Last weekend the Sounders went to Kansas and turned in their worst performance of the year, and one of the worst Sounders games I've ever seen. Out-maneuvered tactically from the opening kick, the team struggled to get any rhythm, and when they got behind, they folded miserably instead of fighting. I was massively disappointed in the 0-3 loss to Sporting Kansas City, and not just because of the score. This team showed a complete lack of desire, with multiple players simply quitting and others just going through the motions. Even some second half creative adjustments weren't enough. Our team looked tired, uninspired, and uninterested in playing soccer.
Stefan Frei - 7 (MOTM) | Community - 6.9 (MOTM)
After a lot of quiet games, Frei unfortunately got plenty of action in Kansas, suffering 19 shots against with 6 on frame. KC had good quality shots and managed to put in three. But they would have had seven or so if not for the heroics of the beleaguered Sounders keeper.
It started early, with Jacob Peterson having a wide open look in the 6th that Frei was able to push wide. Two minutes later Roger Espinoza had his own free attempt, same result. Frei tried valiantly to organize his back line, but without cover in front of the defensive four, the KC players were free to attack at will. A wide open Dom Dwyer scored a header in the 21st that there was no chance to save. Frei was out in traffic in the 25th to secure a cross in traffic, and his 1v1 save on Connor Hallisey in the 47th briefly kept a glimmer of hope to get to halftime and regroup, only down one. This wasn't to be - again, the Sounders gave up a goal right before half on a fantastic shot by Peterson that Frei had zero chance at.
The second half was more of the same, with Frei making great saves (Dwyer 61st stood out) but ultimately unable to do much more than prevent a total blowout. A few times Frei had mixed luck leaving his box and heading the ball away on defense, with his 53rd minute attempt likely an easy catch, but his 79th minute effort strong. The third goal did beat Stefan near post but at that point he had been completely hung out to dry by his defense.
Joevin Jones - 4 | Community - 3.4
This was USL level play at best from Jones, and he remains a mystifying player to rate. In this game he looked completely disinterested and showed no desire to pressure or play tight defense on anyone. Both outside backs had awful games in KC and Houston this year, and maybe they just can't play in heat, but this game was a mess from Joevin.
Jones recovered well on defense in the 6th minute, but then briefly after was so far inside that a deflected pass easily got around him and onto the foot of Peterson. In the 13th minute a checked-out Jones allowed Graham Zusi a free backside run that only failed to score due to a bad cross. He was completely unmarked. All of the building pressure from KC culminated in a 21st minute goal, and on that play Joevin was completely passive, failing to step to Espinoza and allowing the opponent time to look up, pick out a runner, and deliver the assist.
Moving him into the midfield in the second half was a failed experiment, and he looked lost on how to support Alfaro behind him. I thought Jones earned a very deserved yellow for a tackle on Espinoza in the 57th, and while I don't think it was red, it was completely unnecessary. Jones has done this a few times now where he plays very passive defense and then just cleans someone out with a scissor tackle. In the 76th you could tell Jones was gassed by his weak back-pass turnover and failure to hustle back.
Jones had a brief moment of beauty in the 35th, getting past Saad Abdul-Salaam and then cherry picking Ike Opara to get in on goal. He dropped a perfect pass to Morris that deserved a finish. He did hit Jordan in the second half with some one-touch passing and had a "shot" in the 88th that kept Seattle from a donut. But looked completely inept on the wing and he was walking and watching for the last quarter hour unless the ball was directly at his feet. I was again thoroughly unimpressed by Jones.
Chad Marshall - 7 | Community - 4.7
Chad gets an above average grade this week because of his individual performance. If not for Marshall and Frei this game would have been even uglier. Chad's consistent positioning was tremendous and I lost track of the number of times he fixed someone else's mistake. The second half in particular was a clown show, with the Sounders somehow only giving up one goal while asking Marshall to sweep between a rookie, an unconfident veteran, and behind a midfield that wilted in the heat.
Chad helped hold a shaky back line in the first half, and looked pretty good as the central player in a back threesome. At times he did get sucked across the field, but was able to support an opposite zone attack because of his range and slide tackling ability. He cleaned up a particularly awful Scott mess in the 52nd minute and was consistent in slowing down attacks that frequently saw him in 1v1 or 1v2 situations.
Chad did everything he could to keep Seattle in the game, whether it was holding strong behind a leaky midfield, sliding wide to support Jones, or coming across to head away attacks that got over Evans. He just couldn't do it all. It was readily apparent that the midfield was unable to stop pressure in front of the back line, and no matter how heroic Chad played, he was consistently overrun by numbers. I appreciate that he was playing hard to the very end.
Brad Evans - 5 | Community - 4.0
This grade is boosted by Evans' leadership, which saw him at least attempting to rally his team to some kind of effort. However, Brad really faded, and by the end of the game he was walking in front of the defense. Some fans comment that Brad could play elsewhere when Roman Torres returns, but it takes a ton of mental and physical preparedness to just drop into the midfield from center back. In this game it was clear the heat and frantic defending had taxed Brad to nothing by the end.
On the first Dwyer goal Brad completely lost his man. There has to be better communication, whether from the midfield to pass Dwyer to Evans, Brad to pass him to someone else, or even just Frei/Mears letting Brad know Dwyer was lurking. It took a perfect cross, but Evans was caught ball watching and Seattle gave up the important first goal. Brad settled in for a long first half of frantic desperation slides to save the defense and did decently to stop the rampant KC attacks. Brad saved the day after a horrendous Roldan turnover in the 24th. His 1v1 defense in the 37th was a highlight, but again he left his feet - something he does way too much of when he's tired. Brad tried to support on a throw-in up field in the 47th but there was zero support.
In the second half Brad tried on his Osvaldo Alonso hat in defensive midfield with pretty modest results. Forced to babysit one wide defender after another and with zero support from the wide "midfielders," Brad played a stopper in front of Marshall in a formation that didn't play well to either of their strengths. In theory he could be a deep-lying playmaker from there, but in practice he was forced into the same frantic defending as in the first half. There was simply no midfield for this team after halftime and Brad was so busy trying to plug leaks in the defense that he was ineffective in aiding the attack. Evans desperately needed someone in central or wide midfield to support him and without this he struggled.
Tyrone Mears - 3 | Community - 2.6
This was a horribly unacceptable game from Mears. He was jogging and showing low effort in the THIRD MINUTE. In the 4th minute Tyrone got his first two touches on the ball and both were backwards, without even lifting his head to look forward. At this point in the season he doesn't even fake attacking up the right sideline, instead planting himself like a statue in the back. When he does get forward, such as in the 22nd minute, he takes the earliest opportunity to lump in a lousy cross.
His 34th minute halfhearted attempt to support Gomez was laughable, and a turnover there was inevitable. Even worse, I saw ZERO effort after his 46th minute throw-in, leading to a completely unmarked Feilhaber getting in on goal alone, while a complacent Tyrone Mears walked behind the play watching his team almost get scored on. This lack of desire was ridiculous.
The second half saw Tyrone move to right outside mid, but he didn't get the ball much. My only note was a single 69th minute attack where he stepped on the ball TWICE in the attack to stop the ball and move it backwards. This was just brutal, and a complete shame how he jogged around for the second 45 without doing anything. His evening culminated in the 79th minute back-pass from Scott that Mears looked at disdainfully, before turning and casually jogging back as SKC scored. This was completely unacceptable effort from a professional soccer player.
Cristian Roldan - 4 | Community - 4.3
Roldan really struggled in the heat (just as he did in Houston) and completely gone was the defense-minded stopper we saw earlier. While he has shown vast improvement lately as an attacking right mid, in this game he was asked to be a holding defensive midfielder in front of the backline and was quite awful at it. He failed to hold his shape, got in very few tackles, and looked lost when working opposite Friberg.
Cristian failed to be able to move the ball forward at all. This would have been - perhaps - ok if he had concentrated on pure destroying, but instead there were very poor play such as an awful dive in on defense in the 21st, allowing SKC to easily move up field to score. Three minutes later he misplayed a touch right to Benny Feilhaber and only the alert Evans saved a goal.
Roldan wasn't much better in the second half when paired next to Evans in the middle and with the added inclusion of two largely worthless wings to the midfield. In the 48th minute there was zero central midfield help on their goal. Roldan looked completely gassed by the 63rd minute when he lost Connor Hallisey on the far post. He kept moving, slowly, but the last 10 minutes he mostly walked.
Cristian had a nice through pass that barely caught Dempsey offside, and he was consistently helping out the struggling defense all game but was simply ineffective in the middle. SKC was able to move the ball through at will. As he tired, he lagged farther and farther back, widening the gap from the defense and the forward line and adding to the team struggles. I was disappointed in this performance, but I think it is an outlier in his development.
Erik Friberg - 6 | Community - 3.9 (off Halftime)
Erik did his best to hold the middle together, but was just overwhelmed. With Roldan struggling next to him, forwards not moving and absolutely zero wing play, Friberg ran himself into the ground trying to play box to box. Erik was the lone player in the midfield who consistently tried to integrate the forwards and wide players into the game, but he had very limited success before injuring himself.
I liked seeing Friberg support the defense in the first five minutes and still manage to send Morris over the top in the 3rd. In the 11th he just barely missed Gomez on another ball that almost put the Sounders striker in on goal. After this brief flurry it was full on scramble mode through the middle, and the rest of his time was spent trying to help put out fires all over the field.
I had Erik down for defensive recoveries in the 26th, 29th, and 30th, the last of which was a long defensive run that culminated in him tackling a player in his own box and coming off the worse for it. He got a steal five minutes later but was visibly limping and struggled to make it to half.
Friberg was culpable on the 48th minute goal when neither he nor Roldan supported the defense when a turnover occurred on the right. At this point he looked to be injured and I wasn't surprised to see him subbed at half. I hope he is ok. At SKC he was one of the few players who played hard throughout his entire time on the field.
Andreas Ivanschitz- 4 Community - 3.6 (off 64')
Andreas got one chance to take a free kick in the 23rd minute and he delivered a great ball into the box. He worked a nice give and go with Dempsey and earned a free kick in a great spot in the 19th.
Ok, now that I'm done with the positive note, here's the rest: A steal in the 2nd minute was immediately stolen back by SKC as Ivanschitz took a nonchalant dribble. In the 7th he just stopped playing any semblance of defense, allowing his mark (Espinoza) free on an overlapping run. In the 21st minute scoring play, Andreas chipped in with a fantastically bad defensive dive in, where he overcommitted, was beat badly, and then proceeded to watch as KC scored. The second goal saw the failings of all the midfield to track back, and Andreas was one of the players who failed to hustle back to help the defense hold a one goal deficit going into halftime.
After the break and in a bit of a different formation Andreas was pretty much invisible, dribbling into trouble in the 49th on a play that was the game in a nutshell. He got the ball, drove at the defense, got zero help from teammates, proceeded to try to go on his own and was quite easily dispossessed. Andreas doesn't look to have the legs to play midfield, especially in heat. When he tires, his already sparse defending goes from ok positional work to zero work at all. Jones and Ivanschitz combined to do zero, and AI at this point should only play wide forward and not be asked to defend.
Clint Dempsey - 4 | Community - 3.6
I found it hard to rate the forwards in this one. Were the zero shots a forward effort issue? Was it a midfield failings problem? I found myself asking "what could the forwards do to improve this play" and the answer consistently was "not much". There simply weren't very many opportunities to touch the ball, with Dempsey and Morris getting a paltry 57 touches combined. That is less than half what these two generally average together, a pretty telling statistic about their service but also an indictment of their movement.
It looked to me that Dempsey was asked to stay higher, because he failed to drop and look for the ball nearly as much as he has in the past two seasons. He seemed satisfied to stay high and move off of Morris, a tactic that was simply terrible. With Herc playing very high and Ivanschitz playing zero defense the team had a giant hole in the middle that Roldan and Friberg were unable to support. It was a mistake not to have Clint drop into that area more, either by design or lack of effort.
In the 3rd minute Clint found Herc wide open on the backside and his teammate made a meal of the only key pass of the game. At the start of the second half Dempsey got into the box after a nice run but was tackled neatly by Jimmy Medranda, stifling one of the few chances the team created. It was a perfect pass from Clint to put Jones through that resulted in the only shot of the game for Seattle. Other than these few and far between marks and a number of other near chances, Clint was completely absent. I expect a lot more from a DP and star player but it just looked like he was going through the motions. Even if his coach said not to drop as much, there is a point when a top player needs to step up and try something, even if it's just to fail, rather than give up.
Jordan Morris - 4 | Community - 3.9
This was a stinker of a game from Morris. Some of his runs were ok, but there were no midfield connections and his few holdup plays failed to bring anyone else into the attack.
Jordan has played half a professional season, and he no longer gets a bye from me. In this game he looked slow, lost, and generally uninterested. He failed to make runs at defenders and really showed that he still is a player that needs service in this league to be special. He didn't get that, and he didn't work hard to impose his will on the game in the absence of the ball.
Jordan did make a few runs early, and received zero support from his teammates. In the 29th minute his first touch was simply atrocious, and this killed an attack. In the 35th he had a chance to completely change the entire game with his head from a wonderful Jones cross, and yet again he failed miserably. Too often this year he has gotten great positioning to head the ball, only to have it go awry. With two great options presented to him, 1) Head down and the direction he is facing into the near post goal or 2) Nod it back to a waiting Gomez for a very high percentage chance, he instead tried option 3) head aimlessly away from both goal and teammate, wasting a golden chance.
On this play the Sounders did a lot of things right, had an opportunity to do something positive, and failed miserably. The 58th minute Morris breakaway was a microcosm of his day, ending with him tripping over the ball and losing possession on one of the few times he had the ball and space. Forgettable game for the young Sounder who hopefully has a short memory.
Herculez Gomez - 4 | Community - 3.4
Gomez was awful in this game, although he was the guy who had two of the better chances to score. On both chances, he was open on the backside but failed to have the pace to get the passes that would have put him on goal. Herculez plays like he is still three steps faster than he is: it's infuriating to rate and just sort of sad to watch. He consistently gets himself into fairly decent positions and you can see what he's trying to do, but he physically can't quite get there.
In the 3rd minute Herc got into the box but chunked a pointless cross over everyone after letting the ball get too far in front of him. In the 11th he had a decent run forward that was unrewarded. Gomez was a disaster working with Mears on the right wing, and when he got forward in the 34th with space he found not only no forwards, but no wing support and ultimately turned the ball over. He tried to hold the ball up three minutes later but failed to control the ball and compounded this by turning the ball over while trying to pass the ball backwards; an immediate counter attack ensued for SKC.
Gomez finished his half with a frustration foul for a yellow card that was lucky it was on the sideline, and his pass back "towards" Mears in the 46th was garbage, turned into a counter attack, and was lucky to not result in a breakaway goal.
I wonder how many people missed the quiet determination and controlled hustle of Aaron Kovar as much as I did in this one. Gomez is not a starter, and he was mercifully subbed at half. Without pace, the runs he makes are not beneficial, and in a game where everyone was lagging, there was little for Herculez to add.
Tony Alfaro - 5 | Community - 4.1 (on Halftime)
Tasked with another substitution effort, this time Tony was asked to be a wide defender in a three back system. I am not sure how much practice he has in this system but I was pleased with a lot of what I saw from Alfaro when asked to perform this difficult task.
Alfaro immediately worked better with Ivanschitz on the left and had some nice controlled play. He was slow to step to the ball in the 62nd, allowing a long shot on goal and he was beat badly by Peterson in the 71st. Playing with three in the back was a risky move, and one that allowed tons of space for SKC to work, especially as the Sounders attempted to move into the attack a bit. I was pleasantly surprised with Alfaro's pace, he is much faster than he looks and also sports a very quality slide tackle. As long as he is paired with other quality defensemen I believe him to be perfectly capable of consistent MLS minutes.
Zach Scott - 3 | Community - 2.7 (on Halftime)
Scott has struggled in every game for the last two months and it just seems cruel to keep putting him out there at this point. The three in the back left giant gaps that Scott wasn't capable of covering. Marshall was consistently pulled to his side, with Alfaro all the way to midfield frequently.
Scott had his usual bad touches and tough decisions, but wasn't horribly beat until the 60th minute when luckily Roldan came across to clear the ball from the box. You could consistently see Scott looking for better options as Mears did zero to help him up the wing and sadly there were none. Although Tyrone made a deplorable "effort" to get the ball there is absolutely no reason for Scott to make the horrible 79th minute back pass, especially in the light of his colossal blunder midweek.
Michael Farfan - 5 | Community - 3.6 (on 64')
Farfan played? I thought he kept his space in the middle and at least attempted to be a link between the defense and offense, but otherwise did nothing noteworthy.
Robert Sibiga - 9 | Community - 5.4
Refereeing a game where one team completely capitulates to the other makes for an easy game to run, and there were only 12 combined fouls (in a KC game!!!). That being said, I was heartily impressed with the work of a center I was unfamiliar with prior to the game, and this was by far the best reffed game of the year.
When Benny Feilhaber hacked a Sounder for a foul in the 20th second I thought we might be in for another of the typical SKC hack-fests. No one is better at gutting the midfield with fouls than a Peter Vermes team, and SKC was ready to continue their trend that recently saw me count almost 40 uncalled fouls in one of their games.
Unfortunately, the Sounders weren't interested in fighting for possession in the middle and this referee did a great job managing any potential hacking by issuing smart, timely yellow cards. The first was to Espinoza for a retaliation foul on Roldan and was a great example of how a ref can instantly neutralize bad blood with a correct call. I think the yellow to Gomez was correct, although I could even see it be red if it had happened in the middle of the field. I also think that Medranda consistently made a meal of every foul he was involved in, and Sibiga seemed very aware of his antics.
In the 48th minute some hoped for a PK against SKC but the referee in good position made a correct no-call. In the 55th he brought the ball back for a foul against Roldan behind the play in a perfect example of how to check advantage and then make a quality decision. Two more cards were given out, to Jones for a foul that was a bit rough but not warranting red, and Suni Mustivar for an obvious tactical foul.
The only call that could have gone the other way was a 19th minute give and go with AI and Dempsey that saw Andreas get tangled up with a defender and go down without a whistle. On replay he does look to be kicked, but his histrionic landing made it look like a dive and I have no real issue with a non-call there. This referee did what all good referees should do: he managed the game by using timely yellows to curb any excessive issues, called fouls when necessary, and was in great position to blow his whistle every time. Fantastic job.
Of 345 respondents, nearly 80 percent chose Dom Dwyer as the best player on the pitch for Sporting Kansas City.
This was embarrassing. It helped usher out the coach, but the coach didn't loaf around the field and fail to put forth effort. I put this on the players, and let's hope the injection of some Uruguayans and some old fashioned Schmetzer love can get this team at least into the "play hard for 90 minutes" mode. That's not asking a lot, is it?
On a personal note: I am still pro Sigi. I readily admit a lot of his failings as a coach, but I am in the camp who counts the 5 trophies as successes. I thought he deserved more than to be cast aside in the first season where the team really struggled from start to...well, half. That being said, I do understand that he has to take the blame for his team essentially quitting on him, as well as his input into player management and accumulation. It was well known that this season was a make or break season, and while I can point out lots of player failings, unfortunate happenings, or just plain bad luck that helped get us here, no one can argue with the fact that the Sounders looked terrible this week. I will remember the coach as someone who was always nice to me on a personal level, who made this team an absolute expansion success story, and a person I greatly admire and respect. My very best to Sigi as he journeys on.