After the disappointment of NYCFC I had little excitement about this team going to Canada to face Toronto FC. Then the Open Cup happened midweek and there was fight in this squad like we haven't seen this year: heart and passion and a steely resolve to overcome. That being said, tying Toronto 1-1 away is merely an OK result, not a great one. If we play like we did for much of the first half, we'll continue to struggle this season. If we're going to have any chance to make the playoffs, there must be more of what we saw in the final 30 minutes. It is getting too late for moral victories, but this is a team that is undefeated AE*, and a small run of wins in a row will quickly make up the gap.
Stefan Frei - 6 | Community - 6.4
This was what we have come to expect from Stefan, just solid keeping, great positioning, and good decision making.
I liked seeing his assertiveness to punch clear a corner kick in the 21st. Stefan is an underrated puncher of the ball and I would like to see him do this more. This was a reaction to a previous play that he wasn't as aggressive on. With Sebastian Giovinco putting constant pressure on the goal Frei was kept on his toes throughout this game, but he had very few save opportunities. His positioning was excellent and it forced Toronto to rush shots or contributed to put them wide.
In the 60th minute Giovinco got room and Frei made a tremendous initial save to deny the Toronto striker but the rebound steered right into the middle of the box and a relatively easy finish for Jordan Hamilton. In the 81st Stefan came far out of his goal to beat Giovinco to the ball on a break.
Other than a 14th minute clearance that went out of bounds, Frei was consistent with long service in this game. There were a number of times he was put into heavy pressure via poor back passes and I was impressed with his composure to clear when threatened. Also notable was Stefan's cohesive work with a backline that once again changed mid-game.
Joevin Jones - 5 | Community - 5.3
I was underwhelmed with Jones in his return to left back. He seems like such a raw product, and expecting him to develop mid-season may not be prudent. There are just enough good moments during his play to see that there could be a pretty fantastic dynamic wing back under there, if he could clean up some issues.
One such problem is a lack of consistent effort. There is simply no excuse for quitting on plays, and there are an increasing number of times where Joevin just isn't trying. I completely understand if a new role or responsibility or confusion with an ever changing midfield and wide forward in front of him is making him hesitant on his role, but plays such as his nonchalant turnover on the sideline in the 12th just aren't forgivable to me. Even worse was his 22nd minute "defense", when he allowed Jay Chapman to run unmarked into the box and barely miss what should have been a score. This play was bad for the missed defensive assignment but unforgivable when he compounded this by halfheartedly jogging behind Chapman.
Jones had a good battle all night with Steven Beitashour, and he did fairly well in defending with limited support from in front of him. He had a ton of touches against Toronto (2nd most on the team). The times Joevin got forward he looked good, earning a few corners and being a dangerous option. He still looks confused on what to do when the ball is on his feet, and even his assist came from a play that started with Jones looking around frantically for an option. Finding nothing short, he lofted a beautifully weighted pass forward to Morris for his bit of brilliance. This is a perfect example of the skill that Jones has, if we can just accentuate this and reduce his spells of "turning off".
Chad Marshall - 6 | Community - 5.5 (off 51')
Marshall was awesome in this game, and was almost single handedly keeping the team in the game in the first half. Unfortunately, he was forced out of the game after halftime with a "migraine". This is concerning due to his concussion history, and also because he was kicked in the back of the head by Hamilton in the 3rd minute. After staying down on the field, Marshall did go forward for the next attacking corner kick and seemed fine, but I am nervous when it comes to Chad and head injuries.
Marshall persevered for the rest of the half and was strong. His positioning was solid, he had near 90% passing success, and he consistently came across to help his struggling central partner. It was often comical to see the giant Marshall paired against the diminutive Giovinco, and Chad used his size to push the smaller player off the ball and won every aerial against Toronto forwards.
In the 9th minute Chad skipped a midfield line and sent in a penetrating pass to Friberg attacking on goal. The majority of his marks were for defense, and many stopped goal scoring chances. In the 21st he was turned by Hamilton neatly, but somehow managed to get in a desperation slide tackle to stop the shot and force a cut back. His 30th minute tackle ate Hamilton up again, just dominating the attacker and forcing the offense back. In the 34th he completely crushed Giovinco which led to a surprised look on the Italian's face and a smile on mine.
Marshall spent a lot of time doing last ditch defending to cover for the struggles of others around him, and it's a shame that he to sub out early.
Zach Scott - 4 | Community - 6.0
Other than at New England, this was Scott's worst appearance this year. He was simply a mess, continually being victimized by the Toronto forwards and especially struggling with the pace and agility of Giovinco. I know that Zach played 120 minutes a mere 4 days prior and it's simply amazing that he can play as much as he has this year.
That being said, this one was awful. Scott started out immediately committing turnovers on his first two touches. He followed this up with a risky back pass to Frei, putting the keeper under undue pressure. This was a theme he repeated in the 10th and 18th minutes, forcing Stefan into uncomfortable last ditch clearances.
In the 23rd minute after being flummoxed multiple times already by Giovinco, Scott flat out lost him and the reigning MVP should have easily finished from about 8 yards out. I have no idea how he skied his shot, but Scott and the Sounders dodged a bullet. In the 42nd minute Scott was again lost, this time chasing the ball only to have Giovinco chip behind him for what was another squandered Toronto attack. On a 56th minute set piece he was soundly beat by ex-Sounder Eriq Zavaleta and only a close offsides call saved him.
Zach made a few strong plays, notably an 18th minute tackle and steal combo and header on a set piece that he put over. The Toronto goal had a nice hustle play from Scott to make Giovinco's shot predictable for Frei. The problem with this play and many others was that Giovinco just repeatedly targeted him on offense during the game and ran him ragged. The Toronto forward constantly made him look silly, and required regular last ditch defending from the defense. The score line was more due to his ineptitude at times than Sounders' defensive prowess. Scott should not be playing this much.
Tyrone Mears - 5 | Community - 5.6
Neither outside back was particularly impressive in this one, and a lot of my notes on Mears were just comments about how much he was forced to help Scott. Even so, Tyrone still kept his width well and relied on help from Kovar to stop attacks down his wing.
After Alonso pouted due to a no-call, it was strong hustle from Mears to recover the ball during the resulting attack. Mears had numerous times where his defensive positioning was great, helping out Scott who more than had his hands full. On offense Mears was a complete non-factor until the Sounders goal, when suddenly he was released from whatever chains bound him to be a plodding defense-only fullback and he started attacking. None of his forays were fruitful, but the option was great for opening space for the forwards.
Prior to this Mears was painfully forcing the ball backwards at every opportunity, three times in the first 30 minutes. I think this works much, much better when Evans is there to help mitigate the pressure, but with Scott these passes ended up chunked forward or dropped wildly to Frei. The connection forward with Kovar wasn't there.
The big mistake from Mears in this one was on their scoring play, when a hustling Hamilton followed up a rebound to score, and in doing so ran right by Mears, who jogged back watching the play instead of hustling to where he could (and would have) prevented the goal. Same results from Tyrone as we have seen much of this year, although I did enjoy his long throws late as a new offensive wrinkle.
Erik Friberg - 5 | Community - 6.1
I would have liked to see Friberg on the ball more this game. I think good things happen when he has increased touches, and against Toronto he was unable to find the ball much. He is one of the few options to push the ball forward right now and has struggled the last few games to find a role in the midfield.
I marked Erik down for an early poor cross and two other bad passes that killed attacks. At times it looks like Friberg is telegraphing his passes, allowing defenses to read his lanes and adjust to close down his angles. Some of his play has become very predictable, but I hope the reintroduction of some creative parts around him will allow him to complement the attack.
There was a nice corner placement in the 28th that forced the goalie to make a tough decision and his 85th corner was good as well. One thing about Friberg is his ability to drift into attacking spots and find inventive shots. His 80th minute volley from the corner of the 18 was JUST wide and had clearly beaten Alex Bono. This reminded me of his goal against LAG last year in the playoffs, just an inspired strike that seemed to come from nowhere.
In this game Roldan started out the more offensive of the midfield band which made Friberg a shuttler, and he didn't find the ball. When moved to more of an offensive role later Erik found the ball more and was able to see angles better. His passing was a bit off this game and there were a few lousy passes to the defense, even though I applaud his attempts to go vertical. He needs to be more of an impactful player than he was against Toronto.
Osvaldo Alonso - 6 | Community - 6.5
This was a quietly efficient game for Alonso. Led the team in touches, 94% passing. Strong defense. Consistent control of the midfield. All the usual things you would expect from the longtime Sounders player, with a few hiccups.
With the inclusion of Roldan to Alonso/Friberg in the middle the role of Ozzie was changed. He sat deeper, and helped out often with anyone who came right through the top of the center backs. Playing more of a stopper role, Alonso cut out passing lanes very nicely. This forced service to the front wide around him.
After a quiet first half, Ozzie turned up the defensive intensity in the last 30 minutes as the Sounders unleashed much better play going forward after their goal. In the 60th he stuck Giovinco perfectly, and showed his typical bulldog defense in the middle during a 66th minute scrum, emerging triumphant with the ball. I was again impressed with his anticipation skills on defense, turning a 72nd minute Toronto break into a counter attack after instantly pouncing on a loose touch. When the team was surging forward it was nice to see an early pass from Alonso to Morris, allowing the confident forward to push toward goal with more space.
Alonso was just ok the rest of the game, and seeing Giovinco run right past him in the middle of the field in the 16th minute was disappointing. A few minutes later he made one of his few bad passes on the night, and compounded this error by chasing the ball and diving in/getting beat. Ozzie often attempts and is able to retrieve these balls, but his aggression got the better of him. That same passion flared up in the 50th, as while complaining about a bad throw-in call the play continued dangerously behind him.
Cristian Roldan - 5 | Community - 5.3
I liked what I saw from Cristian this game, but again I get the feeling he is not ready to be the offensive fulcrum from the midfield. He just doesn't look clean going forward, and he's a step slow to make incisive passing. His movement is much better recently though, and I like the intensity and effort he puts into every match.
Against Toronto he had some hiccups, such as getting back to back corner kicks in the 4th and 5th minutes drop to him in the box and being indecisive on what to do with these opportunities, ultimately squandering both. After the second corner, though, he hustled back almost 80 yards to help on defense.
Cristian managed a nice 12th minute one touch long ball to spring Friberg, and in the 33rd he found Morris in space, but otherwise he offered little going forward. Right now he is a solid, unspectacular player who can be counted on to come in and play well, but we shouldn't rely on him to be a creator this early in his development.
Andreas Ivanschitz - 4 | Community - 5.4 (off 70')
Forgettable outing from Ivanschitz this week. He really struggled to find the game, drifting around looking for the ball but then not being able to connect with others. One key pass and 46 touches from a guy expected to shoulder the creativity role isn't acceptable. Since we have seen him be much more influential, there really is no excuse for the lack of production.
There is even less excuse for the complete lack of effort I saw to help his teammates. Moved to the forward line AI plain decided to not play defense at all. This put a lot of extra pressure on Jones behind him, and also forced the midfield triangle to hold and shuttle instead of attack. That wasn't the end of the issues, as I even caught Morris funneling defense towards Ivanschitz to find him not moving much to help.
Andreas did some good things, notably a few passes through the defense that were well weighted to run onto and some interplay with the midfield in possession. At times he moved the ball forward but had no associative runs next to him and was forced to recycle the ball back through Jones to never be seen again. I liked his backside runs but there were zero crosses from the right to the far post in this game. Ivanschitz chose to put in long, looping corners on his two attempts and both found Roldan well but he was unable to control them.
This was a bad outing from Ivanschitz, accentuated by his miss-header in the 60th minute. He had a poor connection with the ball, and it went to the opponents. Andreas compounded this by following the ball to the midfielder but didn't actively defend Tsubasa Endoh who put in the killer service to Giovinco. With rumors of reinforcements arriving and the return of some players he will need to quickly show much more than this if he wants to keep getting minutes.
Jordan Morris - 7 (MOTM) | Community - 7.3 (MOTM)
In the first half Jordan worked hard to hold the ball up and try to bring his team into the game. He got open multiple times (notably the 33rd) but looked around to no support. This was the story of his game until after the half. Morris was beat in the 58th minute trying to go 1v1 vs Eriq Zavaleta but as is his habit he showed an immediate learning curve.
In the 61st minute Morris took over the game. Moments after his team conceded a goal, Jordan took a Jones feed and did some magic. His first touch was perfect, controlling the long pass forward and away from the defense. His pace to create separation from the defense was spot on. The turn exquisite, perfectly weighted to set up his rocket curling shot to the far side net that no keeper saves. The best part for me was the confidence. I re-watched it about 50 times and never did I see him raise his head and look for the goal. Great scorers know where it is, and they know it's not moving. This was a simply fantastic goal that completely changed the game.
A few minutes later in the 68th he was holding up the ball and turning in traffic before keeping possession and moving the ball into the attack. In the 82nd he again slid by a defender into the box and when Zavaleta went down I thought he would get a PK had he gone down. But, he doesn't play for Vancouver, so he kept his feet and the attack alive. In the 87th he blew by the defense and put a perfect left footed cross that was redirected yet SOMEHOW saved off the line.
Morris was quiet for much of this game, but he came alive late and with the introduction of Valdez suddenly was goal dangerous every time he was near the ball (and sometimes off ball) As he matures, he will hopefully increase this dominant period for longer and longer sequences. Enjoy the ride.
Aaron Kovar - 5 | Community - 5.1 (off 85')
Aaron had one of those games where he was in the book a ton, but for many reasons both good and bad. Overall he had a non-impactful outing, and he needs to do more to contribute.
It was telling that his first touch didn't come until the 11th minute, and it was a lousy cross. Once again he dribbled into trouble and didn't get the ball off his foot quickly enough in the 33rd minute. Aaron consistently dropped to the ball and held it up, but was unable to turn it into attack. I thought his shot with the keeper out in the 36th was well hit and going in, but it was blocked.
A typical play for Kovar this game happened in the 72nd. A long throw-in dropped to him at the top of the box and he had an opportunity to shoot. He contributed with a bad shot which was deflected out for a counter attack. Instead of pouting however, he chased the ball down and forced a turnover and change of possession near midfield.
Plays like that and helping on defense and making backside runs are great, but we need more from him. We have seen what he is capable of on a number of occasions and it's time for him to more consistently contribute.
Tony Alfaro - 7 | Community - 6.4 (on 51')
Alfaro has been a revelation. From a 7th option fullback to making sub appearances and dominating the residing league MVP in the span of a few months is pretty amazing.
Tony came on at half for Marshall, and didn't miss a beat. He was calm, clean on the ball, and has really soft feet for a big man. I just love his skillset and at this point he has clearly passed Scott for 3rd on the depth chart skill-wise. He played a nearly flawless half, starting with an assertive clearance in the 53rd.
He completely stuck Hamilton in the 59th and then followed this by sticking the MVP in the 63rd and 65th. He was so deep into Giovinco's head that the forward quit trying Tony and went back to terrorizing Scott before returning in the 82nd only to be stuck again by the rookie.
Alfaro showed perfect positioning and nice distribution from the back, while moving around to help the defense where needed. My only complaint is his habit of putting up his hands in the "I'm innocent" pose when he tackles someone hard, which can make him look guilty. Otherwise, great showing by Alfaro.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 6 | Community - 5.9 (on 70')
I felt like Valdez changed the game with his inclusion, pulling defenders away from Morris and being a giant anchor pulling the center backs around with him. His 72nd minute immediate pressure forced a goaltender miscue and earned a deep throw in. I liked his header challenge on long throw-ins, and in the 86th he had a nice shot and bicycle kick attempt blocked. In the 87th his run onto the Morris cross was great, and some combination of him, Gomez, and the defense being moved around contributed to the Sounders almost earning all three points.
Valdez showed for the first time that he could work well with Morris up top, and both were much more effective running off of each other this game than previous games. I still don't know what Valdez is worth but there was some sign that his skillset is better than other options.
Herculez Gomez- 5 | Community - 5.1 (on 85')
After playing huge minutes in the midweek Open Cup game, Herc got late minutes here. I didn't see him do a lot more than make off-ball runs, although one such run in the 86th gave a nice wide left option on a counter. He may have gotten a touch on the 87th minute cross that almost stole all three points, but I couldn't determine if it was him or a defender. I like his hustle, but he didn't do much else.
Kevin Stott - 5 | Community - 5.7
Stott has been around since the inception of MLS. It's hard for me to believe that no one else has come along in 20 years to replace him but there he was on Saturday. Stott runs a slower diagonal and was in the way a few times but I was impressed with how well he kept up with the play.
I had Stott with a few early no-calls, and he was in the way a few times so passes hit him. He missed a handball in the 49th minute but it wasn't egregious. I thought he was in a good position to call both a 23rd minute handball and a 27th minute hold on Marshall. I like that he ignored the 87th minute dive by Giovinco, although it could have been a simulation yellow.
The biggest issue in this game was the 91st minute tackle by Beitashour. This was a straight red for me. I have NO idea how he allows that tackle to go without red. He comes from behind, studs up into the ankle. It was awful and just because it was the end of the game needs to be red. Only major mark on an otherwise clean reffing performance.
TORONTO FC MOTM:
Sebastian Giovinco and goalscorer Jordan Hamilton split most of the votes for best Toronto player, with Gio taking the top spot at 43.8 percent of 112 votes.
There was a decided "meh" for the first 50 minutes or so and the defense was hanging on by a thread. The last thirty minutes, though, were some of the best attacking soccer we've seen and Seattle looked primed to take all three points. I am excited by the expected return of Evans and Dempsey to the lineup to hopefully shore up both ends of the field. At times we were just a bit of control from the back or a bit of attacking style short of opening up the game. I hope that this team can come together to show a Western Conference opponent that we are still a force to be reckoned with this year. LAG has been playing poorly on the road and this is a big chance to gain some confidence and build upon this mini streak of success. See you on Saturday!
*After Ellis [Editor's note: That would be Realio's newborn son :)]