By Michael Ligot, Seattle Editor
Let’s do something a little different in reviewing the Seattle Sounders FC’s individual player performances in their efficient-if-slightly-wobbly 1-0 victory over Chivas USA. Along with subjective player ratings, we’ll also include their objective, analytics-based Castrol Index ratings for the season prior to the game (found at castrolsoccer.com and mlssoccer.com/castrol). The closer to 1,000 points, the closer to the ideal player, with weighting given to more minutes played. For comparison, the top three MLS players this season to date per Castrol Index scores are Marco Di Vaio (819), Donovan Ricketts (816) and Robbie Keane (815).
Michael Gspurning, GK — 5. With only one of Chivas’ 13 shots coming on target, Gspurning simply had to be in the right place at the right time, and that he did. He ran his penalty area well, stopped a late effort when two Chivas players at the left post were in position for a cross, and showed much Kasey Keller-like fire at his defenders when they started wavering in the second half. Docked points for letting the ball slip on the last play of the game, which should’ve been penalized (foreshadowing alert). Castrol Index season rating: 636, from 1,755 minutes. (Note: His 1,083 rating from Saturday’s Columbus game was eighth-highest in MLS that week.)
Zach Scott, D — 6. With Leonardo González suspended, conventional wisdom had March Burch at left back. Instead, Sounders Head Coach Sigi Schmid inserted Scott there, for most likely the first time in his MLS career. It worked. Right midfielder Carlos Alvarez could only make 14 passes, and right forward Julio Morales just got one shot. Scott proved he’s the most versatile defender on the team. Castrol Index season rating: 504, from 1,101 minutes.
Djimi Traoré, D — 5.5. After his worst outing of the season against Houston, Traoré’s back to his old, excellent self. The longest legs this side of Cameron Diaz broke up six passes, some of them at least three feet high, and intercepted three more. Seemed to lose effectiveness toward the end, perhaps due to his recent injury. Castrol Index season rating: 484, from 1,783 minutes.
Patrick Ianni, D — 5.5. Imagine if Ianni had been healthy during the Sounders’ bad start. The quietly efficient central defender recorded two good breakups in first half, got a nice header off a set piece, and consistently passed the ball out of danger (33 completions from 45 attempts). However, he was out of position when Mario de Luna narrowly missed tying the game from a Goats set piece. Castrol Index season rating: 195, from 360 minutes.
DeAndre Yedlin, D — 6. For such a slight player, he’s developing a physical game, forcing Bryan de la Fuente into a harmless cross and muscling Morales off the ball. His offensive game continues to shine, proven with his continual running around de la Fuente and right defender Marky Delgado, whose foul on Yedlin led to the free-kick goal. The next step involves consistency and not panicking when under defensive pressure. Castrol Index season rating: 482, from 1,811 minutes.
Osvaldo Alonso, M — 6. Perhaps playing against a sub-par opponent brought it out, but Alonso was more involved offensively than usual. He completed an unbelievable 51 out of 54 passes, working well with playmaker Mauro Rosales while still being responsible enough to notch 15 recoveries. Despite his role in the late near-melee (another foreshadowing alert), Alonso kept his temper in check enough to draw more fouls than he committed (3-2). Castrol Index season rating: 492, from 1,481 minutes.
Marc Burch, M — 6. “Burch serves a great ball,” Yedlin said after the game, and Burch proved it with the fantastic free kick that Lamar Neagle converted. He aggressively manned the Sounders left touchline, including a strong attack against Alvarez, took all of the non-Rosales corners, and was the most active man on the field with 117 official actions. Won his fair share of the ball, took two shots, and kept Chivas under continuous pressure. Castrol Index season rating: 286, from 589 minutes.
Servando Carrasco, M — 5.5. His value to the team is offensive, and he showed it Wednesday with sharp passing between the boxes (35 of 48 completed). But not only did he have some imaginative touches and a late long shot to keep the Goats honest, he even covered defensively for Alonso. His 92 touches shows he could be an acceptable patch during Brad Evans absences. Castrol Index season rating: 439, from 1,137 minutes.
Mauro Rosales, M — 6.5. Remember the Italian slalom skier Alberto “La Bomba” Tomba, who bulled down courses with ferocious speed but still cut around the poles with scintillating precision? That’s exactly what Rosales looked like. He spun around myriad Chivas players with speed he hadn’t been healthy enough to show in ages, and sliced-and-diced them with the aggressive and accurate attacks (35 of 47 passing, including five “key passes”) that earned him Designated Player money. If he avoids thuggish defenders, the captain is back. Castrol Index season rating: 427, from 1,475 minutes.
David Estrada, F — 5.5. One reason why Seattle enjoyed as much as 75 percent of possession? Estrada. He forced de Luna into a corner a couple of minutes before the goal, strung offensive-half passes keeping the Goats under pressure, and even completed a pass between Morales’ legs to maintain an attack. Had Estrada been wearing ice skates, he would’ve looked like Bobby Orr. Castrol Index season rating: 91, from 301 minutes.
Lamar Neagle, F — 7. His supplementary statistics weren’t much, but when he somehow escaped Carlos Borja and three other Chivas defenders — who had been concentrating on Seattle’s set-piece successes — and brilliantly hit a side-volley marooned Dan Kennedy had no chance on, who cares? You can forgive 14-of-26 passing when he gets four shots and converts one. Oh, and he also broke up a late direct kick. Castrol Index season rating: 722, tenth-highest score in MLS, from 1,514 minutes.
Andy Rose (substitution for Rosales, 82′) – 5. Helped hold down the fort late, which was all he needed to do. Castrol Index season rating: 311, from 519 minutes.
Eriq Zavaleta (substitution for Estrada, 84′) – 5. Six touches, most of which were to help Rose in holding the ball near the Chivas corner. Also had a nice pass into the penalty area. Castrol Index season rating: 21, from 16 minutes.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (substitution for Burch, 90′+1) – n/a. Time-management substitution. Castrol Index season rating: 464, from 1,478 minutes.
Sigi Schmid, Head Coach — 5.5. Positive: Dropping Scott into left back in González’s absence and keeping Burch at left midfield was a masterstroke. Kept an admittedly weak Chivas from getting anything going until late. Questionable: Why was he so late with his substitutions, considering the absences of Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey, and with an important Chicago game in three days? Why not get Rose, Zavaleta or even Alex Caskey in the game earlier to save something in Rosales, Burch and Carrasco’s tanks?
Mark Geiger, referee — 3.5. Strike one: He missed a possible penalty when Neagle got slammed in the first half. Strike two: He let physical play get out of hand, primarily by Chivas but also on Seattle, which contributed to later nastiness and especially the hockey-like scrum in the second half. Strike three: According to Prost’s Brandon Farris (who is studying for a referee’s license) and several other observers in the media, Gspurning’s late drop should have led to an indirect Chivas free kick in the Sounders’ area, which with their better second half was nothing less than the Goats deserved.
We’ll give Kennedy the last word: “When tackles are made and cards aren’t given on those tackles, then usually the game elevates in intensity, and that’s exactly what happened. There was a hard tackle, a card should’ve been given, it would’ve settled things down. But then the next play there’s another hard tackle. That’s why you’ve got to control these games … we’re fighting for our lives out there.”