for you!
★ ★ ★
TEAM BLUE STARTERS:
Doug Herrick - 6
Doug plays for the Guam National team. His highlight reel is not too bad! Neither was his keeping, making multiple athletic plays with a severe absence of defense in front of him. Herrick was sporting an impressive man bun for this occasion, and was VERY brave to get down and challenge for the ball with the intimidating Hendrickson bowling through the middle on goal.
Bakare Soumare - 6
So Soumare is HUGE. He isn't as mobile as he was when he was playing more consistently, but the dude is a house. Not much came through his side and when paired with Onyewu it was pretty funny to see Fucito in amongst the trees. I kept hoping Mike would crawl through his legs or something but alas, no luck.
Oguchi Onyewu - 7
So Onyewu is HUGE. Is he out of soccer completely now? Onyewu showed remarkable foot skill when moving into a central midfield position in the second half and I am really amazed at how good these "slow, lumbering center backs" really are with their feet. Possible baby name volleyed to wife at halftime - no go on baby Oguchi, sorry guys.
Jimmy Conrad - 8
Jimmy Conrad looked younger than his stated 39 years old. He took good angles, showed a tremendous ability with a lesser stat I track - GPRS** I really wish this had been a game where he could have been mic'd up. His podcasts and sense of humor are legendary. He showed well on the field also, at one-point stoning EJ and laughing as he went the other direction with the ball.
Michael Chabala - 7
Chabala looked to be having some fun. Mike was in good shape, often pushing into the attack to support with great hustle. He brought a strong hair game to the table, and while others tired late, it was his fortuitous finish in the 90th from a Donovan feed that was the game winner for team Blue.
Chris Henderson - 6
I asked Chris where he got his tan from as he walked by me to the press box and he just gave me a knowing smile and a wink. I have given TheOtherSheriff the exact angle of his nod, the wink duration, and the approximate shade of tan - look for him to be able to produce a new rumors thread from that ASAP. Chris wasn't super active in the game, fading out to the wing often and looking to cross the ball.
Patrick Ianni - 7
The former Southern California Seahorse player was exactly what we came to know and appreciate from him while he was a Sounder: a solid player who could play defender or midfielder, who randomly produced some amazing things. It was great to see him get forward and unleash a BLAST from 30 that almost broke the net.
Darren Sawatzky - 8
I wonder how many people thought Darren was one of the pay2play guys in warmups? The Tacoma Stars and Sounders U23 coach -- and former USL Sounder -- showed quickly that he has likely been active in practice with his teams as he looked surprisingly efficient. He can really play, and displayed a lot of control including a sweet volley for the goal of the match in the 52nd off his right boot with appropriate immediate subbing off to great applause.
Ash Apollon - 8
Fresh off a starring role for the Sounders U-23's Ash went from passing the ball to David Olsen to passing the ball to Landon Donovan. He looked very strong, using his superior endurance and speed to blow by guys like he was 20 years younger than them (he is). Apollon scored very high on the GAM Step over meter, hit the post, ran hard, and fed Ovan for a goal or two. I'd like to see more of him in a competitive atmosphere.
Don Ovan - 9
Some guy picked up from the California rec leagues was surprisingly good. I was not familiar with Ovan's playstyle coming into the game but he showed good pace and fitness with direct play and quality on both feet. He managed a hat trick in the game, from a variety of angles starting in the 22nd minute beating three defenders. Was a level above most of the players, and was integral in almost all Blue scoring chances. I hope Ezra was watching, this guy might be worth stashing on S2 to learn under Victor Mansaray/Andy Craven a few years see if he can turn into a decent player.
Steve Zakuani - 10 MOTM
Was it really ever in doubt? It took him 17 minutes to be the first one to score and then was the last one to leave the building - throughout this process Zak has done it all. Steve took on a huge undertaking and in barely 2 years has created a monumentally fun event that transcends any expectations I ever had for it. His charity is his passion and it showed in the entire day. The planning was tremendous; the respect he has earned from the legends who attended is a testament to the man himself. He is such an advocate for this area and we are frankly damn lucky to have him around. I dare you to think of Steve and not see that big smile of his. (hint: you can't) This isn't a vote just based on all that though, he can still ball. The pace is a bit slowed but I think his touch might be better than his days here. Steve looked perfectly in sync with that Don guy and was the genesis for many scoring opportunities. Take a bow sir, its hugely deserved.
Alan Hinton/Brian Schmetzer - 6
This was a solid performance YOU SAY? Maybe could have used more Hahnemann! Juggling some big personalities like Conrad and coming out on top is a win for this dynamic duo = it takes a coach to lead?
Eric Pravitz - 6
Pravitz started out slow. I thought he was actually going to break the first rule of soccer when he entered and the ball immediately went over his head, but it was only the crafty veteran waving his arms wildly about to distract the defender, not to grab the ball. Eric eased into the game, eventually setting up as an outside fullback and commencing with some epic battles with the dangerous Smith from the red team. More of a positional defender, Eric showed some good strategery to get his body in front of opponents.
Dan Price - 6
Price had a hard time getting involved in the game, but looked to be having a great time. I wonder if Entrepreneur Magazine's 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year has any advice for MLS on higher salaries across the board? His play was direct and aggressive, often looking to spring Ovan over the top. It's hard to blame Price for the rec player Don not making the right runs.
Danny Jackson - 7
Jackson played for the USL Sounders and was a very good player for them. He was one of the guys who many might not have recognized, but just as he did with the Sounders he played steady in the back, and did his thing. I was pretty stoked to see him out there and he played within himself but may have been the best defender on the field on the day. He had a great shot that was blocked and judging by the wince from Hurtado there was some mustard on it.
Nate Jaqua - 6
When I didn't see Nate in warmups I just assumed his commute from Portland was taking a little long. (how long does it take to run from Portland? That's an ultra-marathon joke!) It's fun remembering all his funny little mannerisms, and his penchant for tyrannosaurus arms when turning with the ball brought me back to his stellar 2009 campaign. He missed an open net in the 24th and also looked to be missing Fredy Montero as a strike partner.
Doug Pellett - 6
Doug was another trialist who struggled to get in the ratings book, although played a smart game choosing to play the ball to more established players. He wore number 50, which some around me guessed was perhaps his age, but I thought he didn't play a day over 45.
Marcus Hahnemann - 9
Man, this guy could be fun if he just had a little more personality AMIRITE? Marcus is one of those guys that you just knew was going to be there because he can smell a good time a mile away. He didn't disappoint, grabbing the mic to MC at times, doing barrel rolls in warmups, and showing his larger than life character. On the field he was a force in 10-yard bursts (followed by subbing off quickly holding his side). Perhaps inspired by the presence of Hauschka, Marcus displayed tremendous form to out and out TACKLE Michael Tetteh in the box in the 56th, resulting in a PK against. I wish he had subbed into the goal to defend it though. Bonus points for both drinking a beer on the sideline during the game and having a 12 on the soul patch aggressiveness scale.
TEAM RED STARTERS:
Jordan Jennings - 6
Jennings was consistently under fire from Ovan, Apollon, and Zakuani, but kept his positioning tight and let them shoot wide and over. His distribution was more short than long punts, looking to keep possession and save the legs of tired teammates. The sweeper keeper was strong in Jennings this weekend.
James Riley - 8
It really is a shame that this original Sounder has let himself go so. It looks like he hasn't worked out in at least 20 minutes, according to my wife who was very appreciative of him exiting warmups sans shirt. Yes, he looks like John Legend, lady who sat behind me. How amazing! I love Riley, he was a tremendous supporter of this community (still is) and played very strong in this game. It was a bit unfair to see some trialists get gobbled up by a player not too far removed from MLS time. He also scored a very nice header goal.
Taylor Graham - 7
Taylor was good in this game, played controlled and rarely ventured forward. Where he really shone though was in the interview portion, and he has great insight into the game and the charity. It's cool to see a guy like this still so involved in the team.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado - 7
Hurtado was one of my favorite Sounders (I still think he maybe deserved DPOY in 2009... we got the guy who won it now though) and is a really great dude. It was no surprise to see him on the field in a charity match, but the number of back heels and no look passes from this original 2009 Sounder was surprising.
Djimi Traore - 7
CHOO CHOO. I kept waiting for the inevitable Traore run through the middle of the field but he just teased us with a few halfhearted attempts, even going so far as to "shush" the crowd when retreating after one. The only guy who missed the "no sliding rule" Traore reminded Donovan how hard it is to shoot through a 9-foot-tall guy laying on the ground on multiple times.
Mike Fucito - 7
Had a superb left-footed cross to find Riley for a goal in the 28th. Still has the same awesome work rate. The red team looked the best when he was right up behind EJ and working 1-2's with Dero. I was a little surprised to see him not get on the scoreboard.
Ciaran O'Brien - 6
Ciaran started off really strong, driving his team through the middle and having a lot of success against the porous Blue defense, but looked to tire and faded in the second period. The former USL-Sounder, who only retired in 2013, was very willing to bring some of the lesser trialists into the play and wasn't scared to ask a lot out of inexperienced players.
Roger Levesque - 6
Roger also didn't play a lot which is a shame because with Jaqua in town there was real opportunity for a tree chopping celebration. Levesque is such a great ambassador of Seattle Soccer, I forget that he is a crafty player and just missed hooking up with Johnson on multiple scoring opportunities.
Michael Tetteh - 7
Tetteh was a quality over quantity guy. In the 56th he was giving Hahnemann a working over when the ex SSFC keeper just tackled him, earning a PK. Moments later he put on a juggling show which involved catching the ball on the back of his neck during play. Loved seeing the showmanship from the ex-Sounder draft pick.
Eddie Johnson - 8
No one, and I mean NOONE wanted this as much as EJ. You can say a lot about the guy but he has that competitive fire and it showed in his effort. He worked harder, ran more, and yelled at his teammates in frustration more than everyone else combined. He is so competitive! (Yet he allowed someone else to take a PK and didn't throw him under the bus after) It's a shame that Johnson's heart issues ended his career because he obviously has the physical ability to play still. I also love that he came out here, did some volunteer training work with the youth while in town, and was so genuinely giving with his time.
Dwayne De Rosario - 8
I am not sure how many minutes Sigi Schmid could get out of him, but this 38-year-old legend was simply fantastic in the game and would likely push for starts in Seattle's midfield right now. His control, touch, and distribution were superb, and I had note after note on just how good he played. It was really a special pleasure of mine to see this guy run a team from this close.
Pete Fewing/Kasey Keller - 6
There were some grumblings at halftime about too many "simple finishes" being allowed, but the second half was more of the same. These guys looked to be a bit more conservative, opting for the veterans in Hendrickson and Greenwood instead of fireplug youth like Redwine or Taylor.
John Beezley - 6
This guy had a big fan club (and a two pole!). He rewarded them by stepping onto the field in the 15th minute and promptly being at least 10 yards offside. Beezley was the only official trialist to get on the stat sheet, racking up an assist on a scrum that EJ poked home. He will always have "Hey, remember that time I assisted a Grown Ass Man for a goal?" Damn, that's sweet. The Beez was a pure hustle guy, and worked hard to earn his crowdfunding backers their money's worth and rewarded them with some fun celebration after the EJ goal.
Lane Smith - 7
This owner of the Tacoma Stars came to play, and he exhibited enough run-through-wallness to be strike fear into Pravitz who was given the job of slowing down Lane. Using his size to his advantage, the burly Smith showed remarkably light feet and a nose for the ball that was impressive. His highlight was a gut busting charge up the wing in the 25th minute where he managed to get his head on the ball and nod it back into the scrum that EJ eventually scored. Every time Smith got near the ball, I held my breath expecting something crazy to happen.
Seth Taylor - 6
Seth had a quiet game but was active in warmups and played with a GoPro attached to his chest. I didn't see any chest traps, but that looked uncomfortable (although Conrad maybe needed one of the harnesses) I would like to see this footage! At one point he was bossing the right midfield, adding needed width to the field for team red and cutting in dangerously. He even had a nice through ball to Fucito, that created a good chance.
Steven Hauschka - 7
I don't know what all the hype was about this guy. First off he wore what looked to be a collared shirt UNDER his jersey. I didn't check if he was wearing crocs. Secondly, although he supposedly had a big foot I didn't see it in evidence, instead he played the ball with great touch and finesse. I was sold a ticket stating this was some dumb oaf football guy and yet here was a polished, competent soccer player. Placed his PK with tremendous power into upper corner. Gave Brad Evans a run for his money at the halftime crossbar challenge. Subbed on multiple times to take free kicks and only once tried to kill Sawatzky with one.
Ricci Greenwood - 7
A quick fan favorite, Greenwood showed some fancy feet before fatigue got the best of him. His best move may have been a 36th minute play where he tried to cherry pick Pravitz but the Blue player obstructed him cannily. With a flair for the dramatic, Ricci sort of leapfrogged OVER the defender and kept possession. Greenwood was eventually rewarded for some attacking play with a goal, created by some magic from Smith.
Dubs - 6
The curiously single named "dubs" was on the field and looked quite competent. When he was defending a corner some fans started a supremely distasteful "studs up Sounders" chant (in a Zakuani charity game no less) that maybe was for him? I will assume this player is known for his hard challenges and old school goalkeeping style and his rabid fan base was calling him out to show this grit, but he managed to rope it in while on the field Sunday. He did a few soccer things but nothing that was very notable.
Dan Redwine - 6
I am assuming he sponsored the warmup shirts? At least they said Redwine soccer, which combines two of my mother's favorite things! Not only that, but Dan helps kids in Rwanda with soccering stuff. His favorite defensive move appeared to be the "point at the guy running by him for someone else to pick up" but the communication and organization attempt was appreciated.
Ezra Hendrickson - 7
Ezra can play. I went back and watched some highlights and he used to be fantastic. Some of that play filtered through, with special little touches and great vision. He had a really good time too, laughing, joking, pulling jerseys.
Todd Dunivant - 6
Dunivant was quiet in this one, although I saw a Dunivant LAG jersey in the crowd which I found surprising. He started the second half, most likely with the coach's instructions to play the "simple ball" and make a "simple finish".
Referees - 9
I would take this group over most of the MLS refs so far this year. The correct amount of control, enough Harlem Globetrotter referee'esque fall guy, and smiles all around. I was impressed with the 4th official who kept trying to log subs on the number board, as guys subbed on the fly with complete disregard for his efforts.
★ ★ ★
This was a really fun time, a lot of good competition yet still enough room for hijinks. Especially with other results this weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed this entire event. The game and the people involved were all a class act. The soccer was entertaining yet high quality. I highly commend everyone who was involved, and look forward to next year.
This game needed Leo.
**GPRS = Go Pro Recovery Speed: The speed at which a soccer player, carrying a go pro in one hand, is able to run down an offensive player and recover defensively.