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Winners and Losers: First loss of the season

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This one hurts a bit.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Los Angeles FC Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It was going to come at some point this year: The Sounders went down to Los Angeles undermanned and outgunned, and are coming home on the wrong end of a 4-1 beating at the hands of what now must be called the best team in MLS. Missing their top two forward options and (arguably) their best centerback when fully fit, the Sounders had all sorts of problems handling a full-strength LAFC side with their best player, Carlos Vela, playing at his peak.

WINNERS

LAFC’s claim to be the cream of the crop: LAFC had looked like the best team in the league, and a midweek stumble to a desperate Vancouver team aside, they absolutely looked the part on Sunday. They were sturdy in defense and allowed the Sounders limited opportunities, and on offense they pounded Seattle into submission.

Carlos Vela’s MVP chances: It might be a two-person race between the star forwards in Los Angeles, as Carlos Vela is simply unplayable right now. Vela had two well-taken goals, and caused the Sounders trouble all game long. Only the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan has much of a claim to challenge Vela right now, and Vela has to get the nod due to his goals and all-around play.

Brian Schmetzer’s tactical retreat: Coach Schmetzer must be a fan of the ol’ gambler Kenny Rodgers, because he took the axiom “know when to fold ‘em” to heart. The best thing you can say about this game from a Sounders’ perspective is that Schmetzer realized this game was a lost cause, and got Kim Kee-hee, Victor Rodriguez and Jordan Morris off the field before the 70th minute. In Kim’s case, he was sitting on a yellow card, and picking up a second would have been a disaster for the Sounders. Both Rodriguez and Morris will be needed for Wednesday, so getting them some rest was key. And the reserves managed to hold the game to zeros from that point, although LAFC had mostly stopped pushing for more.

Shutout streak broken: The Sounders hadn’t scored against Tyler Miller in two-plus games, but a well-worked sequence found Harry Shipp open in the penalty area, and he was clinical in his finishing. While the losing streak continues against LAFC, at least the Sounders showed they could score against the best team in the league. And it wasn’t a garbage-time goal or penalty. That’s about all I’ve got.

LOSERS

Roman Torres’ claim for a starting spot: Torres has been vocal in his dissatisfaction about his lack of playing time, and to be fair, hasn’t been a locker-room distraction and has showed up every day to practice. That said, his performance on Sunday won’t do him any favors. At fault for parts of three goals (including inexplicably going to ground early and allowing Eduard Atuesta to skate by him to finish), he was frequently out of position and just off the pace of the game. Perhaps some of that has to do with his limited minutes and unfamiliarity with Kim, but it doesn’t explain everything.

The depth is pretty shallow: This was a concern for Sounders fans since the beginning of the season: While the top 12 or 13 Sounders can match up with anyone in the league, what happens when you need to rely on spots 14 and below? The Sounders had been pretty fortunate in their injury situation for the first six or seven games, but when the injury bug inevitably hit, things started to get ugly. Shipp’s good goal aside, the players Schmetzer has available off the bench won’t scare many teams right now.

Midfield can’t cope: Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson are excellent midfielders, which made Mark-Anthony Kaye’s standout performance all the more eyebrow raising. Kaye has been an excellent addition to LAFC, and here he looked like a near-MVP with three assists. Neither Roldan nor Svensson had much of an answer for him, and that had a compounding effect, as Morris frequently was coming back on defense to try to help, meaning he couldn’t stay up top as an outlet.