As fun as Thursday night's liveblog was, I spent so much time looking at my computer that I didn't get to watch as much of the game in real time as I wanted to. So I went back and watched a replay of the game, and I'd like to share a few thoughts about what I saw.
- The biggest thing I wanted to focus on was whether the five yellow cards assesed to the Union were good calls.
1. Let's start with Danny Califf's foul on Fredy Montero only 16 seconds into the match. The foul was off the ball. Way off the ball, in fact. At the time, the ball was with Sounders right back Zach Stott, on the right flank about 1/3 of the way from the midfield line to the 18-yard box.
The contact was about 21 yards from goal, and was just barely caught by ESPN's cameras as they moved leftwards. Montero was running towards the goal, and Califf took a step towards Montero and clearly raised his shoulder and arm to knock Montero over.
If you watched the game in high definition, you would have just barely seen it. If you watched the game in standard definition, with a narrower screen, you might not have seen it at all. But the assistant referee saw it right away, and raised his flag.
I'm sure that part of the reason why referee Ricardo Salazar booked Califf that quickly was to send a message that he wasn't going to tolerate a physical game. But I think the booking was warranted.
2. The second card was on Toni Stahl for his tackle on Freddy Ljungberg. Peter Nowak thought it was a flop, and when I first saw it I thought the foul was called on Dave Myrie for creating more contact coming in from the front. It looked on the replay like Stahl came in from behind and at most clipped Ljungberg's heel. But Myrie then came in and basically tackled Stahl instead of Ljungberg, and Stahl pushed Ljungberg as they both fell over.
I don't think it was a dive by Ljungberg, but I wouldn't have booked Stahl on the play.
3. Stahl's second yellow card, the team's third overall, was warranted. Putting your hands out when contesting a 50-50 ball is one thing, but the knee into Fredy Montero's back is what got Stahl the booking.
4. There wasn't any question about Dave Myrie's yellow card in the 63rd minute. Myrie led with his arm, wasn't looking at the ball and went airborne as he made contact with Steve Zakuani.
5. Alejandro Moreno's yellow card in the 96th minute was also warranted. There was some question about this in the press box at the time, but the studs of Moreno's boot clearly went high into Sanna Nyassi's calf,
- Prior to being booked, Myrie got burned multiple times down the flank by Zakuani. Zakuani and Fredy Montero form one of the most potent attacking combinations in the league, but that doesn't fully excuse Myrie's struggles.
On the Sounders' first goal, Zakuani went right by Myrie on the overlapping run, but Myrie could have gotten a foot on the cross and cleared it out had he taken a few steps forward. Myrie was beaten again by Zakuani on a through ball a few minutes later, and the Union were lucky that Roger Levesque totally botched his shot from Zakuani's cross.
Myrie did a better job keeping track of Zakuani when he made a run down the flank early in the second half, but was so close that he could have been called for a foul. Then came the tackle that resulted in the booking.
- I liked Roger Torres' passing from central midfield. Despite being the youngest player to start an MLS opening game since Jozy Altidore for New York in 2007, the 18-year-old showed some nice distribution skills from the middle and the flanks. It will be interesting to see whether he plays in the Union's next game with Fred back from suspension.
I didn't like Torres' corner kicks as much; they were all pretty flat. But that's a minor quibble relative to his dribbling and passing, including with defenders on his back.
- I also liked Sebastien Le Toux's play up front. He played a lot of outside midfield last year, but seems to fit in well as a striker on a team that needs that position filled.
- I wasn't as impressed with Danny Mwanga, and I wonder if that's because he was playing deeper than he did in college. Mwanga was a forward at Oregon State, and Peter Nowak asked him to play in central midfield on Thursday. I suspect that there were also some first-game jitters. I wonder if Mwanga would be better either paired with Le Toux up front or as a supersub to provide energy in the second half.
- Chris Seitz was pretty well stranded on the Sounders' second goal. Jordan Harvey was guarding the back post when Freddy Ljungberg took the corner kick, but Harvey moved to the other post after Seitz's clearance. Maybe it was to try to block a shot from distance, but Fredy Montero took full advantage and was totally unmarked when the ball came to him.
Had Harvey not moved, he could have defended Montero at the back post, and Seitz could have handled the other side of the goal.
- One of the main rules of goalkeeping is that you have to either go all the way out for a loose ball or stay on your line, but you can't go halfway. Seitz went all the way in the 55th minute and nearly got burned on it. Alonso played a long ball that Brad Evans almost latched on to, but Seitz charged up to clear it. The clearance went right to Zakuani, though, and Seitz was was lucky that Zakuani's shot went wide of the net.
Stefani Miglioranzi was the player who Evans beat on his run. Good for Miglioranzi for continuing to run back towards the net after the clearance, which made up for the mistake of letting Evans get by from midfield.
- When I left Qwest Field on Thursday, the main thing on my mind was the Union's physical play and the yellow cards. Watching the replay, there are some more positive aspects of the game that we can discuss. The first was that Chris Seitz is ready to be a starter in Major League Soccer. With more help from his backline, Seitz should be even better.
The second aspect is Peter Nowak's trust in his young players. It might not pay off immediately, but Roger Torres played well and 17-year-old Jack McInerney didn't look out of place. Danny Mwanga struggled at times in midfield, as I said above. But let's see if he adapts to midfield, or perhaps if Peter Nowak moves him up top.
A few other musings:
- Among many things Seattle is doing well off the field, the selection of scarves you can get is tremendous. There was even a special scarf just for the Union game, with a Sounders logo at one end and a Union logo at the other end.
- If you haven't seen Major League Soccer's new website yet, check it out at mlssoccer.com. There are definitely a few bugs to work out, but the new video service is well worth the subscription fee. From what I can tell the league is now using the same video platform as the NHL's website. It's really high quality.
- There were a few real nice goals across the league this week. My vote for the best one goes to Javier Morales' rocket from 30 yards out against San Jose. Watch it below: