With Seattle en route to Mexico, I had some time to watch the tape of Saturday’s triumph against the Crew. The immediate thoughts: what a stellar performance by Blaise Nkufo, the referee was pretty bad and Sigi Schmid was right in saying the scoreline flattered his team a little bit.
That said, it was quite a night for Sounders FC nation. Four goals scored, largest margin of victory, fastest first goal — all team records in MLS games. I certainly thought Columbus did well enough to deserve a goal or two, but Kasey Keller instead put in one of his best games of the season.
While Nkufo talked down his performance in place of earning three points, I think the showing from the big forward was more important. With the DP in form and confident, Seattle could absolutely become a serious contender.
To the ratings:
* * *
GK Kasey Keller — A great performance that was certainly lost in the Nkufo heroics. Made five saves to earn the shutout and a couple of them (one on Schelotto and another on Gaven) were spectacular. Handled crosses very well also. Certainly one of his best showings this year. 8
D Zach Scott — Had a couple moments of shaky possession work to start. Was also dealt a difficult assignment too in marking Eddie Gaven. Overall I thought he was very strong. Good in the air, made some saving clearances, put his body on the line. Looked comfortable and a performance for him to build from. 6
D Jeff Parke — Flatfooted on an early Gaven shot. Had some bad passes from the back during that frantic stage in the first half. Was mostly good though, especially getting physical with Lenhart. I’m sure the booking he earned for a hard foul on the Crew forward was worth it just to get another crack on that guy. Not his best, but steady. 6
D Patrick Ianni — I thought he was the better of the centerbacks on the night. Consistently strong in his tackles, with good moments on the dangerous Ekpo and Schelotto. Always dominant in the air and errs on the side of caution. Wasn’t flawless, but still a very positive showing. 6.5
D Leo Gonzalez — In short, it was a struggle for the left back. Had some early giveaways and bad passes. Was also torched by Ekpo consistenly on his side, so much so Zakuani had to drop back and help. Settled down in the second half, but those minutes weren’t as meaningful. Did get ahead at times well later on too, but the abuse he took earlier stained his night. 4
M Osvaldo Alonso — I thought it was a sub-par game to his standard. Had a couple good moments of ball-winning in the middle, but not that many. Scuffed his shot attempts and had a number of giveaways and bad passes. Beaten badly by Ekpo and Lenhart at times. 5
M Nathan Sturgis — Good corner-kick service on first goal and also finished his penalty kick extremely well (a team first), so how’s that for an impact on offense? I thought he got lost for a lot of the first half. Other than that lapse, he was very positive. Got roughed up a couple times, but was a steady influence for much of the game with possession work and ball winning. 6
M Sanna Nyassi (off 66) — Yes, he makes mistakes, but most of them come from attacking defenders. Seems to get criticized a lot for imperfect play, but you want wide players to take chances and pressure backlines, which he does well. Had some good runs and solid combo play. Crossing left something to be desired — some shots too — but he earned the PK well. 6
M Steve Zakuani (off 88) — Struggled to get involved early. Was also forced into more defensive role with Ekpo ever dangerous on his side. Definitely got better as the game went on and was giving Hejduk fits in the end. Had a great assist on one of many dangerous runs. Had a decent scoring chance or two as well. 6.5
F Fredy Montero — I really got to appreciate the impact he had on the game after a second look. Helped set up the first goal by winning a header on the corner kick and forcing a scrambling save by Hesmer before Nkufo’s rebounds. On the third goal, he played the pass to Nyassi that sprung him toward goal. Then he had a great dummy to occupy the attention of the defenders and Hesmer as Nkufo finished off his hat trick. Put in great effort all game and probably deserved a goal of his own, if not for uncharacteristic misses. Was also hammered throughout the game without any protection from the ref — including a possible stamp from Schelotto. Really unfair in my opinion. He deserves better. 7
F Blaise Nkufo (off 79) — The star of the show and for more than just the goals. Made good runs and was always available. Great hold-up play, created space for his teammates and drew fouls. The first goal was one a good goal-scorer gets and you could just feel the relief in his wide smile. Second and third goals were world-class finishes that perfectly displayed his talent and pedigree. Might’ve had another goal or two in different circumstances as well. Won some defensive headers, as always. Crew tried to get physical with him often and he also took a cleat to the face at one point. It was his night. 9
M Alvaro Fernandez (on 66) — A very positive showing off the bench with 25 very productive minutes. Made a couple very dangerous runs on the right side and got up and down the field well. Helped set up a Montero chance in the 72nd minute. 6
F Nate Jaqua (on 79) — Had decent moments but not enough time to garner a rating. INC
M Roger Levesque (on 88) — Last year’s hero in Columbus spelled Zakuani late. INC
COACH SIGI SCHMID
If you don’t think he’s still a big deal in Columbus you should’ve seen his postgame press conference. That room was packed with reporters, and after a second-straight road win against his former club it’s probably deserved. Certainly the result of the year. A season’s worth of tinkering with the lineup has now found a very good mix and appears to be peaking at the right time. 8.5
REFEREE JAIR MARRUFO
I remember the game being physical. After watching the tape, Marrufo deserves the blame — he let it get out of hand. Missed several chances to book players throughout the game. O’Rourke deserved one. Hejduk too. Sounders were being thrown around all over the place, yet Seattle got two cards and the hosts got none. It’s laughable. Montero was thrown around. Nkufo too. Sturgis, Parke, Scott all also were roughed up with no protection. If not for the lopsided score I imagine we might have heard more about the ref. 2