Preseason has been in fully swing for nearly three weeks and we finally got to see the Seattle Sounders play a match. There’s only so much you can gather from Saturday’s 3-2 loss to the Houston Dynamo — especially considering the whole lineup was swapped around the 60th minute — but there were several things at least worth talking about a bit more.
This offense is going to score goals
The Sounders opened the match with a group that could very well be the Starting XI on First Kick, and it clicked right away. Scoring chances came early and often and they grabbed a 2-0 lead before the match was 20 minutes old. Even better than the lead itself was that the goals came from plays that felt entirely repeatable, with Victor Rodriguez setting up Nicolás Lodeiro and Brad Smith assisting Raúl Ruidíaz.
Smith and Rodriguez showed a particular understanding that was very encouraging. They hooked up several times, the best of which resulted in Ruidíaz’s goal. Smith starts his run deep in his own half and breaks up the field inside Rodriguez. Smith doesn’t get wide until he reaches the penalty area, but Rodriguez finds him after the left back cuts back inside. Smith’s cutback to Ruidíaz was straight out of the Manchester City playbook and something the Sounders have talked extensively about trying to do more of.
This is just one game, obviously, but Smith at least showed that the promise he showed in his six-game stint last year wasn’t completely out of nowhere. It’s not at all hard to imagine him taking a stranglehold on the starting position with a few more performances like that.
It was a far from perfect return for Jordan Morris, who got his first game action in about 11 months. His touch was often heavy and he failed to spot some runs that may well have given the Sounders another goal. Yet you could also see what he brings to this offense. Morris repeatedly made runs and received passes that stretched the Dynamo defense. Neither of the goals came on plays Morris affected, but he kept his side of the field occupied and busy. It was a good match to build off, in other words.
Loose in the back
I’m not going to waste much time talking about the final 30 minutes of the game, except to note that there were nine teenagers and no outfield players signed to MLS contracts on the field for the Sounders. That they gave up a ton of chances, mostly while playing a man up, is not indicative of significant First Team problems.
But let’s not pretend as though the Sounders had the game all locked up prior to the line change. Sure, they led 2-0 and were generating plenty of chances. They were also giving up their fair number of chances and it easily could have been 2-2 if not for a wonderful Stefan Frei save and a missed penalty.
For all his promise going forward, I thought Smith got beat badly a couple times and the Dynamo created several chances attacking the left side. I suspect that’s part Smith, part Rodriguez and part Kim playing on his weaker side. I wouldn’t say the defense was bad, but it clearly needs some tightening. Guess it’s good this is preseason.