I don't know how to begin to introduce a game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at home where we managed 22 shots yet still somehow pulled out a loss 0-1. Seattle Sounders out shot LA 15-2 in the second half. Again my re-watch unearthed some very positive play and many things to build on, but at the end of the day you need to earn points, and there needs to be more... Something. The awful defensive lapses are being punished while any quality attacks are too predictable and not yielding results.
Stefan Frei - 6 | Community - 6.3 (MOTM)
Once again Frei did what he had to do to keep the team in a game where he wasn't tested much. Frei started out with a very poor clearance that was short and to the middle. This was partially due to a lousy back pass from Scott, but he needs to clear wider there. Instead, it went straight to Jelle Van Damme who put a one touch through ball directly back into the box. Frei assertively came off his line and turned in a fantastic save against Keane who had completely lost Scott and was in unmolested on goal.
In the 39th I thought Frei had time to catch a crossed ball, but his punch out was perfect, long and diagonally out to the sideline. After that Stefan had very little action, with LA choosing to bunker and failing to mount any sustained attack until the 72nd where Steven Gerrard mustered a good shot from distance that tested the Sounders net minder. A minute later Frei was out quickly to cut off a cross.
Other than those few plays, it was a very quiet night in goal. I don't blame him for not stopping Robbie Keane from 6 yards out unmarked, and he did well to cover the goal. Keane almost missed the shot, mistouching it and roofing it with a finish that wasn't savable and almost hit the ECS.
Joevin Jones - 5 | Community - 4.9
Jones had a very uneven game. He is playing like a rookie, seemingly unsure where to be, and at this point in the season it's just unacceptable to have so much indecision from a player. At times he can do some really intriguing things, like when he is unabashedly going forward, but other times there is a huge disconnect from his brain to what's happening, and that slow thinking ruins his pace advantage.
I liked seeing him hustle into forcing Keane into a hurried shot in the 15th, and it was a big improvement on the season. Joevin offers very little in possession and interchange on the left sideline, consistently turning the ball over or failing to create anything. Where he excels is in open space when allowed to attack fullbacks down the line. It wasn't until the 41st and 43rd minutes that he was able to find this space and get involved.
In the second half it was obvious that coach Sigi Schmid had tactically pushed Jones very high, and after a brief moment turning back from a promising attack in the 50th, Joevin attacked up the wing more aggressively. When going forward Jones isn't remotely goal dangerous or interested in changing angles, instead opting to cross from between the 18 and 6-yard box with varying levels of success. In the 66th he found Morris with a nice cross but followed that up 2 minutes later with a lousy pass after working a nice 1-2 with Friberg. Jones' cross in the 76th was his best of the evening, finding Dempsey's head.
I still see Joevin ball watching a LOT and that is cause for great concern. If teams are going to get a lead and bunker, then having a fullback who can try to attack great, but as far as actual defending goes Jones leaves a lot to be desired. Joevin could have had two assists in this game, and I think that is why he keeps getting starts, but I hope to see him attack defenders more aggressively.
Zach Scott - 4 | Community - 4.6
We have reached that point in the season where Scott has played too much, and he is regularly making game-defining mistakes. It just isn't fair to him to ask him to play so many minutes. Even though he has been a warrior for the Sounders, it's hard to watch him constantly make mistakes.
Scott's first touch often puts him in a rough spot. This is very apparent when he gets passes from the back and he pushes the ball toward the sideline or into an opposing player. He did this in the first 20 seconds of the game. Other times he changes angles and cuts off a large portion of the field merely because his control went to awkward positions.
Without the ball he makes awful decisions as well, and Gyasi Zardes easily used Scott's over-aggressiveness and bad defensive angle to spin unmolested into the box and create a 2v1 against Marshall. There is absolutely no reason to overplay that pass, nor is there any reason to dive in against a player much faster than you. Scott did both, and tried to cheat passes on a number of other occasions that luckily weren't punished.
In the second half he pushed over right behind a high playing Mears, and continued to push the ball towards the line and get himself in trouble. Scott did recover nicely a few times after Keane had fleeced him, and in the 67th minute he got his head on an open ball but was unable to redirect into the goal. Scott has been asked to play much more that he should ever need to. At this point I am firmly on the "give Tony Alfaro any backup CB minutes" train.
Chad Marshall - 6 | Community - 5.5
It is hard to rate Chad on his defense when he spends a majority of his time covering for either Jones pressing very high on his left or Scott's unpredictability to his right. Somehow, through all that he manages to make it look fairly easy, continually mopping up messes all around. In this game he wasn't asked to do a ton, since the home team got behind and chased the game for 75 minutes.
In the 14th Marshall smartly read the dummy run and his anticipation stopped Keane from being in on goal. Less than a minute later Chad correctly came over and tried without success to deny Zardes an option on goal after Scott made a monumental blunder. Marshall's slide forced Zardes into a very difficult pass that managed to find Keane for the only goal of the game.
Against LA Chad had some very nice passes with his chest and head from the back, easily finding a teammate and keeping possession against the few advances from the Galaxy. The highlight for Marshall was probably stoning Giovanni Dos Santos in the 52nd minute 1v1 and generally eliminating him from the game after he moved central in the second half.
Marshall did have one unfortunate slip in the 40th minute that was completely unforced and led to Keane getting in 1v1 on Frei. With the help of a hustling Friberg and Stefan taking a good angle the Galaxy forward was unable to add to the score. Chad got his head on a corner, getting a nice redirect but with the Sounders set piece offense being very scattered, there weren't many opportunities for Chad to change the score line in either direction.
Tyrone Mears - 6 | Community - 5.5
Another typical Mears effort that continues to be very uneven. Early on Mears was very passive, getting forward but pushing the ball backwards. Later in the first half he started to overlap with more aggression, and he and Roldan found much room on the right of the attack to probe with Valdez moving increasingly central.
Mears was credited with five key passes, but many of those were dicey header chances that frankly the Sounders forwards weren't winning against Van Damme. His 67th and 69th minute crosses were particularly bad, one almost going out for a throw in on the opposite side of the field. Other passes were speculative at best.
I was more impressed by his 9th minute pass on the ground to release Morris on a run into the box. He also played an early long ball to Morris in the 53rd that did a number of things. First, it split the defense, second, it allowed Jordan to run onto a ball in space, and third, it was a ball that the forward could play with his feet. Morris did well to get a shot off but unlucky to not score.
Similar to Jones I think Mears could have ended up with a number of assists, especially for the Morris shot and another 51st minute open header that Jordan should have scored on. On defense he played both ways well, and I really liked seeing him bust his ass back to shut down Keane late after Scott was caught too high. Every single long ball and clearance from the Galaxy went to Zardes, and Mears was completely dominated in those passes, allowing for an easy outlet at LA's whim.
Osvaldo Alonso - 6 | Community - 6.2
Alonso was ok in this game. Ozzie has been at his best carving out a giant defensive wasteland in the center of the field, and as he has slowed a bit, this area is getting smaller. He still gets from side to side as well as anyone in the league, but he isn't covering as much area.
This is fine for a defensive midfielder, and Ozzie spent a lot of time parked directly in front of the center back pairing, shunting what few attacks came from LA to the width. Continually Steven Gerrard or Giovani Dos Santos were forced wide, although they still had some success slotting Keane through the gap between the central defenders.
Alonso struggled to transition the ball through the middle, and at times had to rely on Dempsey dropping to clear his zone. When Alonso did get forward he was effective, such as a one-time cross to Roldan in the 33rd or a 48th minute vertical run into the box that got him on the end of a Dempsey pass for a shot that was blocked. These forays forward were very scarce, and Ozzie was often the "center fielder" on plays where he was the lone player with any pace to defend against quick counter attacks.
I think Alonso is still a strong player, but he doesn't have the range of his peak Honey Badger days. He could most benefit from the addition of a dynamic playmaker/attacker in front of him; this would allow him to concentrate solely on destroying, something he still does at a high level.
Erik Friberg - 6 | Community - 5.6
Erik had another solid, if unspectacular shift in the middle of the park on Saturday, covering a huge amount of ground and trying to link with Dempsey in some fashion that could break the Galaxy defensive wall.
In the 7th minute Friberg anticipated LA trying to clear their own defensive third and stole a pass to keep pressure on. This sort of play was enabled by great communication between Erik and Ozzie on the night and the two had very high pass completion percentages. Friberg got a little bit of tunnel vision (as did others) and tried to force the ball to Dempsey in the 11th minute, completely missing an open Roldan making a vertical run directly at goal.
In the 36th Friberg showed tremendous hustle to get back and slide tackle away pressure inside his own box. Four minutes later he again displayed awesome desire to get back and pressure Keane into flailing in the box after Marshall had slipped and allowed a quick counter. Erik clipped him a little bit, but the similarities between Friberg's unabashed desire to get back on defense and make something happen and Jones' effort on Keane's goal was interesting.
Taking set pieces in the absence of Andreas Ivanschitz was a committee this week and Erik was decidedly meh on his turn. He had a nice corner in the 48th after two miserable efforts in the 32nd and 33rd. Even after a poor pass in the 49th I was pleased to see Friberg hustle back on defense and immediately get goal side. A number of times he really busted his ass to support the back line and that is great to see, but I was disappointed in the lack of creativity going forward. He attempted to work with Dempsey but was unable to link in any consistent fashion.
Cristian Roldan - 7 | Community - 5.9 (off 83')
This was by far Cristian's best game as a Sounder and I am really pleased with his development. After getting minutes at wing last year, he has been moved inside this season and he's responded with improvement in almost every game. I have repeatedly said that I thought he was a pure destroyer at this point in his evolution, but this game he proved me wrong by showing a myriad of attacking flair while being aggressive going forward.
With Valdez crowding the middle and Dempsey dropping, there was a giant hole on the right side of the field and Roldan quickly exploited this from his midfield position. His 4th minute play checking to the ball was perfect, allowing space for Mears to overlap. As mentioned before, he had a great dash vertically at the goal, only to be missed by Friberg in the 11th. This was a great run because it shows how much confidence the young player has leaving the middle and attacking space when he knows it's the right play, instead of being overly cautious and playing safe.
In the 25th it was Roldan who popped up about 12 yards out and got a header on goal but without enough power to beat Brian Rowe. Eight minutes later he was loitering with intent in the box for another header attempt. Cristian wasn't done there, he attempted a great pass to Dempsey in the 38th that was just long. Just before halftime he neatly beat Dave Romney on a turn, but then ran out of ideas on what to do and the attack fizzled.
The second half was less productive for Roldan as the LA defense adjusted and Cristian was one of many unable to break through the (at times) ten defenders in the box. Roldan took his turn at set pieces and underwhelmed. Other than a 29th minute hustle play that saw Cristian playing center back for a lost Scott, this was a purely offensive game for the young midfielder and he responded with some exciting attacking play.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 5 | Community - 4.8 (off 64')
Whoah, Valdez not only plays, but he starts! I was disappointed by his play in this game; it seems that all the good interaction between Dempsey and Valdez in the Club America series has evaporated. Valdez was very strong in possession and his holdup was good in the few opportunities he had to touch the ball.
Valdez was mostly invisible in this game, and it's increasingly apparent that he and Morris want to be in similar areas of the field. It wasn't that Nelson played badly, he just didn't do much to create, and that's the biggest need on this team right now. He moved centrally over the space that Dempsey vacated looking to help distribution, but we failed to utilize his hold up skills to turn this into an advantage and bring players into the attack.
Valdez going forward was a mixed bag. I liked his hustle and his desire following up every shot - something I have not seeing others do, but I also saw a distinct lack of movement after initial runs. In fact, all the attackers failed to recycle their runs after a run forward and this led to a lot of people standing around waiting for passes to be lumped in their direction.
I have no idea why the Sounders don't pressure more, and the 30th minute illustrated what can happen when they do. With Valdez cutting off half the field and pressing high, Alonso pushing the middle channel and Morris pressing his wing the Sounders forced an awful turnover from Dos Santos directly to Dempsey for a shot. When this group of players forces the action, good things happen. Overall, I was underwhelmed by Valdez' performance, and in hindsight think that a player willing to pull defenses out wider (hello Mr. Kovar) would have helped open the middle.
Clint Dempsey - 7 (MOTM) | Community - 6.1
Clint did the best he could during a game that saw him constantly swarmed. Whether it was Baggio Husidic, Jeff Larentowicz or Jelle Van Damme, Dempsey constantly had 2+ players covering him any time he got into the attacking half of the field. Even in light of this he still created just about all of the Sounders main chances while subsequently being a major help to get the ball out of the Sounders' own defensive half.
Clint is always looking for spaces to float to underneath the point strikers and I thought he did that well this game. But without the inherent cohesion with a guy like Obafemi Martins or dynamic off the ball movement, he was unable to work through the middle and was consistently forced to play the ball wide where players were unable to take advantage of the space that he created for them. It's too late in the season for people to not know how to move off the ball for him, and what we end up with is Clint dribbling around looking for help.
Dempsey did shoot a few times, and his 76th minute header shows how goal dangerous he is when given service. Unfortunately, he can't both take set pieces and be on the end of them, and he was forced to take a few free kicks early. In the 82nd minute he showed incredible control to thigh trap the ball, beat two players, and put a shot off the near post after beating the keeper. A few minutes later he showed more skill trapping a ball in traffic, taking a ridiculous header touch for control, and shooting wide. I think he had options square but at that point it's hard to blame him for attempting to go at goal.
Clint is going to get caught in possession at times and miss some passes but he was the only creative piece on the field this weekend. With only Morris and Friberg even attempting to link up with him, he was just smothered by multiple defenders. The inclusion of Evans and a player to pull the field wider should help.
Jordan Morris - 6 | Community 6.1
Including Valdez in the starting lineup forced Morris wide and he struggled to figure out what he should be doing in the first half. Multiple times he checked to the ball and turned only to see no runs in front of him and no adequate options. Jones was completely useless as an option to work off of Jordan and it was disappointing to see these two not work better up the left side. Later in the half Sigi smartly moved Morris to the right to exploit some of the space that Roldan had been sliding into, but it wasn't until the second half that Morris was able to get central and make wide runs with more success.
Jordan missed his 73rd open header of the year in the 51st from six yards out and I can't wait till that part of his development catches up to the rest of his game. One part that is great to see is his desire to take on defenders, especially in the box. In the second half he did this repeatedly, earning corner kicks and putting the ball into good spots.
In the 53rd Morris made a perfect forward run splitting the center backs and got on the end of a very nice Mears pass. After a tremendous touch and getting fouled by Rowe, he put a strong shot on frame that AJ Delagarza was able to parry away. This was a heartbreaking turn of events, with a simply great play from Jordan going unrewarded. I have said it before: if he is a bit less strong, he probably gets a PK. But this was another time where he was 100% fouled but played through the challenge and ultimately ended up with nothing for his effort. It sucks, I want more Morris and fewer Blas Perez-type players, but man, a goal there changes everything.
Jordan deserved an assist for wonderful vision to drop a ball to Friberg in the 65th whose shot was deflected wide. While holding off a defender (and being fouled) in the 82nd Morris nodded a header to Dempsey who almost scored. This was a frustrating night for the young Sounder who spent much of the game trying to create for others.
Oalex Anderson - 5 | Community - 5.1 (on 64')
Oalex looks to be a guy who is responding well to coaching. I saw a ton of improvement in his play this week and was very pleased with how much better he played. That being said, there is still a ton of flailing and sprinting with questionable direction when it comes to Oalex.
After subbing on he almost got a piece of a Scott header that went right to the keeper and this is the third time I have noted Anderson in a good spot around the keeper. He offered a spark off the bench and it was his width, not his speed, that was his best contribution to the attack. When he was on the ball he contributed a dismal 50% passing rate and his crossing was horrible. The biggest issue for Anderson is decision making, and while I liked his hustle to get into the box in the 86th, he completely made a meal of the contact he received and instead of going down at first contact took a step and dove sideways. Ugh.
Herculez Gomez- 4 | Community - 4.7 (on 83')
Gomez offered a lay off and a bad free kick taken. He was put on ostensibly for offense and yet was mainly at midfield. Our bench is horrid if this is the 2nd of only two subs used.
Baldomero Toledo - 3 | Community - 4.1
Toledo is awful. I don't know how else to say it. He allowed a ton of fouls to go uncalled, yet then offset this with very soft superstar fouls against anyone who touched Gerrard. I have no idea why Gerrard didn't get a card I the 9th minute for a two-footed tackle that would have broken Roldan in half had he not jumped. Is he supposed to stand in there and get demolished in order to get a call? That was dangerous and full of intent, yet in the 45th Gerrard got the softest foul call of the game after being barely touched. Ridiculous. Going through the back of Roldan in the 60th minute? Nah.
After calling Van Damme in the 2nd minute for cleaning out Dempsey, Toledo proceeded to allow the Belgian to commit seven more foul-worthy offenses. The 46th minute foul on Valdez and a tactical foul should have been an automatic yellow and yet he was allowed to leave in his leg on Dempsey in the 54th and STILL never got a card. He wasn't the only one who was whacking Clint constantly, I marked Larentowitcz with a tactical foul in the 12th (no card) or Sebastian Lletget cleaning him out in the 88th. Larentowitcz also got Valdez in the 55th. Oh tactical foul yellow to Gerrard in the 58th for stopping a break, right? (hint: NO).
All this may have been less annoying if Toledo didn't miss FIVE penalty calls in this game. Yeah. FIVE.
The first was a foul from Daniel Steres against Valdez in the 36th minute. He gets Valdez and I'm sorry, it's a foul in the box and a PK. Toledo not only waved that off, but Alonso blatantly getting crushed at the top of the box when making the pass into Valdez. The second penalty he missed was on Friberg recovering against Keane in the same minute, with the Sounders player getting his feet tangled with the LAG striker who went down as he is wont to do. There wasn't intent, but that is a penalty.
The next PK was committed by Rowe on Morris when he broke into the box. After hanging all over (and fouling him) Jordan got away and took a shot. THIS IS A FOUL AND HE SHOULDN'T BE REQUIRED TO FALL TO EARN IT. How many times have I said that this year? Sigh. In the 77th minute DelaGarza took out Oalex and even though he made a meal of it, there was a foul prior. This is the one I am least annoyed at, since Anderson made it look ridiculous.
The last PK is another one where Jordan Morris fights off DeLaGarza in the box in the 82nd minute. The Galaxy player makes ZERO play for the ball and just shoves Morris to the ground. He isn't even looking at the ball and is two-handed pushing Morris with his arms wrapped around him. I don't care if Clint almost scored. It's a PK. This was completely similar to Gomez' foul in Colorado that was a PK and it's just ridiculous that this wasn't called.
I was surprised by just how badly this referee botched at least four of these calls. I shouldn't be.
LA GALAXY MOTM:
Readers chose Jelle Van Damme and his dominating defensive performance as MOTM, but over a third of the 211 voters chose goalscorer Keane.
This game was frustrating for more than just the 22-7 shot count or the possession or the defensive blunders. For me we saw the limitations of the roster in full. Lost in this mess was a nice outing by Roldan. We simply had no one to bring in and change up the status quo when we desperately needed one. I would have liked to see AI or Kovar to spread the field and offer more consistent service but frankly, with 22 shots we need to bury some of them. I have mentioned luck a lot, and we were unlucky - but let's make some of our own luck. Let's put so much pressure on teams that they make the mistakes. It can start with Dallas this week.