Friday night in Commerce City, Colo., was a night I’ll never forget. Considering Brian Mullan’s horrid tackle on Steve Zakuani, I’m sure everyone there at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park feels the same way.
Just to see that happen to another human being is emotional. The unnatural sound from the hit — one that echoed in the stadium — continues to haunt me. The live images, too, as I’ve never seen a catastrophic injury like that. I’ll admit, it was extremely hard to focus on my game coverage afterward. I can only imagine how the Sounders were feeling on the field.
But somehow the road side escaped with a 1-0 win in a far-from-pretty performance. While the execution wasn’t masterful, to sneak out with that result is commendable considering the circumstances and that helps boost the ratings on what was a fairly average showing. The lack of possession and carelessness in the second half gets a pass this one time.
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GK Kasey Keller — Didn’t have so much to do to earn the season’s first shutout, especially in the first half when he just had to get off his line for a clearance and punch out a cross. That punching technique served useful in the final minutes to clear danger, even if some think he might’ve caught some of ’em. Was comfortable on shots from Larentowicz and Kimura. Nearly got an assist on some late distribution to Montero, setting up Alonso. 6
D James Riley — One of many solid defensive performances. Despite the lack of possession, Seattle didn’t allow many dangerous chances, so credit the backline. Had a number of solid tackles and headers. Even curiously switched to left back for a few minutes in the first half to spy Cummings after the red card. Had some saving tackles and a big blocked shot on Folan in the end. 6.5
D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado — Was matched up mostly with Omar Cummings and mostly got the better of the Jamaican. I remember his performance being better live, but he had a couple shaky moments compared to his mates in the back. Still a productive night, with strong contributions to the clean sheet. 6
D Patrick Ianni — Drew the primary assignment on the big, physical Folan and didn’t back down. Actually got into it a couple times with the Irish international. Made some critical tackles as well and is always strong in the air. Couldn’t get much on an offensive header won on a corner kick, but all in all, a very solid return to the lineup. 6.5
D Tyson Wahl — Perhaps the most surprising starter on the night and acquitted himself very well. Schmid said the team could use his passing and that’s precisely where he stood out. Very good with the ball and was especially strong in the accuracy of his long passes. Nearly got an assist on one to Montero. Also tough in the back. Was beaten a couple times early, but settled in well as the game went on. Might he be in line for another start? 6
M Osvaldo Alonso — An up-and-down performance from the Cuban. Not nearly as strong on the ball as he needed to be and has been. Forced Keller to come off his line for a frantic clearance in the first half. Inconsistency made it hard to keep possession. Long shots provided nothing. Defensive work wasn’t spotless and let a couple runners by him. Conceded a late corner kick that created unnecessary danger. Wasn’t all negative though and he had some good switches and tried to pick his spots to get involved in the attack. Nearly got a goal at the death, but maybe should’ve wasted some time or passed to Friberg. 5
M Brad Evans — Had his fingerprints all over the win in ways you probably didn’t catch live. With a tackle in midfield, he started the counterattack that led to the goal. He won a lot of duels (especially one defensively on the last dangerous Colorado corner kick to preserve the win and one offensively that nearly became an assist, but White was closed down quickly by Pickens in the box). Probably could’ve asserted himself better in the middle so the team could’ve maintained better possession. Had a couple inexcusable giveaways, including a particularly bad one in his defensive third in the second half. Drew a booking and escaped one early on. 6
M Mauro Rosales (off 74) — Moved to right midfield and always provides a lot of energy. Was active early and it paid off with an assist on the goal in the 19th minute to bolster the rating. That’s three primary assists in four starts. Productivity mostly fell off from there. Had a lot of giveaways and the combinations weren’t very successful. Roamed around the field, which creates for an interesting dynamic. Somehow escaped a booking for a rash challenge on Cummings. Set-piece service was fine, but not many great moments beyond the assist. 5.5
M Steve Zakuani (off 9) — Pure and simple, the victim of a malicious and dirty tackle. Mullan’s full body weight was behind a reckless challenge that hardly seemed directed at the ball. I’ve heard a lot of people defend Mullan as an aggressive-not-dirty player, but that’s the kind of tackle that instantly changes a reputation. Zakuani’s absence isn’t just a loss for Sounders FC, but everyone around MLS. He’s a great player, but also a phenomenal figure in the community. Many know him as a all-star caliber player, but he’s also a high-quality individual. I thought he was in line for a Best XI-type season. INC
F Fredy Montero — Very active in his long-awaited return to the starting lineup. Conditioning didn’t appear to be much of an issue at altitude as he routinely came back to defend. Work was rewarded with a 19th-minute goal that he might’ve been lucky to get past Pickens. Ending a long drought has to be nice, but he was one of many that struggled to get involved in the second half. Hold-up play was mixed. Didn’t have a lot of combinations and was booked in the end, but goals (especially game-winners on the road) are always big. 6.5
F O’Brian White — A poor night in terms up hold-up play I thought, but he was asked to do way too much of it. So many long balls were sent his way despite being up a man. The team should’ve possessed the ball better, but I felt he could’ve won more duels than he did. Wynne beat him for pace a couple times. Still did very well to start the counterattack goal with the run down the right side, which boosts the rating a tad. Definitely battled and kept pressure on the Rapids backline, but the effectiveness was very limited beyond the assist. If he’s not productive against his former team, Toronto FC, on Saturday I could see Nate Jaqua cracking into the side. 5.5
M Alvaro Fernandez (on 9, off 82) — An interesting 73 minutes, coming on as a sub and leaving as one. Was active and involved, but it was equally good as bad. Effort wasn’t an issue but effectiveness was. Lots of giveaways and inaccurate passes that teammates struggled to control. Had good moments as well, combining with White and Montero, but he had a chance to show he deserves to be the starting LM and I’m not sure he did. 5
M Erik Friberg (on 74) — Came off the bench for the first time this season and I didn’t have a lot of notes for him in his time. Had a decent enough cross at one point and was involved in some possession on the right. Could’ve had a wide-open chance in the final minute if Alonso finds him. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to see. INC
M Leo Gonzalez (on 82) — Interesting to see him as a midfielder, but I guess it worked out well enough. Fouled Wynne after losing a footrace he never would’ve won. Had some good defense on former teammate Sanna Nyassi. Not much else. INC
COACH SIGI SCHMID
The lineup changes were interesting. But Ianni and Wahl showed well and we had to see how Montero-Rosales would work together, right? Fernandez was probably the right choice to replace Zakuani even if he wasn’t super effective. Lack of possession was troubling, but outside circumstances surely made things tough to manage. In the end, leaving Colorado with three points leaves little to argue about. 6
REFEREE SILVIU PETRESCU
An up-and-down showing. Got the red card right, but some have wondered if a quick whistle on Wahl would’ve prevented the Zakuani injury. I’m not going to play that ‘What if?’ game and not sure many others than Mullan deserve blame for what happened. Otherwise was pretty inconsistent in my opinion. Evans and Rosales each could’ve and should’ve gone into the book. Neither team seemed thrilled with how he managed the game, but it wasn’t shockingly bad. 4.5
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What do you think? How did the qualifiers (injury, sloppy win, etc.) affect your rating of the game?