The Sounders have now won two games in a row, a feat they had not accomplished in months. The 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake was unnecessarily dramatic, but the Sounders kept RSL in check for most of the game, created a variety of chances, and managed 18 shots in a very free-flowing, multi-faceted attack. Seattle must keep building off this momentum, and they can make a push for the playoffs.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 5.7
This game was likely polarizing for Frei, depending on how you saw a key play, but otherwise he was quite good. In the 26th Frei got slightly handcuffed by a long distance Kyle Beckerman shot that knuckled right in front of him, and he did well to parry it wide. His 31st minute save on an Olmes Garcia flick was in a crowd.
Being a goalie for a soccer team is a fickle occupation. Frei went from hero to goat about as fast as you can, and that’s a shame because he played well in this game. In the 60th RSL was able to get Yura Movsisyan isolated on the left and after beating Evans he was in on goal if not for a tremendous sliding stop from Frei.
I am firmly in the “Stott got this one wrong” camp, but as a team, we must play smarter. In the 62nd minute with full control of the ball Frei made a completely unnecessary attempt to roll the ball out to Marshall. Movsisyan poached this pass right off his hand. This was an illegal play; I just hate that Frei gave the referee any chance to affect this game. As predicted, no call, and the team not only gave up a goal, but allowed an opponent back into a game that they had no reason being in. Frei didn’t have a lot of chances to make his mark on this game, and he absolutely must be more careful with this sort of thing.
Frei’s positioning was good, he made the saves you should make, a few you shouldn’t, and well, then there was their goal.
Joevin Jones – 8 | Community – 6.7
No one benefits from the formation change more than Jones; he looks perfectly suited for the 4-2-3-1. It allows him more defensive help from dual holding mids, and having an intelligent wing such as Ivanschitz in front of him lets Jones to show off his attacking skills. I think this was Jones’ best all-around performance of the year, and I had zero significant negative remarks about him. Early on, he pushed forward on the left and found a nice combination with AI, trusting that the defense would cover him and allow for more decisive attacks.
Jones neatly nutmegged Jamison Olave in the 4th minute, cut back confidently on Beckerman and took a shot. This was so nice to see, as instead of drifting wide and trying to chunk in a cross, Jones was directly goal dangerous. This was important to the offense because then in the 24th minute his overlapping run not only pulled right back Tony Beltran away from AI, but Beckerman as well. This completely opened up the middle for Lodeiro to run into. Ten minutes later Joevin had a superb low, driven cross that handcuffed Olave and forced him to spill the clearance directly into the path of Nico.
In the 37th it was again Joevin Jones surging forward to aid in a goal scoring play. Jones continued his long run up the wing, knowing that his Uruguayan friend would find him (and he did!) before cutting in on Olave and finding Dempsey. This confidence from Jones is just awesome to see, and again it was a stretched field and nice positioning from the left back that gave the spacing needed to score. Joevin was not done; a minute later he surged forward with an unassisted dribble through space. This new confidence going forward solo is great to watch – his pass to Morris got the young forward in an advanced, dangerous position.
The second half was not nearly as active for Jones, although there was another run in the 51st where he kept running up the line after passing the ball off, confident that he’ll get the ball returned when he makes those runs. We just didn’t see that kind of trust a few months ago, but now Jones knows that Alonso will slide in behind and Nico will find him. Unleashing Jones forward is a devastating tactical move, as RSL found out early and often.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 7.6
Marshall was his usual steady self and again erased a player from the game, this time Olmes Garcia. Garcia had no luck getting around Chad whatsoever, and was so ineffective he was subbed at half.
It started in the 13th minute when Marshall 1v1 vs Garcia was proven to be a mismatch, Chad easily dispossessing the RSL striker. Every header was won by Marshall, and it was likely the two miserably failed 1v1 opportunities in the 44th and 45th that ushered Garcia from the game. Chad wasn’t all positional defense in this one, showing off a very fine long clearance, especially in the 18th minute finding Mears for a long attacking switch into space and then again in the 33rd, this time finding Ivanschitz on a run up the width.
Marshall struggled more in the second half with the speed of Joao Plata and trickiness of Movsisyan, but was still part of a defense that shut down a very dangerous front four for RSL. He missed an open header on a corner kick that would have been his career high 4th goal. Chad has gotten very good at adjusting to Jones’ runs up the wing, and combined with Alonso he has covered the gaps in the defense well.
Brad Evans – 6 | Community – 6.3
Another just ok game from Brad. On one hand, the defense went up against a very good front four from RSL and held them to one fluke goal, but there were definite cracks, and some scrambles. We need to see a tad more composure from the Sounders’ captain.
Like Marshall, Evans is learning how to cover for his suddenly effective attacking wingback partner, and he has been effective at filling the channel for Mears. In the 10th he did just this, covering for a misguided run forward that left the right side bereft of defenders. Brad completely shut down both Plata and Burrito Martinez, making both of them look ordinary, a hard task against two very fast and tricky players.
Brad is tasked with less distribution with two midfielders directly in front of him, but he still managed one fantastic first-time pass in the 35th to find Roldan sneaking out over the top of the defense. I thought Brad dove in against Luke Mulholland unnecessarily and was beat once. In the 60th Movsisyan chopped him in a move that saw Brad go sliding harmlessly by while RSL got a shot on goal that Frei thankfully saved.
Tyrone Mears – 7 | Community – 6.5
Mears was effective going forward for the second game in a row, and he’s figured out how to utilize the formation to his benefit on attacks. The most exciting part about Tyrone’s rejuvenation on the field is his added intensity on the defensive end, something that had seemed to be lacking entirely.
Mears pressured the ball in the 2nd minute high, a look we haven’t seen this year, and he was rewarded with an early steal and possession for the home side. He continued to be very aggressive, taking a dribble forward up the line and winning a corner in the 12th. This was one example of great hustle from Mears against RSL, and another occurred six minutes later when a Marshall switching pass pushed Tyrone into the attack. It was his desire to pursue that won Seattle a free kick.
When Mears plays well in attack, it seems to transcend his entire game. He feeds off positive play, like in the 22nd minute when RSL attempted to clear their defensive third and Tyrone smartly stepped up, won the ball and kept the Sounders attacking. I thought he put Roldan in a tough spot in the 16th minute and made a rather pointless 30th minute challenge that looked card-worthy but otherwise had a clean game.
Mears continued to make smart decisions for most of the game, continually taking the space offered him and showing little evidence of the tentative, overly defensive player we saw earlier in the season, instead going forward shrewdly, consistently supporting attacks and earning corners.
Cristian Roldan – 6 | Community – 6.9
Cristian had a quiet game in the middle against RSL, as usual working very well off Alonso in the center and being the “glue guy” connecting the defense to the attack. He also transitioned seamlessly into defense whenever Mears went forward.
Early on he was very tidy in the middle, and I was especially impressed by an Alonso-esque demolishing of first Beckerman, then Demar Phillips in the 36th. That tenacious play from Roldan winning the ball and starting a counter ultimately ended in Seattle’s goal #2.
I thought Roldan struggled a little this game and made some errant passes. Perhaps he was too enamored with his assist last week; he kept dropping the ball over the top for runs that didn’t materialize. Cristian is so much more comfortable on the ball in the middle now that it may be getting him into trouble: this new confident Roldan tends to hold the ball too long before passing it.
Roldan was pushed wide later in the game and he showed quite the attacking flair. In the 80th it was Roldan hustle and determination that forced an error from defender Justin Glad and earned a penalty for the Sounders. Two minutes later, after the spot shot was unfortunately missed, it was Roldan who got his own great shot on goal forcing a Nick Rimando save. At the very end of the game, he had a lovely pass across the middle that was dangerous. I am intrigued about the possibility of Roldan/Friberg/Alonso shutting down the middle late in games when all three are on the field.
Osvaldo Alonso – 7 | Community – 7.7
This was a quietly efficient game from Alonso. Combined with Roldan in the middle, the Sounders completely removed any influence from the game via the dangerous Javier Morales, and none of the other mids had any luck through the center of the pitch against the home team. There has been a definite shift to both Lodeiro and Roldan taking touches from Alonso, allowing the Cuban midfielder to concentrate on stopping attacks and funneling the ball to playmakers.
Alonso had a whopping 13 recoveries in this game and he really excelled in stopping the ball from reaching dangerous areas. In the 24th it was one of these plays that started the first goal-scoring sequence, with Alonso quickly and efficiently transitioning to the attack. This sort of play is often overlooked, but the hard work from Ozzie is definitely pushing the ball more frequently into the attack and good things are happening.
Two plays in particular illustrated what I love right now about Alonso’s play. In the 41st minute after a Mears turnover, we saw one of the amazing sprawling slide tackles we are used to seeing, a freakishly athletic lunge that saw Ozzie both thwart a clear attacking chance and win possession. Then in the 52nd Alonso stole a pass and immediately released Dempsey up the wing, showing how fast he can transition. These plays are so dissimilar, yet they really show his depth of skill.
Alonso was responsible for a few mistakes, and his square passing is superior to his forward passing, but the team has found a great formation to utilize his assets.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 (MOTM) | Community – 8.9 (MOTM)
Another game filled with stellar play via the new Uruguayan attacking midfielder. Nico continues to impress, finding new ways every game to add to his arsenal of game-influencing tactics. He simply obliterates my notebook with plays, and his off-ball movement and decision-making are almost as impressive as his work with the ball. Both Beckerman and Mulholland attempted to guard Nico throughout the game, but their combined efforts only slightly lessened his effect, and by game’s end he had run both of these players into the ground.
Speaking of on the ball activity, how about a goal and an assist this week? The first came after finding a pocket of space in the box in the 24th and cleanly finishing a very difficult shot. He doesn’t even look at the goal, just flicks his left boot and casually flips the ball into the upper corner by the helpless Rimando. He made it look easy, but that placement and power were just exquisite. He almost doubled his goal total a few minutes later, latching onto a mis-clearance, but his off-footed effort went wide.
After the goal Lodeiro became creator, first finding Dempsey in on goal in the 36th that deserved more before drifting wide, and then putting an inch-perfect cross into Morris a minute later to double the lead. This cross was exceptional in that it fooled Rimando into staying on his line yet was low enough to make Jordan’s finish manageable. In the 59th it took a herculean effort by Olave to stop a shot from Dempsey, again via a perfect Lodeiro pass.
There were a few more mis-passes from Nico this week, but he was near 80% completion rate and none of his passes were in dangerous areas; in fact, the very attacking nature of his play makes nearly all of his “misplays” quality gambles with very little downside and potentially huge payoffs. This was the first time a few through balls were a little short, and he was picked from behind in the 22nd minute. However, a player always looking forward gets some leniency with me if he does not connect every pass.
Lodeiro ended up with six key passes, but just as impressive was that he recorded 10 recoveries, showing remarkable dedication to his defensive duties. His 45th minute cover for Mears was awesome, just plain desire to get to a defensive help position. He really showcased the entire package this game, and while Nico’s huge work rate tends to see him tire late in games, there was no question who the best player on the field was again.
Andreas Ivanschitz – 7 | Community – 6.4 (off 68’)
Andreas again put in a very nice 68-minute shift, and he’s shown to be very good at working with the parts around him. He has a solid working relationship with Jones behind him, allowing the speedy wing back to get forward and wreak havoc on the back line, while also drifting forward and wide himself to serve in tasty crosses for teammates.
I have been impressed with AI’s positional savvy, and as the team adjusts to the meanderings of Lodeiro there is a shift needed from the backside player. Against RSL that player was Ivanschitz, who covered all the way to the middle of the field at times to allow Nico and Dempsey to press high and who also facilitated quick transition in conjunction with Alonso.
Andreas also floated wide and attacked off the wing effectively. One such play earned Andreas an assist, as he controlled a pass in the 24th minute, attacked the defense and waited patiently for an overlapping run to open space before passing to Lodeiro for a clinical finish. The timing on this play was very nice, and showed a maturity to the attack, versus just charging in directly. Allowing the play to develop made the spacing much more manageable.
Andreas had one very nice pass over the top in the 9th minute that put Dempsey in on goal, but he didn’t have a ton of chances created otherwise and that is ok. The team had plenty of opportunity to score and Ivanschitz fits in nicely as a complementary piece, rather than the creative hub.
Clint Dempsey – 7 | Community – 7.3 (off 91’)
Clint looks active and goal intent, two great signs for Sounders fans out there. The activity shows up in his increased defensive work rate, something we saw as early as the 7th minute and all the way until he was subbed off.
In the 24th minute it was Dempsey who somehow found a looping left-footed pass to AI prior to the goal, a nice pass out of pressure. He put Morris in at minute 27 before getting into the box himself in the 36th and uncharacteristically trying to pass; a shot would likely have been better. If you weren’t a Dempsey fan, take a look at his 42nd minute play, when he’s fouled midfield, realizes Morris might get through on advantage and so rolls to his feet and absolutely sprints down the pitch to provide a supporting run, outrunning Phillips so completely that the RSL player flails trying to foul him as Dempsey runs by. This desire to get into goal scoring positions is tremendous. In the 49th Dempsey had a move, cutback, shot combination that clearly beat Rimando but was wide of the goal, and his 1-2 passing with Lodeiro in the 59th was reminiscent of another DP partner of Clint’s.
Dempsey played very well in this game, but he really should have made his PK in the 80th. It was well taken and I know that PKs are not a given, etc., but this team (and this fan) did not appreciate the final nail-biting 10 minutes that followed his miss.
Jordan Morris – 7 | Community – 7.7 (off 83’)
Jordan had a tough time against the size and speed of Jamison Olave this week, but he still managed to find his spots and continually stretch the defense out of position. After just missing on a 10th minute corner kick header, Morris first rounded Phillips with pace in the 27th then completely dominated him in the air in the 37th. This play resulted in a goal via a smart run, great physical ability to shoulder off the defender, and clinical header finish, something that has been a long time coming with Morris.
Playing the point of the attack has allowed Morris to show off his exquisite pace, and never more so than in minute 42, when after receiving a Dempsey pass he charged through the middle of the RSL defense, running past Javier Morales so badly the opponent lurched at him in a hilarious attempt to slow down the run. Jordan pushed his shot just wide, and may have been trying to go more square to find Dempsey, but this play was simply amazing. Jordan’s power and pace completely ripped open the defense and he showed ability to singlehandedly grasp a game and squeeze it.
Morris had a few holdup failures, and in the 58th he made the exact same run as Dempsey and cut off Clint’s service which could have resulted in a chance, but other than that he played well all game. He lagged somewhat as early as minute 70 and by the time he was subbed out, he was exhausted. This is likely because even though he was obviously gassed, he still put forward tremendous effort when possible, like winning a flick header at midfield to start Roldan’s PK attack. I would like to see Morris get some rest when possible, because he’s such a force at full strength.
Erik Friberg – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 68’)
This was kind of a late sub with some guys showing tired legs, but I liked how quickly Friberg stepped into the middle and gelled with his teammates. He immediately sat next to Alonso and helped prevent some of the leaks that were showing down the middle. Friberg was very assertive with the ball, and a 72nd minute first time pass from a Dempsey drop opened Mears into huge amounts of space on the right wing. In the 78th it was Friberg on the defensive side, perfectly reading an RSL attack, stealing the entry pass and converting this to a counter attack. In the 94th minute Erik showed great recognition to open up a lane for a pass, helping keep possession and getting creamed for his effort by Justin Glad. I hope he is ok, the injuries are unfortunate and I’d like to see him build from this solid showing.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 83’)
Salary aside, Valdez is an awesome closer. Brought in with 10 minutes left to help hold a lead, Valdez did just what you want: instantly calming the team, providing excellent holdup play, and keeping possession. Nelson worked hard to keep the ball, even winning it near the end of the game from Glad by refusing to give up on a play, stealing the ball from the defender and eating more valuable time. This sort of hustle and pressure from the front is an excellent way to kill off a game we’re leading.
Herculez Gomez – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 91’)
Brought in to help kill the game, I wasn’t impressed with Gomez. He didn’t work as hard as Valdez, and the decision making wasn’t what you expect from a veteran. I have no idea why he put in a cross in the 93rd minute; he just has to be better there to not allow the opponent any extra offensive possession.
Kevin Stott – 4 | Community – 4.5
Stott if nothing else was consistent. Many things I thought were fouls were allowed to play. Many yellow cardable offenses were just fouls. Red cards were yellow, etc. The referee had a standard of play and stuck to it, I just think it was a standard that encouraged an ugly game and injury.
Many plays confused me, like Morris called for a foul on Olave in the 32nd or Nico fouled by Mulholland a minute later and the ball running but no indication of advantage being played. Dempsey had a similar situation, being cleaned out in the 42nd (again by Olave, who somehow managed to not earn a card all game) but no advantage. The play did continue with Morris almost scoring but Stott should indicate that there is advantage and recognize that what Olave did was a foul. That is important for repetitive fouls cards, something Martinez could have earned on a single play in the 66th minute. In the sequence he fouled Alonso four times on one play but again a “play on” advantage designation was not shown.
That would have been hopeful since Stott didn’t card ANYTHING that I would consider worthy, repetitive fouls aside. For example, I would have carded Olave in the 4th minute for pulling Jones’ jersey after being megged. I would have carded Mears in the 30th minute after he demolished Martinez on the sideline. When Olmes Garcia went through Evans in the 44th I am showing a yellow every time. The first (and ONLY) card of the game was a yellow in the 94th for Glad against Friberg, making zero play on the ball, endangering the safety, and generally demolishing the Sounders player. This was 100% a red in my book, but when you downgrade all your calls by a level, I wasn’t even surprised at a weak yellow.
REAL SALT LAKE MOTM:
After 553 votes, halftime sub Yura Movsisyan about a third of the vote for MOTM, just beating Nick Rimando in goal for the honors.
Seven points from three games and we’ve gained some momentum. As I said before we need three wins in a row to have a shot, and that means beating Portland at home. I think we can do this; we look to be a vastly more organized and effective team right now than last time we played them. It will do wonders for our morale if we can beat them, win the “six pointers” and pull to two points behind with a game in hand. This is a huge game and I fully expect us to come out flying. See you Sunday!