I hadn’t been able to watch the tape of a Sounders FC win in a while, but I have to say, Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Chicago wasn’t much different than how the team has played all season. This time a pair of early chances were buried and Seattle was able to hold on — it’s an uncomplicated formula that had alluded them until now.
While the Fire had some good moments and played well, the result was a deserved one for Sounders FC. Call it a tough, block-a-shot-with-your-face type of performance to protect the lead in the second half. The front six (forwards and midfielders) had another good showing together and the back one (goalkeeper Kasey Keller) had a day to remember.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was very strong in his return to the field and the emergence of Mauro Rosales brings with it some tough lineup questions to be answered soon with Fredy Montero expected to come back this week. Should be interesting, but let’s get to it.
* * *
GK Kasey Keller — Surely his best game of the young season and one of his better efforts since coming to Seattle. I wrote about his exploits here, but upon second viewing we might have to amend the evaluation a tad. While the tape was inconclusive, it appears as though Patrick Nyarko was whistled offside before Diego Chaves’ shot in the 59th minute — the one off the deflected free kick that Keller stopped brilliantly with his left hand. Some Sounders players were pointing to the linesman after the play, as if to indicate the flag was up (would’ve been the right call, Nyarko was offside and involved in the play). Then Keller took a free kick, despite having the clearance seemingly go out for a corner kick so I believe it probably was called. So here’s the debate: If the goal would not have counted, we have to ignore the save in our ratings, right? You can’t give a forward credit for a goal that doesn’t count. That isn’t to say there wasn’t more to appreciate. Big stops in the 62nd and 66th minutes preserved the result as well. First half was almost dead quiet, but he came out to handle crosses and corner kicks well throughout. Couldn’t be asked to do much on the goal. 8
D James Riley — I thought it was one of his better games of the year defensively. Took Marco Pappa almost entirely out of the game. Was physical with the Guatemalan and didn’t give him an inch. Took a yellow card, but that’s fine. Still has a giveaway or two too many for my liking. Also fared worse against Nyarko in the second half, including a missed tackle that led to a breakaway. Launched another long-range shot into the stratosphere, but continues to be very strong in the air defensively. 6.5
D Jeff Parke — It was hard to really see what happened on the Chaves goal. Did they tangle feet? Did he get tripped? Either way he was face-first on the pitch as the Uruguayan scored the equalizing goal for Chicago. Seemed to be a little frantic early, with some poor long balls and clearances. Took one for the team though in the 52nd minute, blocking a Mike Videira shot with his face. Despite the blow I thought he was strong in the end. As always, wins several headers and physical challenges. Had a scoring chance on a corner kick, but his snap header was right at Johnson. 5.5
D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — I left the stadium Saturday knowing he had a good game, but it really stood out upon second viewing. Put a foot wrong only a couple times when Puerari won a 44th-minute header off him and then the breakaway chance that Keller saved. Other than that it was vintage. Extremely strong in the air and had some saving tackles. Booked mainly due to Chaves’ theatrics. Was put to the test and was up to it. 7.5
D Leo Gonzalez — A tough one to grade because he was on the wrong end of some poor decisions from the referee. Was whistled for fouls that were mostly flops, but he didn’t adjust to how the game was being called and the antics of the opponent. Also didn’t bother or pressure Nyarko at all on the cross for the goal. Had good moments as well and nearly got an assist on the cross that helped set up Friberg’s open-net chance. A mixed bag. 5
M Osvaldo Alonso — Always steady, but couldn’t quite break up the counter-attack on Chicago’s goal. Activity in the middle is certainly his trademark and he didn’t disappoint. Tenacious in defense and available in possession. Master at winning second balls. Had a couple giveaways, which is concerning, especially one right in front of his goal that was particularly poor. Earned a rating boost in the last 10-15 minutes when he was everywhere — blocking shots with his face/arm, winning tackles and even making a dangerous run at the end (nearly finishing it with a clever chip). 7
M Brad Evans — Another do-everything night. Won a massive amount of headers, both defensively and then offensively on the far post to keep some crosses alive and create danger. Another guy who’s always available in the possession game and it shows. Took a knee to the back at one point and was also clearly fouled at the edge of the box in the second half (no call on either). Slid into a center back role a couple times, first with Parke out briefly and then at the end. Did the little things again and was better in possession than he was against San Jose. 6.5
M Erik Friberg — Performance will be remembered mostly for missing a wide-open net on a volley chance. That play gets a lot more attention if Zakuani doesn’t score a couple minutes later and can’t be ignored. I thought he had more giveaways and poor crosses than usual. Had positive moments in possession as well and foresees passes and runs that others don’t. Roamed around the pitch at times, but I thought his effectiveness was limited. Could be the odd man out when Montero comes back. That would be how I solve the lineup question, with Rosales sliding into the right. 5
M Steve Zakuani — Had the great goal, but it can’t be forgotten that he had the giveaway in midfield that led to Chicago’s. It’s a trend in Seattle’s midfield that has to be corrected. That said, he was ultra-dangerous again. The calm finish to the near post on the goal was first-class. Also put in some behind-the-scenes work to set up the first goal. Had some good playmaking moments, but White couldn’t capitalize on some. Spun Logan Pause like a top in the second half but the shot was wide. Continues to be massively dangerous for a wide player, leaving some to think this has to be his last year in MLS. Giveaway prevents a higher rating. 7
F Mauro Rosales (off 64) — I can’t see how this guy comes out of the lineup. Extremely active and effective. That’s two assists in two games and could easily be more — Friberg’s empty-net miss prevented him from another. The weight of the cross to White was important to produce a strong header. Tracked back a couple times as well. Set-piece service was mostly good. Very good at keeping possession and drawing fouls. Wins a lot of second balls. All his assists have come from the right channel, so I anticipate him moving there going forward. Even slid over there a handful of times Saturday. 7
F O’Brian White (off 81) — Easily his best performance of the year. The header was phenomenal: wins it between two defenders, great snap to power it home, also got a little curve to it. It’s a chance not many can score off of. The touch on his assist to Zakuani was also very impressive. It’s not as easy of a pass as it looks (especially on turf) and the quality allowed Zak to need just one touch before the shot. But his influence was strong besides on just the scoring plays. His defensive effort and pressure always result in a few giveaways and present lots of problems to opposing back lines. His holdup play was strong again as well. Second-half impact dropped a bit, but he took a knock that slowed him down. Still had a massive influence in the game. I’m giving him Co-Man of the Match with Keller. As good as Kasey was in the second half, White was equally as good in the first. 8
F Nate Jaqua (on 64) — I’d been a little dismissive of his impact in earlier games, but he was very good Saturday. Active up front and was a pest to opposing defenders with fouls and headers. Threw his body around. Had a phenomenal pass set up Zakuani on the break. Also found Carrasco on a break, so that’s two potential assists. Put some wear on those legs in the minutes he was in and it was definitely his best showing so far this season. Might both target forwards be upping their game as a result of the other? 6.5
M Servando Carrasco (on 81) — Wild 10 minutes for the rookie in his home debut. Rolled a shot wide on an open chance and barely escaped ejection for a rash challenge on Nyarko. Probably wasn’t intentional but I think it should have been a red card. INC
COACH SIGI SCHMID
Picked the lineup I would’ve, for whatever that’s worth. I wasn’t sure at first about benching Hurtado, but the Colombian’s form was much better in his return than he had been. Getting Jaqua on early was a good move. The only thing I might’ve done was get Patrick Ianni in late for extra defensive help. In the end it’s a win and a much needed win. Defensive concerns remain an issue though. 7
REFEREE HILARIO GRAJEDA
A lot of people were content with the performance, but I wasn’t as much. He was willing to wag his finger at divers, but not nearly enough. The booking to Hurtado was a result of falling for theatrics. Also whistled Seattle way too often for flopping Fire players. On the other end, should have sent Carrasco off for digging his studs into Nyarko’s leg. Didn’t impact the result of the game, which is what you want, but I wanted to see better. 5
* * *
As always, the floor is yours in the comments section…