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Seattle Sounders vs. New York City FC: Player ratings

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Cristian Roldan proved himself to be the best swimmer in this ugly road loss.

Losing 1-2 on the road to a good New York City FC team is not a complete failure, but the Seattle Sounders were frustrated with the final result after taking a lead into halftime. Seattle is a finesse team that likes to keep the ball, work intricate passes, and utilize wide areas. Players like Nico and Joevin are completely nullified when their movement or speed is compromised, and the ridiculously unprofessional field condition really hampered the Sounders with narrow dimensions, various puddles and mud bogs. Anyone whining about the turf in Seattle should be forced to re-watch this game. I did watch it again, and there were some disappointing performances.


KEEPER:

Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.4

Frei was good, not great, in a game that just kept deteriorating in front of him. As early as the second minute he slipped on a short clearance and it immediately came back as a shot. In the 24th minute Frei was reduced to chunking the ball long and out of danger. In the 28th Stef did well with a tough back pass from Marshall, just clearing it long and again out of immediate danger. The rest of the half was spent organizing a bedraggled and soaked back line.

In the second half Frei was strong, and he had no real chance on either goal. In the 48th the short field meant Frei’s punch crossed midfield. Stefan came out nicely in the 79th, forcing an open Rodney Wallace into conceding a goal kick. In the 86th Frei came up big 1v1 vs ex-Sounder Sean Okoli from about 12 yards out. Frei finished the game off serving a perfect long ball to Marshall on the last play of the game.

Seattle could have adapted better to the field conditions. Why did we continue to play tight passes around the back when the field was begging for a less cultured approach? There is a time to keep possession and play short through your goalie and a time to just kick it up field; the upfield choice was superior almost immediately due to the conditions. Seattle took too long to adjust and Frei was as guilty as anyone else.

DEFENSE:

Joevin Jones – 4 | Community – 5.6 (off 81’)

These were terrible conditions for Jones, with the narrow field limiting any space to roam forward and the water hindering his few attempts to advance. He was not good at much of anything, and my notebook was riddled with examples of a guy who failed to adjust at all to the conditions.

Early on Joevin tried to step forward and attack, taking a few chances to get into the offensive third but only managed to lose the ball and put his defensive teammates in tough situations. In minute 22 he tried to recover via a slide in the box and NYCFC had a decent claim at a penalty that I believe contributed to a very soft call being made later in the match. In the 30th Jones dribbled into the box and lost possession, one of the few times he got forward effectively, and he had few ideas about dealing with the compacted field.

The second half was more of the same, with a 56th minute chunk ball directly to goalkeeper Sean Johnson followed by a 60th minute lost possession dribbling around midfield directly starting a New York counter. I liked his cross in the 64th minute but a low shot would have created so much more havoc for the opposing keeper in those conditions. Jones played ok defense on the second NY goal, but was turned by Jack Harrison and the opponent would both beat Joevin and serve up the game winning assist. After being part of a terrible set play cross in the 80th Jones was unceremoniously yanked a minute later. I don’t know how else to read that sub other than Jones was pulled for ineffectiveness, and his replacement showed what could have been for the left fullback position.

Chad Marshall – 7 | Community – 6.4

For as crazy as the field conditions were, Marshall didn’t have a ton of actions which is a compliment to his steady, pragmatic style. Especially in the first half, Seattle did a generally good job limiting touches for David Villa, and much of this was due to Chad blanketing the forward. Marshall can wrap his foot around an attacker attempting to post him up, and that’s exactly what he did in the 40th minute to win possession that eventually was converted to a Roldan goal.

The second half was a different story, as Chad battled both the Yankee Stadium infield disaster as well as a more mobile NY attack. He did show strong 1v1 defense in the 50th minute, though earned a yellow after the first Villa goal for having a strong opinion about the ref’s hairstyle. It’s telling that when Marshall was forced off with an injury after dealing with Tommy McNamara 1v1, NYCFC immediately had an open look on goal, with Maxime Chanot getting a free header off the subsequent corner.

Chad was often found pushing forward to win balls before opponents could get possession, and he missed an open header in minute 94 with a golden chance to salvage a point from this crummy game.

Gustav Svensson – 6 | Community – 6.5

While Marshall was slow and steady, Goose was much flashier, both good and bad. He led the team in tackles and did his best to work the ball forward in the mire of the field conditions. I liked his combination with Fisher and Marshall, often seamlessly moving around to support them. In the 2nd minute he slid behind Fisher as the younger defender stepped to the ball.

The Swede was victimized by Villa early; in the 6th minute Svensson dropped too far off the dangerous striker, allowing a shot. In the 14th Villa cut back, losing Gustav and opening space, and in the 19th Goose was pressured into mistouching a ball out for a needless corner. After these mistakes, the veteran defender adjusted masterfully and spent the rest of the game shutting down attacks. I was especially impressed in the 31st, when Svensson stepped forward to win a ball and jump start a counter for Seattle. After a terrible Alonso turnover in the 35th, it was Svensson who saved the day defensively. Right before half Villa got around the defender, but Gustav showed his deceptive speed and recovered nicely.

The second half was more of the same, with Goose getting the better of Villa in both the 50th and 65th. He did misjudge a header in the box in the 60th minute which led to a very dangerous chance but considering the conditions I thought Svensson was an average MLS CB on the afternoon.

Oniel Fisher – 6 | Community – 5.4 (off 82’)

Fisher was subbed out for a more offensive option, but I thought his 82 minutes were very strong and the sub tactical in nature. He could get into the attack often, didn’t settle for useless crosses and was solid on defense, leading the team in clearances.

In the 2nd minute Fisher was forced to play 1v2 defense and was perfect in his positioning, marking both but stepping to the ball authoritatively, allowing Svensson to slide across behind him. A minute later he overlapped well, filling the “width” and balancing out the Sounders attack. With few options in minute 9 I liked his choice to go direct, especially in the conditions. Oniel worked hard, rarely getting beat on defense and joining the attack in small positive ways, like a 27th minute chest flick to find teammate Shipp.

There was a 45th minute scramble around the top of the box where Fisher lost Villa and had to be saved by the crossbar, but otherwise I think Fisher was one of the stronger defenders for Seattle. He was victimized by a terrible call from the ref in the 52nd minute, and I can’t fault his play on that sequence. In the 60th NYCFC had a golden chance to add to their ill-gotten goal tally and it was Oniel who came out of nowhere with a fantastic recovery slide to deny an open Villa from adding to his total. I was pleased with this performance from the backup RB.

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD:

Osvaldo Alonso – 6 | Community – 6.0

Alonso struggled for much of the game, not with NYCFC but with the conditions. He was unable to get as many touches as he usually gets and you could tell he was frustrated by both the tiny, wet field and the unnecessarily physical play by the home team. He did lead the team in passes, but his completion rate was low, often due to the ridiculous pitch conditions.

The first half was up and down, with Ozzie making some good plays in the middle, like a 10th minute midfield steal, but then also some uncharacteristically terrible ones, such as a 35th minute giveaway inside his own penalty area. He was VERY lucky on that play, but it was around that time I noted his actions starting to get reckless; it was just a matter of time until he earned a yellow (48’).

The second half was a wet, gross struggle. Ozzie had a fantastic 70th minute run forward that included a give and go to Morris and one of Seattle’s few shots on goal, but there were few moments like these. After an 86th minute sliding defense Alonso was slow to cover Okoli, who burst into the box with a chance only the heroic Frei saved.

Cristian Roldan – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.6 (MOTM)

Roldan was everywhere on the field as usual, but this also meant more opportunity to lose possession from the murky pitch conditions. He was a consistent thorn in New York’s side, roaming around picking off passes. Roldan led the team in touches but his 60% completion rate was rough; playing in a bathtub during a hurricane didn’t help.

In the 3rd minute Jones was way out of position and the ever-willing Roldan slid over to cover. There were a lot of choppy plays in the midfield, such as in the 7th minute when Cristian beat a player in the midfield but was unable to release Morris on an inside out run, foiled by the super-mod sized field. After his flexing a few weeks ago everyone but Sibiga was aware of Roldan’s great balance and he was tremendous at a legal shoulder tackle that earned a 29th minute yellow card.

When given a chance to push forward in the 40th minute Cristian smartly continued his run, latching onto a loose ball, and surging into the attack. A delicate look over his shoulder froze the defender, allowing a perfectly placed low shot to open the scoring; this was a masterful finish from Roldan, the kind of finish I wish his buddy would make.

In the second half, I noted a 51st minute recovery against Villa in the box and a 54th minute cross on one of the few attacks Roldan managed to join, however there were no targets on the other end. Cristian did have a terrible back pass to Rodney Wallace in the 79th minute that required some Frei heroics to annul. Roldan was the best player of a group who didn’t do a ton to differentiate themselves.

ATTACKING MIDFIELD:

Harrison Shipp – 5 | Community – 5.2 (off 67’)

Shipp did his usual yeoman’s work, running off the ball to create space for others and turning in a hardworking defensive game. In the 5th minute he was back to help Fisher and these two did a good job shutting their side down for a majority of the match, contributing to NYCFC inverting their wingers in the second half. I liked a calm control in the 30th, followed by a left-footed switch far across field to get Jones into one of his few advanced attacks of the game; when Jones flubbed this chance, it was Shipp who then hustled over to cover for the left back.

There was improved connection between Harry and Clint, including a nice flick to Dempsey in the 40th that contributed to the Sounders’ goal scoring play. A few minutes later I was surprised by Shipp’s breakaway speed going forward, and if it weren’t for the conditions I’m convinced this would have been the play of the game. Seeing Morris beat a player on the wing Harry really puts it into gear, supporting perfectly to the middle of the field via burst speed I didn’t know he had and was in great position to control a nice pass from Jordan. Keeper Sean Johnson was charging out full bore and a bit recklessly and I think any touch in those conditions around the keeper would have earned a PK/red or in the least a wide-open shot, as Johnson was not balanced at all. Instead, the ball held up in a pothole and it was another “almost” for Harry.

We need more from Shipp. He is doing great things that go unnoticed every game, but if they aren’t ever utilized are they really great? At some point, he needs to be more goal-direct and realize the potential of all the good stuff he brings to the field.

Nicolas Lodeiro – 5 | Community – 5.8

This may be the worst grade I’ve given Lodeiro and I feel a little guilty about that. He wasn’t actively bad per se, but more than anyone else Nico was affected by the conditions. His amazing work rate was nullified, as there simply wasn’t enough space for him to move around. A field worthy of a monster truck rally destroyed his amazing touch and passing. Lodeiro is a finesse player and there was nothing about this game that supported precise soccer, and he paid for it.

In the second minute Nico was touched and went down early, which then became a plague. He went to ground in the 12th, 16th, and 39th, each time hoping for a whistle that never came. He must better adjust to the referee. In the 22nd his control failed him and the ball went out of bounds during an attack. Seven minutes later a terrible back pass forced Roldan into a yellow card foul trying to prevent a counter attack. Lodeiro was unable to get anything going, his forward connection nonexistent due to the lack of spacing and a field that begged more for a hopeful chunk forward than his precise through balls.

The second half was more struggling from the Uruguayan, with free and corner kicks going awry in the 66th, 77th and 79th, as well as repeatedly being caught in possession. Nico did manage 2 key passes, one from an 84th minute free kick that was put into a dangerous spot.

Clint Dempsey – 5 | Community – 4.5

When Seattle doesn’t play well Clint gets much of the blame, with fans usually relying on the same tired “not enough run-through-wallness” arguments. This game he deserved some of that criticism. It was not that Dempsey wasn’t trying, but there were a few times I expected more fire from a guy known for his temper. Like the other extremely skilled players on this team, the conditions had to be completely infuriating for a guy with Clint’s touch and technical skill.

Notes-wise Clint was actually pretty good, including some early pressing that earned nice chances in the 15th and 17th, the second earning a dangerous free kick. In the 23rd I noted Clint hustle and win the ball before finding Nico wide. Ten minutes later he got into a perfect spot for a shot on the 18-yard line and the ball completely sunk into a pit of grime, annulling any chance for Dempsey to shoot. This was a carbon copy of a shot I saw Clint bury in the first practice of the year, and his frustration with the pitch condition was visible. Dempsey was involved in the goal scoring play, first linking with Shipp, and then providing a cross option that pulled the defender away from Roldan, enabling space to shoot.

If the second half notes had been similar Clint gets a higher grade, but he was quiet after the break. Unable to get service with any regularity until Bruin arrived in the game, Dempsey got into good spots late but his run was often redundant with a teammate. Just like Shipp and Lodeiro, we need more from Clint, and he is tactically smart enough to adjust to more of a long-ball cleanup role. Since he didn’t do that, perhaps it was coaching that led Seattle to continue with possession-based soccer, a huge mistake in my opinion. Instead, Clint faded, earning few touches although he did lead the team with 5 shots.

FORWARD:

Jordan Morris – 4 | Community – 5.1

Morris likes to stretch the field and use his pace to get behind/wide of players. Throw that out the window on the postage-stamp-sized NYCFC pitch. Morris likes to run at people with the ball on his foot and work through balls. That was destroyed by the field conditions. And Morris had zero clue how to adjust. Like Jones, he became an afterthought, lost without any idea how to use his talents in adverse conditions.

Jordan touched the ball 35 times and had a single shot. There was a 15-minute stretch between a 31st minute drop off to Clint on hold up through a 44th minute play that he was strong both offensively and defensively. Right before half he lifted a dribble over a defender and finally found room to use his speed to get up the field, finishing the play with a perfect little dink cross right into the onrushing movement of Shipp. Unfortunately, the field was covered in suction cups of standing water that latched onto the pass and robbed Morris of an assist and Seattle of a 2-goal lead at half.

Otherwise Jordan was forgettable. I have no notes from him in the second half other than being late to a 65th minute far post cross. Morris couldn’t connect with teammates, impact the opposing defense, or do anything to change the game. At this point, there are few words left to describe his troubles, I just hope “maybe next game” it clicks. Talent is there, execution is lacking.

SUBSTITUTES:

Will Bruin – 5 | Community – 5.5 (on 67’)

I liked the idea of Bruin in this game, ostensibly adding someone to occupy the center backs better than Morris and provide a target to push long balls to. Then Seattle didn’t really do any of that, failing to utilize Bruin much at all after not subbing him in till later than I expected. In fact, he touched the ball a measly 3 times; one being a flick in the 69th immediately after entering that should have shown his teammates an effective strategy. I don’t understand why Seattle didn’t alter tactics. I also saw Bruin making redundant runs to Dempsey, one of which in the 89th led to him whiffing on a wide-open shot via a Wingo cross.

Nouhou Tolo – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 81’)

Chasing a goal on the road Coach Schmetzer chose to bring on the young Nouhou, which is a great compliment on his effectiveness lately. I thought Nouhou was exciting, earning a free kick immediately upon entering (although it wasn’t given). He brings flair, including an 84th minute backheel and 87th minute scissor kick clearance, although neither was perhaps the best choice in those conditions. Nouhou managed to play the same position as Jones and create much more excitement up the left wing, and although I’m not sure how dangerous he really was, it was a nice change of pace to the game.

Henry Wingo – 5 | Community – 5.3 (on 82’)

Another quality tactical change was the introduction of Wingo, who subbed in after being hurt for a while. He came in for a right back but looked to be playing more of a winger, at least I hope so as his defensive positioning was poor. He did show off great athleticism in the 88th and created a golden chance from the corner that was wasted by his teammates.

REFEREE:

Robert Sibiga – 3 | Community – 2.3

It’s not easy being a ref, and no one could be expected to be great in the deplorable conditions in New York, but man Sibiga sure struggled.

I thought the PK not given to Wallace in the 22nd minute was correct, but I definitely also think that sort of play sticks with some refs; when presented with another chance in the 51st minute he didn’t hesitate to change the entire game with a crummy penalty awarded. Even Villa was chasing the ball to take a corner and wasn’t even lobbying for a penalty! This was a terrible decision and the type of call that goes against a struggling team that allows opponents to stack up pressure against them for long stretches.

That was the big whistle of the game but the non-calls of the match were even more egregious for me. Until a late rush evened out the fouls a tiny bit NYCFC had committed over twice as many infractions as Seattle, with the away team getting 4 yellows to 1 for the home team. An example of the home cooking was Alexander Ring with 5 fouls called and another 4 more that were not, as well as 2 that were waved on for advantage.

Also, too many fouls is Nico RECEIVING NINE hacks. Persistent infringement also encompasses a single player being targeted, and if 9 fouls suffered isn’t targeting, I don’t know what is. This is a player injury risk and Sibiga was grossly negligent in not better protecting the athletes. Alonso deserved his yellow, but an Okoli foul in the 94th was a straight red in my opinion; there was no playing of the ball and it was very dangerous.

I have a ton of notes on fouls that were wrongly called but frankly, when Ring fouled Roldan in the 29th and didn’t get a yellow, followed a minute later by Cristian getting a card for similar play, followed in the 32nd by Ring AGAIN fouling Morris and still not getting a caution, I knew all I needed to know about the ref. He was bad, and that’s that.

NYCFC MOTM:

Despite many votes for various versions of the weather conditions and referee, David Villa came out the strong winner with about 75 percent of the vote.


I keep saying Seattle is good and then they give me a result like the one in New York. Again, can’t take a lot from that field and those conditions but ugh. Tonight is the Orlando game and I fully expect to take all 3 points, which will then put us right back into the Western Conference race and all will be well in the world.