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Drilling down on: at Seattle 1, Philadelphia 0

MLS Earthquakes Sounders FC Soccer

Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, right, chases the ball with San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Marvin Chavez during an MLS soccer match, Saturday, March 31, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/The News Tribune, Jeremy Harrison)


Man of the Match: Does Osvaldo Alonso ever lose a tackle dual? The stats say so … but c’mon! Once again Saturday, he was all over the place, winning balls in midfield, making life miserable for Philadelphia attackers with harassing actions and by interrupting passing lanes. His passing gradually gets better and better, too. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid calls Alonso the league’s premier ball-winner; watching games like Saturday’s, it’s hard to argue the point.

Packaged for take-away:

  • Mauro Rosales, in his third game back from injury, surely isn’t fully game-fit. No matter. He ran the Sounders’ attack over 81 minutes, doing the playmaking from the right, just like old times. Well, old times being 2011, when Rosales was the league’s top revelation and easily the top salary bargain. His goal Saturday was clinical finishing, but it is Rosales’ overall passing and eye for space that matters most for Seattle going forward.
  • Alonso’s stamina means so much in so many ways. For instance, his willingness and ability to move into advanced spots on offense (and then dependably get the heck back into defensive position) opens opportunities all around. On the game’s only goal, for instance, Alonso’s choice to get forward aggressively forced Philadelphia left back Raymon Gaddis to move into the middle, away from Rosales, who benefitted with extra time to accept Fredy Montero’s switching ball and line up the good finish.
  • Picking up speed now on this stretch of 9 matches over 32 days, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid began using his bench, starting three far less familiar names. (One was goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, in goal for the injured Michael Gspurning.) Eddie Johnson was on the bench to start but did get in to contribute to Rosales’ goal.
  • This one could have looked a lot different, because one of those fresh faces flirted with disaster – and easily could have left his team a man down for an hour. Andy Rose was full of fire and desire in his initial MLS start (alongside Alonso in Brad Evans’ spot). So Rose left his foot in and took an early yellow card. Not long after Rose hacked down Freddy Adu from behind – but was surely relieved when referee Ricardo Salazar took the easy way out and left the second card in his pocket. Salazar presumably wanted to keep the field at a level 11 on 11, but if that’s not a yellow card, what is? The tackle was late. It was tactical (because Adu was getting away and looking up to something). The tackle was from behind and therefore quite dangerous. In other words, the very textbook definition of a booking.
  • Philadelphia’s offense is terrible, and there are surely a lot of reasons for it. One is striker Lionard Pajoy, who just isn’t getting it done. He now has one goal in eight games. Worse than that, he’s put just three shots on goal. And he doesn’t do well in hold-up play. So, uh … Clearly, it’s not all his fault; but at what point does Peter Nowak give someone else a try. The options include Danny Mwanga, the former No. 1 draft pick who isn’t getting many minutes these days.
  • Young Seattle midfielder Alex Caskey has a big shot. And he’s not afraid to use it.
  • Philly misses Brian Carroll something fierce when he’s not in the midfield to organize and distribute; Carroll, nursing a hamstring strain, played the final 30 minutes.