If you needed another example of how this is a completely different Sounders team, just look at this game. Not panicking after giving up an early goal, the team charged back with four straight scores en route to a 4-2 defeat of the Los Angeles Galaxy, a team they hadn’t beaten in LA since the inaugural 2009 season. This team has resilience that drives for a win for the entire 90 minutes. It’s incredibly fun to watch as they continue to be unfazed by adversity and achieve positive results.
Stefan Frei – 8 | Community – 7.7
A goalie’s job is a thankless one, often getting blasted when their mistakes end up as immediate goals, and sometimes forgotten in wins. I, for one, thank you Mister Frei. Stefan started well, with a nice 8th minute save on Emmanuel Boateng but was caught on his line in the 15th minute when Jelle Van Damme put in a superb pass to Robbie Keane over the defense. I don’t think there was much he could have done against their 20th minute goal.
This game was a great example of how a goalie can directly change a score line, however, and without Frei coming up absolutely huge in the 33rd this game was potentially another LA home romp. Caught in a no-man’s land with Torres beat over the top, Frei initially retreated to his line, finding his spot before advancing on Giovanni Dos Santos who was in completely alone. Driving toward the ball, Stefan covered the entire goal and forced a chip that he was quick to parry wide. This phenomenal save completely changed the course of the game and potentially the season.
Frei finished up with seven saves, many made possible by his superb positioning. The 50th minute save against a Robbie Rogers shot was tricky and difficult to see, and Stefan did superbly to cover it through traffic. He hung in there in the 88th when Alan Gordon deliberately left his feet in, giving Frei a hard challenge. Stefan Frei was a warrior in this game.
Joevin Jones – 5 | Community – 6.1 (off 82’)
Watching live I forgot that Jones was playing with a considerable knock, and this explains many of the issues with his play. Joevin just doesn’t have the pace or acceleration that is so essential to what he does on both ends of the field. This was quite apparent in the first half, although he and the defense adjusted well in the second.
Jones struggled early to find the balance between supporting Ivanschitz forward and staying back to deal with Dos Santos and others down his wing. Unlike earlier games when Jones almost completely neutralized GDS, he wasn’t as dominant on Sunday. In the 12th minute, he left his side very open, pushing high for a speculative 35-yard shot in the 19th and leaving Marshall on an island behind him. In the 22nd Dos Santos was apoplectic about a Jones foul, and it did look like the Sounders defender did a lazy backside grab, but nothing egregious. In the 38th Jones had two bad passes in a row, the second an extremely bad clearance from the box directly to the middle (and Dos Santos).
The second half started out rough for Joevin, with Rogers getting advanced and active in attack, beating Jones in the 47th and 50th, this second time taking advantage of slow cover from Jones to get a dangerous shot off. When Jones did get forward in this game he failed to display his pace and aggressiveness, although I liked a 57th minute give and go with Ivanschitz.
Jones was limping as he came off and had just lost possession to Keane in the box, so the substitution looks very justified. Most of his mistakes were small, and he did an adequate job defending first. Jones can still play fairly well under adversity, and his pace and cover is essential to help the two central tanks.
Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.9
Chad just keeps doing his thing, stepping up to cover for space behind Jones and mixing surprisingly well with Torres on the back line. The offside trap is coming along, for instance in the 14th minute there was perfect synchronization from the defenders.
Throughout this game both Marshall and Torres stayed connected, and they both had stellar passing numbers from the back. Chad won all his contested headers, cut off angles, stuck with the secondary runners behind Keane, and supported Jones. He was drastically beat in the 11th minute by Dos Santos, but even then he steered the striker into a tough-angled shot that Frei handled.
Just as I was wondering why, with Ivanschitz’ service plus the heading ability of Marshall, Flaco, Torres, etc., we struggle on set pieces – Marshall made a tremendous diagonal run across the defense on a 35th minute corner. With LAG playing a bit of zone, this movement wreaked havoc on the defense and helped force an own goal. This bit of luck combined with steady defending and Frei heroics got the team to halftime tied, which was critical.
Roman Torres – 6 | Community – 6.4
This was the first time Torres was consistently beaten, and he really struggled at times with the tricky movement of Robbie Keane. He kept fighting, though, and there were some shrewd coaching tweaks at halftime to give more cover down the center, which helped immensely.
Torres is settling in, and that’s a great thing. His 12th minute 1v1 defense vs. Keane was entertaining, as he casually shrugged the opponent off and displayed his physical advantage. In the 34th Roman had an outstanding entry pass to Nico, a superb ground pass that led directly to a shot on goal. Gone were the 20 long balls of a few games back; Torres had only two this game and combined with Marshall for 84% passing on 64 attempts.
All of Roman’s negative marks came in the first 35 minutes, but this span was probably an outlier performance. Keane is a tremendous player, and without any experience against him Torres had a hard time tracking his movement. He allowed Keane to attempt to beat him in behind, and just that happened in the 7th minute, getting a header on frame that was saved. Roman lost Keane again in the 16th over the top from Van Damme and luckily Keane wasn’t quite able to get on the end of it. Keane didn’t miss his third chance, and a perfect Sebastian Lletget pass found him open behind Roman to score the initial goal. In the 33rd minute Keane played facilitator, finding Dos Santos right down the middle with Torres futilely chasing. Frei picked up the team on that chance, and after some adjustments the center back pair swallowed up the LA second half attacks.
The coaching staff did a great job throughout this game; you could see small tactical changes that immediately had impact, such as pulling Alonso to help cover for Jones and allowing Marshall to drop in with Torres. It is no coincidence that Keane was silent in the second half, Roman simply muscled him into submission and wasn’t beaten after the break.
Tyrone Mears – 6 | Community – 6.2
Mears did a pretty good job as a stay-at-home right back this game, and while he did little offensively, he seems to better understand the new players around him. Fernandez spent a ton of energy to help him defend, and against a dangerous LAG attack, the defense-first strategy was appropriate.
Early on it looked like Boateng was going to give Tyrone fits all game, actually spinning him around completely in the 8th and rounding him again in the 17th. Mears settled down after that and stayed pinched in much tighter to Torres, trusting Fernandez to cover the wide play (he did). Tyrone was beat on a free kick by Jeff Larentowicz and had a few bad clearances, but otherwise played clean on his wing.
Mears was very rarely found up field and with a single cross on the day, he wasn’t part of the attack. He was beat by Boateng on occasion, but nothing drastic and he had great support from his teammates to keep the right side covered.
Osvaldo Alonso – 8 | Community – 8.2
Alonso put in yet another awesome game, completely dominating the middle for long periods and forcing attacks into hopeful, over-the-top passes. Early on he was covering everything, getting a toe in on defense in the 14th and keeping possession, switching the field. With the communication between Ozzie and Roldan continuing to be stellar, the middle of the field is a wasteland when combined with the work rate of Lodeiro in front of them.
Ozzie lost possession a few times, and he could have closed down Lletget quicker in the 20th, although the blind pass sent in wasn’t anything I fault Alonso for. In the 33rd I thought he lost Dos Santos down the middle, and luckily Frei was awake. This is something to watch, as Steven Gerrard made a direct run down the gut late and earned a ridiculous, questionable penalty. If the CBs get split, a mid needs to stay with vertical runs from the middle.
Alonso owned the second half. It started in the 53rd, when Boateng got free on a break and Ozzie smartly kept his feet and ushered him wide, singlehandedly preventing a dangerous chance. In the 58th it was vintage Alonso: cutting off a pass in his own box he quickly transitioned this to a counter attack, following up the play 70 yards later in 100 degree heat. In the 64th he destroyed Robbie Rogers 1v1, and continually supported Jones as LA tried to overload the Sounders’ defensive left.
One of the best parts of the Roldan/Alonso pairing is it makes Ozzie so unpredictable. These two interchange so well that while you might expect to see him help cover for the back four, it’s just as likely that he will pop up in an advanced location supporting Lodeiro and the midfield. He did just this in the 78th, latching onto a deflected pass and rifling home an absolute scorcher of a shot into side netting. This goal was huge, not just as insurance against an LA comeback, but it allowed Seattle to relax a bit, get some subs on, and save a few tired legs. This was a complete game from Alonso, who shared the ball with his teammates almost perfectly (96% passing, 7/7 on long balls). He found that guy Lodeiro a team-high 19 times, played lockdown defense, and scored. Awesome.
Cristian Roldan – 8 | Community – 6.9
Man, Roldan is becoming such a star right before our eyes. The mentorship from Pineda, Lodeiro, Alonso etc. is really sinking in and his physical ability is catching up to his immense potential. He just makes so many intelligent soccer decisions for such a young age; it is exciting to watch.
In the 2nd minute Cristian moved slightly to his right, an almost unnoticeable thing that he repeated all game, a tiny movement that opened up an easier passing lane for Alonso. It is this special awareness in the middle that is so exciting about his growth. In the 5th he had calm control around Gio Dos Santos, dribbled forward and dropped a back heel pass to Alonso in stride. Wow. This is a confident play from anyone, and just amazing from the young Sounder. In the 22nd a Roldan slide tackle cleared a scramble moment, reminding us how solid he is defensively. On the 35th minute goal it was diminutive Roldan who occupied Van Damme and helped force an own goal.
The second half was more of the same, highlighted by a 58th minute gut-busting run right up the middle of the field with Keane desperately attempting to foul him (and getting carded for it afterwards) before finding a wide pass. Oh, did I mention Roldan’s perfect skipping pass in the 73rd minute to find Lodeiro and start the scoring play?
There were zero (0!) negative marks for Roldan this week. He, Alonso, and Lodeiro had 65, 66, and 67 passes respectively and COMBINED for 93% completion. That’s amazing. They completed 17/21 long balls. They absolutely dominated the middle of the pitch for long periods. I am ecstatic about this central grouping and the way they are playing. It is a huge reason this team continues to be in every single game until the last whistle.
Andreas Ivanschitz – 6 | Community – 6.4 (off 65’)
Ivanschitz was less effective this game and I attribute that to Jones’ reduced ability to add some pace to his wing. At times Andreas was forced all the way across the field, and he switched with Flaco making cross pitch runs. He stayed mainly goal-side of the ball and was not a threat on anything over the top, preferring to open space for Morris to make diagonal runs into.
AI had a nice corner kick in the 19th and another in the 26th found Torres. Even when not involved in a majority of the game flow, Andreas has an ability to create goals with his set piece delivery, and in the 35th he did just that. With Seattle holding on and building momentum late in the first half, it was a whipped-in corner from Ivanschitz that forced an own goal and leveled the score. A nice interchange between Morris, Ivanschitz, and Lodeiro earned this corner, by Andreas finding a wide-open Lodeiro inside the box for a shot that deflected out.
I marked Andreas down for some defensive help in the 37th and a misplayed 57th minute give-and-go with Jones, but otherwise these two were very quiet on the left wing. Dos Santos was able to move around and get some penetration, and after Rogers made a menace of himself in the second half, Ivanschitz was subbed. He didn’t impose his will on the game, but he was ok and worked hard off the ball to facilitate the central players.
Nicolas Lodeiro – 8 | Community – 7.5
Lodeiro ran LAG into the ground. He was so active in the first half that Baggio Husidic was nonexistent in this game and by the second half Lletget was lost, his heavy feet unable to keep up with Nico’s constant movement. He is like a championship boxer, who with Morris just pummeled LAG with body blows, until later in the second half they were given the space to unleash devastating uppercuts.
In the 24th Lodeiro was moving the ball forward, poking and prodding at the defense, finding a teammate for a give-and-go and spraying the ball around. He looked completely unfazed by the hot weather conditions, and three minutes later made a full-speed run through the middle with the ball that earned a free kick from flailing defender Larentowicz. In the 34th it was Nico with a sick little turn in traffic and then pass to put Morris on goal. He got forward and his great looking shot was deflected directly before the equalizing corner kick in the 35th.
The second half is where Lodeiro shone, simply out-motoring the entire LA team in the first half before utilizing the space he created in the second. In the 52nd he sent in a nice set piece cross that found an offside Torres, and a minute later he won the ball on defense and rounded Van Damme on the end line. In the 58th it was more smart movement as Nico beat the defense to the spot, dropping a perfect give-and-go to Morris for a shot that keeper Brian Rowe barely saved. In the 73rd he found an unmarked Morris to start a scoring play and in the 78th his constant movement was rewarded with an assist to Alonso.
Nico wasn’t done, earning a 90th minute free kick after beating two players and helping to kill off the clock. His yellow card for kicking the ball away in the 81st is troubling, as one more = suspension. We simply can’t afford to lose this guy right now; he is playing at such a high level.
Alvaro Fernandez – 7 | Community – 6.3 (off 83’)
Alvaro had a strong effort, and was much better tracking back defensively and supporting Mears this week. That was a very important role, with Boateng causing trouble early. Fernandez dropping into the middle early and often and allowed Mears to drop off the back shoulder of Torres as well.
Flaco cut in to attackt the middle in the 11th and lost possession to a tough tackle by Lletget. He didn’t complain, though, and hustled back on defense. He was again inside to defend in the 25th, and continually occupied secondary runners. In the 40th I was impressed with his intelligent movement, beating Ashley Cole and putting in a dangerous cross that found no teammate.
The second half was a revelation for Fernandez, as many of the good things he has been doing started to show results. I loved seeing him pinch in to win the ball back after Nico lost possession in the 56th, but it was a seemingly innocuous pass to Morris in the 63rd that got him on the scoresheet. There were a few options, but Alvaro found his striker in space, putting a lovely pass right where Morris could do something with it (and he DID).
Fernandez wasn’t done; he made a perfect run to stay wide and offer an option in the 73rd, and Jordan found him. Alvaro put a flawless header down to Valdez, who forced yet another great Rowe save. Morris mopped up for his second of the game. Later in the game Fernandez nutmegged his defender and put Morris in, searching for a hat trick. This game was a good example of what Flaco can bring to the team, and he was very effective.
Jordan Morris – 9 MOTM | Community – 9.0 MOTM
Jordan has created a ton of chances against Los Angeles this season, and the only thing lacking was the finishing. Morris looked eager to change this, showing an attacking desire in the 13th minute on his first touch, ripping a confident shot from 30+ yards out. Throughout the entire game he was the first to the ball, consistently displaying his impressive combination of strength, speed, power, and endurance to run the backline opponents ragged.
In the 18th minute Morris started to attack the spaces in front of Flaco and AI, drifting wide and testing the movement of the defense. His first half holdup play was a mixed bag, with a nice 34th minute touch to Ivanschitz being his best. Morris was continually moving, pulling apart the defense and even though not getting a ton of first half touches, he constantly forced the LA players to move and recover. Jordan and Nico were particularly impressive and moving in unison, with the forward’s off ball runs in perfect harmony to the darting midfield possession from Lodeiro.
The second half returned results, as Morris grasped a tiring LA defense and stepped on it. You could see it building up, as Nico just missed Jordan on a direct run in the 56th. Two minutes later they combined again, this time seeing Jordan in on Rowe but unable to slot home a 5-hole finish. In the 63rd minute Morris had had enough, taking a beautiful pass from Flaco and going absolutely HAM on defender Daniel Steres. Watch the replay. Damn. He touched the ball around the defender, shouldered him off, and accelerated so completely past him that Steres was left yards behind after four strides. Jordan wasn’t done just pantsing Steres, he surveyed the defense to see if he had any support, then finished a bullet to the upper left corner past a befuddled Rowe. This was such an amazing display of power, strength and skill – holy cow.
After this phenomenal individual effort, you might think he was done, but a few minutes later, he was found playing defense in his own half. In the 71st Morris ran across the defense and chipped for Valdez, just missing him. In the 73rd this pass didn’t miss, finding Flaco on the backside opened up by his very run. Jordan followed up the attack, finding a deflection and cutting the ball to his left / finishing calmly. In the 90th minute he was still going full speed and did some ninja trap-spin-pass to Gomez who was behind him to help kill the game. Morris was fantastic in this game and it shows what a force he can be, both individually and linked up with others.
Nelson Valdez – 7 | Community – 7.2 (on 65’)
Valdez was great in another substitute role. Although he got a deserved yellow for his first tackle which was quite dangerous, he showed the hustle, grit, and determination we have come to expect from him every appearance. In the 67th he drifted wide to control the ball. Four minutes later, he found space in the middle of the field.
Valdez makes very smart forward plays, and it’s unfortunate that they aren’t resulting in goals for him. His 73rd minute dive on goal found a perfect Flaco pass to his run and he forced a stellar Rowe save. The rebound was scored by Morris but this was an excellent run from Nelson. After his hustle kept the ball inbounds in the 77th it found its way into the back of the net via an Alonso strike. In the 86th Valdez hit the crossbar for the 44th time on supreme individual effort out of almost nothing. He continued to press and play defense and even got a header on a defensive corner to close out the game.
Oniel Fisher – 6 | Community – 5.9 (on 82’)
Fisher didn’t do a ton, but he was able to come in and give Jones some rest. Oniel did a good job of slotting in on the wing defense and making some no-nonsense clearances. He wasn’t beat.
Herculez Gomez – 6 | Community – 5.6 (on 83’)
Gomez was brought in to play wing defense and he did exactly that. He did get forward in the 86th and put an excellent cross in to Valdez that resulted in Nelson hitting the crossbar for the 134th time as a Sounder. Not many notable plays, but his and Fisher’s jobs were to help the defense and they did so.
Armando Villarreal – 6 | Community – 4.6
I was pretty pleased with Villarreal for a majority of the game. He let a lot of physical play go, but called it very fairly both ways and the teams were able to easily understand his line for foul play.
He missed a few calls, like an 11th minute Lletget foul on Flaco, and Roldan got away with a shove on Keane in the 17th but otherwise I thought Villarreal on top of the play. He called smart advantage play in the 18th, wasn’t swayed by Dos Santos diving multiple times and made a really impressive delayed yellow card call on Keane. Allowing the play to continue, he didn’t forget the foul and went back to show the card, something I wish other referees would do. I thought the yellow on Valdez was correct even though his first foul – it was egregious. I think he called the Lletget PK shout correctly, but if Torres didn’t touch him a yellow for simulation would have been appropriate. Nico earned his stupid yellow.
The two big plays that I fault the referee for were both late. The PK earned by Gerrard looked to be a superstar call, with very little contact, probably more on reputation than positioning. It was a VERY soft penalty which only a Gerrard fan would think appropriate. The other play I took issue with was Gordon leaving his legs in on Frei in the 88th. That had shades of Lenhart keeping a foot in and breaking Gspurning’s hand. He looked to keep his legs deliberately straight to hit Frei, and that’s just garbage that needs to be penalized.
LOS ANGELES MOTM:
This was another pick by a wide margin, with Robbie Keane and his two goals beating out Sebastian Lletget (who also created a lot of danger, including the assist), and a typically strong game in defense from Jelle Van Damme.
The new look Sounders now have five wins and only one loss in nine games. They just went into LA and dominated. Games in hand are only good if you win them, and one such game is Wednesday. Seattle needs to play well and hold at home against a struggling Chicago team to pick up three points. If the team plays the rest of the season like it did this weekend, watch out MLS.