After three straight losses (including U.S. Open Cup) and some mediocre to awful playing, the Seattle Sounders built off one well-played game to a second and produced one of their best performances of the season. It was encouraging to see that what worked against LA was even more effective against Orlando City SC. The score line ended 3-1 for the Sounders, but without a few posts and mis-touches, we could easily have had five or six goals. Seattle unfortunately allowed OCSC an early goal, but then put on a great show, looking energetic, strong on both sides of the ball, and clearly outplaying the home team for the rest of the game.
Sebastian* Frei – 6 | Community – 6.7
Frei had a good night in Florida, making all the saves you would expect, while not being tested very often. There was nothing he could do on the single goal against.
I thought Frei came out too far in the 5th minute and handcuffed Marshall, who was looking to head back and instead was forced wide. When presented with a tough pass back a minute later, Frei was unable to handle the clearance, and instead touched it out for a corner kick; this set piece cost the Sounders a goal.
Sebastian* used his feet well early, playing the ball short for the first 12 minutes, but it was his quick long punt after a corner kick that found Dempsey stretching the field. The recognition and execution was perfect, and this long pass started a scoring sequence for Seattle.
Frei had a nice save in the 54th after Jones was nutmegged and was off the line quickly in the 65th to beat Brek Shea who’d beaten Scott. I am still not sure how much credit to give Frei for the 71st minute free kick/save/off the post action, but he was in good position and blocked enough of the goal to stop Seb Hines from scoring his second. Our keeper had a fairly tame evening, which is a testament to the players in front of him.
* According to announcer Brad Friedel, he’s no longer Stefan.
Joevin Jones– 5 | Community – 5.4 (off 57’)
Jones looked good going forward and lousy on defense. Rumor was that he was sick, and the 57th minute sub backs up that theory. I liked that he went forward multiple times, using cut back diagonal passes to find runners instead of chunking in crosses toward the back post. One such pass in the 45th found Ivanschitz whose blocked shot was goal-bound.
Joevin struggled early on defense, and it really showed in the 6th minute when he mishandled a ball, then put a tough back pass to Frei’s bad side which ended in a deadly corner kick. In the 10th minute Jones took a bad angle defending a counter attack and then lightly jogged back instead of hustling to support. A minute later he passed the ball out of bounds when trying to find AI up the wing, and this left side combination struggled throughout.
Jones had some more mistouches and was subbed early in the second half after being nutmegged by Hadji Barry on defense. He definitely looked a touch slow and reluctant to attack on offense or defense, so the sickness theory rings true.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.8
Anyone seen Cyle Larin? Chad just removed him from the game. Larin had maybe five of his 42 touches on the night in dangerous positions, and the veteran center back dominated this matchup.
Marshall showed off some nice passing in the 4th minute to find Morris, and sandwiched a 1v1 stuff on Barry with twice removing the ball from Larin. In the 32nd and 52nd minutes I had to laugh at how thoroughly dominated Larin was, feebly attempting to meet the ball in the air while Chad calmly rose up and won the duels.
In the 80th minute Marshall did well on counter-attack defense by using early midfield pressure to prevent anything from starting. There weren’t a ton of notable marks for Marshall because he simply used his positioning and size to prevent the dangerous Larin from gaining any foothold in the game.
Brad Evans – 6 | Community – 5.4
I’ll be honest here, Evans didn’t start out this game very cleanly. Early on he struggled to mark the movement of Kaka, and in the 7th minute he fell asleep on a corner kick allowing Seb Hines an unmarked header goal. After that error, though, I thought Evans was very good.
In the 10th minute it was Evans single-handedly stopping a counter attack by Barry, with some strong 1v1 defending. Working seamlessly with Marshall in the middle, Evans slid to the right and supported the wing, as Mears played more offense than we’ve seen lately.
Orlando didn’t press the Seattle defense too strenuously, and this led to Evans on the ball with time in the 47th minute. Able to look up and find a pass, he did just that, dialing up Morris with a perfect pass that a few touches later was in the back of the net for the Sounders. This was a perfect example of how Brad’s distribution from the back can directly affect the score line; he sees and completes passes that unlock the defense from deep areas.
After moving to left back, Evans looked adequate. He was “beaten” by a badly offside Hines once and in the 68th when put into a 1v1 situation on the wing, he calmly won a goal kick. Was this move wide a hint of what coach Brian Schmetzer will do with Evans when Roman Torres returns? I am not sure, but I saw enough solid defense to think that this option isn’t a horrible idea. Versatility like Evans’ is a huge tool for a coach who can change lineups without wasting a sub.
Tyrone Mears – 7 | Community – 6.7
This was Tyrone’s best outing of the year, and he rewarded Schmetzer’s faith in him with some great play going forward. I am not sure whether it was knowing Jones was sick and would stay home, or coaching, or the urging of the midfielders, but Mears was MUCH more direct and offensive-minded against Orlando.
In the very first minute he got forward and put in a low and hard cross toward Dempsey, something he hadn’t been doing all year. He repeated it in the 2nd minute, earning a corner kick and showing it was no fluke. It was the 14th minute when this new crossing style paid off. Following a great hustle play to get into the attack, Mears crossed the ball low, hard, and diagonally back to find a waiting Dempsey for the equalizer and a very deserved assist.
Mears wasn’t all offense; he took a moment from getting forward to strip Kaka in a dangerous spot in the 27th, but a few minutes later was again getting into the attack and looking for Clint with a hard, driven cross far post. I loved his aggression in the 80th minute to get forward, and instead of the usual looping, long, pointless cross he looked inside for this Lodeiro guy, who is pretty good (Valdez hit post on this play).
Tyrone had a few rough patches, some negative play and poor passes, but overall this was a huge improvement. The new formation and players really accentuate a need for strong overlapping fullbacks, and if Mears can continue to both get forward and make better decisions when he gets into space, he can once again be a viable option in offense.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.0
Roldan is taking advantage of the injury to Erik Friberg and showing he could be an everyday starter on this team. The dual holding midfielders in the Schmetzer 4-2-3-1 formation seems to really fit his skillset, allowing him to work off of Alonso in the middle while still getting forward to support in spurts. Against Orlando, Cristian was constantly looking to see where Alonso was, and his spacing off the other midfielders was exceptional.
Roldan covered a lot of ground, often being the guy to move into spaces opened up by others. I loved seeing him immediately cover defensively and double-team the ball when Clint lost possession in the 19th minute. Also notable was his recovery pace to prevent an Antonio Nocerino shot in the 21st.
Cristian fouled Kaka in a rough spot, and still doesn’t make the best decisions when going forward at times, but his close control has gotten incredibly better as the season goes along, and he looks very comfortable with the ball at his feet. One thing that Roldan offered this game was a willingness to look vertical: it was one of his passes in the 37th that opened up Morris for an easy Dempsey tap-in. This was a confident one touch pass that bypassed the middle and put his buddy Jordan in unmarked. Roldan looks very good playing off of the movement of Alonso and together they are shutting down attacks through the middle.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.3
Alonso and Roldan are just a brick wall right now in the middle. Attacks simply aren’t able to get through the center of the Seattle midfield. It starts with Ozzie, who rotates to pressure beautifully, seeing plays develop so early that he is often in perfect position to stop attacks merely by where he is on the field. Roldan has been expert in running off this movement, allowing Alonso to float to where he is most needed. It’s working beautifully.
With Lodeiro making space in the midfield, Alonso continues to find the long switching passes he is known for, but he’s able to make them more offensive as the fullbacks have more space to run into. In the 2nd and 33rd minutes, Alonso made these passes to Mears on diagonals instead of square passes, and again in the 43rd found Tyrone overlapping. I am not sure if it’s the Nico effect or what, but Alonso was forcing the overlaps more aggressively, putting the ball much more vertical than usual and goading the wing forward.
Ozzie looks to be playing more freely, with confidence that Roldan can cover when he roams and wreaks havoc. Multiple times Alonso popped up to dispossess Kaka or Shea and completely cut off any service in to Larin. Alonso was beat late by Matias Perez Garcia, and had a yellow card foul in a rough spot, but otherwise had the most touches on the team with a sparkling 95% pass completion rate.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 9 | Community – 9.0 (MOTM)
Two games in, and Lodeiro is averaging an MLS All-Star level play. He has been simply fantastic, driving the team forward with incisive passing, strong defense and inspired play. Not a lot of what he does looks overly complicated at a brief glance, but from a wide angle you can see much delicate tactical expertise that is just phenomenal. As Ryan said here his genius actually starts on the defensive end, covering ground there before transitioning forward into the attack. He is good enough at such a variety of things that he improves every single player around him.
Nico’s first touch was a trap and spin onto his right foot in the 1st minute that put Mears overlapping into the attack at pace – he followed up this play perfectly and got a shot off on a deflection. In the 8th minute he was on one side of the field helping AI on the sideline then ran all the way across the field to support Mears on the complete opposite field. It was Lodeiro’s perfectly timed pass in the 14th that gave a charging Mears the separation to get into the box and find Dempsey. His follow-up run held THREE defenders from collapsing into the box.
After a 16th minute dummy to Morris that almost sprung Jordan, Lodeiro was again showcasing his ability to perfectly weight passes on the ground to the runs of teammates, this time finding Ivanschitz across the middle with a pass that beat four players. He just missed Morris in the 22nd and 27th minutes before dribbling through SIX players in the midfield in the 32nd and finding Mears on the right.
After half Nico was just as sharp, and his play in the 47th again illustrates his skill. While the ball was in the air to Morris, he looked to find Dempsey, already anticipating the pass from Jordan. Upon receiving it, he attacked the fullbacks with his head up and created a gap into which he placed a perfectly weighted ball to Morris; a touch later to Dempsey scored an easy goal. He is able to attack because he is already prepared to move the ball forward before he even touches it. So good.
I thought that Lodeiro showed his first signs of being human, with some fatigue and tired touches insinuating themselves into his game. He lost possession a bit and tried to do too much as he tired. Even though he was obviously drained, Nico found Morris twice more in the 80th and 94th on plays that gave the Sounders a numbers advantage, but both scoring plays were denied by the post. He is continuously putting the players around him in great spots and playing at a high level.
Andreas Ivanschitz – 7 | Community – 6.3 (off 83’)
Ivanschitz was someone who didn’t impress me live but really showed up in my notebook upon rewatching the game. Staying home to help the sick Jones, I liked what Andreas did defensively, and yet he still managed to positively support the attack as well with two key passes and some integral link up play.
In the 4th minute we saw the tactical smarts of AI as he ran off Morris’ flicked pass, and he got hacked for his efforts. His inspired 17th minute diagonal run found a willing passer in Nico, and Andreas did everything right but finish, hitting his right footed shot just wide. In the 35th Andreas showed some nifty footwork and put Lodeiro into the box with a slick pass that I’d love to see more of.
Andreas would have scored if not for a defensive block in the 45th; he hit the ball strongly on goal after getting on the end of a Jones cutback cross. This was one of the few times these two hooked up though, and I was most impressed by Ivanschitz’s defensive help and positioning in the first half while Jones struggled. Andreas subbed off in the 83rd and probably could have used a bit of an earlier hook, showing some signs of fatigue with the oppressive heat.
Clint Dempsey – 9 | Community – 8.6 (off 59’)
Hat tricks are not easy things to come by, and Dempsey both got into good spots and finished the chances given to him in this game. A lot of work went into the creation of the goals by numerous players. I maintain that Clint just has another gear when it comes to chasing goals. His pace and separation when getting into position to score is just awesome to watch. It is this effort and spacing that makes these plays so easy to finish off. Others end up with more complicated finishes because they aren’t in the right spot, but in this game Clint showed how to give that little burst from the right angle at the right time to make goal scoring “simple”.
In the very first minute Dempsey looked invigorated, flicking back to Nico from a near post run. In the 13th minute already down a goal it was Clint who released forward, latching onto a long boot from Frei and jumpstarting the offense. He recycled his run and unlike Morris from last game gave Mears an inviting cutback angle by floating to the spot high enough to dive forward if needed; he finished calmly to even the score. Clint stayed active, repeatedly going near post and nearly flicking in a Jones cross in the 20th. Dempsey’s pressure on keeper Joe Bendik forced a turnover.
In the 37th minute Clint smartly ignored the pass that would have been offside should he play it, instead reasserting himself onside and busting his butt to create a 2v1 with Morris; again another confident finish that has been missing from the Sounders gave us the lead. The 48th minute goal was a great example of how Dempsey kept strong spacing from Lodeiro, pulling open the Orlando backline before sprinting past the defense not assuming Morris would score, and communicating his position in a way that made his third goal another “simple” finish.
Clint lost the ball dribbling once, and he had Mears on an overlap and chose to chip Jordan over the top instead, but these were minor issues. Nico is pushing Dempsey higher up the field and his runs are perfectly spaced and timed to supplement Morris. Getting such a smart player into the box more often should result in more dangerous scoring chances going forward.
Jordan Morris – 9 (MOTM) | Community – 8.5
It was just a matter of time before Lodeiro’s technical quality teamed up with Morris’ tactical awareness and awesome physical skills to fillet a defense open. This is exactly what happened in Orlando time and time again. Morris ended up with two assists, and he could have easily had five in a completely dominating display of attacking soccer. Jordan absolutely obliterated the notebook in a MOTM-worthy effort, having a large part of every scoring opportunity.
Morris started early, flicking the ball to AI in the 4th minute while pulling the defense around. This was important to note because his runs stretched Orlando and opened up giant holes all night. In the 14th minute Morris pulled both center backs to the near post allowing Dempsey to float unmarked to the spot for a goal. In the 16th he pulled a dummy from Nico through but just too long to run onto. A moment later he was working a 1-2 pass with Jones on the left wing while making space for Dempsey to dive into the near post behind him.
In the 37th minute Morris showed off his perfect timing, running onto an over the top ball from Roldan and taking a really nice first touch with his chest, directing the ball into his stride onto goal. He calmly found Dempsey for an assist after drawing Bendik out of his goalmouth. Five minutes later Morris opened up the afterburners and beat two on the dribble, before slotting Dempsey near post.
Jmo keeps adding to his arsenal, and I was especially impressed in the 44th when he floated wide to get a Lodeiro pass, dribbled through three into the box, pump-faked another and tried a cut back shot that forced a great Bendik save after a simply beautiful individual effort. In the 47th Morris showed how quickly he has learned to work with Nico, first chesting a pass to his teammate before sprinting diagonally without any hesitation towards goal, trusting Lodeiro to find him before he was offside.
Morris worked incessantly this game, continually poking and prodding the defense. His perfect run in the 80th was rewarded with another through ball, and this time he found Valdez wide open in the middle for a great opportunity. In the 90th he was still going strong, rounding the corner and looking to pass the ball back. In the 94th minute he again kept great spacing and was found by Lodeiro, turning a 2v1 with Flaco into a golden opportunity that was only thwarted by the post again. This was a complete attacking effort by Morris, who showed fantastic work rate and composure. He might not have scored any goals, but he gets my vote as man of the match.
Zach Scott – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 57’)
This move seemed more like an attempt to get Evans some left fullback time than anything else. Scott didn’t impress again this week, as he committed unnecessary fouls and was beat at an alarming rate. For some reason in the 62nd he was in front of both Alonso and Roldan and was called for a foul. He first kept Shea onside, then dove and missed a through ball that would have been on goal in the 65th if not for some adept work by Frei behind him. In the 66th Scott failed to clear the ball via headers twice in 30 seconds, heading both directly to the middle of the field and the opponents.
Scott saved the ball off the line on a crazy 71st minute set piece, but it was his unnecessary shove in the back foul that created the free kick in the first place. Scott had a few decent clearances, and his slide prevented a through ball in the 91st.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 6 | Community – 5.1 (on 59’)
Valdez did a lot of good this game, and much of it was on the defensive side by a team holding a lead. It started with a header on free kick defense in the 61st and he was back on the left wing helping Evans in the 66th minute, ranging far to support his teammate. I noted a 72nd holdup and layoff to Nico. Unfortunately, he will be remembered most for squandering a golden chance from a Morris centering pass in the 80th. Valdez did well to get to the spot, but didn’t open his hips and put his shot off the near post. I liked seeing him fight and win possession on the wing in the attacking third in the 93rd minute.
Alvaro Fernandez – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 83’)
Fernandez looked good in his first appearance for the Sounders on this, his second signing with the team. One thing that jumped out was his composure: Flaco played very controlled. He looked willing to support defensively on the wing, and when afforded the opportunity in the 94th surged forward to create a 2v1 with his run. After getting a nice pass from Morris, he put his shot around the keeper but was denied by the post. This was a solid debut.
Alan Chapman – 5 | Community – 4.8
Chapman had an up and down game for me. For the most part he did a good job of keeping the game clean, but he missed some pretty major calls and because of early leniency was forced to show a lot of cards late.
An early double foul against Nico and AI was brought back to the earlier foul spot. I thought that Mateos deserved a yellow for a foul on Ivanschitz and I don’t know how Nocerino got away with kicking the ball into a prone Dempsey’s HEAD well after the play was dead. That’s a red card offense, not the yellow he received, and the MLS Disciplinary Committee agreed.
The second half was more of the same from the ref; Hines deliberately left a knee in that hit Frei’s head and was worthy of a stronger look. Roldan got a persistent infringement card when he only had three total. While I thought Chapman was baited into the Alonso yellow by a clever dive, I agree with giving Lodeiro a card for obstruction. My argument would be if you are going to do that, make sure that there isn’t blatant gamesmanship going on and you warn the player, neither of which he did.
Scott earned his card with a retaliation foul that was very deliberate. I thought there was more argument for Mateos’ card being red or DOGSO late when Morris beat him, but heard little discussion on this. Even amidst all this strife, the ref’s score is almost MLS average on the night, mainly because others have been so bad.
Orlando City MOTM:
Kaka edges out goal-scorer Seb Hines here after 377 community votes.
Two decent games in a row, four points to the good, and some momentum heading forward has the Sounders primed to make a late push for the playoffs. This weekend we see if the last two games are the norm, or the exception. We should be able to play with RSL at home, and this will be a Seattle team that is almost completely at full strength. If we are to have any chance this is a must win game. See you Sunday!