I've been generally positive about the Sounders this season. We've been the better team in many games, but failed to get results. We've also been victims of poor refereeing but then unable to shake it off. This again was the theme of the night; after a completely dreadful call to give the New England Revolution a ridiculous PK, the fragile Sounders lost composure and chased the game. It didn't help that we lost our captain before the half, but there were also few offensive sparks - again. The 1-2 score line away was deserved. Our team doesn't react well to adversity, and many players seemed lost. We showed a distinct lack of fight, and these scores represent that harsh reality.
Editor's Note: Our community ratings post was delayed due to the holiday and currently only has 120 responses. We will have a recap of the community later this week.
★ ★ ★
Stefan Frei - 6
I am amazed that Frei hasn't lost it at his teammates' poor play. As a team we have won zero penalty kicks and given up SIX. That's absurd. Yes, the lousy refereeing has a lot to do with this stat, but the Seattle "bend but don't break defense" that has been strong all year is somehow more susceptible to penalty calls than other teams, or than our team in prior years. This illustrates how awful SSFC is at getting sustained possession in the final third and is giving up way too many opportunities for a referee to get involved.
Frei was good at making saves, but he was constantly shielded by his defense, especially Scott who multiple times obscured his vision by dropping too deep on defense. This happened in the 6th minute and Stefan had to dive to his right to get a hand on a slow-rolling Diego Fagundez shot that should have been a routine save. The Sounders keeper came out strong in the 11th minute to catch a ball in traffic on a corner, but fumbled a low cross in front of goal in the 29th. Frei was again shielded on the game winning shot from Femi Hollinger-Janzen.
We are lucky that Frei is fairly adept with his feet, as multiple times I thought passes back to him were in bad spots and either slow enough to allow Kei Kamara to pressure or hard enough to make it tricky to control. Partly because of this I thought Stefan had his worst distribution performance of the season. In the 8th minute he was forced to clear under pressure and in the 21st another bad Scott pass just earned a boot into the stands. Frei did have an unpressured clear in the 62nd and a goal kick in the 86th that were uncharacteristically put into touch.
I have a hard time seeing other keepers in this league leaving with a different score line.
Joevin Jones- 4
In the 1st minute when Joevin took a 35-yard speculative shot I was pretty happy, because even though this wasn't near scoring, he was willing to SHOOT THE BALL. He then lost possession his next foray forward in the 4th and leaving three willing runners in the box wanting. A minute later it was a dangerous Jones cross that forced keeper Bobby Shuttleworth into a punch out to Kovar and the Sounders' goal.
After this though, New England had a plan, and that plan was to overwhelm the Sounders left side with Juan Agudelo, Andrew Farrell and Kamara, and they simple demolished Gomez, Scott, and Jones down this side of the field all game. Joevin wilted instead of stepping up his game. Trying to beat Agudelo out of the back with a dribble, Jones struggled to clear the defensive third. On the 22nd minute PK play, Jones was a pure spectator, watching Farrell round Gomez easily and cross into danger without so much as stepping to help out. This was a disgusting lack of effort as Agudelo easily ran right behind Jones on goal as an attacking option as well.
Agudelo and Kamara dominated Jones in this game, forcing him into bad passes, mistouches, and turnovers. Teal Bunbury even got into the game in the 2nd half and continued the torture. A few times Jones got forward, like a smart run in the 68th beating Farrell for once, but then he inexplicably cut back INTO the defense, losing the ball and leaving four Sounders in the box. Joevin did have a nice cross in the 82nd that Morris just missed redirecting for a goal that would have saved a result.
Zach Scott - 3
Scott was very good last week, and very bad this week. Some matchups are good for his physical style, but this wasn't one of them, and New England took full advantage by pressing Zach into mistake after mistake. He simply wasn't able to deal with the high press and athleticism of the Revolution attack, especially the strong and mobile Kamara.
After a promising long ball up the field found Jones in the 4th minute, I had many notes of either bad passes forward or chunking long balls to the opponents. Desperation clearances were constantly used and Scott looked panicked throughout. When a team forces the ball to Scott 70 times a game and he isn't connecting passes, you see the long, sustained pressure of Saturday night. Multiple times Scott played very harsh back passes to stress our keeper, and overall his passing was not crisp. When there's a scramble in the box, Zach immediately drops back towards goal. This keeps everyone onside, and for the second game in a row allowed the opponent a very good look when every other Sounder appropriately stepped up.
In the 10th minute Scott chased Kamara ten yards into the opponent's half on the sideline, yet was somehow easily beaten by the Rev's striker who then had 40 yards of free space to gallop into on attack. In the 22nd minute Zach misplayed a cross and bowled over Kamara in the box, which led directly into the 23rd minute lunging clearance into Friberg's gut that gave a free goal to NE. That first foul may have been more of a PK than the pass. Defenders need to be calm, they need to clear wide, and they need to get elevation on their punts. Scott did none of these, and instead kicked a ball into his teammate from six yards away. Sigh.
In the 25th and 28th Scott was getting beat just about every time down the field, either making a mistake diving in and missing or giving too much space. In the 36th he missed a common trap, and then hung his head when the ball went out for a throw, resulting in Evans having to come across to help and getting a concussion for his efforts. Sigh. In the second half the midfield was changed around to give Scott and Alfaro more coverage and this helped. Please hurry back Chad/Brad.
Brad Evans - 6 (off injured 40')
Evans was solid while he was in. With the defense shifting left to support struggles on the Sounders wing, he was more of a sweeper behind the holding midfielders, coming across to lend help when he could to the beleaguered left.
Brad was called to win a number of headers and did well against the size and athleticism of Kamara. He is very calm on the ball and his touches in the 6th and 34th really illustrate the value of a distributor from the back. He was able to bring some control into the frantic defending of those around him. In the 29th he cleared out a ball correctly that Frei fumbled in front of the goal, and he made good decisions throughout.
It was a shame that he was forced over to cover for the Scott blunder in the 39th, and even scarier that he was immediately subbed off with a head injury. Get better soon Brad.
Tyrone Mears - 6
Mears was very strong in defending Fagundez and Chris Tierney, forcing them back and away from his side all game. I liked his positioning, especially in the first half where he was consistently shaded over to support Evans sweeping the middle, but also able to get width quickly and appropriately in transition.
The Mears/Kovar combination was much stronger than their opposite teammates, and these two did well to keep possession and advance the ball through the middle without bypassing the central players. Mears had more touches than Joevin Jones yet still managed a 20% higher completion percentage, illustrating just how good the right side was in linking play. In the 28th Tyrone advanced to support Aaron and got a cross off but he didn't get into the attack as much as against Colorado.
Tyrone has really been showing an ability to use his size and body more lately, and he consistently dominated Fagundez with veteran, physical play, often winning throw-ins merely by out-muscling his opponent. Mears still continues to back off on attack, and doesn't rely enough on his above-average pace to attack opponents while on defense. If he were more aggressive, he could have closed down Femi in the 79th, and prevented the goal.
Osvaldo Alonso - 6
Alonso did pretty much everything we expect of him every game - defend, touch the ball a lot, have a high pass %, and stop attacks down the middle. He did all this, but was sometimes strangely not involved with the game.
For long periods of time I had nothing in my book about Ozzie, who was constantly pulled back and left to try to stop the bleeding down the wing. In the 11th he shut down Kamara after Scott was beaten badly, and his 54th minute defensive play after another Scott blunder was clutch. I liked his 12th minute volley attempt that probably scores if on frame.
With New England pressing strong throughout the entire offensive third, I would have liked to see Ozzie get on the ball a bit more, to take the pressure off the defense. His great run in the 18th after a steal saw zero support from his teammates and he was forced to turn back from a solo attack. After this he struggled to get forward enough to support the team, leaving Morris on an island far away from the midfield.
When not playing emergency defense, Alonso had an uneven performance moving the ball around. I was surprised to see a sloppy back heel attempt from Alonso go out of bounds, and he was completely juked in midfield by Kamara in the 56th. In the 63rd Ozzie made a major mistake and misplayed a ball that ended up right at the feet of Lee Nguyen who was directly on goal.
Erik Friberg - 6
Friberg missed Clint Dempsey a lot this week, and you could see him consistently looking for the checking run into the hole that Clint makes and instead only seeing defenders. The suffocating pressure of the opponents forced his passing mainly wide and reduced Erik to sending hopeful passes over the top to Morris.
In the 10th it was a Friberg pass that released Jones up the wing into space. Erik showed nice tight control, working the ball especially well with Kovar and Mears. In the 27th it was another nice over the top ball from Friberg that opened up Aaron behind the defense. At times the only offense was a Friberg look through to Morris, and that was almost enough on the night. He consistently released Jordan into good attacking spaces, and was one of the few Sounders willing to look to play both vertically and to people's feet.
Late in the game Erik pushed up more, and with Roldan subbed on to help sort out the midfield issues he looked more comfortable. His 74th minute shot on goal was almost redirected by Gomez for what would have been an enormous goal. In the 79th Erik was one of multiple players that should have closed down Femi with more urgency.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 4 (off 56')
Very rough outing from Andreas, who never looked comfortable in the attacking central midfielder position. Gone was the dynamic player who combined so well a few weeks back, gone was the attacking engine we know he is capable of being. He played 56 minutes and only touched the ball 17 times! That is completely unacceptable. (Scott had 70, forwards had 30+). We pretty much played without a third midfielder as Andreas got man marked off the field by Kelyn Rowe, and didn't work hard enough to get touches.
Ivanschitz was positionally lost in this game, moving to space but not getting the ball, and then not moving to space and still not getting the ball. His struggles completely destroyed any cohesion through the middle, and he connected passes with Friberg and Alonso a sad 7 times with not a single completed pass from Erik to AI. I saw Andreas forcing the ball, trying to make stuff happen and failing. A lot of this was due to the work of New England to specifically limit the ball into his attacking areas, and they pushed Andreas to frustration. This also happened on his corners, where without Marshall or Dempsey available as targets, Ivanschitz resorted to looking specifically for Scott near post in the 10th and 28th, with zero results.
I didn't like seeing AI give up on a 27th minute Kovar cross when he made a great back post run, instead lobbying for a corner kick. Andreas tried to help out with defense, but his zonal technique is better served in a wide space where the sideline is utilized as an extra aid. Multiple times AI would smartly funnel play one direction or another, but then have no support from teammates and the opponents easily switched fields. Andreas needed to play higher up the field and help connect Morris to the midfield but failed pretty miserably at doing so. He simply can't be neutralized so easily.
Herculez Gomez - 3 (off 82')
Gomez has really struggled since an early sub appearance and should not be starting at this point. The last few games he has been nothing more than a "try hard" guy. He's not playing within his capacity and instead is trying to do things that his age/abilities no longer allow.
I appreciated that he attacked the keeper in the air in the 12th minute, forcing a clearance that Alonso was almost able to volley home. At times Gomez played a better positional left back than Jones, but that isn't saying much and he's a complete liability when forced to play 1v1 defense. Gomez was consistently a bad/nonexistent option for his teammates, whether it was an outlet for Jones or Alonso, or support of Morris.
It might be unfair to grade Gomez so harshly on defense since Jones was rough behind him, but in the 19th he was easily rounded by Farrell, and moments later beat over the top by Agudelo and just watched him go. In the 23rd it was Farrell again who easily got around Gomez and put in the ball that Scott kicked at Friberg. The Revolution's right back owned Gomez all game, completely dispossessing the Sounders player in the 57th on one of Herc's failed attempts to go forward with possession.
Gomez often lost possession attacking, and after a strong give and go from Morris his return pass was right to Shuttleworth. In the 32nd Gomez had a lousy pass and his turnover in the 42nd killed one of our few promising attacks. A 73rd minute shot from Friberg just needed a toe on it to redirect, but an obviously exhausted Gomez could only flail and miss.
Herculez was so tired because he was playing a fullback-forward hybrid, but in trying to support both Jones and Morris he failed to help either very much. It's unfortunate that the depth is what it is, because I can see value in Gomez being a late game option to change things up, or a veteran sub to lock down a smart, defensive hold of a lead. Instead, he is (perhaps unfairly) being asked to start and play big minutes that frankly I don't think he has in his game anymore.
Aaron Kovar - 7 MOTM
In the first minute Aaron had a nice control and possession in traffic and you could see what playing so well last game did for his confidence.
I was really happy to see his hard work pay off with him scoring his first MLS goal for the Sounders in the 7th minute. Supporting a left-sided attack, Aaron floated to the top of the box and calmly controlled a punch out from Shuttleworth with his left, flicked the ball by Chris Tierney, and hit it with his off foot on a half volley far post into side net. This was a beautiful play and one he has been building up to this season.
Aaron didn't end there, he followed this up in the 9th minute, making a smart diagonal run to again be an option for Morris on the cut back diagonal. In the 21st minute Aaron showed off his tracking, helping all the way back into the center of the field to control possession on defense and find Friberg. Five minutes later he juked short and went over the top, controlling a Friberg ball, putting on a move and sending in a right footed cross far post to a waiting Ivanschitz run. Shortly after there was another slick play with Kovar controlling a tough ball, drawing multiple players and finding Mears as an overlapping outlet. All game Aaron was again a target winger, alternating from checking to hold up the ball and recycle possession and slipping over the top behind the defense and looking to cross. His defensive communication with Mears was very good, and they shut down attacks from their wing for the duration.
The Sounders homegrown player had a few hiccups, holding the ball too long on occasion on offense and missing at least one attack through ball because he was too slow to pull the trigger on a Jmo vertical run. In the 68th a strong counter by Seattle was bottled up by Jose Goncalves, who completely dominated Kovar 1v1 and showed the young player how he earned 2013 defender of the year.
I feel like this was the next step in the development of the Aaron Kovar experience. Each week he has been getting a little better and it was just a matter of time until he changed the scoresheet. There is a lot more room for development, and while I am not sure he can be a hugely dynamic player, Aaron is really rewarding Sigi's patience in getting him meaningful playing time.
Jordan Morris - 7
For a silver lining from a disappointing game, how about two home grown starters who rated as the best players on the field? Not getting on the scoresheet was the difference in these two young Stanford players, but each showed well (especially together). For almost the entire game Morris was on an island up top, with little/no support underneath. Kovar did his best to help on the right wing, but Gomez was nonexistent on the left. This meant that Morris was given the thankless task of running down vertical balls from the center out all game, yet he still managed to be very dangerous from this role.
It was Jordan's pressure that forced the punch that dropped to Kovar for his goal. In the 9th minute he got around the defense and attracted four defenders while to racing to the end line for a diagonal pass attempt back to Kovar. In the 12th Morris popped up on the right side, pushing high with space but found zero support after the only consistent link up player (Kovar) had dropped.
One or two times I noted that Morris was using too much dribbling to try to make space for others and lost possession, and I don't really blame him. More than anything Morris missed Dempsey and his ability to pull defenders and open up spaces for Jordan and then dive at goal and support a run. I lost count of how many times Morris made a thankless run or push into space and then looked up to see nothing but defenders. Jordan was strong in possession, and the few times his checking runs were used he did well to keep the ball and try to bring the midfield up. We have got to change something in order to get Morris more support when he does get on goal.
Late in the game Morris was still going strong, almost redirecting one of the few crosses from Jones into the net in the 81st. I think Morris was again a victim of his passive demeanor in the 84th when he was pushed into the goal on a play that was about a 1000x more of a PK than the one called.
Tony Alfaro - 6 (on 40')
Two things I didn't expect to write about were the debut of Alfaro AND him earning an average MLS rating. Another silver lining for this game was Tony's immense poise in his first ever appearance.
Alfaro slotted in for an injured Brad Evans and went to the left (very left footed CB) and I thought he held his own. Tasked with challenging Kei Kamara for 50 minutes is a large ask, and he was up to it. I liked his first touch in the 41st, an over the shoulder trap showing immense confidence and no sign of nerves. Alfaro is strong on defensive headers and also showed the ability in the 69th to win back-post headers on offensive corners. When matched up 1v1 with Kamara in the 72nd it was the rookie who dominated.
Kamara did get around him in the 42nd, there was a weak right footed clear, and Alfaro was beaten soundly by Bunbury for a shot off the crossbar in the 86th, but overall this was a very promising debut for Alfaro. One excellent trait I noticed was when he is defending a player and they pass the ball, his first step DOESN'T follow he ball. This is key as a defender not to chase passes and instead remain tactically sound. Tony showed strong positioning, and very soft feet as well.
Cristian Roldan - 5 (on 56')
Cristian subbed on fairly early, but I didn't realize he was even on the field for quite some time. He did help the general shape of the team and this made Alonso and Friberg more effective after he came on, but I was confused why he came in to play in front of those two. I would have liked to see him drop more into the destroyer role that he excelled in earlier in the season. Instead, he ran in the channels and was active, just not very creative. He did have a key pass forward, and showed impressive leaping ability in the 93rd to almost head a corner on goal.
Darwin Jones - 5 (on 82')
Three homegrown players in the game at the same time across the front is pretty cool to see and shows that the academy is producing some talent able to play first-team minutes. I didn't have a lot of actions for Jones, but his cross in the 84th would have been an assist if Morris wasn't clattered into. Now that his personal issues are more in the past I hope he'll earn enough time to see whether he's the exciting player we saw in preseason or the guy who underwhelmed in our early games.
Fotis Bazakos - 3
I don't really know what to say. I am reluctant to say that referees want to call PKs against us, but they definitely aren't scared of making the big, game changing call against this team even when the call is debatable.
This referee had zero problem immediately calling an intentional hand ball on Erik Friberg (on defense, in his own box, facing his own goal, on a clearance from his own player 6 yards away). What do I say here? It was awful. There is zero intention, zero hand to ball, zero time to react, and zero advantage gained by Erik in this instance. What else is he supposed to do there? He has ZERO other logical options. Now, in light of all that, this referee who was SCREENED ON THE PLAY AND HAD NO ANGLE TO MAKE THE CALL immediately points to the spot. I re-watched this play upwards of 50 times and yes, the ball hits Friberg's arm, which is in tight on his body and is protecting his right to have more cute Swedish kids. If this is a PK then every single free kick wall needs players to put their hands behind their backs. This was an insane call, and it completely changed the game. Yes, the Sounders were getting pressured, but they were not giving up quality chances, and this just took all the air out of a struggling team with questionable psyche.
Blech. In the 60th minute Bunbury had a blatant hand ball while on the ground directly in front of Bazakos which apparently wasn't worthy of a call, and Morris getting hip-checked into the goal in the 84th didn't even garner consideration of a call. Kamara's high, bicycle kick flailing windmill miss that almost kicked a Sounder in the face? No call. Alonso cynically crushing Bunbury? A call, but no (deserved) card. I have no idea why you would let such an open game go and call very few fouls yet without hesitation make the HUGE game-changing and UTTERLY WRONG penalty call. Sigh.
★ ★ ★
I wasn't able to write this part with the rest of the above, I was just so disgusted. These ratings are harsh, and dammit I am still annoyed at that game. A good team gets an early goal on the road and has the mental makeup to make it stand (see: every team that has come into Clink this year it seems). This isn't a good team right now. The team is playing people who are making awful decisions on the field and this is forcing the other players to adjust. Just as the addition of 1-2 star players tends to make us look fantastic, the removal of such has some of these guys running around hopeless. We can hope with the short week this team comes out with a game that looks more like the first 10 minutes of the NE game, and less like the last 80.