It sure would be nice if they would start playing like this earlier in the year, but the Seattle Sounders appear to be on what is becoming another trademark late-season run.
With their 3-1 win over New York City FC on Sunday, the Sounders pushed their unbeaten streak to six games (4-0-2) and have improved to 7-0-3 in their last two Julys. By beating NYCFC, who came into the match with the best points per game in the league, the Sounders also have their first win over a team in playoff position.
Who knows how this game goes if NYCFC score first? Through the first 35 minutes, NYCFC was the better team, and Maxi Moralez’s 22nd minute free kick nearly gave them an early 1-0 lead. Despite the ball beating Stefan Frei, it struck harmlessly off the crossbar.
The Sounders finally started to turn around the game around the 35th minute and shortly thereafter grabbed a lead they’d never relinquish. Kelvin Leerdam sent in a cross that deflected in the box to Cristian Roldan, whose first touch took him into space. Sean Johnson was able to get a hand on the close range shot, but not enough of one to keep it out.
A great build up leads to an unmarked Roldan in the box. Sounders 1-0 in the 36th. pic.twitter.com/GNKcB0Zo9x— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 29, 2018
The Sounders didn’t exactly carry that momentum into the second half, but that didn’t stop them from extending their lead to 2-0. Gustav Svensson’s 52nd minute shot from about 30 yards was the Sounders’ first attempt of the second half, but he hit it well enough to beat Johnson.
No stopping that one. pic.twitter.com/ODneR32kT0— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 29, 2018
NYCFC turned up the pressure at that point, and although Raúl Ruidíaz nearly extended the Sounders’ lead to 3-0, it was the Pigeons who struck next. The sequence started with Osvaldo Alonso putting Chad Marshall in an awkward position deep in the defensive end. Marshall’s clearing pass was easily intercepted, which got NYCFC rushing toward goal. Jo Inge Berget’s center pass evaded a pair of Sounders defenders and Jesus Medina easily beat Stefan Frei to snap the Seattle’s season-best 290-minute shutout streak.
A bad giveaway from Marshall leads to their goal. Sounders 2-1. pic.twitter.com/eVj0tvdsGw— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 29, 2018
At that point, it looked like the Sounders might let two points slip away as NYCFC continued to apply pressure. But in perhaps the best sign that the Sounders’ season is turning around, they were able to restore their two-goal lead courtesy of Harry Shipp, who was allowed space in the box and blasted his shot past Johnson.
Shipp's goal. Sounders 3-1. pic.twitter.com/Ka7sofL33k— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 29, 2018
The offense seems to be clicking
- Ruidíaz was not as good as he was in his starting debut, but his presence just seems to open up the rest of the field. Players have more room to work as defenses are more stretched.
- Nicolas Lodeiro was back to his old self, running all over the field, creating chances and generally being the player the Sounders need him to be.
Movin’ on up
- The Sounders are currently on their best run of form since the 6-0-1 run they went on last year that ultimately sparked their 2017 turnaround. This year’s run started on July 4 against the Colorado Rapids. Last year’s run started on July 4... against the Rapids.
- Don’t look now, but the Sounders are five points out of sixth with a game in hand on Real Salt Lake. There are three teams between the Sounders and RSL, but if they win their game in hand they’d jump over two of them — including Minnesota United, who they play next — and are just one point behind ninth-place Houston Dynamo.
Bend don’t break
- NYCFC only had three shots on frame, meaning Frei had another relatively quiet afternoon. But they also had 19 shots, and 13 of those were from in or very near the penalty area.
Head-scratching personnel choices
- Look, it obviously all worked out in the end, but I’m a little worried that Brian Schmetzer seems to view moving Cristian Roldan into the attacking band in order to get Osvaldo Alonso onto the field as the best option. It worked fine today, but I’m genuinely worried that it could prove problematic if it continues to be his preferred choice when more options are available.
- I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t sure what to think when Will Bruin replaced Alonso, but it worked well and showed the kind of aggressiveness with subs that I’ve long wanted from Schmetzer. That it resulted in Bruin setting up Shipp for the insurance goal is hopefully some encouragement for him to do that again.
Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam (A. Roldan); Alonso (Bruin), Svensson; Shipp, Lodeiro, C. Roldan; Ruidíaz (Torres).
36’ C. Roldan
51’ Svensson (Lodeiro, Shipp)
68’ Median (Berget, Lewis)
86’ Shipp (Bruin)
Man of the Match
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