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Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC: Player ratings

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What is there to say at this point? Losing 0-3 in Kansas City is something we’ve seen before. This was nowhere near last year’s loss, but it still put Seattle at just 2 wins in their first 11 matches. A strong first half with a tactically compact Sounders team was just enough to get your hopes up for points. These hopes were dashed by some tactical adjustments that failed miserably, combined with fatigue and rampant poor decision making. This is a fragile team right now, with the role players and backups we’ve asked to step up are not ready or good enough to do so, and the stars are not excelling within the turmoil. It’s not a great place to be, and unless the team gets healthy soon it might be too late to rescue a season that had all the ingredients to be successful.


KEEPER:

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 5.7

Frei has given up 11 goals in 4 games. That’s awful. There wasn’t much he could have done about them, as his defense is increasingly prone to turning off for stretches, and not even goalkeeping heroics can be expected to help. It seems like every big chance for teams in the last two games has gone in, and I am not sure what Frei or anyone else can do about that.

Stef was very controlled early and helped organize a backline that was great in the first half. They played a smart, measured tempo, utilizing the keeper as an outlet. I thought Frei made a bad choice in the 30th to go short into some pressure, and soon thereafter he abandoned over-reliance on playing from the back and just sent longer clearances forward. Zero shots on goal in the half was helped by Frei off his line quick in support of Marshall in minute 37, beating Gerso Fernandes to a ball in behind. He did spill this ball back to the middle, and will want to control it better if possible.

In the second half Stefan did everything he could to keep his team in it, making a spectacular save in the 55th from a set piece header by Ike Opara. Unfortunately, the corner he conceded from this play recycled into a goal a minute later, and the flood gates opened for 15 minutes. Frei did make a good stop on a Dom Dwyer breakaway in the 88th, but by then it was too late.

DEFENSE:

Oniel Fisher – 4 | Community – 3.8 (off 78’)

For the first half Fisher looked great. Showing off quick feet, accurate positioning, and an ability to make intricate passes on the wing instead of just filtering the ball incessantly back to Alfaro or Frei, Fisher was one of the standouts of the half. I have multiple notes about how he was calm on the ball, looked fine on his weaker left side, and showed strong aggression coming forward at appropriate times for the Seattle counter. In the 27th minute his overlap and nice cross forced SKC keeper Tim Melia into a punch out amidst a dangerous Sounders chance. On defense, he shut down his side without much assistance from his winger, limiting Graham Zusi and Gerso with help from the defensive mids.

In the second half Oniel fell apart. I don’t know whether it was due to the tactical changes (he was playing way higher in the second half) physical issues (sprint recovery speed was less, he looked tired and subbed in the 78’ after covering for a winger who played zero defense) or mental (bad decisions, bad positioning, possibly due to fatigue). Likely a combination of everything put too much pressure on Fisher and he failed to repeat his first half success. In the 58th he attempted to dribble out of trouble on the wing, only to have the ball poached and turned into a goal. Asked to get forward more, a lousy Fisher cross killed a buildup in the 61st, and in the 64th Oniel’s miss-trap on the sideline lost possession again, showing his complete lack of concentration by that point. Five minutes later Fisher lost positioning and didn’t step to anyone on his wing as SKC broke out to score a third. The communication from his center back partner was nonexistent on the final two goals, and the relative inexperience of the left side was obvious.

Fisher showed us in the first half the talent that suggests he can be a solid defender and great backup in this league. I think many of his struggles in the second half were fatigue related, and the lack of any defensive support around him was something he just isn’t good enough yet to overcome, especially on the left.

Tony Alfaro – 4 | Community – 4.5

I see a lot of potential in Alfaro, but the last few games have highlighted some very big holes in his game, and he has been especially susceptible to losing concentration late in matches. He plays strong, calm soccer for a while and then just checks out, tries too much or loses positioning completely, and this is something he really needs to work on if he wants long term MLS playing time. While his passing numbers were ok (86%) there are too many positioning issues that a good team like SKC will point out in a halftime discussion.

Alfaro greatly struggled with the press from SKC, so much so that Frei smartly abandoned playing short midway through the first half because of the pressure that put on the defense. Tony did a good job in the first period, passing off runners and staying compact with Marshall. He didn’t take any undue risks, and when there were defensive breakdowns the central mids dropped back to help.

The second half was another story altogether. Alfaro had gotten away with marking space and not players up till the 58th, but was caught guarding a section of grass as SKC scored their second goal. The young guys (Alfaro and Delem specifically) tend to recover to a spot, running back in transition to the corner of the 6 by habit, then standing there when scrambling on defense. In the 69th he did just that, and without any pressure on the ball Sporting maneuvered easily around to score their third. A good player like Dwyer is going to play through the final whistle, and it was startlingly evident that in the last 20 minutes as he repeatedly abused Alfaro. Even though the scoring was over, Tony had awful defense against Dwyer in the 71st, earned a card for fouling Dwyer after being beat in the 85th, and again marked no one in minute 88, allowing Dwyer in on Frei 1v1.

Fisher struggled on the outside, but he had very little support from Alfaro inside him, and they were both unable to stop snowballing mistakes while turning off mentally when adversity hit.

Chad Marshall – 6 | Community – 5.5

This looked like your usual Marshall outing. Two tackles, three clearances, 93% passing, 3/5 long balls, strong positional defense, etc. Add to that he was surrounded by two inexperienced players, and I was really impressed by how well Marshall played. SKC had a specific plan to take advantage of Delem, but when combined with the near perfect positioning of Marshall, this plan failed. Attempting to get Seth Sinovic and Dwyer in combination on their left failed repeatedly in the first half, as Marshall engulfed Dwyer and removed any ability to play through the forward.

In the 10th minute we saw some nice range from Marshall, stepping around the defense and stealing a ball on the wing. In the 21st there was vintage Chad play, with the big defender calmly playing the ball from the back amidst pressure. When first Jimmy Medranda and then Benny Feilhaber tried to break through his side in the 35th, Marshall shut both down. Throughout the half Dad was consistently over to help Delem. Gerso did get behind Chad in the 37th, exposing his lack of speed but the play was denied by an alert Frei.

The second half was more of the same from Marshall, although soon he was tasked with coming across to help Alfaro as well, with SKC making smart halftime adjustments. Chad lost Opara for a stinging header in the 55th that only quick hands from Frei saved; they scored anyway a minute later. The final two goals from SKC were complete defensive breakdowns, but it’s hard to pin much on Marshall. He made a smart, desperation slide tackle to try to help failed teammates, and just got unlucky with a bounce in the 58th. Marshall really stood out as good while others around him struggled, but it’s hard to know how much blame to assign each.

Jordy Delem – 4 | Community – 3.5

Delem started out way too aggressively, losing his footing and earning a yellow just three minutes into the match. After that he calmed down, and his positioning in the first half was decent. Delem was greatly assisted by the impressive defensive work rate of Fernandez in front of him, and the calming presence of Marshall next to him also helped. SKC tried to force the issue by pushing Seth Sinovic high against him, but he mostly did well to prevent this tactic.

In the 22nd Delem had a bad giveaway and followed that up with a 24th minute cross to no-one. His distribution from wide areas is not good, and he was less reluctant to force crosses in this match (0/3). Defensively I noted a nice recovery play in the 29th against Dwyer where he came all the way across the goal to head away and earn a free kick. Jordy was beat badly behind in the 36th, caught flatfooted.

The second half may have seemed like all the goals came from the other side, but Delem was frankly awful, and this stressed the entire defense. As noted, Delem recovers to a spot on defense and doesn’t adequately step to players. In the 58th I have no idea what he was doing, marking no one. In the 63rd he was completely lost. In the 68th, with Seattle showing some life and Dempsey warming up, he put in a completely woeful cross with about seven Sounders available in the box. A min ute later on SKC’s break and eventual 3rd goal Jordy was again marking his spot on the corner of the 6-yard box, which helped no one. This lack of defense allowed Gerso all the way across the field to score.

Delem got forward in the 82nd and had a wonderful chance to start a comeback, but failed to find a massively open Bruin, instead shooting wide himself. The 88th minute Dwyer breakaway was helped by Delem’s inability to recover. The back line is a unit, and this game was a good indication how breakdowns can domino across the entire line. Delem has tried hard, but I sincerely hope that was the last time he starts.

DEFEFENSIVE MIDFIELD:

Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community | 5.4 (off 72’)

Svensson and Roldan were quite productive in the first half, and helped cover a makeshift defense. Their work rate was especially needed behind the Morris/Lodeiro areas, as neither was very effective defensively. I thought Goose played really well for about 60 minutes, covering areas, making smart decisions, holding back and being very patient both offensively and defensively. But then he got tired, and without him to shield the back four, cracks showed. The young defense wasn’t able to deal with central runners. It isn’t a coincidence he was subbed right after all three goals; he looked beat.

Gustav closed down the middle quickly in the first half, across consistently to help, and especially observant of the left side. His quick step in the 25th to steal from Roger Espinoza was one of his few offensive actions, and he did well to convert this to a counter attack. Svensson looked very comfortable in this formation, and was a large part of the first half success, even tossing in a key pass.

In the second half, it looked like the Sounders tried to take the game to SKC more, and spacing became a bit more open. After SKC’s somewhat lucky first goal, Seattle tried to push immediately and this opened up larger gaps Sporting took advantage of. All the space and open game led to breakdowns on defense, although I was really impressed by Svensson’s hustle in the 69th to get back and support. Unfortunately, after his 80-yard recovery run, Delem did little to assist him, and they combined to lose Gerso who put the game out of reach and Dempsey to put his warmups back on.

I like Gustav a lot, and think he’s a great addition to the team at multiple positions, but he faded a bit near the end. Asking him to cover Roldan-esque amounts of the field late with an inexperienced backline isn’t a winning combination.

Cristian Roldan – 6 (MOTM)| Community | 6.3 (MOTM)

Speaking of Roldan, he DID cover Roldan-esque amounts of the field late, but it wasn’t enough. Two shots, 83% completion and a key pass to go with strong defense in the middle was good, not great.

Early on Cristian showed SKC he is a different player than last year, earning possession multiple times in the first 10 minutes, the best being a play where he completely destroyed Benny Feilhaber and earned a foul for his efforts. Watching the game the first time I thought Roldan had completely dominated Feilhaber, but the re-watch showed otherwise. Especially in the second half, Benny found space while Roldan/Svensson dropped off him too much, leading to 93% completion rate and five key passes by the SKC star. The positioning that was so stout in the first half was stretched in the second, and there was much less “forward first” defense going on; this let Feilhaber roam and pick out passes.

I did like the offensive contributions from Cristian in this game, namely a spectacular shot in the 46th that forced Melia into a save right before half. He also just missed Flaco over the top in the first half and dropped an absolute perfect pass to Adekoya in the 90th that deserved an assist. Roldan’s touch in service is impressive and underappreciated. This was a MOTM earned for being slightly better than “OK” in a game where noone really stood out and impressed.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

Alvaro Fernandez - 6 | Community – 4.7

If there was a rating for first 60 minutes of the game, Flaco would have been my MOTM. He was tremendous for the Sounders, getting two shots (forcing a great save from Melia) actively going forward without the ball and perhaps most importantly, working massively hard to defend his wing in support of Delem. He completely removed Medranda and Sinovic from the SKC attack and funneled easier defensive duties to Delem. He constantly cut off half the field, and the defensive work rate from his wing was a huge part of the first period success.

Alvaro was behind Delem, hustling to recover in the 5th. In the 12th minute he won a ball in midfield and played directly up to Bruin, who created a chance. Six minutes later it was Flaco who hustled back to win possession and start a counter. In the 25th Fernandez made a wonderful diagonal run, almost latching onto a Roldan pass over the top. In the 45th he was again making a smart run, and Morris found him into the box. His low/hard shot was not perfect, but it forced a very tough foot save from Melia who was leaning the other way.

Unfortunately, Alvaro got tired, and it showed in a shot right at Melia in the 63rd. I have no marks for the last 30 minutes of the game, and honestly thought he had subbed out. Re-watching I saw that his defense, which was so strong in the first half, was less effective, and the offensive output was negligible. I assume he was the guy who was going to sub for Dempsey if they had made it to 60 even or 1 down, and that would have been the right guy to pull off, as Flaco just disappeared after a really strong beginning.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 6 | Community – 5.8

This game Nico wasn’t too successful, with a mundane 82% passing and a single key pass, to go with a shot on goal. Early it was apparent that he was going to play from sideline to sideline, embracing his position as the center of the offense. He was very active across the middle and combined well with others to get into spaces, but with everyone sitting deep there weren’t a lot of options forward. Nico himself got into the box for a shot attempt in the 12th, but his five hole try was blocked. He did find Bruin in space in the 18th and his splitting pass into zone 14 finding Morris in the 27th was a tidy bit of magic.

It has to be frustrating to constantly have three guys on you, and SKC adjusted to do just that. Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, and one of the back four was almost constantly marking Nico in the second half. Even with this entourage, he led them around in circles and when he had a chance, he tried to use the open spaces behind them to find teammates. Unfortunately, there was a lack of support from them to utilize this space. Seattle definitely missed having an Alonso or Dempsey talent on the field to be a less direct option. I have very few notes for Nico in the second half. Some of the defensive stresses were partially due to his attempting to press high and be an offensive support to Bruin, forcing more work from central guys behind him. Lodeiro continued to work hard throughout the game and his motor continues to impress.

Jordan Morris – 5 | Community – 5.1 (off 77’)

In spurts, he looked like last year’s Morris: confident, assertive, goal-focused. At other times he looked, well, awful. He ended with decent passing numbers, a shot, and two key passes – showing a little more playmaking from a wide area than we have seen.

In the 7th minute Jordan got forward into space, looking as “wingery” as we’ve seen this year, culminating in a decent attempt to cross to Bruin from wide. Another “winger” play earned a corner in the 22nd minute. I don’t mind his 41st minute shot (even though it went into the solar system) as it showed a willingness to be direct like I’ve been hoping he would. By far Jordan’s highlight was spectacular vision to find Fernandez on the right in the 45th with Morris’ pass beating four defenders and setting up the best Seattle chance of the night.

One thing that really hurt the Sounders was Morris’ defense (or lack thereof). With everyone else on the field defending, I noted Morris stopping at the 18 and standing on defense as Fisher went against an attacker as early as the 2nd minute. He repeated this lack of effort in the 16th, 29th, and 39th, each time not only failing to support an entire team defense that was working hard, but standing and watching. In the second half, it looks like he moved himself to forward, forcing the non-winger Bruin to play his position for a while (Bruin looked confused and shrugged at the coaches on the sideline at one point). Part of the break downs on the left side were directly attributable to Morris not supporting Fisher, forcing the fullback into stressful situations (which he failed to handle). Jordan might have had a couple “winger” plays, but he defends like a center forward, and it hurt the team. He had little impact in the second half.

FORWARD:

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 4.7

With a fully defensive setup Bruin wasn’t going to see the ball much, but I thought he did pretty well moving to open others. His 35 touches were eight more than Morris and he had a shot and a key pass too. Much of the Seattle setup required defensive hustle from the front, and Bruin offered this. His off-ball runs were adequate.

Bruin really works hard but he needs service to be effective. A competent service from either wing would have resulted in a lot of opportunities for Bruin in this game. We need to chunk a few balls up to him and let him do stuff sometimes, even if it doesn’t always work. Will has a remarkable ability to win possession against multiple defenders and we fail to utilize him thinking “he’s covered”. One such example was in the 12th minute, when he looked to have defenders on him and Flaco chipped a speculative ball towards him. Will fought off two guys, won the 50/50, and played a wide ball to Nico, who got in on goal alone. Another deflection from a Fernandez shot saw Bruin against THREE falling down on the 6-yard box still managing to get a redirected header that nearly scored, just trickling wide. I think we need to just let him try stuff more; he has shown the ability to go into a crowd and make things happen. He did have a rough <60% completion rate but other than an 86th minute pass to no one after a nice turn there were no passes that were harmful. Bruin was just kind of there.

SUBS:

Harry Shipp – 5 | Community – 4.7 (on 72’)

On after the carnage to help calm things down and bring energy to the middle, Shipp did just exactly that. He controlled the center, stopped the runs vertically through his zones, and held possession. He was very clean (95% completion) and even pushed the ball forward into some of the holes in the middle. With the field opened late, it was nice to see Shipp finding strong passes and looking to attack, something severely lacking lately from him. He had an awful 80th minute pass to Roldan that started a counter but otherwise was fairly decent.

Seyi Adekoya – 4 | Community – 4.7 (on 77’)

Brought on for the lagging Morris, Adekoya didn’t look completely outmatched in his first MLS minutes. He obviously wanted to stretch the field some, but was a little lost finding his defensive duties. Seyi did have a golden opportunity to score in the 90th minute via a delectable pass from Roldan, but headed the ball down and directly to Melia.

Brad Evans – 6 | Community – 5.0 (on 78’)

Again, Evans subbed on for a few minutes and showed class. His good defending in the 80th was nice to see, although at that point SKC wasn’t pushing a ton forward. Perhaps more importantly for Seattle Evans looked really sharp going forward, with both 84th and 87th minute crosses being very dangerous. His service looks great from the wing and he is picking nice angles, earning a key pass for his efforts. I noticed in the 87th he was too slow to reach a pass and fitness is definitely a huge concern.

REFEREE:

Ted Unkel – 8 | Community – 5.4

Unkel was largely unnoticeable, which is what you want from a referee. I noted a few issues, but in general he let the players play and used his whistle and cards appropriately to keep the game under control.

In the 7th he smartly listened to his AR to call a goal kick not a corner, but then overruled the AR with his vision blocked in the 34th. In the 9th minute I might have shown yellow for hands to the face on Feilhaber who definitely was lucky not to have been carded. I suppose technically it’s right to blow the whistle at 45 minutes if you don’t think there’s time to add, but with Seattle setting up to take a corner it seemed punitive to call it at 45:04.

There were only a few miscalls, some behind the play stuff that both teams got away with but otherwise it was a clean game with a smart, assertive refereeing job. This was a breath of fresh air refereeing after recent past games.

SKC MOTM:

Gerso was an easy choice in this one, and he takes nearly 90 percent of the vote.


Must win game at home against RSL.