SEATTLE — There may not be any such thing as a must-win match this early in the season, but the Seattle Sounders needed a win pretty badly when they lined up at home against a Vancouver Whitecaps team that was playing its third match in eight days. They waited about as long as they possibly could to pull it out, but they got what they needed.
Kelvin Leerdam delivered the 96th minute game winner, putting a shot through traffic to beat Zach MacMath at the far post. It was the Sounders’ first win since May 15, ending a three-match league losing streak and a four-match winless run.
- The Sounders created a few decent chances in the first half, but nothing that created real danger while the Whitecaps seemed more interested in reserving energy for a late push.
- The second half was an entirely different story. By the 60th minute, they had equaled their first-half shot total and aside from Yordy Reyna’s shot off the crossbar, looked to be the team far more likely to score.
- That’s when it looked like they did. Harry Shipp slipped in Justin Dhillon for a shot that forced MacMath came up with a solid save. Danny Leyva picked up the rebound, took a couple dribbles, picked up his head and saw MacMath down in the box. His shot from about 25 yards wasn’t quite a chip, floating it past three defenders and inside the upper 90. For a solid minute, it looked like the 16-year-old had become the youngest player in MLS history to score on his debut. But Alan Kelly saw it different, ultimately waving it off after a VAR review where he determined that Dhillon was “careless” in contacting MacMath on his follow through.
- Rather than hang their heads, the Sounders seemed sparked by the disallowed goal. They continued to push forward, peppering MacMath with shots and applying heavy pressure, which only grew stronger as the game wore on. Between the 88th and 94th minutes, the Sounders took eight shots — seven of which were blocked.
- The winner finally came in the 95th minute, a sequence that started with Levya picked up an errant pass near midfield. He pushed it forward to Harry Shipp, who then found Brad Smith cutting into the box. Smith tapped it to Leerdam, who took a touch to open some space and unleashed his shot. The ensuing celebration was about as loud as CenturyLink Field has been.
Danny Leyva is ready: Brian Schmetzer chose Leyva not because the Sounders were short-handed, but because he felt he was a better tactical choice to go up against a potentially tired opponent. Leyva looked every bit up for the task. He often found himself in the attacking third and acquitted himself well, completing 87 percent of his 64 passes, officially getting credit for two shots — which doesn’t include his disallowed goal — and a key pass. He also had a game-high four interceptions and four tackles, most of which came in the Sounders’ offensive half. He did all this after playing 120 minutes for the U19s on Monday. This won’t be the last time we see him.
Home, sweet home: For all the roller-coast nature of this season, it’s maybe easy to overlook that the Sounders have been very consistent at home. They are now riding a 13-match home unbeaten run in MLS play that includes a 7-0-2 record at CenturyLink Field this year. Many of these wins have not been pretty, but as long as they can keep grinding out results at home they should be fine.
Rise of the reserves: Considering the Sounders were giving four players their first starts of the season — including two who were making their MLS starting debuts — and had just five of their normal starters, no one looked remotely overmatched. Everyone from Saad Abdul-Salaam to Henry Wingo had solid performances. The Sounders might not be a playoff team if they had to field this lineup every week, but their backups are doing enough to keep them competitive. The best news? Next week they’ll have Nicolás Lodeiro back.
Did you see that?
It may not have officially counted, but allow yourself to admire this shot from Leyva.
There is just no way there's a legit foul here. pic.twitter.com/c1gOMNDinq— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) June 30, 2019
Quote of the Day
Brian Schmetzer: “I want to congratulate Danny Leyva on his first MLS goal.”— Ari Liljenwall (@AriLiljenwall) June 30, 2019
The game in one stat
14 — The Sounders took 24 shots — tying a season high — but more impressively, 14 of them were from inside the penalty area. This is how it looked visually:
Man of the Match
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Saad Abdul Salaam