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Sounders vs. Earthquakes Player Ratings: Vintage Alonso performance earns top score

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There were things to like and dislike in our recent game against the San Jose Earthquakes. Our offense still gets stifled without Clint Dempsey to open space. Our defense is still susceptible to bonehead plays. Yet, somehow, this team clawed back for a 1-1 draw on the road and has only one loss in the last seven games. For whatever reason, this mental toughness was not there earlier this year. Earning a draw on the road after going down a goal is exactly what a strong team does.


KEEPER:

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.5

Watching Frei against San Jose shows how differently the defense plays without Evans in the back. Frei touched the ball a lot in this game, and he sent balls long more than usual. He only rarely played a ball to Torres. This followed a lack of Seattle ability to possess through the back in the first half and mirrored Torres’ own desire to “just clear it” at times. It’s not a horrible way to play, as each clearance gave the defense some time to regroup, but there is also merit to keeping possession.

With a new center back in the mix, you might expect more communication errors, but there were few. In the 9th Stefan came way off his line but got caught on the border of his box and was forced into an awkward kick. Frei was fortunate to get a foul on Fatai Alashe in the 13th minute, when a punch would have been much better than crashing into Alashe and Morris and fumbling the ball away.

Throughout the game Frei was assertive and strong, and he kept a wrap on all of San Jose’s half chances. He consistently attacked free kicks in the air to win possession. Throughout the game the defense was well organized from the back. Frei had two late punches to just clear corner kicks from danger.

Our poor fullback play created their goal, but Stefan’s angle confused me. Unless he thought Jordan Stewart was a threat to shoot from the corner, it was almost certain to be a cross, and Frei being outside his goalmouth cheating near post was risky. Either way, the cross was perfect and Chris Wondolowski never* misses a gimme from that close, so it is hard to blame Stefan. I did blame him in the 91st when there was another cross allowed to bounce in the back, and a miscommunication between Torres and Frei almost became very costly.

*okay, except for Belgium.

DEFENSE:

Joevin Jones – 4 | Community – 5.2 (off 55’)

The re-watch wasn’t nice to Jones. Other than an 18th minute calm control and clearance in his own goal box there was nothing on the positive side. He subbed off hurt, and it’s possible this injury contributed to his poor play. Without knowing the timing or severity of his injury, I’ll acknowledge he did well to concentrate on defense, and while he needed plenty of help from Alonso, he did okay in rough circumstances.

In the 5th minute it was apparent that Jones was lacking…something. His harsh back pass handcuffed Alonso and forced a blind clearance. A moment later Joevin was beat by Cordell Cato and this was a theme as the speedy ex-Sounder consistently earned corners pushing down their right side. In the 11th Jones had a pass stolen and this was the start of him looking very lackadaisical. In the 14th when a corner kick got recycled, he just stood and watched, while two opponents ran in behind him.

Whether hurt or fatigued or both, Jones struggled for the remainder of his time. He was consistently slow to close down Wondolowski and was completely absent as an attacking option, his 22nd minute “cross” into the 30th row behind the goal being the extent of his forward movement. In the 34th minute he showed zero hustle and by the time he mercifully subbed out he just looked beaten.

I hope Jones isn’t injured long-term, because when he is “on” – not mentally or physically laboring – he offers a dynamic option that spreads the field.

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.5

Once again, Marshall showed how easily he adjusts to the players around him, this time playing an entire game with struggling wide backs and a new partner in the middle. Marshall didn’t do anything flashy, but was consistently across to help those around him, while concurrently limiting San Jose many attacks down his channels. He even got forward in the 29th to attack in the box on a long throw-in attempt. Oh, and how about a key pass, 7-7 on long balls while going 50/51 (98%) passing?

Marshall made himself available for plays from the keeper, and he did much more with short controlled possession than his defensive partners. In the 20th minute Marshall was “beaten” by an offside Wondolowski for their goal, but this is a play that Chad simply shouldn’t have to make. Wondo played 5+ yards offside behind the Sounders defense all game, and you simply can’t drop your defensive line to adjust to his antics, rather you need to do what Seattle did and move up as a unit. It was unfortunate that we passed the ball to them, allowing Wondo to poach and take advantage of this positioning.

I am concerned about lack of central defensive speed, for instance in the 50th when Chad was very high and slow to get back, but generally I was pleased with the defensive adjustments in the second half. Marshall shut down Wondo and Simon Dawkins, forcing them into low-percentage long shots. Every time anyone around him needed help, Chad popped up to calmly clear the ball. His 92nd minute attempted clearance went all wrong, ending on the foot of ex-Sounder Chad Barrett in an enormously dangerous spot but otherwise he was calm, steady, and efficient.

Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.9

There was surprisingly little rustiness from a guy who hadn’t played a full MLS game in a year. While obviously not polished, the simple athleticism Roman brings to the field is a joy to watch. His calm play in the back and smart tactical adjustments are most impressive. He really knows how to take good angles and use his skillset well in shunting attacks wide.

Torres won pretty much every header he desired, however he lacks Marshall’s precision passing ability, opting to direct most headers up and away from danger rather than looking for a teammate. His footwork mirrored this, and although he has very soft feet for a big man, Roman is much more interested in going long to open up the field than play short passes in the middle. This led to a few speculative passes over the top but also made San Jose adjust a bit and not be able to pack one side. He attempted a massive 20 long balls, completing only half.

Tactically we saw Torres shift very wide right to support Mears, leaving a channel that San Jose failed to attack, instead trying to have Wondo off the back shoulder of Marshall. Roman was very good attacking this space to prevent entry, but it was worrisome to see a giant hole in the defense.

Torres lost Andres Imperiale on a free kick in the 19th, but I was most upset to see him duck in the 91st, missing a header clearance in an obvious miscommunication with Frei that was reminiscent of the last LAG game at home. Roman consistently showed great 1v1 instincts, stopping every attack when San Jose got him isolated.

Tyrone Mears – 4 | Community – 3.6

Mears is really struggling and I assume only the Evans injury got him playing time. He is making poor choices, compounding errors with an astonishing lack of effort, and struggles to do some very standard things. I checked and my ratings for Mears fell off considerably in the final third of last season, dropping a full point per game on average after July. The team needs to figure out why the late season swoons and if it’s fatigue, allow someone else to play.

Mears started out by punting the ball forward to no one in the 2nd and it didn’t get much better for the right wing combination, with Mears only finding Roldan four times on the evening. There was little cohesion up this wing and they made Jordan Stewart look like a superstar. In the 14th Mears was beat multiple times on the same play, and just kept dropping into no man’s land on defense. Torres was constantly forced to come wide to support Tyrone, who struggled with runs down his wing all night.

Mears was beat by Wondo on two free kicks in the first 20 minutes, but it was his disastrous trap attempt in the 20th that pushed Stewart perfectly onto goal. Why? A chest trap or header was called for, but instead Mears reacted late, attempting to make an over-the-shoulder foot trap, instead playing Stewart onto goal. Huh? Later in the half Mears lost a dribble and unceremoniously dropped Alberto Quintero with a frustrated, cynical tackle.

The second half wasn’t an improvement, lowlighted by his 50th minute lack of hustle or energy, with Wondo clearly outpacing him to the goal and only missing a gimme due to lack of service. Tyrone was lucky that a horrible cross field pass in the 75th didn’t immediately get shoved down Frei’s throat.

Tyrone got forward and put a dangerous low cross into the box in the 27th and was an option for Morris in the 32nd as an overlap but otherwise lacked positive plays. He looks tired and frustrated, and it’s greatly affecting his play. Better teams than San Jose will continue to victimize his side of the field if he continues to play this poorly.

DEF MIDFIELD:

Osvaldo Alonso – 7 MOTM | Community – 7.1

Alonso had a very nice game, earning MOTM honors by being an almost single-handed wrecking ball protecting the back line. While I am not convinced he can run a solo defensive mid anymore, this game was fairly close to that and he did well. His passing percentage did drop into the low 80’s, a large drop from a guy who is usually in the mid 90% range.

In the 2nd and 5th minutes Alonso was forced to come to the left and help out Jones, which would be a theme on his evening. He planted himself in front of Marshall and continually pushed wide to support. His biggest defensive play was an 18th minute goal line clearance, showing both incredibly fast thinking and reflexes to clear a goal-bound header. He continued to terrorize passing lanes and was just immense in holding Simon Dawkins and Cato to minimal success.

Ozzie had a few mistakes, like a 36th minute giveaway to no one and he should have kept his feet when defending a breakaway by the speedy Cato in the 45th. The 50th minute play where Mears was slow to track Wondo also saw Alonso fail to react to a central runner, allowing a direct dive at goal. These plays were vastly overshadowed however by constant pressure in the midfield; over and over it was Alonso who came out of a scrum with the ball. His recovery defense remains stellar, and his decision making this season has been nothing short of spectacular. Also of note, his run in the 80th minute confused multiple defenders, allowing the free kick to score behind him.

Erik Friberg – 6 | Community – 5.4 (off 65’)

Early on I liked the way Friberg was tracking back, but as the game went on there was a big hole on the center-right and I am unsure if this was by design. Unlike how Roldan and Alonso have been playing a square double destroyer role in front of the back line, Friberg took a decidedly advanced position above Alonso on the right. With Torres forced right to help Mears and Marshall/Alonso left to help Jones, there was space behind Friberg that wasn’t attacked like Portland managed to do.

In the 13th Erik committed a foul in a bad spot and then on a following corner kick belatedly noticed an unmarked Darwin Ceren. The few times Seattle found Friberg through the middle in the first half he did well with his chances, consistently finding a teammate and keeping possession moving forward; there just weren’t enough touches (46 total) for Erik in this game.

Friberg had a nice delaying defensive play in the 25th that stopped a counter when Mears was caught too high, and his 51st minute pass to Morris was awesome. Perfectly weighted, this pass dissected the defense and put Jordan on goal, showing that if given the chance, Erik will make those defense splitting passes. On the night he completed 90% of his passes, but we need to see more touches, though, as Friberg still doesn’t quite fit into this formation.

ATT MIDFIELD

Cristian Roldan – 5 | Community – 5.5 (off 80’)

Another player who played hurt, Cristian gave a lot of effort but struggled on the wing. After seeing how well he can play across from Alonso, it’s hard to rate an obviously hobbled player at another position, but Roldan was game for it. Many of his most impressive moments involved making the right space to facilitate Lodeiro.

Early on Roldan struggled with Mears to hold down San Jose’s left wing. In the 3rd minute Cristian had roamed too far inside, leaving Jordan Stewart open for a switching ball. In the 18th he was again caught inside and up field as Stewart snuck down the wing, but it was a similar play two minutes later that eventually led to the Earthquake goal. After this Roldan did a better job keeping track of the backside runners, but that meant he was almost completely ineffective going forward.

Cristian worked hard on the defensive side of the ball from the wing, and supported into the middle when Lodeiro roamed looking for the ball. On the few times he was able to get forward, Roldan struggled to be a dangerous attacking option. He did have a nice hold-up and drop off pass to overlapping Mears in the 27th that created a chance.

Roldan immediately looked better in the middle of the field around the 70th minute after Friberg subbed off. This contributed heavily to a 75% possession mark for the next 10 minutes by Seattle, culminating in their game-tying goal. Playing injured, Roldan gave his best, but he definitely looks to be better suited for a central position next to Alonso.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 7 | Community – 7.1 MOTM

Live I thought Nico really struggled. The re-watch confirmed this, showing multiple errors and tired touches, but it also highlighted how both Fatai Alashe and Darwin Ceren continually chased him around the field and refused to give him any space. This led to the Sounders needing to run off him better, and with some players missing/struggling it was very hard for Nico to find room to push the ball forward. Often left with poor angles, his passing numbers slipped and I think he tired himself out with some pointless one-man pressing. He looked tired/ineffective for small periods before scoring an absolutely huge late goal.

This game had by far the most negative marks for Lodeiro. He forced the ball a lot, often trying to make the perfect pass when it wasn’t smart. One such was a 24th minute over-the-top attempt to Morris, which showed the negative of a guy always looking forward. I saw frustration around the 53rd minute, first being picked by Cato and thinking he was fouled and then losing possession moments later holding it too long. In the 60th and 78th there were very tired touches, and Nico ended with a rough 70% passing success rate.

What Nico did was occupy two players completely for almost an entire game, running them ragged and making any service forward difficult for San Jose. San Jose was incapable of building anything through the middle and a lot of it was the constant movement of Lodeiro. This alone covered for many of the holes in the defense with so much attention being directed to trying to stop Nico. He just missed Roldan through in the 23rd and got both Morris and Ivanschitz in space in quick succession in the 32nd. Just a sliver of space is all he needs, and he found this in the 66th minute, dropping a perfect skip pass through Jordan’s run and onto the onrushing Fernandez.

Lodeiro has struggled with placement on set pieces, and had a few (10’,43’) that were wasted, but a 44th minute set piece was nice and then there was his goal. Regardless of anything else, that ball was in a perfect place, freezing the keeper on his line and dropping right into a dangerous area. There’s just something poetic about how much he and the team struggled up to that point, yet still found a way to will the ball into the net. He has the heart of a champion.

Andreas Ivanschitz – 6 | Community – 5.8

Another quiet, efficient outing from Andreas this week. He chipped in a key pass, looked forward accurately and didn’t settle for chunked-in crosses. More defensive intensity would have helped Jones out, especially early.

His first pass was a 1st minute ball that found Morris in space, but these two didn’t find each other much after that. Ivanschitz had a fabulous run up the wing in the 32nd minute, but unfortunately Morris was unable to find him as he was completely free on goal. In the 45th he beat Marvell Wynne, but fell down. He missed Morris short in the 31st and lost possession in a rough spot in the 46th.

Ivanschitz was involved in a few other very intriguing plays, the first a perfect late run into the box in the 51st only to put a shot from seven yards out high over the bar with an open net. In the 67th he had a strong run in support of Morris being de-cleated, but was dispossessed by Wynne on a great tackle in the box that prevented a shot. I thought he should have done better with this chance. In the 73rd it was his turn to drop a perfect ball for someone to finish but Fernandez missed his point blank look.

AI needs space to work, and it wasn’t until after half that the team was able to give it to him, especially when Fisher came on to fortify the left side. Ivanschitz will continue to struggle if he only gets three-four chances a game.

FORWARD:

Jordan Morris – 6 | Community – 6.0

Left on an island for most of the game, Jordan worked back tirelessly, showing off good holdup and a strong work ethic to come back and support the team on defense while not seeing the ball for long periods of time. He tracked back into his own penalty area in the 22nd, which isn’t something we want our forwards to do very often.

Without Dempsey opening up spaces and cloaked by the pace of Wynne for much of the night, Jordan continued to work, eventually finding some room in the second half. His run in the 51st minute got on the end of a fantastic Friberg pass, and he could have one timed a shot before Bingham got set, but instead Jordan dribbled around the keeper and then when confronted with multiple defenders cut back a great blind pass that Ivanschitz flubbed over the net. In the 78th his run and subsequent foul by Victor Bernardez created the set piece that tied the game. Late (94’) Jordan cherry-picked a defender and got on a solo break, but his cross in the general direction of Valdez was poor.

Jordan is young, and not quite ready to be a beast central holdup forward, although he shows a lot of the skills needed to be one. His turn and run in the 67th was a nifty piece of work and I like seeing his confidence grow with more willingness to drive on goal with the ball. Jordan was a toenail away from putting Ivanschitz in 1v1 in the 32nd and just needs a tiny bit more touch to start seeing huge results. Jordan got manhandled all game by Bernardez, who surely left multiple cleat marks on Morris.

SUBS:

Oniel Fisher – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 55’)

Fished looked competent on the left side, in a bit of a surprising move. Fisher is a very physical defender, and stood up well against the challenges from opposing players. His 1v1 defending was great in the 57th and 64th minutes, and he neutralized anything from Cato.

Oniel made a few good runs forward, but found himself either dribbling too much or simply out of options, and ended up losing possession multiple times. He did hustle back well and didn’t look out of place on an MLS pitch. He fouled Shea Salinas in a bad spot in the 87th, but came up huge in the 92nd. After a fumbled clear from Marshall, it was Fisher who was quick to get across and deflect a point-blank Barrett shot over the bar and save the point.

Alvaro Fernandez - 6 | Community – 5.8 (on 65’)

Flaco entered and gave a nice spark, immediately pushing Roldan to a middle area and working well with Lodeiro. He stole a ball almost upon entering, starting a break and ultimately getting the ball back in a good spot. Alvaro drifted away from goal, however, and his shot was a poor one.

Fernandez took very smart angles when pressuring the ball, forcing play to specific spots that I wish others would do more often. He got on the end of an Ivanschitz cross in the 73rd and needs to get that look on frame. In the 84th minute he was badly beaten by Quintero and while the ref correctly gave a yellow for simulation to the Quakes player, a lot of people (Hi Geiger!!) would have called a PK there.

Nelson Valdez – 4 | Community – 5.0 (on 80’)

Valdez was subbed in to be a heading option and in that aspect it worked perfectly. This change immediately added another aerial threat and SJ countered by putting Imperiale on him, obviously prepared for Nelson on set pieces. This allowed Alonso to float, and Ozzie’s run was enough to both freeze Bingham but also change the positioning of Bernardez. This play scored a goal, but after that Valdez was nonexistent.

Nelson did little, winning an aerial, touching the ball a mere five times, and becoming a hustling defense player. He tried but failed to get on the end of a late Morris cross.

REFEREE:

Baldomero Toledo – 4 | Community – 4.3

Going into this game you could expect Toledo to let a TON of physical play go without calling fouls, and only the most egregious play being given a caution at most. This was exactly what happened, so many fouls being ignored but also persistent infringement no longer being an issue. He calls plays like hand balls well, and was constantly in good position to make calls around the box, but he just lets so much go that it gets dangerous for the players.

When guys like Stewart and Alashe are committing fouls rampantly (four each in the scorebook, twice that in uncalled infractions) without a repetitive fouls card, it really hampers how teams can play. In fact, the only cards Toledo gave out that weren’t for non-contact plays were to Alonso for a shoulder tackle and Dawkins who tried to break Marshall’s leg. I don’t mind the Alonso card, he had earned the yellow with multiple transgressions, but then where is the same for the others? Why is the only thing that gets a card from the book a delay of game or dive?

Two plays stood out as particularly poorly officiated: First off, Dawkins’ foul on Marshall in the 58th was a straight red for me. It was a very late, rash scissor through the back of Chad’s knee, clearly endangering the safety of the Sounders center back. It’s not a legal play and just because Marshall is a tank and didn’t get broken doesn’t mean you should allow a player to take his shot like that. The second was Imperiale cleaning out Morris in the 67th on a break. Toledo played advantage as the ball went to Ivanschitz, but you simply can’t ignore the brutal tackle that was a tactical foul on a break in addition to the dangerous play. Giving advantage doesn’t mean you get away without a card!

If you can put up with the frustration of increased physicality and no one gets hurt, I suppose Toledo wasn’t awful. If you consider fouls nonexistent, yellow card infractions to be fouls, and red card infractions to be yellow, then Toledo is the ref for you.

EARTHQUAKES MOTM:

Readers voted for the goal-scorer in this one, as just over half of 152 votes went to Chris Wondolowski as the best ‘Quakes player on the night.


One loss in seven. We are home for a must-win this weekend against a team that already played a few guys mid-week. We must keep this streak going, and burying Vancouver is a good way to do so.