The Seattle Sounders kicked off their 2018-19 CONCACAF Champions League campaign with an away match against El Salvador side Santa Tecla, the first ever between the two teams. The Sounders found themselves a bit short-handed, as a number of first team regulars stayed in Seattle to continue getting ready for the start of the MLS season.
After an early goal, the Sounders gave up two in the second half and will head back to Seattle trailing 2-1.
As expected, the Sounders dominated early, producing a number of almost-chances via Jordan Morris, but the finishing touch wasn’t there. The breakthrough finally happened in the 15th minute, after a Morris through ball to Henry Wingo was cleared straight to Nicolas Lodeiro. The Uruguayan midfielder saw the goalkeeper off his line and perfectly lobbed the ball into the corner of the net.
Santa Tecla had one significant chance of the first half, when one of their players was through on Stefan Frei’s goal, but the Sounders goalkeeper flew off his line and smothered the chance.
Brian Schmetzer started his substitutions much earlier than usual, in the 55th minute, and things seemed to go downhill from there. Santa Tecla began to show better possession and aggression, and Seattle’s defense began to show some cracks. The home side took advantage of the Sounders’ defensive frailties in the 67th minute, when a cross into the box sparked confusion in the defense and fell to a wide open Gerson Mayen, who slipped it past Frei to make it 1-1.
The defensive issues continued for Seattle, as Santa Tecla earned a penalty in the 75th minute after Chad Marshall and/or Jordan McCrary were called for a foul in the box. Frei dove the right way, but not quite far enough, and Mayen slipped the ball into the bottom corner to stun the visitors and put his side up 2-1.
The match finished with that 2-1 score to the home side, but the most disheartening result for the Sounders came around the 85th minute. Morris came flying into the final third with the ball at his feet and, immediately after releasing the ball into the box for teammate, hit the ground without any contact. Medical staff had to come onto the pitch and help Morris off, who was seemingly unable to put weight on his right leg. Fan reports after the match weren’t promising, either:
He left on crutches with a knee brace/cold pack.— Llarian (@Llarian) February 23, 2018
- Defensive frailties: Despite starting their best defender, the Sounders defense looked completely out of sync—especially in the second half. But even though three out of the four defenders are probably considered backups, Marshall was at least partially at fault for both Santa Tecla goals.
- Wasteful up top: This was Jordan Morris’ first competitive start in many months, and he looks as if he still has plenty of rust to shake off. The young forward looked tentative in the box, and he rarely took risks with the ball at his feet. The majority of chances on goal came to Morris in the first half, as the Sounders weren’t as creative after Will Bruin came into the match and sent Morris wide.
- Tough lineup choices next week: Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer made a few bold lineup choices tonight, and the result showed that some didn’t pay off. Some players were unable to make the trip due to fitness or injury concerns, but one wonders why Schmetzer chose players like Jordy Delem over Gustav Svensson. Regardless, the balance between starters and backups will be even more important in the return leg next Thursday at CenturyLink Field.
Here’s your @Delta Starting XI for tonight’s #SCCL2018 match vs @santateclafc! Watch live on https://t.co/vCOuTwB0Qi or on https://t.co/uVwhw9kYnv at 7:00 p.m. PT.— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) February 23, 2018
➡️ https://t.co/bnuZR23mW8 pic.twitter.com/S9AjUnSk53
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