The mighty Seattle Sounders fell back to earth with a THUD in the first half against the Portland Timbers. Coming off a midweek sweat-fest in Houston and missing Clint Dempsey, I assumed Seattle would struggle against the Timbers, but I had no idea how massively awful this team would play. Frankly it was disappointing to see Seattle show so little fight in the first half. In the second half they played better, and at times looked almost ready to make a game of it, but ultimately fell 2-4 to Portland and watched their playoff hopes take a hit. With the halves so different, it was a challenge to find ratings that aptly depict each player’s performance.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.1
What grade do you give a keeper who gives up four goals in a half? I guess you give them a 6 when none of the goals were likely savable and that keeper kept out 3-4 other strong chances.
In the 10th minute Frei got out quickly from his goal to retrieve a ball in front of a Diego Valeri run. Six minutes later he almost kept Portland off the scoreboard, sprawling to push Vytas Andriuskevicius’ short header off the top of the bar, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the goal. Five minutes later he again was unable to prevent a goal in what was nearly a save of the month effort. First diving to his left and pushing a low Valeri shot from finding the bottom corner, then preventing a Fanendo Adi volley with a spectacular foot save, only to just miss flailing with his arms to stop the fourth effort which scored.
Before Lucas Melano was allowed to walk in behind Mears and score a tap-in in the 29th, Frei kept the Sounders close. In the 23rd he made first a position save on Melano from a hard angle and then again when the Timbers player lost his mark a few moments later. Frei had his best save of the game in the 28th, stopping Valeri 1v1, blocking a shot with his arm and delaying their third goal at least momentarily. That goal came a minute later, and Portland added a final goal before half, both with players being unmarked and leaving Frei little chance to save.
The second half was quiet for Stefan as Portland settled into a counter attack formation and tried to absorb pressure. The Seattle defense was much better in limiting runners through the midfield and marking on the outside, allowing Frei to concentrate on positioning and clearing crosses. The only danger in the half was on set pieces, and Frei did well to punch a corner away in the 58th and a free kick in the 73rd. Altogether a very tough score line for any keeper, Frei did about as well as you can expect against the quality of shots he faced.
Joevin Jones – 4 | Community – 4.5
The outside backs in this game were simply awful. Jones was markedly better in the second half, but he was completely dominated by Alvas Powell most of the game. I also saw more of the walking, non-effort defense that has crept in and out of Jones’ play this year.
In the 13th and 14th minutes Jones had poor passes that didn’t clear the zone. He really struggled early with the higher pressure from Portland. During the Adi goal-scoring sequence Jones was ball watching, failing to support his teammates as Adi got inside and was able to take multiple shots. This was the first evidence of him being fatigued/uninterested and then in the 25th he exhibited zero desire to get to a ball that was running out of bounds but within reach. Three minutes later Portland was scoring their third goal and Jones failed to hustle back into the play and support after being caught high in attack, instead walking and forcing his team to shift left on defense to the hole created behind him. Jones was again well behind the play five minutes later, but decided to just hold onto Melano to stop him from joining the attack.
In the second half Jones exhibited more effort, and was impressive in both the 69th and 75th minutes to track back and recover defensively against breakaways that the central defense couldn’t handle. He was much more balanced on his choices to attack and defend, although he was often seen walking behind the ball when not involved in the play. At times Roldan was forced to play left back. I am not sure why Jones looked as fatigued as other older players who played a full game on Wednesday, but he was poor both in form and effort for long periods of this game.
Chad Marshall – 5 | Community – 5.3
Chad had a very up and down night against Portland. Ostensibly the freshest of the back six, Marshall kept his positioning well and didn’t ever look like he was exhausted, like many around him. I was disappointed in his play against Adi, especially in the first half where Marshall struggled to keep Adi from dangerous positions.
In the 3rd minute it was Adi winning a strength battle with Chad, and in the 13th his hold up play and pass-off was dangerous. I was worried when Chad stayed down after a wonderful sliding tackle stopped Adi from getting loose on a break, but the replay clearly showed what looked to be (while very painful and gnarly looking) fairly harmless cleat marks on the inside of his thigh. I liked seeing Chad following Adi, and in the 23rd and 35th his defense blocked shots from the Portland big man. In the 24th minute Seattle was lucky not to get a handball PK called against Alonso, and this play was created by quality Adi holdup in the box against Marshall. Adi got the last laugh in the first half battle, creating a free kick conceded by a Marshall foul in the 43rd that was converted to their fourth goal.
The second half saw Marshall and Torres working ok together, although at times getting mixed up with positioning and both struggling to limit the second man behind Adi’s runs. Valeri and Melano were able to run off of Adi, but Portland didn’t push the ball into attack as urgently as the first half. Chad and Roman ran into each other both attacking a header in the 62nd, but the dangerous plays were breaks where both were sucked into one side of the field with no cover. One such counter saw a very intelligent step by Marshall, catching Adi offside in the 77th. I think a lot of the Sounders second half success was due to the reduced Portland numbers going forward and improved play around the center backs, who had their hands full.
Brad Evans – 7 | Community – 5.0
Brad had a very good game, and he’s not getting enough credit for his play; I thought he did well in both halves. I especially liked what I saw in the second half, continuing to distribute smartly from the back but also adding a spark from the right wing, getting forward to pick out players with passes and provide a crossing target.
Evans was the better of the two center backs dealing with Adi in the first half, starting with holding him off in the 2nd minute and then stealing his through ball attempt in the 4th. A few minutes later he pulled a page from the Marshall playbook and wrapped his leg around Adi to win a ball to Roldan. In the 18th Evans followed a retreating Melano and stole the ball, ending up with possession in the Portland 18. A few moments later Brad cut off Melano again, this time on defense during a 2v2 with only Marshall supporting. Evans continually saved the day as Mears allowed attack after attack to filter through his side.
Brad had two plays he could have been better on, first in the 21st when he went to ground too early, barely missing the ball and allowing Valeri to get a shot off. Again it was Valeri getting the better of Evans in the 28th, this time when Brad misjudged a cross and missed; Valeri was on goal and only the heroic Frei stopped it.
In the second half Evans stepped into right back and looked completely natural. He was eagerly overlapping with pace, playing confident defense (59’, 65’, 81’), and generally looking great on the outside. When he got forward on the overlap with possession his decision making was exquisite, finding Alonso’s head in the 71st, and a wonderful dropping cross from the end line to Ivanschitz in the 79th that deserved a better finish. Brad even got his head on a pass in the 80th, and showed many weapons he can offer in attack.
Brad’s greatest strength has been his soccer IQ that allows him to play so many positions. He made really good decisions on the right, dealt with the speedy Melano, and pinned Vytas deep all half. He also balances out the field much better than the other right backs. I was very impressed by his work in this game, especially since he was one of the guys who played 90 midweek.
Tyrone Mears – 2 | Community – 3.2 (off HT)
Mears was abjectly horrible. I question why the coach thought he could play midweek and three games in seven days. Not only was he bad, at times he quit and showed zero heart or desire.
In the 1st minute Mears was making desperation slides, which is often a sign of fatigue. He was beat in the 4th minute but luckily Evans was behind him to steal the through ball. In the 8th he took a bad throw in high to Evans, forcing Brad to make a desperation clear that ended with a Valeri volley; just throw the ball in down the line or to people’s feet, not at their face! In the 9th minute Tyrone got forward and as the Sounders moved the ball around to him he calmly dribbled it over the end line for a goal kick. Twice in the 23rd minute Mears whiffed on Melano, giving the opponent a break, causing Evans to come over and help – this happened again in the 28th when Mears just decided not to get back on defense at all. Tyrone had two crosses in the 30th and 42nd in attack; both were awful.
Their second goal was helped by Mears failing to mark anyone, then almost falling over as Valeri juked him out of his shoes and got a shot off by him. The third goal was just plain lazy Mears defending, with Melano walking around Mears to score a tap in – not the first time he has completely fallen asleep to allow a player inside him and score. The fourth goal was another Mears mess up, this time getting hung up in a pick on a set piece, with his man scoring a wide open header. At that point Tyrone had completely quit. In his last eight games Mears has scored well beneath MLS average, and we shouldn’t use him if we have any other options available.
Cristian Roldan – 4 | Community – 5.1
I think this was Roldan’s worst performance of the year, and completely contrary to the near seven rating he’s averaged over the last five games. I give Cristian some leeway here, because he played hard midweek and refused to quit in the second half.
Unfortunately, the first half was a complete nightmare for Roldan. He looked mentally tired, passing to no one in the 10th, again in the 27th, and in the 33rd his bad pass to Flaco ended up in a counter attack. He made uncharacteristic choices with the ball, forced passes and just looked very out of sync with the players around him.
Unlike last week where he looked stellar shutting down Darlington Nagbe and Diego Chara, Roldan failed to contain either in this one. Portland continuously found room right down the middle, picking apart the central channels and allowing Valeri huge spaces to work in without anyone marking him. Nearly every scoring opportunity originated from some sustained pressure that Portland was able to create passing through the central zones. The struggles of the outside backs were magnified when the Timbers’ central attackers could easily work passes through the middle.
In the second half Roldan did a better job staying tight to the center backs, allowing them more cover in the middle. This prevented him from getting forward really at all. He also was forced to play on the left when Jones was slow to recover, and while he did well to get there, Cristian was so exhausted that often (like Adi in the 65th) the opponent could just dribble around him. The delay from Roldan’s hustle was however instrumental in giving time to Torres/Marshall to recover centrally. Roldan played tired, but showed a lot of heart to keep fighting late, and I think this game was just a blip in his development.
Osvaldo Alonso – 5 | Community – 5.5
The only (non-Lodeiro) player to never score below MLS average had by far his worst outing of the season. The central pairing of Alonso and Roldan was just terrible in the first half, allowing runner after runner through the middle, failing to support the defense, getting caught forward, and doing little to stem the waves of attacks falling onto Frei and the backline.
Just like Roldan, you could see Alonso missing open runners (AI, 7th wide open in the middle) and making bad passes. At times I wondered who the player in the middle was, because he didn’t play like Ozzie. There were no strong tackles, quick recoveries, smart switching passes, none of the play we expect. Alonso completely misplayed a few passes, and one such play got Marshall hurt in the 18th. The first half shows how much impact a strong defensive midfield pairing can have, because time after time Portland built their attack through the middle and directly passed by Alonso, before getting wide and abusing the defense. The Sounders spacing simply didn’t work, and the Timbers constantly abused that.
In the second half Roldan stayed home more, allowing Alonso to range forward, and both looked to have more energy than in the first half. With Portland failing to attack with numbers, Alonso started to push the pace and his control in the middle allowed guys like Lodeiro to drift and find areas to attack. I was impressed with Ozzie’s pass to Morris in the 58th; it beat three defenders and put Jordan into a great attacking spot. Twice after 70 minutes Alonso won attacking headers in the box, putting huge effort to play both ways. His smart hold and pass to Evans in the 79th set up a great scoring chance. Throughout he was still getting back on defense, sharing his thoughts on Adi’s mom’s cooking at one point.
It’s good to see the response from players like Alonso, who came out in the second half and showed some pride and resiliency. Based on his prior 25 games, I am willing to give him a pass, but this team needs much, much better play from Alonso for the whole game, not just after we are down 0-4.
Alvaro Fernandez – 5 | Community – 3.9 (off HT)
Fernandez got a lot of misplaced blame this week, in a game he played ok in. After playing midweek and not being game-fit, this was another questionable start and shows just how thin this team can be when a few guys are out.
It was clear that either by game plan or habit that Alvaro was going to cut inside, doing so early and often. This opened up great lanes for overlaps that were unused, instead forcing Morris wide to utilize this space. It was the middle where Fernandez found himself in the 11th minute defending Nagbe, but gave up a dangerous free kick. Flaco earned a free kick of his own three minutes later, dropping into the defense and beating Vytas after winning the ball.
In the 17th Alvaro made a nice run into the box, and when the cross was poor and over his head turned and ran it down the corner, rescuing possession for Seattle. His sliding control in the 31st was inspired, but he was unable to find the run of Morris or Lodeiro in the box. A few minutes later he crossed high to Morris, who was unable to redirect on goal.
Fernandez got outmuscled/positioned on their first goal and that simply can’t happen. He needs to do better on the near post there. Another time he had a bad turnover when breaking out, and he was forcing the ball to his buddy Nico too much. Flaco was tiring badly at the end of the half, walking behind the play and unable to get both directions. His play left a lot to be desired, but I saw a lot of good positioning and he seemed to be doing as well as he could with the disaster behind him.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 MOTM | Community – 6.9 MOTM
Portland swarmed Lodeiro whenever he touched the ball and when that failed chopped him down. Nico tried to stay more central in the first half, and this left him at the mercy of Chara and Jack Jewsbury, who were more than happy to body up the midfielder.
Nico managed a decent shot in the 15th and put Morris into space a time or two but really didn’t work well with his midfielders. Lodeiro needs people to run off him, not play constant 1-2’s and the Sounders’ movement didn’t improve until the second half. People kept checking to him, and Lodeiro’s frustration showed in the 26th with a pointless hack on Nagbe.
Nico started the second half like the Sounders, pushing forward, and he found a neat little layoff to AI for the first goal. The second goal was even better, finding a perfect service to Morris after some awesome movement by Lodeiro. In the 58th minute Nico was charging hard up the field to support the Jmo breakaway, but as always had his head on a swivel and pointed wide to Gomez as another option – all the while drawing two defenders to himself. Lodeiro just missed putting Morris through in the 82rd, and other than some misplaced passes had a much better second half.
I again wasn’t impressed with Nico’s free kicks, and he needs to get them over the first defender if he is going to have any success in this league. This was likely one of his worst games in a Sounders uniform, but he still added two more assists to his tally. Nico wasn’t able to find nearly as much space as previous games, and Seattle needs to work on shape that allows him to find those pockets that he exploited in the second half.
Andreas Ivanschitz – 6 | Community – 5.6 (off 82’)
Andreas was absent in the first half, like many of his teammates, unable to do much of anything to support the back and failing to attack with any success. He did get all the way across the field in the 12th minute to keep possession and get the ball to Mears, and stopped Melano a minute later in the middle of the field defensively. The only offensive first half marks for AI were a speculative 35-yard blast into the stands in the 2nd minute and a nice through ball into Flaco in the 44th that was wasted.
In the second half Andreas came alive, first taking a strong 47th minute right footed shot that looked like it might have gone in anyway, only to be deflected in by defender Steven Taylor for a quick goal. This started the half off perfectly, and consistently Ivanschitz and Lodeiro linked up to overload the left side and put in dangerous attacks. One of these was a 55th minute AI pass that nearly found Gomez. Another found Alonso in the six-yard box that a non-stopper might have done better with. Later Ivanschitz found Evans deep in the box as well, each pass giving the receiver a great chance to score.
Andreas wasn’t great defensively, and at times he struggled to get involved as a viable option, often making runs that weren’t seen or used. After great play and build up from teammates he completely muffed a golden opportunity in the 79th on a dropped ball from a strong Evans run that I bet he would like again. He needs to find more ways to get in the game, or connect better with Jones behind him. I was confused by his being subbed when he was very involved in the Seattle attack.
Jordan Morris - 6 | Community – 6.3
Morris was stranded from his team at times, finding little room to stretch the field with Portland very effectively pressing forward and not letting Jordan get behind. Jordan was left to roam around in the first half, even finding himself chasing Nagbe all the way to our own eighteen in the first 15 minutes. In the 11th minute he tried to get help on a free kick, but ultimately his man (Liam Ridgewell) was left wide open on the back post for a shot that was pushed wide, a preview of how badly the team would defend set pieces all day. Going forward was a wasteland for Jordan in the first half, first failing to get over a header in the 35th and then finding himself 1v5 in the 39th, losing the ball.
The second half opened up, and Morris made some good adjustments to plant himself in between the defensive center backs and started to pull them apart. His 51st minute run and header goal (HEADER GOAL!) was perfect, and shows another weapon. In the 58th he exhibited his speed, racing past the defense and settling on a hard shot that forced a good save from Portland keeper Jake Gleeson. He may have had Gomez as a better option, but the shot was well taken. Morris almost got free on a through ball in the 82nd.
I saw a lot of hesitation from Jordan when isolated, and he needs to remember he’s a big, strong, fast, powerful beast of a player who needs more killer instinct. The confidence to attack players at pace and put them on their back feet when confronted with him on the dribble will hopefully come.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.8 (on HT)
Torres had a good return to soccer after a year off for knee surgery and did many things well. I think he’ll be very special when he’s in shape and in tune with the team around him. There were some spacing issues, but who cares? Torres is back and looked good.
His first touch was a searching ball that found Alonso in space and showed that Torres can make a pass from the back to feet. I was impressed with his passing, and even more his calmness. There was never any panic, and he looked very comfortable at all times – a welcome sight. He also played peacekeeper between an obviously angry Adi and Alonso.
Speaking of, Torres did an ok job with Adi, but was beat at times and looked somewhat out of sync with Marshall, even winning a header over his partner in the 62nd. In the 69th he was drawn from the middle and Portland easily exploited the space he vacated. In the 81st his clearance was directly to an opponent in the middle, but a few minutes later, he easily controlled a high pass to Evans and showed tremendous poise on the ball. In the 85th Roman was badly beat near post by Adi, but showed nice recovery pace and used an extensive slide tackle to stop the opponent’s back heel shot attempt. A minute later he gave up a dangerous free kick after another fight for possession with Adi.
Torres looked pretty good for a guy who was playing his first half in quite some time, and perhaps more importantly for the Sounders than his central defensive job was moving Evans to strengthen the current outside back debacle. If Marshall/Torres is the default defensive pairing, they will need to work a ton on their communication and positioning, as there were holes that a more desperate team would likely have taken advantage of.
Herculez Gomez – 4 | Community – 4.8 (on HT)
Gomez wasn’t impressive. After coming in at halftime he helped strengthen the right side and kept Vytas from running rampant up the wing, but some of that was Portland failing to commit any numbers to attack after the break.
Gomez’s first touch was a onetime ball to Portland. In the 55th minute he tried to get on the end of a nice AI cross, only to have Vytas play him and Herculez ended up tripping and whiffing badly. In the 58th I loved seeing the hustle to offer an option for Morris on a breakaway, but I have more faith in Morris shooting there than Gomez doing anything productive. He followed this with another awful back pass in the 59th.
Two things I liked were the hustle from Gomez and he didn’t complain when he didn’t get the ball or a play didn’t go his way. It was the former that earned Seattle a free kick, after Gomez essentially dove at Vytas’ knees and won a set piece in the 73rd. Herc took a lot of bad angles that weren’t in sync with his teammates, the worst a 77th minute back post run that missed a tremendous Ivanschitz cross.
Gomez is a hustle, stay out of the way guy, so I’m not sure what he offered as a sub at half more than, say Erik Friberg, but likely his fitness and ability to play forward factored in.
Nelson Haedo Valdez – 3 | Community – 4.2 (on 82’)
Given 10 minutes to be an offensive catalyst off the bench Valdez gave us exactly the opposite. His first touch was an attacking header that knocked him down, and also went about 20 feet wide of the goal. After Vytus dove and Valdez was called for a foul in the 90th minute Nelson threw a fit, and the ball, at the AR, earning a yellow. In between he offered nothing, contributing a measly two passes and only getting four total touches on the ball.
Hilario Grajeda – 4 | Community – 4.3
This started off so well for the ref, calling Jack Jewsbury for fouls in the 3rd and 4th minutes as he was running around hacking people, and yet these were the ONLY two fouls he called on Jewsbury the entire game.
I thought it would have been harsh to call Alonso for a PK in the 24th, but his arms were in an unnatural position and we have seen much less called this season. I agreed with the referee that Nico’s foul on Nagbe was yellow worthy two minutes later. After these two calls, I disagreed with almost everything.
Ridgewell was called for a tactical foul on a Lodeiro breakaway and no yellow was shown. Adi dove in the midfield and was given a cheap foul call. In the 28th Alonso got cleaned out by Jewsbury, but as advantage was given apparently that one didn’t count, nor did multiple others on the night for him. In the 34th minute Jones blatantly held Melano on a break, and Nagbe tripped Roldan a minute later on a similar play – neither foul called for either team.
On the 44th minute goal it’s clear that Jewsbury (still no fouls called since minute 4) was blatantly holding not only Mears but Roldan as well on a set piece, yet this ref allowed the goal that was the immediate result. The half ended with Ivanschitz getting a yellow card for shooting, which about summed up the ref’s day.
The second half was more of the same, with Chara and Alonso both getting away with early fouls before Powell went Hulk on Seattle, fouling first Joevin, then Andreas, throwing in hands to the face and literally shoving both players. This play resulted in a FOUL ON IVANSCHITZ. No idea. I thought Valeri diving and simulating getting shot in the face was rich, and glad that the ref ignored this, but he confusingly gave a yellow to Jones for a clean tackle on Chara moments later. I don’t know what to say about the refs anymore. There were just so many weird calls and missed fouls.
PORTLAND TIMBERS MOTM:
Readers were clearly impressed with the play of Fanendo Adi, who garnered over 60 percent of the 223 votes.
I don’t understand the reasoning behind some of the lineup and sub choices, but the bottom line is this team needs to play the rest of the season a hell of a lot more like the second half than the first. This next game is a must win, and we need to figure out how to plug some huge defensive holes as well as deal with the possibility of Dempsey being out long term. I think a good rest will help everyone regroup and hopefully find the form that had us getting 11 points in 5 games prior to whatever that was last Sunday.