This was a strange day in Sounderland.
In the first half, the side played some of the most exhilarating football seen by them in memory. Then they decided to produce it less and less frequently as they allowed an initially pedestrian looking Portland as much possession as they required.
The visitors got better and better and gained confidence with having so much of the ball but met with some excellent performances by defenders.
A hard game to rate because some of the best actions came from the same player who made some of the game’s howlers, John Hurtado.
Sounders FC (v Portland) Player Ratings
Mike Gspurning 6/10: Gspurning showed his attention and focus is as good as ever with a smart early save. An error there could have changed the direction of the match. A remarkably easy day for the amount of possession Portland had until the men in front of him switched off once too often.
DeAndre Yedlin 6/10: The youngster forced Nagbe inside early but later fouled badly when chasing back after another Hurtado giveaway. That said, where there were defensive errors, they were not coming much from the least experienced Sounder on the pitch. Portland’s possession advantage gave him little chance to go forward.
However his confidence is clearly high as witnessed by another attempt at a long distance effort.
He later explained that the home crowd has played a part in persuading him to give it a go:
“I heard the crowd get a little bit louder but mistimed it unfortunately. It was both (their and my decision). I wanted to give something to the crowd. Maybe the next one.”
There is nothing wrong with the lad’s confidence. And rightly so.
Marc Burch 6/10: Burch played a good early ball which Johnson ran well to collect. He looked good in distribution henceforth, finding Johnson on yet another occasion when the forward made another enterprising run. Burch seems ready to deal with the new Eddie Johnson and his hitherto unheard of wide runs. He also handled the nearly invisible Diego Chara well.
The fact that Leo Gonzalez is suddenly playing his best Sounders football should also keep Burch on his toes.
Djimi Traore 7/10: This was his home MLS debut. His first contribution was of the unheralded type where you only get noticed when you mess up. He didn’t. Traore played a superb offside trap to render Ryan Johnson’s collection ineffective. Had he got that wrong, Sounders could have been in trouble.
Generally, he marshaled Ryan Johnson well. Traore also made another great interception in the second half to cut out a dangerous cross. The start has been encouraging and a lesser player would have buckled under the amount of possession the home side surprisingly surrendered in the second half.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 5/10: This was without doubt the hardest player to grade. Hurtado did some wonderful things, saving his club on several occasions. He also made some terrible errors. Only one certainty can be voiced about his performance; that he was never invisible or out of the eye.
Where to begin? He could have conceded a penalty with an unwise tackle on Ryan Johnson in the 27th when the forward had his back to goal. When the forward is facing away from goal, it is rarely smart to lunge in, even when you can get the ball. His first foot scooped the ball away cleanly but his second leg clattered into Johnson. Kevin Stott cut him a break. It was still not a smart move.
That apart he had a very good first half. He was always involved, although he still gave away the ball too much. As if Alonso doesn’t have enough to do, he’ll have to add collecting the ball from Hurtado to his list of duties. Or everyone should just stop passing to him. It’s a weakish part of Hurtado’s game.
On the upside again. he made a brilliant interception to deny a breakaway which you cold term a goal saving one, then he superbly marshaled Diego Chara out of play on one of the few occasions his frustrated Colombian compatriot got involved.
On one further occasion, he closed Harrington down so well that the blond defender was reduced to firing in a hopeless high cross that Gspurning pouched easily. It looked like confident keeping but it was Hurtado’s persistence that forced Portland to abandon neat possession and just fling it in.
Hurtado’s grade swung like fruit from a tree on a windy day until the concession of a goal. He gets a 5 but that doesn’t tell the whole story. However, the blame boys now seem to be targeting him. There may be rough waters ahead now for this Kennedy.
Mario Martinez 3.5/10: (off in 69′) There was literally nothing written by Martinez’s name by the time his disappearance from the game had to be noted here.
Most of that is down to Michael Harrington who marked him superbly, but also a little to Sounders reasonable pre-game plan that Zakuani v the right back (presumably Ryan Miller) was a more likely path to glory. In the end, although Miller did not play and Zemanski did, it was a fair assumption.
Martinez did nothing wrong. He just did nothing. Alex Caskey, get your boots polished.
Osvaldo Alonso 8/10: This was the Cuban Master at his best. Yes, he fouls opponents a great deal and skirts with yellows and reds but it can be no coincidence that he reads referees well enough to maximise his disruption to the opposing team while remaining on the pitch. That is the mark of a clever player, not a lucky one.
On one occasion, he produced some great defending to chase back and cover for all four defenders when Ryan Johnson was clean though.
Then drew a free kick purely through the frustration he engenders in opponents.
He charged down set pieces twice in the opening half and again in the latter. Poor set pieces by the opponent? Perhaps, but the wee man still has to put his body on the line which he does time after time for his club. Then he dispossessed the classy Piqionne effortlessly in 85.
Repeatedly on occasions too numerous to mention, Alonso was at the centre of events, cleaning up messes or cleaning out opponents. He remains pivotal to everything the side does on the pitch.
As an aside, having Andy Rose on the pitch didn’t affect him at all. That’s only worth a mention because Jack Jewsbury and Diego Chara’s inability to co-exist without diminishing each other’s effectiveness has been a recurring issue for the Timbers. Alonso just adapts as he does to the circumstances surrounding every game.
Steve Zakuani 6.5/10: (Off in 81′) It’s getting better and better for Zakuani. However he still needs to have those games where he is fed possession relentlessly for us to see him at his best. What he did on Saturday, he did well but there just wasn’t enough of it.
Sounders playing a containing game as they did in the second half just does not suit him. Tucking inside when Johnson makes a wide run to the left does though. This may be the new trick that the old dog has been needing to learn. Exciting times are ahead for Zakuani but the club’s tactics on the day didn’t help.
Andy Rose 6/10: In the first half, he stopped tracking Nagbe back and and was very luck to see the forward just fail to connect. That apart his effort level was good and he played as big a part as anyone rendering Portland’s bulk of possession mostly useless.
He will have more freedom on the occasions that Alonso is not on the pitch but his increasing experience means that any future life without Alonso does not seem perhaps the cataclysm it once did.
Eddie Johnson 8/10: Johnson’s first half showing was as comprehensive as any seen from him in his Sounders days. Time after time, he stretched the Timbers defence as he sought good positions to receive the football. Marc Burch found him twice and Zakuani once when he was standing out on the left wing. The work rate was tremendous as was the intelligence. Perhaps the signing of Martins has focused him?
He induced a yellow from Baptiste which could have been a red on another day. On another occasion he burned up Baptiste in another pulsating run on stoke of half time. At one point, he also headed behind to clear the danger from a Portland corner.
He was also in the right place at the right time for the goal.
The second half, alas, was not so good to him although the introduction of Obafemi Martins briefly perked up Seattle as an attacking force. He arrived just a little too late to connect with one further cross but was right not to lunge as he had no chance of reaching the ball and could have injured himself in the process.
Sammy Ochoa 4/10 : (off in 60) Ochoa huffed and puffed but never looked like blowing the house down. His 20th minute stamp on keeper Donovan Ricketts seemed innocuous at first but looked more sinister with every replay. Martins’ arrival pushed Ochoa down the pecking order. He will have to play his way back up it in the Open Cup.
Mauro Rosales 5.5/10: on in 60′ – By the time, the overworked playmaker arrived, Sounders were mostly surrendering possession. The jury is still out on how much Rosales has left to contribute in his Seattle career on the pitch.
Obafemi Martins 6.5/10: on in 70′ – His arrival energised the crowd. One inspiring moment came as he produced the cross which could have brought Johnson the winning goal. There will be plenty time to write about Martins’s exploits in ratings to come. It was his presence more than his exploits that illuminated Saturday night.
Alex Caskey (no grade): on in 81′ – Possibly he was inserted too late. Martinez’s poor show opens up the chance for more league minutes soon.
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