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August 11, 2010 at 10:35 PM

Seattle Sounders FC 2, Houston Dynamo 0 — postgame thoughts and player ratings

Better late than never, I guess.

I thought this was a particularly impressive showing from Seattle as there were plenty of obstacles to overcome: a very physical opponent, inconsistent officiating and a surprisingly standout performance from Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.

In the face of that, the defense stood strong to earn its third shutout in four games and not allow a shot on goal. And, of course, the home side also had Fredy Montero, which while trying not to diminish the efforts of the other guys is a pretty big deal these days.

Sounders FC has earned 13 points out of 15 in the last five games, not bad at all…

* * *

STARTERS

GK Kasey Keller — No saves. One assist. Not sure what more to say. He had some nervous moments on all those many dangerous Houston crosses — mostly nervous good not nervous bad. Came off his line well. Also had the hopeful drop-kick that set up the winner. How do you grade all that? 6.5

D James Riley — Quietly becoming an indispensable piece of the team. Just look at the team’s minutes played to figure that one out. Had great moments on both sides of the ball. Knocking over Brian Ching while winning a ball in the air was an image that resonated with me. I always like how he takes advantage of the space available on the right wing week after week. 7

D Jeff Parke — Seemed like the game didn’t come much to him, maybe his growing reputation is playing a part in that. Was very steady and smart, as seen by playing Ngwenya offside on the Dynamo goal called back. Won nearly every challenge when he had to, but again wasn’t called on so much Sunday. 6

D Patrick Ianni — Shouldered more of the load in the middle of the defense. Also man-marked Ching on most, if not all of the set pieces. Thrived in a game that was physical and had a couple very crucial, saving tackles. Also had a strong sliding-challenge on Ching, maybe 80 yards from his own goal. A standout night. 7.5

D Leo Gonzalez — I thought early on he was getting caught ahead a few too many times and Houston was able to get in behind him. Got beat a couple times as well 1v1 and the Dynamo did better attacking on his side. Rough waters smoothed out as the game went on. 5.5

M Osvaldo Alonso — Ever relentless in the middle. Exerted himself well and won a lot of possession for Seattle. Always willing to sacrifice his body to block a shot. Also launched quite a few shots on goal and might’ve had a goal on any other night. His return from injury has not gone unnoticed. 7

M Nathan Sturgis — Had a few more giveaways than usual, but continues to do a number of things well. He combines well with everyone (defenders, forward and other midfielders) and does a great job of distributing to the wings and forwards. Wins balls and draws fouls. Probably got fouled more than the ref gave him credit for. Crosses were OK as well. 6

M Sanna Nyassi (off 85) — Was a little shaky early, not in getting involved but in produced poor crosses and made some poor decisions. Stayed an important part of the Seattle attack for nearly all his minutes, however. Contributed on defense as well. Got much better as the game went on and was very strong in the second half. 6

M Steve Zakuani (off 69) — Another player who was much stronger in the second half, but struggled to get involved early. Did have an ankle-breaking move on Danny Cruz in the first half. I thought sometimes he drifted too much to the middle, but that’s what happens when you struggle for service. Had a breakaway moment, but couldn’t put it away in what turned out to be not a memorable night. 5

F Fredy Montero — What more can we say about this guy? Incredible game-winner. Set up two teammates on breakaways (one was finished and one wasn’t). Also set up Nkufo with an open moment in the box. The combination of scoring and playmaking is incredible. Couple that with the defensive work he’s putting in, it’s MVP quality. At one moment Nyassi made a run from the right wing to the left side of the field but the ball was given away. Montero noticed the hole of defense and ran over to the right side immediately to help slow down a Dynamo attack. Not sure he would’ve done that 3-4 months ago. I can’t say he’s emerging as a leader and a star in MLS because he’s done that already. 8.5

F Blaise Nkufo (off 87) — If this chiseled veteran was getting knocked to the ground so easily, imagine how any other player would’ve handled that physical abuse. Either way, the roughing up by the Dynamo defenders did limit his effectiveness. Had a couple moments near the goal, but couldn’t convert. To his credit, he was available on a number of instances at the back post, but the service never got there. 5.5

SUBSTITUTIONS

M Alvaro Fernandez (on 69) — Had a couple positives moments in his first minutes, winning a ball in the air and getting involved. Thought he kept the shape well and stayed wide. Scored a good goal, but rightly credited Montero in the celebration. Another strong showing. 6.5

M Michael Seamon (on 85) — Came on to help seal the win. Had a shaky clearance that nearly resulted in danger. INC

F Nate Jaqua (on 87) — Had the second assist on the breakaway goal by Fernandez. Not much else to do in five minutes. INC

COACH SIGI SCHMID

Deserves credit for sticking with a lineup that’s working. Also deserves credit for the improved play of Montero and Nyassi. Two of the three subs played a part in the final goal and his team got the three points, which is all that really matters. 8

REFEREE MICHAEL KENNEDY

Woefully inconsistent. Had both teams upset with him after this one, which is a tell-tale sign of a bad night. Allowed the game to be played quite a bit too rough, as a result the game got out of hand at times and he had to dish out a bunch of cards. Sometimes early on it’s better to whistle a foul to send a message instead of playing advantage, which I thought he did too often. Also missed a clear booking on Nyassi that the fourth official had to call for him. 3

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