Watching live I thought the lowly Seattle Sounders dominated the shield-leading Colorado Rapids on Saturday. After re-watching the 0-1 home loss, I still feel that way, but as my beautiful and very pregnant wife says, "goals change games" - and we didn't score any. At some point we need to capitalize on the numerous good chances we are producing, and stop wasting great defensive efforts weekly. I saw a lot of good things during this game but consistently playing from behind allows opponents to pack in the back and this team isn't good at unlocking a well-structured defensive unit. I did see some improvement on chance creation, and once again we were very close to a number of goals.
Stefan Frei - 6 | Community - 6.6 MOTM
The stats don't tell the whole story here. Ten shots for Colorado is a misleading one, with only a single shot all game (the one that went in) on goal. At one point in my notes I had "oh, is Frei playing?" That is how good the defense was at limiting any Colorado offense. I thought everyone in the back did a good job this week, but Stefan's role was mostly in organization. Frei touched the ball much less than in other games (about half as much as in the Dallas or San Jose games) and there wasn't much to rate.
Without many saves, my few notes are about surprisingly good footwork from the Sounders keeper. Completely gone was any sign of the tentative Frei we saw against Columbus; instead he was very assertive and made quick decisions. Stefan got rid of the ball with either foot and found his defense, limiting long balls in preference for shorter possession. I noted him fast off the line in the 58th minute on a play that was ultimately called offside. He had a catch in traffic in the 86th that was the best of his very quiet match.
Joevin Jones - 5 | Community - 5.6
Joevin had another rollercoaster outing, and he showed that he has quite a ways to go to completely develop his game. I originally had this score higher, and then I realized that most of the positive notes were good plays that ended badly. I think we are past the point where Jones gets credit for getting up field and exploiting space. Now he needs to make better decisions when doing so.
I had multiple notes in the 4th, 31st, and 54th minutes where a smart overlap was followed by a lousy cross right to opposing keeper Zac McMath. Other attacking choices were executed just as poorly, with too many touches after beating a defender, or hesitancy that delayed an attack. Perhaps my biggest complaint is Joevin's refusal to shoot when presented with great opportunities. In the 56th he had possession about 35 yards from the goal with McMath completely out of position but didn't even look to shoot, and other times inside the box he continually looked to cross first. He also isn't earning corner kicks nearly as often as he should with his depth in attack.
Jones was fine on defense and Colorado avoided his side in attack for the most part. He didn't work very well with AI, and needs to go back to the drawing board on how to attack defenses. We are depending on our wide backs to provide width and danger, and we need more from left back.
Zach Scott - 7 | Community - 6.5
Scott was impressive this week, and really matched up well with Colorado's playstyle. While some teams can expose Zach's pace or decision making, Colorado challenged his toughness and aerial skill, and Scott consistently came out on top.
In the very first minute Scott went in hard on Jermaine Jones and set the tone for the entire game that he wasn't scared to mix it up physically with the USMNT player. He stepped up quickly in the 16th winning both the ball and a foul call, and this continued all game. I was more impressed with Zach's above-average decision making than anything else (never thought I would write that!) In the 27th minute Scott recognized a quick throw-in on the opposite sideline and was tremendously fast to cover for Evans, who would have been beat by this play. It was the most cerebral game I have seen from Scott, who continually was in good positions, and he even showed off some slick foot skills.
While looking strong, I still had a number of mistakes for Scott, most of which were distribution errors, such as chunking balls forward instead of keeping possession, but they were minor. In the 58th he dropped while ball watching and kept Louis Solignac onside, allowing a shot that went off the post. With multiple other players stepping up to trap, he was slow and kept the capable attacker onside for a very dangerous shot. I think Zach was especially unlucky when an open corner kick look went off his shoulder instead of his head. The difference in the game came down to Colorado's center back finishing his unmarked corner header and ours not doing so.
Brad Evans - 6 | Community - 5.8
Working with Scott forced a ton of possession onto Evans and I thought he did well with it for the most part. I don't know if a defender should get 109 touches (second only to Alonso's 114), but if so, Brad is the right guy to be on the ball that much. He had a 95% pass completion rate which is awesome and resulted in continually getting the ball to midfield safely. One thing I'd like to see more of is Evans being given more vertically dangerous options; only Kovar was diligent in checking to Brad to receive service.
In the 4th minute Brad was quite high across the midfield stripe to win a ball from a punt. In fact there were a lot of high lines played against a Colorado team without the speed to get behind. Evans took turns with Scott bodying up Jones throughout the night and kept the Colorado player silent. The center of the defense turned everything wide and the communication and ball movement between Evans, Friberg, and Alonso was the best passing through the center this year.
Evans had a few issues covering for an advanced Mears, once being beat on a quick throw and another in the 41st when he was caught in possession and lost the ball to Colorado attacker Kevin Doyle. On this play, Brad missed a square pass to Alonso and with the sideline as an extra defender dribbled himself into trouble. The hustle and pace to recover was there for Evans, and on the play Doyle was unable to get a shot off, yet was awarded a dubious corner kick. Unfortunately for us this set up a second corner and Colorado's goal. Credit to Colorado for optimizing their few chances on the night.
Tyrone Mears - 7 | Community - 5.8
Tyrone was very good against Colorado and turned in his most complete performance of the year. The Rapids focused most of their attacks down his side and he was up to the challenge every time. Mears matched the physicality of Jones, the pace of Kevin Doyle and the wide runs of Solignac and Marc Burch for the entire game while mixing in some attacking plays as well.
In the first minute Tyrone had a nice overlap and pass across to Ivanschitz. In the 14th Mears showed great vision to see Friberg dive vertically at goal and put a ball over the top to him. In the 28th he again found Friberg in the six-yard box. Mears continued to keep the pressure on up the right wing, working especially well with Kovar and making good choices on distribution. There were more forward and square passes, instead of the constant drop passes of earlier weeks.
Tyrone was also solid on defense. I loved his positioning in the 20th minute, perfectly placed to clear a cross that beat both of the central defenders. I was very impressed in the 53rd minute when Mears hustled back on defense to regain a lost ball and keep the sustained Sounders pressure on. Another positive mark for Mears was completely blanketing the dangerous Jones on set pieces, and he seems to be the answer to the Rapids player's dominance on dead balls. This was a nice game for the up-and-down resume on Mears' 2016 campaign, and I hope he builds off this momentum and gets back to the form he showed early last year.
Osvaldo Alonso - 7 | Community - 6.5
Alonso again had a ton of touches to lead the team. They were generally from side to side, and the usual high percentage horizontal game emanating from our Cuban midfielder was sparked by a few moments of brilliance, along with a few mistakes that luckily weren't capitalized on by Colorado.
In the 9th minute Ozzie put in a simply superb through ball to Dempsey that frankly deserved an assist. This pass was one of his few vertical looks but it was perfect. The rest of his notes were the usual Alonso ones - from physically dominating Jermaine Jones in the middle of the park in the 18th to a 34th minute play where he ate Solignac's lunch and crushed an attack. Ozzie clogged passing lanes all night and was a big reason that the Rapids had very little luck possessing the ball.
Twice early Alonso failed to get passes through traffic to Ivanschitz, and another time or two his switches were intercepted. In the 59th he lost possession after looking to be fouled and this sparked a very dangerous counter against the Sounders. This wasn't the only time that I thought Alonso hard done by the ref. In the 69th he owned Jones yet again but had a foul called on him, and he had a decent shout for a penalty in the 90th when undercut on a header in the box.
Erik Friberg - 6 | Community - 6.4
Another good outing by Erik against Colorado, and each week his movement and connection with Alonso improves. With Alonso spraying passes from side to side, it is Friberg who looks vertical with his passes to open up forwards directly on goal. I love seeing the central midfielders combine, which is a huge change from earlier in the season. Instead of bypassing the other central player for long balls, Ozzie and Friberg combined to play each other 30 times this game, probing the center of the pitch for weak spots.
As a bonus, Erik added his own direct runs in this match, pushing into available space and wreaking havoc on his markers. One such occurrence happened in the 14th minute, with Erik diving directly unmarked on goal. This vertical run not only opened him to the ball, but allowed him to cross to AI unmarked on the back post. Fourteen minutes later it was another Friberg vertical run into the box and lay off to a hustling Tyrone Mears that earned a corner kick. I love seeing Erik's vision during the game, like his 32nd minute pass to Kovar when he saw space and put the ball there.
It looks like Erik left Solignac to step to the ball in the 58th, believing the opponent to be offside and almost cost the team. There were a few miss-passes, as his attacking style can result in more turnovers than someone like Alonso. I noted especially poor passes in the 64th and 67th and I thought for a moment that he was going to be subbed off, but he powered through and was tidy, if quiet, with the ball for the remainder. I think there is more opportunity for him to join the attack via 1-2 passing and with his new vertical dives directly on goal.
Clint Dempsey - 8 MOTM | Community - 6.4
This was one of the best Dempsey performances of the year, and we saw many times how effective this player can be when he is fed the ball in dangerous spots. Clint had five shots (four on target) to go with some key passes, close to 90% passing, and one header saved off the line. I was really happy with the production from Dempsey against Colorado.
In the 5th minute he was the fulcrum of a number of attacks on the left side involving Joevin and Andreas. A few minutes later he was dipping towards the goal and received a wonderful pass from Ozzie Alonso that needed a better finish. It looks to me that his plant foot slipped slightly, and with pressure behind and from his left the attempt to cut the ball across the keeper failed. He was also completely taken out after the play, rendering him unable to chase any possible rebound.
Dempsey didn't hang his head though, instead brutally cherry-picking Bobby Burling in minute 16 and putting a perfectly weighted pass into the path of Morris. In the 55th he beat three players on the turn and got a shot that forced a McMath diving parry. Two minutes later he again beat three and found Morris on goal for a shot. I was amazed at his 68th minute control of a long ball over his shoulder where Clint somehow caught the ball and brought it down, before passing again to Morris; this was a world class bit of skill. One thing on all of these touches where he is putting people through - the pace on the passes is perfect, not requiring any adjustment from the runner to their momentum or direction.
In the 71st minute Dempsey showed he is still a force on corner kicks, rising up to head perfectly low and to the corner, unfortunately finding an awaiting Marc Burch guarding the post. The score line was a shame for many reasons, but the game definitely showed Dempsey's ability to get in dangerous spots, put good shots on goal, and open up others to great chances as well.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 6 | Community - 5.5 (off 79')
This was an interesting week for Andreas, who appears to be getting back into the team after injury. I saw a lot of rust in his play, and he will need to learn the new runs that Morris, especially, is making for him. Even not being fully integrated in the attack, AI still managed five key passes from a variety of positions.
I thought that he might score with the back of his head in the 1st minute, challenging a cross and being spun in midair. In the 14th he found space and attempted a side volley on a cross - he might have been better to dive into the goal more and ask for a driven ball. Andreas worked hard on his effective brand of positional defense, and cut in often to make room for Jones overlapping him. He had varying levels of success on free kicks, and it was interesting to see the Sounders change their strategy to look for Scott near post more often instead of the usual Chad Marshall far post runs on corners. I liked his free kick in the 26th and multiple corners were spot on, most notably in the 71st picking out Dempsey.
There were a few warts on AI's game, but more than anything he was generally held in check, making runs but not influencing the game as we know he can. He needlessly lost possession a few times as a result of attempting difficult passes or not seeing runs of teammates. I wish he would have fought through the obvious Burling pick on him in the 43rd, but that is probably hindsight thinking.
Jordan Morris - 6 | Community - 5.4
I wasn't enamored with Jordan's game live, but on the re-watch I was more impressed. He seems to work well off of Kovar and Dempsey, and as the game progressed he got stronger and became a more dominant option in the middle of the park.
At the start of the game Jordan struggled to get touches (he only had 29 total), but that doesn't mean he wasn't helping out. It was his sneaky diagonal run in the 9th minute that pulled Axel Sjoberg out of the middle of the field and opened a huge hole for Dempsey to exploit. Another smart run in the 16th minute received a through ball and Morris hesitated, allowing the defense to recover. He needs to hit shots before allowing defenders/keepers to cut down his angles.
McMath cut out his 56th minute vertical run well, but a minute later Jordan put on a sweet stop-and-go move to easily round Sjoberg and get to the end line; unfortunately, his dropping pass to Kovar was just enough behind to prevent a *simple finish. Keeping the pressure on, Morris cut back inside on his next attack to his weaker foot and attempted a curling shot that went just wide. The last of his major attacking marks was a 68th minute donation to the ECS, after Clint had set him up with a shot in the box.
One big issue with Jordan's movement is he isn't giving his teammates angles to make *simple passes forward. While guys like Dempsey are adept at making these difficult passes, Morris is creating situations where he is effectively hiding behind defenders, instead of moving to present a better option for a connection. I would love to see him put more shots on goal, instead of trying to make the perfect finish. We consistently have plenty of support crashing the box when he shoots for any deflections or rebounds.
Aaron Kovar - 7 | Community - 5.0 (off 66')
Kovar continues to improve every time he sees the field, and I thought this was his best game to date as a Sounder. He isn't getting on the stat sheet with a ton of measurable action, but I see very important little facets of his game that are facilitating strong defense and cohesive attacks. His positioning is very good in this system and it opens up space which significantly helped Mears this week.
Right off the whistle Kovar was hugging his line, providing needed width and making space for runs of Morris and Dempsey through the middle, while also opening lanes for Mears to attack into from the defense. In the 7th, Aaron made a checking run from the front, dropped it off and got it back, and lofted a lovely ball through the defense to a vertical Morris run. This is such an important play because it wreaks havoc with the defense when two forwards are moving in and out of spaces so quickly. It paid off almost immediately, when two minutes later Kovar again pulled a defender on a checking run, opening up the space that Alonso found to put Dempsey in on goal.
At times he almost played a holding winger, and I was impressed how often Kovar checked to the ball and importantly retained possession. I never saw him lose the ball which is both a huge improvement on earlier play and tremendously valuable when you have runners into the space he creates and mids able to find them. This wasn't a broken record though, and in the 16th minute Aaron smartly moved up the line to make space for Mears, Evans, and Friberg to pass out of congestion.
Aaron isn't a flashy player and he had a few flubbed passes or wrong connections with players. He is too slow to wind up on his shots, and he should pull the trigger more quickly to avoid being blocked. In the 58th minute Kovar had a great supporting run to a Morris play, but the drop pass from the end line was just beyond his reach, and he was unable to wrap his left boot around it to strike on goal with Burch draped all over him. I don't know whether it's fitness or choice that makes him an early sub, but I'm happy to see the continued improvement to his level of play.
Herculez Gomez - 5 | Community - 5.1 (on 66')
For a 30-minute shift, there weren't many notes for Herc this week. His first touch upon entering was a lousy cross, and he had two rather terrible corner kicks in a row followed by an 81st minute free kick that was nice. On Dempsey's great corner kick header Gomez almost blindly deflected in the Burch save but it went wide. Herculez's best moment was a 72nd diving header attempt that was saved by (you guessed it) the omnipresent Burch.
I really hoped to see more from Gomez in this one, but with Colorado dropping deep, he was unable to add any sort of spark to the game, and he still doesn't work very well with Tyrone Mears.
Oalex Anderson - N/A | Community - 4.5 (on 79')(off 83')
I am not sure what happened to Anderson. He subbed in to provide a lift and immediately opened up wide left and beat Mekheil Williams for a foul and a yellow card. Oalex managed to crash the box following the ensuing free kick, but was unable to continue shortly thereafter. Based on his three minutes of playing time he was very good.
Dylan Remick - 5 | Community - 4.9 (on 83')
Brought in with zero warm up, I am not sure what we should expect from Remick. He had a great cross in the 90th minute, and his service into the box remains slightly better than Joevin's, but it's hard to get a read on a guy who is subbing on cold with 5 minutes to play in a game we are chasing that hard. He didn't do anything to stand out.
Ismael Elfath - 6 | Community - 5.9
Elfath got a 6 and I expected much worse. For the most part he was solid, keeping control of a game that had potential from Scott, Cronin, Jones, Dempsey, etc. to get heated. There weren't many fouls or cards called, but I thought he missed a few key plays that would have changed the complexion of the game completely.
I think he missed a potentially very bad hack from Doyle on Clint in the 21st minute, but he didn't miss Dempsey's 20-yard run to get a knock in on the guy who just clipped him. A moment later Clint was lucky to get a warning after multiple quick fouls. I don't understand how Dillon Serna was able to choke Ivanschitz in the 37th and then kick the ball away after the foul and neither was deemed card worthy.
I don't think there was a deflection to give a corner to Colorado on their goal scoring series, but I can understand the angle and the AR being blocked by the net contributing to the corner kick call. The yellow card issued to Jermaine Jones for undercutting Scott in the 44th was spot on, but I thought there was some deliberate hesitation to call anything on Jones afterwards, most notably when he crushed Evans in the 51st and the foul was called on... Evans? A high kick call on Alonso in the 69th was simply a bad call, especially in light of the Doyle play from the 21st.
I thought that Elfath was very reluctant to insert himself into the game via too many cards etc. and I saw two penalty kick shouts go wanting that many others (hi Salazar and Geiger) would call. The first was Dempsey being kicked by ex-Sounder Micheal Azira in the 73rd, disrupting his shot attempt, and the second in the 90th when Alonso rose high and won a header, only to be undercut by Sam Cronin who made zero play on the ball. On their goal Burling actually crossed his arms and set a pick that any basketball coach would be proud of, preventing Ivanschitz from following his man. None of these plays received much argument from the offended, and the rest of the game was adequately reffed.
COLORADO RAPIDS MOTM
Out of 289 responses, goalscorer Axel Sjöberg edged out assist man and former Sounders Marc Burch as the best player for the Rapids:
We played better than a really good team, but they were more opportunistic. Moral victories aren't currently moving us up the table and at some point we need to get results from all the promising play. Right when we have the most need for a set lineup and defined roles, we will be without a few guys. Let's hope that traveling across the country can help cure what ails us. A few games not depending on Dempsey to create everything may force others to be more proactive on the offensive end which I think may be a positive. This would be a great time to win out first game(s) on the road.