Welcome back to Sounders soccer. In this weekend's 0-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls the mighty Sounders played fantastic soccer at times, gave up a few somewhat fluky chances, and were unable to finish their own. Unfortunately, when they needed to get that final touch, it wasn't there, and New York finished their opportunities in what ultimately ended up as another disappointing loss. If you are looking for silver linings I thought minutes 10-55 was one of the best halves we have played this year. After making a few adjustments to the early pressure that New York was pushing forward, Seattle really dominated the run of play and had chance after chance to change the score line. Let down by some questionable finishing and final third decision making, the Sounders left multiple attainable goals off the scoreboard. After giving up a sloppy second goal and subsequent defensive adjustments by the Red Bulls, the Sounders were listless and tired looking as they limped home to the end of the game, turning in an uninspired last half hour.
Stefan Frei - 5 | Community - 6.0
This was an interesting game for Frei. The Red Bulls had very few shots, and only a few required any saving. Unfortunately, Stefan was unable to stop the two most important ones, and both ended up behind him in the net. I wasn't very impressed with his positioning, and multiple times caught him in between holding his goal line and coming out to offer an easier outlet for the defense.
The things that Frei was able to control, such as distribution and organization from the back were not as proficient as usual. In the very first minutes, Stefan not only forced the ball to Alonso under considerable pressure, but he failed to realize (or care) that New York was consistently pressing high. Multiple times he released the ball short to players who were immediately engulfed in the high press. He should have adjusted quicker and looked to find the gaps farther up the field instead of putting his defense under immediate jeopardy.
With the high press from the opponents came the requirement for Frei to play high to support his fullbacks and he did this adequately. After a miscommunication with Marshall in the 9th, Stefan resorted to the underutilized keeper header, on a ball that I thought he might have been better served to just catch. He improved in the 12th minute, advancing strongly to the top of the 18 to control a nervy ball.
Overall Frei used his feet well, choosing to dump clearances forward after finally recognizing that going short on every opportunity was a bad idea. There was little he could do on either goal, although I think defensive organization on both should have been improved.
Dylan Remick - 7 | Community - 5.2
Remick quietly had a very good game at left back, rendering Lloyd Sam invisible for most of the match. I have been happy with Dylan's progression this year, and I've seen small improvements each time out. While not flashy, he was under control and didn't seem intimidated or frazzled by the pressure the Red Bulls were pushing at the Sounders defense.
In the 9th minute Remick was quick to recover for an errant Alonso pass, and in the 14th minute he used a smart header back to his keeper to retain possession. In the 23rd minute I was really happy to see Dylan not only win a ball with some intense 1v1 defense, but then transition that into attack, eventually receiving the ball on an overlap and earning a corner kick. This was just one of multiple corners that he won with attacking play and picked his spots well. In the 42nd minute his perfect cross deserved to be converted to an assist when he found Kovar unmarked far post. Unfortunately, his teammate was unable to finish.
It looks like Dylan is seeing the game better, and he showed this by anticipating an attacking Red Bull pass and intercepting it in the 51st, transitioning that steal nicely into the attack. This was a very nice play that I haven't seen a lot of from Remick. A few moments later he again made a great play on the ball, this time stealing a pass inside New York's 18-yard box in support of attack.
This is just one way that his play has improved, as well as more consistent marking on the defensive end. His crossing remains underrated; however I think he's getting somewhat redundant in his delivery and needs to mix it up to avoid being predictable in the offensive third.
Chad Marshall - 6 | Community - 5.7
Chad was very average this game. Asked to chase around the smaller, elusive Bradley Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam cutting in was a tall order for the big guy, and I thought he did fairly well containing them. New York smartly avoided getting into a header contest with the Sounders center backs, instead working the ball to Sasha Kljestan in between the lines and allowing him to try to play Wright-Phillips into space between the fullbacks.
The big problem for the Sounder defense arose when Marshall and Evans stepped up to Kljestan or Dax McCarty in the center, leaving tons of space behind them for Mike Grella or Sam to move into. This area was exploited in the 31st minute, but both center backs were quick to recover. In fact, the defense only allowed a few quality chances all game.
There wasn't too much to talk about with Chad's performance. He solidly stopped most attacks and was beat a few times too. His positioning allowed for Remick to slide up and consistently support Jones on the wing, and he was his usual rock on crosses. Marshall had a creative solution to the distribution struggles against the press: put a long diagonal to Kovar's side. This worked very well multiple times, opening the field and allowing the young Sounders player to run onto the ball in space.
Brad Evans - 5 | Community - 4.9
Brad might agree with this fairly harsh rating. He was solid, not great, and had a number of mistakes that eventually added up to mistouching a ball into the run of an opponent for an easy goal. The second goal simply took all the fight out of the Sounders, and Brad needs to shoulder a lot of the blame for that.
Up until the 50th minute or so I thought Brad was playing well. He was immensely calm under pressure, and multiple times dribbled competently out of dangerous spots in the back. His composure was huge early, when the defense didn't look prepared for the intense high press from New York. Brad was the outlet from the back for possession, and when he wasn't finding Alonso and Friberg through the middle he was bypassing the mid expertly, like a 23rd minute perfect ball forward to the run of Morris into the Red Bull box.
Brad was beat badly by Wright-Phillips in the 55th minute and luckily the in-form striker put his shot harmlessly over the goal. Five minutes later it was his lunging unfortunate touch that did nothing other than put Grella in on goal alone for a score that took the life out of the away team. This pass was reminiscent of his howler against San Jose early last year and you just can't make a mistake like that facing your own goal. I don't think it was that egregious of a mistake as it was the right play to make and his defensive positioning was superb, but at the end of the day you have to make the correct touch. Grella later was given too much time to dial up a shot, but it went wide.
Tyrone Mears - 5 | Community - 5.4
Mears was just ok against New York. I keep hoping that Tyrone will get more aggressive, both on offense and defense, yet he continues to play slow, safe at all costs soccer. On the first goal against, he passively dropped into space and marked a giant chunk of turf, instead of either doubling with Kovar or moving to a better spot. There were moments when Aaron made a diagonal and Mears could have taken space up the wing, but it didn't happen. Mears could bomb forward in the attack and support others, or pinch in and let Friberg or Alonso push up. Instead, Tyrone was just a guy on the field this week.
Mears had a nice recovery on Connor Lade in the 11th minute and he was working to support the attack at times, but there was no urgency to his play on the night. In the 22nd minute he made an awful pass across the middle that severely tested Alonso's trapping skills in traffic. He does a good job in shutting down his side of the field, and his communication with Kovar is strong. I just know there is more he could offer and think the team is really missing a more explosive option on the right.
Osvaldo Alonso - 6 | Community - 6.1 (MOTM)
This was another quietly efficient game for Ozzie, 90 touches and 93% pass completion is about his average. Forced to deal with much pressure from New York, Alonso was rarely able to do much more than keep possession and funnel the ball around horizontally.
Alonso started the game off on the wrong foot, earning a 4th minute yellow card for arguing with Felipe about a foul committed by Ozzie against Lloyd Sam. This was a completely pointless infraction, and one that could have easily been avoided by shutting his mouth. A card that early on a physical player changed a lot of the way that Alonso had to play for the remaining 86 minutes. I believe this allowed Kljestan more room in the middle as Ozzie was forced to play more cautiously than usual.
Alonso followed this up with a no-look pass intended for Remick that went directly to Sam in the 9th and a 26th minute clear was far below expectations, being returned immediately through direct pressure. He calmed down after that, and was very solid yet not spectacular in the middle.
There were few big switches, and this game illustrated that while Alonso is great at what he does, he is not a guy who is going to unlock a defense. He was masterful at keeping the ball under pressure and helping the defense deal with the high pressure. Often it was his positioning that funneled the ball to Ivanschitz or Friberg to attempt the killer pass, but this was the quietest offensive game for Alonso this season.
Erik Friberg - 5 | Community - 5.7
Erik got a below average score this week due to multiple distribution struggles and a failure to impact the game as much as he should have. Part of this was due to not getting the ball after working himself into great positions offensively, but frankly I expect more from Erik when given some of the chances he had against New York.
In the first minute Erik came out fast, looking to spring Kovar on a first touch ball over the top that might have been a goal had it been to the striker's left foot instead of his right. This was one of the few penetrating passes that Friberg had, however, and until a deep ball forward into the box (again for Kovar) in the 57th, there was little from Erik that was dynamic and imposing.
One thing that I liked was Friberg repeatedly making late runs into the box. This ability was on his scouting report when he came back to the team last summer and is great to see. Midfield runs to support attacks are fantastic, and a perfect example was in the 13th when an errant Jones pass found Erik unmarked inside the box. His first time shot was low and hard on frame but a hustling Connor Lade blocked it. Multiple times after this he again made these direct to goal, vertical runs, but no passes rewarded his efforts.
Erik struggled some with passing ("only" 81% completion rate) but many of the errant passes were quite awful. To compound this, his three set pieces were all dismal as well. For a guy who has very nice touch on the move, his dead ball service this year has been disappointing. I like the central midfield with Friberg and Alonso and think defensively they complement each other well. They also free up the third central player to float around wreaking havoc, but I would love to see Friberg especially be part of the offensive push.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 7 (MOTM) | Community - 5.0
For a guy who's had his share of awful games, this one reminded us how strong Ivanschitz can be when put in the right system. With two strong defensive midfielders behind him playing square of each other and willing runners in front of him AI was again allowed to float to the left and drop passes onto the feet of attackers. Combined with this passing were crisp set piece delivery and some follow up runs into the box to get shots for himself in a game that he was very effective in driving the Sounders attack forward.
I'll start with the rough stuff: Andreas needs plenty of room to work. When pressed, he lacks the close control of Alonso or the physical play of Morris to retain possession. The Red Bulls press forced him into multiple early turnovers when he was unable to move the ball quickly enough to offset their defense. In the 20th minute when presented with an open look from the top of the box Andreas chose to go for the spectacular one time shot instead of taking a more prudent extra touch; this shot went aimlessly over. In the 47th Ivanschitz smoothly dribbled forward through traffic, but then had his shot blocked when he dribbled too much. A number of times Jones was an option wide to the left and he was almost blatantly ignored.
The good far outweighed the bad however. How about EIGHT key passes? (2nd on the team were Remick and Morris tied at 2) In the 13th minute, realizing he isn't going to be able to control a bad pass behind him, Andreas dummied the ball perfectly into the middle for Friberg. On the ensuing corner kick he dialed up a perfect dipping ball that just dropped onto the 6 and lay tantalizingly for a Sounders attacker. Two minutes later, he stepped up to steal a pass and first-timed a pass that put Morris in on goal for another chance. A perfect corner kick was followed by an amazing pass curling around and through the defense to a streaking Jones that was barely pushed aside.
When Andreas has time to look up his passing is deadly, and in the 33rd he picked out the head of Morris in a crowd and placed it perfectly, only to have the finish lacking. After putting an awesome pass through to Kovar for one of his near misses, Andreas followed up with a transition pass to hit Jordan in stride on goal in the 57th.
Ivanschitz tired late and was subbed, but for 60 minutes he was pulling strings, playing the tip of the midfield and spraying passes around, putting guys in on goal. AI seems to have a great connection especially to Morris, who is now receiving these passes directly on frame instead of wider like earlier in the season. There should be concessions made about his defense and positioning strain on those behind him, but this game illustrated how strong he can be in the right circumstance.
Joevin Jones - 5 | Community - 4.8
Jones was mostly ineffective against New York, unable to be a consistent threat against their backline. I really liked what I saw in spurts, however, and while I am not sold on him starting, there are some definite pluses to Jones in an advanced position.
For the first ten minutes I had no idea Joevin was even on the field, his play was that invisible. When the team finally found him in minute 13, he surged past Sal Zizzo and accelerated directly at goal. This was a fantastic attacking opportunity that saw Morris drag defenders around and a hustling AI offer an option for a pass. Jones' pass to Ivanschitz was lousy and behind Andreas, though luckily it fell to a streaking Friberg who popped up unmarked in the middle. Multiple times when Morris faded to the right, Jones smartly filled the vertical left channel well.
Positionally I thought Jones was a bit of a mess. He didn't keep any width, instead pushing inside into Ivanschitz. Compare that to Kovar who was 3 feet out of bounds at times to create width through the right. Joevin was nonexistent defensively, and his spacing made it difficult for Remick to overlap with any regularity. In the 15th minute it was surprising to see Andreas outpace a jogging Jones to get into a Sounders break. It looked to me that Jones didn't know what to do or where to go when Ivanschitz beat him to the run he intended to make.
There were some very good things from Jones. He made a number of runs that went unrewarded by his teammates that might have given us a better idea what he can offer as a wide forward. I was ultimately unconvinced that he is the answer, although the idea of a late game sub/pushing Jones forward from fullback when chasing an attack is still quite appealing. He needs to create and take more shots.
Jordan Morris - 6 | Community - 5.6
Jordan did a ton of good things, but he didn't do quite enough to boost him over average for the game. Part of this was his failure to finish a number of good chances, and partly because, like the rest of the team after the 60th minute, he disappeared.
In minute 1 Morris attacked a defender with his body, winning the ball in the most physical play I have seen him initiate so far in his young career. In the 13th another run opened the entire backside of the play for others to attack. On the ensuing corner kick he managed to get his head on the ball but failed to redirect into the goal. Two minutes later his great pace got him through on goal and he opened his hips to look far post but pushed his shot wide. I think he had Kovar as an option as well during this play but I don't blame him for shooting. In the second half the notable actions for Morris were mainly holdup plays vs. multiple defenders and a nice 1v4 break that he almost turned into something in the 85th minute.
In the 33rd Jordan missed a perfect pass from Ivanschitz, putting his header wide. Perhaps he needs header practice, because right now he can't seem to get anything from his head on frame. That is about five huge chances that he has been unable to convert this year. I expect more from a forward that had so many good opportunities to score as he had this game.
Aaron Kovar - 6 | Community - 5.3
Well we can definitely say that Aaron has found his confidence, to the tune of a team leading five shots. Unfortunately, none of these went in and none really challenged Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles. When he gets his shots dialed in and learns that instead of making the perfect shot, he merely needs to make keepers work, then good things will happen. A number of times Morris was ready for any rebound, only to have a Kovar shot not even force a save.
In the very first minute Aaron almost found an over the top pass onto a shot on goal. He followed this up with 6th minute transition defense that I liked seeing and his 15th minute back post run was perfect. I love how well Morris and Kovar work off each other, when Jordan attacks the goal often it's aided by a nice ancillary run from Kovar. In the 37th minute an active Kovar latched onto a ball and put a shot just wide. He may have been better off finding Friberg into the box with a full head of steam but it's hard to blame the forward taking a shot on his left foot from there. A minute later the obviously fired up Kovar attempted (and completed nicely) a bicycle kick which unfortunately was right at Robles. Aaron finished off his day putting yet another shot barely wide in the 59th.
There were some hiccups, and his defense on Kljestan during the first goal was particularly bad. First he chased the ball to the middle, and then when no one was defending Sasha he raced out and overcommitted, being easily beaten back to Kljestan's right foot for the shot. Aaron needs to break down his defensive stance earlier and contain the attacker there.
I liked seeing Aaron shoot, and as soon as he dials in that left-footed curler it's going to be a huge weapon ala Marco Pappa. Kovar needs to make sure his eagerness doesn't preclude him from making the right pass in some situations, and I wish he'd headed the ball in the 40th minute when Remick found him completely unmarked far post.
Oalex Anderson - 5 | Community - 4.2 (on 68')
Oalex played really high compared to Jones who he replaced, essentially camping out in the left corner of the field. This added width to the attack, but also rendered him almost completely useless for a majority of the time with NY playing five in the back.
His first touch was dribbling out of bounds, and there wasn't a lot else. In the 72nd he got through and in on goal. He earned a few free kicks with his dribbling and pace, including a yellow card foul. In the 81st his touch let him down in the opponent area and he compounded it by fouling a Red Bulls player to boot. He had one shot go out for a throw in.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 5 | Community - 4.2 (on 68')
Nelson had a quiet outing, highlighted by a number of decent hold up plays and some pressure that forced a turnover or two. His best play was a 79th minute header in the box over a defender, which he nodded down towards Evans for a chance.
Valdez didn't do much, and the biggest issue I saw with him was his redundancy with what Morris was doing. Both were trying to check and hold up the ball, and at times making the same runs. This shouldn't happen, and they need to be utilized in a way that they tactically aren't occupying the exact same spaces.
Cristian Roldan - 5 | Community 4.6 (on 81')
Roldan brought some hustle off the bench but did little to help a tiring/quitting team against relentless pressure. In fact, after seeing the press from New York from the bench all game I was expecting much more from Roldan, who underwhelmed. He didn't move the ball nearly fast enough to deal with the pressure.
I thought positionally he was strong, and he did a good job stopping any attacks through the hole behind Anderson. Unfortunately, he wasn't any kind of offensive spark. His free kick in the 89th minute was awful.
Chris Penso - 8 | Community - 5.9
I thought Penso was great. He controlled the game well, called fouls when necessary, and stayed out of the spotlight for much of the game. I was surprised to see that he gave out 6 yellows in this one because they didn't take over the game, and I had no issues with any of them.
I agree with the deserved early double yellow; he asked the two players to shut it and they didn't. There was some small idea that Wright-Phillips' foul from behind in the 7th minute could be red, but without a scissor I think Penso made the right call. The ref ignored a Lloyd Sam dive in the 43rd but looks to have been suckered by a Felipe flop in the 49th minute.
I was very impressed with this refereeing job, and maybe I am dreaming but I hope more referees turn in performances like this when running Sounders games.
New York Red Bulls MOTM:
Readers (155 answered this question) overwhelmingly voted for Mike Grella the goalscorer as the best player for New York in this poll, with Sacha Kljestan getting some love as well.
Although I think Dempsey would have made a huge difference last week, this team created many opportunities against a much better defense without him and should have plenty of chances on Saturday. This weekend is a must win for me and I expect to earn the full three points at home. We are playing a team that massively leaks goals and will be travelling all the way across the country, its time to make Century Link a fortress again. With Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard NYCFC will in no way be able to press like the Red Bulls did, but containing David Villa will be a tall task for a backline that has a bit to prove after last week. Happy Pride weekend everyone :D