What a difference a few days makes. After playing a struggling New England Revolution and looking very defeated for much of it, an entirely different team showed up to play DC United on a short rest midweek game. I give the staff a lot of credit for keeping this team mentally prepared, after an incredibly demoralizing prior result. Instead of hanging their heads and blaming the ref or the travel, this team came out sharp, aggressive, and determined. While the stats might not show it, this was quite a dominating win, and one that was even more lopsided than the 2-0 score line may indicate. DC rarely threatened Seattle in their attack and the Sounders kept consistent pressure on the opponent's goal, eventually breaking through late. Earning their first road victory of the season, Seattle now enters a break on a positive note.
Stefan Frei - 7 | Community - 6.82
When you see the stats you might wonder about DC outshooting Seattle 15-14, but the key stat was the Sounders putting eight on frame to just one for United. This made for a sporadically active evening for the Seattle keeper.
In the 9th minute Frei covered the goal well on a Fabian Espindola shot, and I believe his positioning often factored into DC's misses. Espindola got the only United shot on goal in the 30th, a long try from well outside the 18 that Frei saw through traffic and gathered.
With DC's pressure and his teammates not providing a lot of short options, Frei was often forced to go long when the ball was played to his feet. He also was quite active on getting off his line quickly in support of his center backs. One such time was in the 33rd, with Frei delivering a karate kick clearance well outside the 18-yard box. In the 88th he was again fast to react when an Alfaro back pass was a bit weak, and Stefan raced outside the box to clear danger.
One of the best chances of the first half started with an alert Frei throw in the 38th. On this play he came out to catch a free kick in traffic, and quickly released Ivanschitz for a counter. There wasn't a ton of action for our keeper, but he was alert and ready and did well to organize his defense and in the end, his hard work resulted in another shutout.
Dylan Remick - 6 | Community - 5.82
Remick didn't do anything flashy, but he was quite solid and effective on the left side of a defense that has struggled this season. Dylan played a much more stay-home version of left back, and it suited the team's shape well. His average position was very even with Mears opposite him.
I had a number of negative marks about Remick, however they were mostly minor issues. I think he mis-communicated with Scott in the 4th minute, allowing Lamar Neagle a header chance that was squandered. In the 26th I wasn't too impressed with his defense against Espindola, eventually conceding a corner kick. This is notable because on the ensuing kick, the ball was redirected into Dylan's arm. While I do think he moved his arm up into the ball, the elbow was in close to the body and if it hadn't hit his arm would have hit his side - no denial of a goal or intent; just ball to hand for me.
Dylan had a few mis-touches on offense, but kept strong position on defense. Even though a majority of the DC attacks came down his side, he did well with them. The highlights of his night were a 24th minute step across to help Scott who had been burned by Neagle and a 58th minute low cross that found Kovar on the six-yard box. This was a steady, calm, defensive-heavy shift from a guy who seems ready to play whenever given the opportunity.
Zach Scott - 4 (off injured 40') | Community - 4.59
Scott followed up his worst performance of the year with an equally poor outing. In the 14th minute, he ate ex-teammate Lamar Neagle on defense, but other than that his injury-shortened 40-minute shift was a forgettable one.
Zach's first touch was a chunked long ball pass forward, and on the night he completed just 58% of his passes. In the 8th he was juked defensively so badly he fell down, which was a theme on the night. A minute later he fell again attempting to defend Luciano Acosta. It didn't get better for the beleaguered defender, he stabbed and missed in the 24th and needed the quick reflexes of Remick to save the day, and a minute later another pass went directly to an opponent.
I am not sure when Scott got hurt, but he struggled most of the game. His vast soccer experience allowed him to get to decent defensive shape, but multiple times it was Scott where possession went to die. This was a very unfortunate game for the veteran who came up against an offense that seriously tested his skill set.
Brad Evans - 8 | Community - 6.53
The main reason the Sounders were able to keep a clean sheet in the first half was a tremendous effort from Evans, picking up the slack for his struggling central partner and rebuffing every attack that came his way. Brad carried the defense, with an amazing TEN interceptions. The defense looks so much stronger with him back there, holding good lines and keeping up his usual stellar passing (84%).
In the 3rd minute DC looked to have numbers, but Brad stuffed their attack single-handedly. Again in the 9th minute when forced against a 1v2 on defense, he delayed perfectly and deflected Fabian Espindola's shot wide of frame. It was Evans who slid across in the 36th to deny Neagle who had benefited from a Scott turnover. Even late in the game Evans was still going strong, causing a 73rd minute yellow card on Espindola after handily beating the United attacker from the back.
In the 34th minute Evans was beat by the tricky Acosta who, aided by Brad slipping, pulled off a rainbow move and got past the defense. This was remarkable because it was the only negative mark on the game for Evans. After switching central partners, he was seamless in integrating Alfaro to the back line and the team defense remained solid throughout this potential turmoil. This is the kind of performance you want from a captain - great leadership through both voice and action.
Tyrone Mears - 6 | Community - 6.29
Tyrone has strung a few solid performances together in a row now, and he looks better than earlier in the season. Once again the opponent attacked almost exclusively down the opposite side of the field, and I give a lot of credit to the Mears/Kovar combination for influencing teams to avoid the Sounders' right.
In the 2nd minute, Mears charged forward hugging the line on an overlap, received a pass from Kovar, and picked out Morris in the box with a dangerous cross. Multiple times Mears pushed the ball past an opponent and ran forward, remembering that he has speed and good dribbling skills. He did this in the 11th minute and it was strong defending from an otherwise ineffective Nick Deleon that barely stopped his attack. He got far forward and cut the ball back for an open shot by Friberg in the 42nd - I'd love to see more of that.
One of the most intelligent things that Tyrone does defensively is cover the backside when attacks come through the left. With all attacks going toward Remick and Scott, it was necessary for Mears to cover the space that Evans had to continually leave to support the left. Tyrone was consistently across to cover the backside runners into the middle of the field, and his clearances and defending through this channel were wonderful.
Mears had some issues, almost exclusively in the attack. The right side wasn't as dynamic offensively, and it seems like Tyrone runs out of ideas when charging forward. There were some crosses directly to keeper Bill Hamid, as well as some over-aggressive dribbling that got Mears in trouble. I like to see him get forward and support, but he still looks hesitant and struggles to be goal-dangerous in the attack.
Cristian Roldan - 6 | Community - 6.08
Very up and down game for Roldan, who was originally placed in front of his central midfield mates and experienced only limited success as an attacking midfielder. In fact, things opened up for the team when he was later dropped back and Friberg was pushed to a more attacking position.
We knew Roldan was the front mid in the first minute of the game when his high pressure won a throw-in. Roldan had a tremendous dive across the 6-yard box in the 16th minute, and he smartly one-timed a shot just wide of goal. At times, Cristian was the only one to utilize Remick on the left who was often open very high and consistently attempting to overlap, but rarely finding the ball until a 48th minute Roldan pass found him with loads of space.
I don't think Roldan is yet suited to play much of a creative role, and his passing and vision struggled going forward. I noticed early on that he was not connecting with Ivanschitz or Friberg much at all, and wasn't able to effectively hold possession in midfield. His failed hold-up play in the 30th resulted in an Espindola shot. This 69th minute play summed up his night: Roldan dribbled into trouble and lost the ball, but his great recovery hustle limited any advantage by DC from this mistake.
Osvaldo Alonso - 9 MOTM | Community - 7.77
This was such an Alonso game. He completely dominated the midfield and forced every single attack wide and away from goal. 87% passing with the most touches on the team, 8/8 on tackles, and leaving a trail of tears from broken attacks behind him.
Ozzie knows how to control the middle, but he was also smart to accept contact and earn fouls early to help the defensive left in the 3rd, 6th, and 18th minutes. Alonso was there to save Scott after one of his falls in the 8th. He dribbled confidently through the midfield in the 15th, eagerly gobbling up the open space. In the 50th and 55th Ozzie completely shut down counterattacks, personally destroying the opponent's attempt to push forward. Alonso even got into the fray on offense, putting a stunning volley from 35 yards out through traffic in the 57th on a ball he just crushed. It was not only on frame, it forced a strong effort from goalkeeper Bill Hamid to make the save.
When everyone else tired after 80 minutes, Ozzie was just getting started. Showing incredible anticipation, he stole a long dribble in the 83rd minute and assisted Jones on his goal. In the 89th he beast-moded two successive attacks alone, turning both back and preserving the shutout.
It was Alonso's poor touch in the 4th minute that gave a turnover to Acosta, but Lamar Neagle couldn't finish the header. Ozzie was also beat back post by Jared Jeffrey in the 29th. These were the only major marks against the Sounders midfielder, who completely dominated the day and was an easy choice for MOTM. Why Roldan made Team of the Week and Ozzie didn't completely baffles me. Alonso was simply fantastic on Wednesday.
Erik Friberg - 7 | Community - 6.42
Erik was given the thankless task of battling with Marcelo Sarvas all game, and he did well to help limit all midfield attacks. He also had a very high work rate and was consistently playing both ways this game, doing the little things needed to stunt almost every midfield attack. Between Friberg and Alonso, the DC central attack was non-existent.
Friberg is an underrated defender, and I'm consistently impressed with his hustle. A good example of this was in the 9th minute when he sprinted back to support Evans to recover on a 1v2 defensive effort. These two showed awesome communication, with Brad stepping to ball and Erik seamlessly covering the backside. This was a really notable display of teamwork. It was a Friberg pass that found Roldan on the 6 in the 16th minute and in the 42nd he ghosted into a nice spot on the corner of the 18 and pushed a dangerous shot on goal after a Mears pass. After about the 70th minute Erik was moved into a more offensive position and he looked much more goal dangerous, contributing to the Sounders' more effective late attack.
Erik had a few mistouches, rough passes, and communication issues in the middle, but 91% passing and 3 key passes is excellent from the deeper middle position he was playing. I was disappointed to see him miss a wide open Ivanschitz making a stellar backside run in the 52nd minute, but other than that Erik is consistently finding the right passing decision. His partnership with Alonso is continuing to progress and if Friberg can limit his mistakes to vertical attacks, our midfield is really going to be strong.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 6 (off 74') | Community - 5.60
I was really surprised after the re-watch at the amount of positives I had in the book for Andreas. Live he seemed out of touch with the offense, but upon review he really pushed the attack in the first 60 minutes or so.
In the opening minute he showed his class, finding a loose ball and putting Morris through, knowing his young forward would find the gap. He followed up this play with a shot attempt, although a player kicked his leg from behind as he swung. Just two minutes later he again looked for Morris through. One notable thing about his passes is when Andreas puts Morris through he puts his pass on the ground, making it easy for Jordan to run onto and control and keeping him towards the goal as well.
In the 38th minute AI fought through contact long enough for Morris to re-establish that he was onside before Ivanschitz again put a perfect pass to goal. When the ball popped out to Andreas a moment later he tried an audacious 30-yard shot that clanged off the corner of the goal after beating Bill Hamid. On either side of half, he found Morris in holding positions or peeling off towards goal, and these two were really dialed into each other's movement. There weren't a ton of attempts, but his 57th minute set piece was expected quality. Multiple times he made great back side runs and failed to get the ball.
You aren't going to get a lot of 1v1 defense or tracking back, and at times Andreas looked like a traffic cone out there in both directions. I thought he deserved the yellow for a bad foul in the 38th but otherwise was a non-factor helping the defense. He played very inverted, coming all the way into the middle of the field at times and playing almost underneath Morris. I think this was a role that he can find some success in.
Aaron Kovar - 6 (off 86') | Community - 6.00
This was quieter outing from Aaron than his last few, but he again showed he belongs on an MLS pitch, doing all his usual hard work and facilitating those around him. Against DC, he and Mears completely shut down the left side of the United attack, making Taylor Kemp and DeLeon non factors.
This was the first game we saw the underlap from Mears, and these two executed it perfectly in the 2nd minute with Kovar holding width on the line and Tyrone dashing by on the inside. Kovar had a nice chance in the 50th, when his over the top run and Roldan pass forced Hamid to come out and barely stop an attack. One thing I've been noticing with Aaron is he knows exactly when to come across the box and support Morris' runs. When Jordan is put through, Kovar shadows and opens up for a pass. This forces the defense to react, and something that will open up a more dangerous secondary attacker such as Clint Dempsey.
In the 58th minute Kovar did just this, and he found himself in the middle of the 6-yard box receiving a perfect pass from Remick. He tried to trap it by a defender in one motion and misplayed the ball, squandering a golden opportunity. On the night Aaron did a lot of things right to help the team, but unlike last game was unable to change the score line. I would like to see continued moments where he is goal dangerous.
Jordan Morris - 8 | Community - 7.20
This kid just keeps turning in strong performances.
To start the game off Jordan won a 50/50 header to AI, then peeled off towards goal and it took a really strong Kofi Opare shoulder tackle to push Jordan away from a shot. A minute later it was Opare again stopping a shot, and again a minute after that the DC defender thwarted a chance from a Mears forward run.
Jordan is really mixing up his play, first using speed to stretch teams vertically and then checking back, holding up the ball and finding an outlet. In the 24th he was going vertical again, and this time he was ready for the Opare shoulder and showed strength to fight through it and get a shot off. I was very impressed by his intelligence to get back onside in the 38th, before again stretching the field and ALMOST scoring off one of the many perfect Ivanschitz through balls Morris received on the night.
I am guessing this was the most offside the Sounders have been this year (that's ok!) because Jordan was dedicated to tiptoeing the line all game. I do wish he had seen a wide open Ivanschitz in the 46th, electing instead to one-time an attempt into traffic. In the 79th minute Jordan does what all good goal scorers do: found a ball in the box and put it in the net before the defense could react. This was a goal earned by his desire to get into a dangerous spot and his ability to react quicker and more efficiently than either of the two defenders or the keeper he beat on the play. I am so excited to see him scoring in different ways and am amazed by his soccer IQ.
Tony Alfaro - 6 (on 40') | Community - 6.46
This was very similar to his inaugural game, including the same entrance time. Again Alfaro was solid, if not great. Following Scott's struggles made Tony look somewhat better, but he had more issues this game than the last.
In the second half he was beat by Acosta's speed, but showed some nice recovery pace of his own, and conceded a corner. After forcing a ball forward for a turnover in the 68th, a minute later Alfaro tried to dribble out from a corner, and a bad touch was immediately stolen and shoved onto Frei's goal area. I thought his back pass in the 88th was poor, and he lost Jeffrey in the 89th.
Most of these errors were minor, and the Alfaro/Evans central defense was very strong. Tony has some of the sweetest long touch passing ability from a defender that I have seen, and he made some very impressive switching passes to Mears or Kovar. We still haven't seen him start, but based on two lengthy sub appearances, Alfaro looks to be a decent MLS player.
Joevin Jones - 7 (on 74') | Community - 7.85 MOTM
Joevin Jones turned this game on its head, and the sub by coach Sigi Schmid was inspired. Jones brought an element of direct play that the team was missing, and while he didn't do a lot, when he was on the ball he went at goal with a purpose.
In the 79th minute Joevin went forward in attack and there was nothing fancy about his approach. He used stop-and-go simpleTM speed moves to get past tired defenders and push at goal. After working a pass to Morris he continued his run and when receiving the ball in return put a strong shot across goal, knuckling and hard and on frame forcing a Hamid parry that Jordan finished for the opening goal.
In the 83rd minute he supported an incredible Alonso play offering a wide option. When played the ball, I thought Joevin let it run too far, creating a harder angle shot, but Jones used an Obafemi Martins-esque chip shot to score his first goal as a Sounder. It's weird saying he didn't do anything else (he didn't) but playing integral parts on both goals off the bench is awesome.
Herculez Gomez - 5 (on 86') | Community - 5.23
Gomez had a good run right after entering on goal but when presented with a 1v1 against Opare the United defender won handily. Herc had a late foul that didn't help much at the job he was put in for, to defend and support the lead.
Jose Carlos Rivero - 6 | Community - 5.80
I wasn't familiar with this referee but thought he did an OK job. Is it sad that "not calling a completely asinine PK" is a criterion for grading these guys at this point?
Rivero called what I thought was a fair game. He allowed a clean hard foul on Scott in the 22nd and appropriately mediated the Roldan/Sean Franklin kerfuffle a minute later. I thought his yellow cards were appropriate for both teams, although Franklin and Acosta both could have seen persistent penalties with four fouls each.
I was less impressed with the AR's, both who had trouble. One called an offside on Morris in the 23rd that wasn't even close to being off and gave the Sounders a goal kick on an obvious corner. The opposite AR made this same corner kick mistake as well, also somehow not calling a foul when Jeffrey was demolished mere feet in front of him. I am not sure what he saw but I would prefer the assistants flag things they see and let the center ref overrule if necessary.
The big talking point is the "handball" on Remick, and I think a lot of MLS refs (we all know who) call that immediately because of the movement of the arm. What I saw on the replay was there was zero advantage to the way Dylan played it, and the ball was not "going in if he didn't swing his arm to save a goal" as some have stated. It wouldn't have been the worst call, but I can definitely see the referee's thought process in allowing the play to continue.
DC United MOTM:
Goalkeeper Bill Hamid edged out Luciano Acosta as the best DC United player, according to the 163 voters who answered this question.
Winning a game was huge. Winning a game on the road was also huge. Earlier in the season we didn't know how to win this game, and it was tremendous to see the victory. Going into this break on a high, getting some guys healthier and having a positive outlook for this rest period is going to do wonders to this team. I have high hopes for what we can do after the break, and let's hope this was a turning point. The team has had a lot of time to figure out each other and the formational changes, but the schedule doesn't do this team any favors in the upcoming months. If we are to get back into the playoff hunt it will be from gaining points against good teams.
** This post dedicated to Grandma Phyllis. I hope you are making pork chops for Harv in heaven. You will be truly missed