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March 29, 2011 at 8:35 PM

Sounders FC vs. Houston Dynamo, player ratings

leo houston.jpgPhoto credit: John Lok, The Seattle Times

These are a bit late since I couldn’t get to the tape until Monday night. Either way it should provide for some good discussion. How do you weigh activity vs. achievement (as Grant Wahl asked regarding a different game recently)?

My second look at this game really revealed much more than I remembered live. Some standout performances Friday, I thought, were really the less flashy ones — particularly in the middle with Osvaldo Alonso, who was spectacular, and Brad Evans in his return.

Both had numerous defensive wins in the middle of the field to prevent the Dynamo from doing anything. They also were quick to turn defense into offense. If you’re looking for the reason Seattle was able to create 26 shots and control the game, look no further than the center mids. Let’s get to it.

* * *

STARTERS

GK Kasey Keller — Not sure I’ve ever seen him less active in a game. That has to be nice — having little action in your defensive third — but it makes it difficult to grade. Only made one save and it was hit directly at him. Had to come off his line maybe once or twice. Hard to blame him for the goal either (certainly could have been had the free kick gone in). This should be more of an incomplete. 5

D Zach Scott — Only learned he was starting 15 minutes before pregame warm-ups. Deserves some credit for that. Effort, strength in the air and physicality are always constants with him. Did well to keep Brad Davis quiet. Gave the ball away quite a bit, but limiting mistakes on defense is really what he should be judged on. And he did. 5.5

D Jeff Parke — Set a high standard for himself in the New York game, but I don’t think he was nearly as strong Friday. Gave up a dangerous chance to Jason Garey in the 11th minute that could’ve been punished. Conceded a couple fouls and had a poor clearance here and there. Along with Ianni, lost Ching on an open header in the 86th minute. That said, he had several good moments as well and is always strong in the air. Very good in the possession game and distribution too. Had a header denied by the crossbar and always seems to get on the end of corner kicks. A mixed bag. 5.5.

D Patrick Ianni — Last five minutes of the first half were very forgettable. Had the foul that led to the free kick that led to the goal. Hit out at Will Bruin to earn a yellow card moments later. Had a number of good moments, but giving up set pieces was admittedly something Seattle wanted to avoid and the foul he committed ended up changing the game. It was his first action of the season though. 5

D Leo Gonzalez — Earned perhaps the most ridiculous card I’ve seen since, well, he got that red card against Chivas last year. When I watched his run into the box live, I thought it was a PK. I said it out loud in the press box. Upon looking at the replays, Hainault definitely missed the ball and caught him. Oh well. Was otherwise active in supporting the attack and strong in defense. Got a little lax at times in closing down space and was beaten a time or two in the end. Still a good night. 6

M Erik Friberg — Played his third position in as many games and went the full 90 again. Drew what was clearly a red-card offense on Hunter Freeman that the ref missed. Not sure how, Freeman was dragging his arm as he was in on goal. Oh well, again. Was mostly good on his crosses and set-piece service. Had a few giveaways but is a very clever and creative passer in the offensive third. Drifted to the middle often and, moved there officially in the 71st minute. Certainly did more than enough to get an assist. Always tracks back well and puts in work. 6

M Osvaldo Alonso — A phenomenal performance. One worthy of MLS team of the week for sure. Houston couldn’t hold onto the ball mostly because of him, and once he won it his distribution was great. A master at breaking up play and defensive anticipation. Had the steal that set up White’s strong header on the Friberg cross. Very strong on the ball in the possession game. Maybe had one giveaway. Maybe. Got forward well and might’ve contributed a goal or assist (if he had it would’ve been an all-time showing). Had some highlight-reel steals and runs forward. It’s time for fans around the country to pay more attention to this guy. 8.5

M Brad Evans (off 71) — Welcome back! Put in the second-best performance on the night I felt. Won a ton of balls in the middle and contributed all over the pitch. Had some dangerous moments in the attack, did very well in possession and did very well getting the ball the wings. Added a little more bite and grit to the midfield in keeping Cameron mostly quiet. Has a good understanding with Alonso so their positioning was always spot on. 7.5

M Steve Zakuani — Had the goal and, on this team, that can’t be understated. He’s the only Sounder that’s scored in the last five league games when you count the playoffs. Set up his teammates very well, including chances for Evans, White and Leo’s run into the box. Had several shots of his own too that he probably could’ve done better on. A very good performance but one that could’ve been exceptional had he taken other goal-scoring chances better. 6.5

F Fredy Montero — Continues to be active, but at some point it has to lead to production. Shots and shots and shot are great, but he’s missed them all since late August. On Friday they were either off target or at Hall. Energy, involvement and linking of play are all good, but his free kicks could be better. Almost looked like a midfielder for most of the game with how far he came back into the formation. His skill and ability are unmatched, but he needs to lead. There was definitely a goal out there for him against Houston. Being unlucky doesn’t hold up for 13 games. 6

F O’Brian White (off 61) — Has to be begging for answers from the soccer gods as to how he doesn’t have a goal yet. Beat Boswell on strength and speed early on but couldn’t get much on a shot. His powerful header off Friberg’s cross was directed right at Hall’s palm. Unfortunate. Had a teasing flick pass to Evans, but it was just a bit long. Stays strong in hold-up play and occupying the opposing center backs with a high line. Needs to be quicker and more decisive with his chances in the box. There was a goal out there for him too and, like Montero, that affect the grade. 5.5

SUBSTITUTES

F Nate Jaqua (on 61) — It was his first performance in a while, so we should probably be patient. Wasn’t super involved in his time. Provided glimpses though in how he’ll help the attack: hold-up play, being a target for crosses, but didn’t have the largest impact. 5

M Mauro Rosales (on 71) — Provided an immediate spark. Set up a Montero shot with great effort, then vision and skill. Drew some fouls. Crosses were OK. Puts the most into his minutes, that’s for sure, and could be in line for more. 6.5

COACH SIGI SCHMID

Starting Evans and Friberg were the right moves for my money. Got some impact off the bench. Not 100-percent convinced sitting Hurtado was the way to go — but certainly after El Presidente conceded two PKs in three games (including preseason) there was reason for concern. In the end, his selections dominated the game. Poor finishing and a few unlucky decisions from the ref canceled that out. 6

REFEREE RAMON HERNANDEZ

A poor night. The first really bad performance from an official this season and let’s hope there aren’t many more. Wishful thinking? I’ve discussed his errs previously. The non-red card to Freeman was the worst decision of all. Less so on the non-PK call, but it was still wrong. Hainault missed the ball. Enough said. Aren’t you supposed to get at least one of those calls at home? Anyways, he didn’t lose control of the game, but missed on the big decisions. 3

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