Hey guys, I know we are right in the middle of Copa/OpenCup excitement, but I have taken a look at how ratings compare to expectations over the first two-fifths of the season.
As a team, Sounders' average overall score is 5.96. That tracks with what I've seen: an average team that has been unlucky not to be higher in the standings. With two games in hand on most teams above them, the Sounders sit in 13th out of 20 teams in MLS. That is pretty consistent with where my rankings put them slightly below the middle of the pack.
Ozzie Alonso, Joevin Jones, and Jordan Morris have played all 13 games this MLS season (and also all 15 total), closely followed by Stefan Frei, Cristian Roldan, Andreas Ivanschitz, and Tyrone Mears when counting appearances. On the flip side, Nelson Valdez has seen only seven MLS games, in very limited minutes. Erik Friberg, also injured, has only played eight league games.
The Real Deal:
The main story so far is the accelerated emergence of Jordan Morris. With a 6.69 average rating over 13 MLS games, he is the 5th highest rated Sounder player overall. Tentative early, in his last eight games Jordan has averaged 7.125, good enough for best on the team. It's not just the high scores; it is how he's getting them. One game it's work rate with his back to goal, the next it's making off ball runs to bring in others to dangerous spots, and yet another it's direct play on goal and finishing. He is becoming an enormous threat on goal, something this team badly needs. Each game he shows something new and continues to earn high marks with a varying cast around him.
Aaron Kovar has responded well to the chance for playing time, to the tune of an above-average rating of 6.10 over 10 appearances. He has been even better in the last 4 games, rating a tremendous 6.75 in a span showing what the young homegrown can offer. Another young player, Tony Alfaro, was asked to sub in twice in tough circumstances, and he's been up to the task, getting an MLS average rating of 6 over both games.
The weakest players this season overall have been Oalex Anderson (4.5), Herculez Gomez (5.0), and Zach Scott (5.29) all with seven or more appearances and showing the bench is pretty bare.
The weakest starting positions are definitely our outside backs. Jones/Remick average 5.84 combined, and Mears/Fisher (Oniel only 1 app) average 5.69. This is frankly too low for a team that expects to get offensive width and production from the wing backs.
Starting midfield combo Alonso/Friberg with 6.98 combined and center back combo Marshall/Evans with 6.65 are easily leading the pack and showing consistent high marks this season. This makes sense, as our defense when including Frei (6.75) has been rock solid down the center this year.
Based on my ratings, the top 11 players could be placed into this lineup/formation with a solid above average team rating of 6.5. This 6.5 rating should win a lot of games (Seattle averaged 6.1 total as a team last year).
Obviously getting all these guys on the field at the same time and on the same page is asking a lot. We really have no idea how this lineup/formation would do since we haven't been able to field it. Getting consistent play out of AI has been problematic this season, and Valdez has barely seen the field. Remick and Jones are neck and neck ratings wise, with Jones getting a bit of a boost from his recent form as an attacker. I believe the Ivanschitz/Valdez positions are the two currently most likely to be replaced by new signing(s). It is conceivable that these additions could slot right into the starting lineup in the wide forward spots (or move Dempsey wide) and not require a lot of team tactical adjustments.