You can look at the Sounders' 1-1 tie with the LA Galaxy one of two ways. Either it's just another game where we have a ton of chances but still fail to win, par for the course in this frustrating season. Or, it's the start of the Nicolas Lodeiro show, where we finally have the dynamic #10 we've coveted for so long, and we're building to a more positive showing from now into the future. Depends on your perspective, I guess.
Stefan Frei - 5 | Community - 6.2
This was a quiet day in the back for the Sounders keeper; I didn't have many notes. As usual he supported the back with his feet and found a nice outlet in Valdez for any clearances that needed to go long. He handled three corners well, and the team kept compact in the back.
Stefan was off the line quickly when needed to support an early Robbie Keane attack in the 28th that was ruled offside. Frei set up a good wall in the 32nd and was in great position to stop a tame shot on the free kick. Again Stefan was out quickly in the 38th, and he followed this retrieval with a nice throw out to Lodeiro to start a counter. He came out well in the 91st and forced Keane into an impossible shot.
I honestly don't know what happened on the Galaxy goal, but when a team has three half-chances all game they shouldn't score. The average goalie should stop that play from happening. A punch or catch there is the assertive and SAFE thing to do when holding a lead against a team that's barely creating anything. Frei's failure to command the back took away points we should have had.
Joevin Jones - 6 | Community - 5.9
This was a bounce back performance from Jones, who played well in both directions and continues to mystify me with his inconsistency. First and foremost, he was a rock in defense, completely shutting down first Giovanni Dos Santos and then Emmanuel Boateng. One of my biggest complaints about this game was actually the under-utilization of Jones on offense; he was often a game-changer when in attack and we didn't utilize his pace enough.
Joevin entering the attack really helps the entire team as it adds width and opens up angles for the midfielders. He started taking this space in the 7th minute but he wasn't given the ball enough, often with only Roldan looking his direction. In the few times he got involved up the left wing, good things happened. In the 17th he rounded AJ DeLaGarza and put in a great curling cross onto the six-yard box. Jones consistently looked for early balls to the near post run, and that was Valdez in the 40th and 53rd, before putting Morris on goal with a through ball in the 75th.
Jones should benefit from the space created by the gravitational field of Lodeiro drawing defenders to himself, and hopefully more teammates than just Roldan find him sneaking up the wing.
Joevin had a few poor crosses. I loved seeing his anticipation on defense where he'd pick off a Galaxy pass to keep the ball in the attacking third, but he struggled to turn these into dangerous chances, missing Valdez in the box in the 28th and then shooting in the 52nd when Valdez was a better option far post.
Chad Marshall - 6 | Community - 7.0
Boring Chad Marshall game alert.
Chad was dominant in the air against LA, winning contested headers in the 5th, 6th, 18th, 30th, 41st, 44th, and 76th. He did a very solid job defending against a surprisingly toothless Galaxy attack, turning aside the few attackers who tried to go through him to goal such as Robbie Keane in the 28th minute. He had three interceptions, three clearances, and a relatively quiet game. His most notable play was a sliding clearance off the line in the 91st after Keane had redirected a ball towards the net, and this was not just saving the score line, but himself as well; he was the player who initially kept Keane onside in the first place by being slightly out of sync with his back line.
Marshall did pretty much everything you want from a defender, and with two midfielders squared in front of him wasn't needed to do any fancy distribution. Marshall was ineffective on set pieces.
Brad Evans - 5 | Community - 5.2
Evans did a lot of things well in this game, but he will be remembered for one colossal blunder on the backline that cost the team two points. Just like Marshall, Brad had a relatively quiet night, and the defense of the Sounders contained the potent Galaxy offense for 98% of the game.
In the 7th minute, Evans was forced into an over the head clearance when pressured by Steven Gerrard, and he again dispossessed the former Liverpool star right after halftime. Evans showed sparkling defensive position in the 59th to thwart an attack.
Brad had two plays in the middle of the game that were indicative of how up and down his night was. In the 47th after a corner he stayed up and had possession 1v1 in attack but was quite easily dispossessed by a defender in a rather appalling lack of separation ability. In the 52nd he dribbled forward into the middle and found Lodeiro with spectacular vision and a perfect pass that found the newcomer with the ball on his foot going directly at goal.
In the 78th minute Evans fell asleep. He simply can't take any chances on defense with a precarious lead. I guess he heard someone saying "leave it," (?) but the worst that can happen if he ignores that is LA gets a corner. Letting the ball bounce inside his own six-yard box is simply unacceptable.
Tyrone Mears - 4 | Community - 4.8
I'm not sure what else to say that hasn't been said so far this year; this game was much of the same. Mears got the ball in the 7th minute with space and stood on the ball, sending it back around the defense. He finally did get forward in the 15th, 27th, and 49th minutes, only to lump ineffective crosses to no one. Then there was his 34th minute wing turnover, a play that was immediately countered into a Galaxy half-chance.
Tyrone's best play on the night came in the 92nd minute when he got the ball 1v1, made a great attacking move and sent in a deep cross that Morris should have finished for points. No idea why this sort of play is so rare, but he only seems to push hard late in games.
Mears continues to struggle with the Sounders and I am getting increasingly frustrated with his decision making. In this game, there was lots of space to attack, yet Tyrone stayed mainly home, concentrating on defending his side which he did satisfactorily. We saw the switching ability of the left-footed Lodeiro to not only find but deliver a perfect long ball to the backside runner so Mears HAS to make that run more often, if only to balance the field. This happened perfectly in the 60th minute and Tyrone missed a wide open Morris on a cutback, instead choosing to force a cross into the heart of the defense.
The Galaxy goal was a communication error and not entirely on anyone, but Mears just stood and watched instead of marking his runner into the box. Sebastian Lletget didn't give up on the play and ran right by Tyrone. Right now Mears' play is a really rough combination of hesitancy, bad decision making, and poor distribution.
Cristian Roldan - 7 | Community - 7.2
I liked what I saw this week from Roldan, and he looked perfectly balanced playing square to Alonso, parked right in front of the back four and running vertical channels opposite Nico. Cristian beautifully covered the defense, moved the ball through the midfield, and supported attacks this week.
Roldan played next to Alonso, but also got forward more, running the left side and consistently finding the right pass, starting in the 3rd minute when he showed great vision to switch fields. Noting Evans up too high, Cristian busted his ass back to center back and stopped an early attack, and again at minute 30 Roldan was working hard to support the defense.
Multiple times the pincers of Roldan+Alonso would cut out any counter attack attempt, with both of their hustle keeping the ball in the Sounders possession in the attacking third. It was really fun to watch these two move in unison, covering huge swaths of midfield and trading off roles with ease, and when Alonso was beat on the dribble in the 60th Roldan was instantly there to cover.
With Lodeiro taking the offensive impetus in the midfield, Roldan looked more relaxed and was able to ease into the attack, ultimately getting forward in a good spot to get a shot off - a well taken first timer that found the back of the net in the 49th minute. Cristian was patient on this play, and when given a perfect pass took his shot quickly and authoritatively.
Cristian did miss a Lletget mark in the 77th that allowed a header chance and had a number of errant passes (80% accuracy) but was 6/8 on long balls and consistently looked to open up the field by finding a switching ball to Jones. I was really impressed with the defensive midfield pair against LA.
Osvaldo Alonso - 7 | Community - 7.3
A well-rested Alonso returned to the field this week and turned in an 87 pass, 93% completion rate evening, spending a majority of his time working perfectly with Roldan to both destroy attacks through the middle and move the ball from the back to the attack. The dual holding mids looked very good, and I thought each player complemented the other.
It was business as usual in the 3rd minute with Ozzie doing Ozzie things, ending attacks and turning the other way with the ball. He was very patient in possession in the 8th minute and was rewarded with a small window to split Nigel de Jong and Jeff Larentowicz and find Dempsey in the middle of the attack.
It will take time for everyone to get on the same page, and this was obvious in the 21st minute with Alonso carrying the ball forward and seeing THREE Sounders all make the same run as an option for him. I liked watching the Roldan and Alonso duo continually gobble up attacks. Steven Gerrard was reduced to looping hopeful long balls across the field and De Jong was continually forced to pass square or backwards. Alonso doesn't have the greatest attacking skillset and some of his passes going forward weren't the best, but in this new alignment he isn't being asked to create as much and looks very comfortable so far.
Nicolas Lodeiro - 9 (MOTM) | Community - 8.8 (MOTM)
Clint Dempsey - 6 | Community - 6.2
Dempsey is one of the players who should benefit the most from Lodeiro on the field, and it must have felt amazing to have as much space as he was afforded with the Galaxy defense not being able to collapse mercilessly on him.
Early on it was vintage Dempsey, dropping into mid in the 2nd minute before putting Morris through and again four minutes later looking for Valdez over the top. I think Clint follows up attacks as well as anyone and he showed this in the 28th and 34th minutes. Both times his acceleration left defenders behind him and allowed him to get into spaces around six. The first was a follow-up to a Morris wide run and Clint's shot was poorly taken. The second time he had a better shot that just missed scoring, needing a desperation clearance from Van Damme to prevent a goal. Dempsey was again in perfect position after a sprint gained separation from a defender in the 70th minute, but Morris' tap-in wasn't to be with another goal line save.
Clint was caught in a possession a few times, and he wasn't going to get any calls from the ref, no matter how hard he was fouled. I am not sure why he took a corner kick; it's much better to him in the box and we have other service options.
I thought Dempsey dribbled too much and held the ball unsure of where runners were going which is likely due to missing practice with a pretty important new piece. As Clint learns how to play off Nico, things should be quite electric, but there was definitely a feeling-out process going on between them. In the 65th minute Clint pulled the defense to himself and found Lodeiro wide open on the left wing. The Uruguayan was unable to beat Rowe, but these chances should be more prevalent as they learn to work together.
Jordan Morris - 5 | Community - 5.4
It's hard to rate a player who gets into spots that most players can't, yet then fails to finish the chances he's created. At some point a striker is responsible for consistently missing quality chances, and Morris is at that point with me. He is still a fantastic player and I don't discount the tremendous skill it takes to get into the positions he does, but I hold him accountable for some bad decision-making and a lack of polish that kept this game from being a blowout.
Morris had some very good and some very rough play against LA. Early on he was dropping into the box on defense, and covering a lot of ground on the wing. It wasn't until the 28th minute when he latched onto a Lodeiro pass, drove into the box and dropped a back heel to Dempsey, that we saw some of the direct attack he's capable of. Even this play was interesting, as he had a wide-open Lodeiro as an option with a square pass and instead went with the heel to Clint.
At times Jordan looked completely lost and would just stop and look around. He was ball-watching in the 22nd and standing still in the 24th. He made a poor run to support Valdez going to the end line in the 34th, and should have expected the cut back pass that handcuffed him. Jordan did manage to get some sort of shot on goal from it, but a cleaner run would have helped immensely. Another time through in the 55th his touch failed him, and he forced a near-post shot. Morris and Valdez were in too much of the same spaces; they need to keep apart to open passing lanes.
In the second half Jordan moved to the point and feasted on runs diagonally, continuously getting perfect service from Lodeiro. In the 79th minute he rounded Rowe and looked to have both Dempsey square as well as a lifted or curled ball into an open net as options; he shot low and hard and was rebuffed by Van Damme. The final chance Morris had to rescue all three points came in the 92nd when he somehow knocked a cross over the bar from three yards out, trying to use his right foot and unable to redirect into the net. I love Morris as a player, but he has a lot of growing up to do both tactically and technically. Better decision making or control and this game would have been over early.
Nelson Haedo Valdez - 7 | Community - 6.0 (off 57')
Valdez was really good against LA. He exhibited wonderful holdup play all game, and mixed that up with lots of hustle and vertical runs. This was the kind of performance that lets us imagine what he can add to our team instead of repeatedly debate his salary.
I thought his back heel shot attempt in the 8th minute was inspired, but he had Nico wide open to his left. I marked him down for eight holdup plays and Valdez was instrumental in getting the midfield into the game, while also pulling the defense higher up the field, making room for runs behind. He timed a perfect run in the 34th, and dropped an angled ball back from the end line to Morris' feet. In the 39th his hustle won a free kick from absolutely nothing in defense.
It was again a Valdez holdup that led to the Sounders goal, a play that showed great strength, patience, and nice touch to find Roldan for the shot. A final holdup play in the 55th minute not only saw the ball controlled to Lodeiro from Nelson's foot, but also opened up the space that Morris ran into and ended with a near post shot. Valdez could have been somewhat more goal-dangerous, but I was impressed by his work in his short shift.
Herculez Gomez - 4 | Community - 5.1 (on 57')
I was very underwhelmed by Gomez. The first note on him was not tracking Ashley Cole in the 68th, for Cole's only attacking offer of the game. Herculez had a terrible pass in transition in the 77th, and a cross to no one in the 85th. He got another chance in the 85th and again put in a cross that looked to be wasted, if not for the hustle of Lodeiro to pop up on the back post and try a tough angle near-post shot.
Herc did play some decent defense, but when given a chance to affect the scoreboard on a tremendous switching pass from Nico in the 90th, he again failed to even get the ball on frame. I had hoped to see Alvaro Fernandez in this substitution, and I couldn't help but draw comparisons of this miss to Flaco's great (and very similar) goal in 2012 against NYRB.
Drew Fisher - 3 | Community - 4.2
I had many notes on Fisher but the conclusion is that he was wildly inconsistent, and this led to a choppy game. He would let players knock each other, yet call tiny nudges and his style kept everyone off balance and guessing all game.
In particular I thought Jeff Larentowitz got away with a ton of fouls in the midfield, the worst of which was a 33rd minute deliberate knock to Valdez behind the play with the ball well away. He sized up Nelson, continued his run and rammed him on purpose. That was unacceptable and should be punished as much as any sack tap etc.. He wasn't the only one to get away with fouls: I thought Alonso got away with crushing people in the 29th and 51st, only to be called for a soft-touch foul minutes later. Lodeiro in particular saw a lot of beating, with five fouls suffered making the record books, and about eight others not. Cynical fouls committed by Valdez (33) and Dos Santos (68) deserved yellows. I have no idea how Dempsey was called for a foul on de Jong while almost getting his leg broken.
I believe Valdez earned a PK by beating de Jong to the spot in the box in the 26th before being taken down, and right before Roldan's goal I thought Nico earned a PK as well, with Larentowitz making zero play on the ball and shoving him down in the box. Neither penalty was called, and neither was a flagrant second yellow on Van Damme in the 80th, when he completely obliterated Lodeiro but failed to get sent off on a blatantly obvious call. This referee was flat out too cowardly to send the player off, and that's shameful. I don't know why the referees are so bad in this league but Fisher was terrible.
LA GALAXY MOTM:
Again, we have a clear winner in Jelle Van Damme, who personally prevented multiple Sounders goal with clearances, and generally put in a very strong shift in defense.
This was a promising improvement from the SKC performance, but still a disappointing result. We simply have to figure out how to get all three points from these games we deserve to win. I liked the formational changes and Lodeiro was fantastic but it's all for naught if we don't finish chances and earn wins. Hopefully Flaco can add a bit of class in front of the net and this team can start a run with three points in Florida. Hay Fe.