Portland v San Jose Player Ratings
by Chris Hardwicke, Jeld Wen Field
Donovan Ricketts, GK – (7) Alert and on point from the start, and not all playing like a keeper with nothing to lose. His little juke move on Steven Lenhart in the 14th was particularly entertaining. However, his foul on Lenhart later in the match was not, leading to Chris Wondolowski’s record tying 27th season goal on a penalty.
It appeared that Ricketts got to the ball first, and that any foul that was committed was soft at best, and that is was simply aggressive but legal goalkeeping. For the rest of the match, he made some amazing saves that only a skilled keeper with height could make, and that clearly kept more goals out of the net.
Kosuke Kimura, D – (5) Kimura didn’t play quite as well moving forward as Smith, but he certainly held his own. In the second half, there was not a whole lot of spark to his play or improvement. He continued to switch successfully between defense and midfield and into the attack, but any effect he had was negligible. His distribution and passing was not where it needed to be, however. Not surprising he was subbed off in the 86th after duffing a routine pass well out of bounds.
Andrew Jean-Baptiste, D – (5.5) For a player who hasn’t seen much time on the pitch this season, he marked his assignments quite well, especially early. He also had some good offensive moves, fighting off two defenders and taking a good crack at goal in the 38th. Throughout the rest of the match, you could tell that this young man wants a shot at the starting eleven in 2013. If he continues to develop like he did last night, Jean-Baptiste has a definite future in Portland.
David Horst, D – (7) The Captain’s armband looked good on him and his play, for the most part, earned the honor. His first half performance may have not been stellar or pretty, but he certainly did his job. Horst is developing well as a staunch defender. It’s questionable whether Horst is at fault for allowing Steven Lenhart to go one-on-one with Donovan Ricketts, or whether it was simply a lucky ball for San Jose. Either way, it shouldn’t count as a major mark against Horst, who certainly earned the armband in his first ninety minutes with that honor.
Steven Smith, D – (5.5) As usual, a big factor if moving the ball forward but played sticky defense in his corner of the pitch. It was a strong first half performance from the Scotsman. This trend continued in the second. His offense shined in the 68th as he nearly slotted a cross-style shot behind Jon Busch. Smith is a player that has a gift of performing well on both sides of the pitch. His play moving back into defense and holding ground is solid, but probably needs more work in the offseason. He moves into the attack more like a left mid and not a defender. That side of his game is doing just fine.
Sal Zizzo, M – (6) Zizzo’s crosses were crisp and on target for the most part. His defense could use a little catch up as his clearance in the 28th was to the center of the pitch and top of the box. This very nearly led to a 2-nil San Jose advantage. He also misfired a cross on a great chance to Dike and he skied it. The offering from Zizzo last night was mixed. He had his moments of brilliance that have elevated him this season, but we also saw a lot of preventable mistakes. Expect to see him back as a starter in 2013, but expect him to train hard in the offseason.
Eric Alexander, M (Off, 78th) – (5) Absolutely invisible in the first half. Alexander was not in his natural position as a central midfielder and never seemed to be near the play. As the second half got underway, we saw Alexander and Nagbe switching over a bit more and that seemed to be a bit more natural for both players. Alexander didn’t have any touches or plays that figured as a major factor in the match, but once he found his natural position, his quality improved. Whether he will get the nod as a starter in 2013 is yet to be seen.
Diego Chara, D – (7.5) Chara has found an ideal position as a defensive midfielder, and he also seems to end up all over the field when needed. He is proving to be the secret weapon player that every MLS team needs. Not only does Chara perform his assignment with a near 100% score, he always goes above and beyond while making few mistakes. He also played the role of punching bag and absorbed a lot of punishment, a role he has assumed in many other games. Clogging up the center of the midfield and distributing when and where the ball is needed is his job and he did it well. It’s an added advantage when a player like Chara consistently goes above and beyond. His Supporter’s Player of the Year honor is well deserved.
Darlington Nagbe, M – (6) Starting Nagbe on the wing, out of his natural position, did not play to his natural skill as a player. Despite some good runs and the usual fancy footwork, he often didn’t seem to be in position when he really needed to be. As the second half started, Alexander and Nagbe began to switch a bit and the results was more continuity and better touches for both players. As a result of this, Nagbe gradually found his rhythm and started contributing to plays in a manner that was worthy of his talents. I can respect the idea of trying new things with new players, but confining Nagbe to the right wing certainly was a failed experiment.
Bright Dike, F (Off, 80th) – (7) Aggressive and bullish from the first minute. His challenge on keeper Jon Busch in the 16th was a good example of his style of play. In the first half, he was clearly the dominant forward for Portland as all the service came to him and left Danny Mwanga in the cold. Dike capitalized on his preferential treatment as he sent two shots on goal in the 67th. Busch blocked the first, but left it in play and Dike made him pay.
Dike is, without a doubt, the player to beat for starting forward in 2013. As Gavin Wilkinson put it after the match, “He is like a bull in a china shop…I have heard stories from defenders around the league who don’t enjoy playing against him.” This style of forceful play and blowing through defenders will make him a dangerous weapon for Portland next season.
Danny Mwanga, F – (5.5) Also, invisible in the first half. Dike was getting all the action up top, and instead of trying to be the “other forward”, Mwanga could have done better to feed plays to Dike or play them back into the mid. Trying to be a second option clearly didn’t work in the first half.
Second half play saw him a bit more involved, but he duffed a play that led to a long ball to Lenhart who teed off on Ricketts. Thankfully as the half went on, Mwanga did seem to settle in a bit behind Dike, and the results were certainly more fruitful. It would have been wise for Mwanga to use this strategy for the entire match. It was also fortunate that Mwanga and likely the coaching staff alike saw the need to use a second forward for distribution and as an assist man for Dike. The classic two guys up front isn’t a formula that works for Portland.
Kalif Alhassan, M (For Alexander, 78th) – (4.5) Alhassan has not seen the pitch in quite a few matches, and his rust certainly showed in his first few touches. His passes and distribution also seemed a little off. Though he maintained his position and played with spirit, Alhassan clearly needs time on the pitch to dazzle like he has in previous matches.
Mike Fucito, F (For Dike, 80th) – (5.5) Fucito didn’t have a whole lot of touches, but he played with his usual speed, aggression and style. He had a run or two that had potential, but nothing was able to come of it. Had he been granted more than just ten minutes plus stoppage, he may have had more to offer.
Brent Richards, D (For Kimura, 86th) – (6.5) Richards played aggressive and pointed football from his first seconds on the pitch. Particularly impressive was his offensive attempt in stoppage time that lead to a corner. Only a few minutes on the pitch for this young man, but some very impressive touches and moves.
Despite the limited minutes he has played this season, he shows a spark that will certainly play a big part in seasons to come. There is a lot of raw talent there that while it may be recognized, it has yet to be seen on the pitch. 2013 might be Richards’s year as he may be a quicker, craftier, and more aggressive (though certainly less experienced) option than Kosuke Kimura.