Photo Credit : @SoundersFC
Well, that was frustrating.
After two Lumen Field Parties to start the season, the Sounders took the show on the road and came home with a thorough, if not embarrassing defeat. The defense looked good, as usual, giving up only 0.6 expected goals and 2 shots on target. Unfortunately, when the offense can muster only a single shot on frame (in the 90+8th minute, no less) a single mistake can be deadly. There were some bright spots, as the Sounders had the advantage in Duels Won and really pressed Cincy in the second half, but the offensive cohesion from the first two weeks just wasn’t there. It all seems correctable, but the task doesn’t get any easier when defending champs LAFC come to Seattle on Saturday.
Who’s playing forward? Part 3 million (I think I’ve lost count): After two inspiring performances from Héber, a hamstring injury forced him out of the lineup and propelled Fredy Montero into the number 9 spot. Based on MLSsoccer.com’s passing map, Fredy was….on the field, at least?
After some outstanding holdup play from Héber to start the season, the connection between Fredy and the rest of the attacking band left much to be desired. Brian Schmetzer was optimistic after the game, saying “We have enough quality subs that [the loss of Héber] wasn’t a factor” in the loss. Admittedly, Brian knows a little more about the team’s tactics and adjustments than I do, so I’m inclined to believe him that the issue is less about who is starting up top and more about the team’s attacking cohesion as a whole. Raúl got a longer run out this week and is hopefully nearing starter-level fitness, but regardless of who plays, the Sounders will need to get them more involved than against Cincinnati.
Midfield Press: One of the potential causes of that Striker isolation was just how much deeper Seattle had to defend against Cincinnati compared to the RSL match. Take another look at that passing map; 8 players basically in the defensive half. Against RSL? Only 5. Albert Rusnák, Cristian Roldan, and João Paulo were all forced to sit deeper to defend against Cincy’s attack, and that pressure led to turnovers in our defensive third. The 63rd minute was especially bad, as the Sounders managed to give the ball away directly in front of goal twice in less than thirty seconds, setting Brenner up with two shots from inside the penalty area. 1-0, and the Sounders never came back. Here’s a fun stat: LAFC have finished second in the league in possessions won in the final third/game every single year since 2019 and they are already in second this year. LAFC’s third goal against New England on Sunday was basically a carbon copy of Cincy’s on Saturday. If Seattle has more bad giveaways like that this weekend, expect LAFC to take advantage.
Score Early, Score Often: Here are some more fun stats: in the last 6 games between LAFC and Seattle played at Lumen field, the Sounders have scored first in every one of them and haven’t lost, going 4-0-2 and outscoring the visitors 13 to 4. That’s a huge home field advantage and so far this season, it hasn’t gotten easier to play in Seattle. I expect the Sounders to come out hungry to show that last weekend was merely a blip and LAFC had a midweek CCL matchup to contend with. LAFC needed to put out an A- squad to get the final result on Wednesday, losing 2-1 at home but winning on aggregate. That means the Sounders will be running at tired legs with something to prove. Look for the home team to grab an early lead, and if they do, to hang on for all the points.
Player Watch: You could probably guess this one based on the way this article starts, but I have my eye on Raúl Ruidíaz. Barring a setback this week, I would bet he starts and goes ~65 minutes. After a week of training probably focused on link up play up top, he should be able to get involved early and we all know he only needs half a chance to make a defense pay. Getting on the score sheet would be a great way to start his season and get the Sounders back on track.
Predictions: Aaron saw a win at Cincy and Zach predicted a 1-1 draw (dang VAR had to ruin it), so season totals were stationary at 2-1.
Aaron: I think this one will be tight, and I am not convinced we can keep LAFC off of the board. But I DO think we can win. 2-1 Sounders!
Zach: This year, the Sounders don’t seem to be a team that has two bad games in a row, and LAFC comes in on short rest. 2-0 Rave Green!
Bet of the Match: The Sounders are +115 straight up, which seems like good value to me, but if you’re feeling spicy I also like the ‘Anytime Correct Score’ of Sounders 2 - LAFC 0 at +290.