Anyone still harboring concerns over the potency of the Seattle Sounders offense in this early part of the season can breathe a bit easier. An early penalty by Clint Dempsey was followed by second-half goals from Jordan Morris and Harry Shipp, as the Sounders earned a 3-1 victory over the previously undefeated New York Red Bulls on Sunday. The Red Bulls had entered the match on an 18-game unbeaten streak that stretched back to last year and was one short of tying the MLS record.
Brian Schmetzer was forced into one major change for this match, thanks to Roman Torres’ suspension. Gustav Svensson was shifted from his uncomfortable spot at right back, to a more natural role in the middle of defense. Oniel Fisher, who had only played a substitute role so far this season, got the nod at right back.
The match was fairly even for much of the first half, with the Red Bulls getting a few more shots than the Sounders—though only one, from Felipe Martins—was particularly dangerous. Seattle’s speedy fullbacks exploited the holes in New York’s formation, but they weren’t able to find a final ball for those early attacks. Joevin Jones and Harry Shipp were particularly dangerous on the left flank, regularly finding space when Sacha Kljestan tucked inside.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 28th minute; Morris was brought down in the box by Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles, and Dempsey slammed the resulting penalty into the back of the net. Red Bulls forward Fredrik Gulbrandsen tried to earn a penalty of his own immediately afterwards, but referee Baldomero Toledo gave Seattle a free kick and Gulbrandsen a yellow card for simulation.
The Sounders clearly benefited from the confidence that came with notching the first goal of the match, as they continued to attack the Red Bulls for the remainder of the half. Morris latched onto a great ball behind the defense, but he didn’t have time to frame his shot. Nicolas Lodeiro had a great sequence with Shipp near the edge of the box that resulted in a curling shot from Lodeiro that pinged off the post. The half ended 1-0 to the rave green.
The second half started much more brightly for Seattle, as they held onto possession and attacked right from the whistle. Morris nearly punished Robles’ tendency to play way off his line, but his chip was a little too powerful and popped just over the bar. The Sounders had a nice spell of attack for the first 10 or so minutes of the half, but the Red Bulls managed to bounce back after Seattle failed to capitalize on any of their attacks. The away side flew forward in a counterattacking move in the 59th minute, and Bradley Wright-Phillips headed in a Sal Zizzo cross to tie it up 1-1.
Just like it did when they scored one of their own, conceding a goal forced the Sounders back onto the front foot. They continued to utilize the open spaces on both flanks, even after they were forced to change up their tactics when Fisher was forced off due to injury. After some brilliant bits of skill by Jones on the left, Lodeiro fired in a beautiful cross to the far post, where Morris headed it past Robles to put the Sounders up 2-1 in the 66th minute.
Just as the game was settling back into a groove after the goal, the Sounders’ relentless attacking paid off yet again—even if it wasn’t nearly as nice to look at as the last goal. After seeing an opportunity near the corner of the Red Bulls box, Jones took a rather hopeful shot towards goal that (luckily for him) deflected off Shipp and redirected into the near post as Robles could only stare at in agony.
The Sounders held onto that 3-1 lead for the final 11 minutes, preserving their first win of the 2017 MLS season.
The win is the Sounders’ first of the season and allows them to enter the upcoming international-week bye in sixth place in the Western Conference.