No one ever promised this would be easy. Sooner or later, I think we all knew the Seattle Sounders were going to hit some bumps in the road. We knew, deep down, that the Sounders weren’t going to survive completely unscathed when playing games every four days, missing multiple starters and facing tough opponents.
All we can reasonably ask, I’d argue, is that the Sounders continue to stick to the principles that led them to the success they’ve experienced to this point.
Given all that, I’m having a hard time being too worried about Sunday’s result. Yes, it was frustrating. Yes, they dropped points in their quest for the Supporters’ Shield and they’re back into a tie at the top of the Western Conference standings. You can definitely argue this was a missed opportunity to put a depleted and hobbling LAFC to the sword.
But judging by the actual performance — and not the scoreline — the Sounders acquitted themselves well. For the most part, the Sounders dominated the match statistically, with 54% of possession, a 19-12 shots advantage and outdueling LAFC 59-42. StatsBomb gave the Sounders a xG advantage of 2.4-1.0 while American Soccer Analysis gave them a 2.04-1.08 advantage. Point being, the Sounders created some really good chances, didn’t give up a ton on the other end and were probably a bit unlucky not to get a better result.
That shouldn’t fully insulate the Sounders from criticism. I think there’s room to argue that Brian Schmetzer could have rotated his lineup a bit more or been more aggressive with his substitutes in order to have fresher legs on the field.
I would have liked Jordan Morris to be a bit more aggressive, especially on that chance right after Nicolas Lodeiro’s goal. I know Will Bruin would like to have one or two of those chances back. I’m sure a few Sounders spent way too much time thinking of the shots Jordan Harvey cleared off the line. But if we want to be analytical about what happened, I think we also have to admit that the Sounders did a lot right and sometimes games just go like this.
It’s worth remembering that the Sounders still lead MLS in both goal difference (+18) and expected Goal Difference per 90 (+1.35), the latter of which would puts them on a historic pace.
If the Sounders’ most frustrating results come when they’ve genuinely outplayed their opponents, I think that speaks to how well they’re playing.
Nico’s pretty good on dead balls
At some point, I’m going to get deeper into Lodeiro’s recent play but he’s been performing at a level that we’ve not seen in quite some time. In addition to a spectacular free kick goal, Lodeiro also set up several very good chances. He finished with .6 expected assists, which comes on the heels of accumulating 1.2 xA against Real Salt Lake.
One of the consistent criticisms of Lodeiro has been that he’s not particular good on set pieces. Especially in the last couple games, he’s been turning that narrative inside out. He’s been credited with three goal-creating actions on set-pieces and five shot-creating actions in those games. For the season, he is tied for the league lead with three goal-creating passes and is fourth in the league with 18 shot-creating passes off set pieces. You can certainly argue that given how good he is from open play that you’d expect better from set pieces, but he’s still very effective.