Sometimes you get the fireworks, and sometimes you’re left with a dud.
The Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes played a wet-blanket of soccer match Sunday evening that met the definition of the word, “nondescript.” It was a match that few will remember save for possibly Stefan Frei, who managed to mark his 250th Sounders appearance with a shutout.
On the field, there was little to get excited about, as the Sounders were only able to muster a handful of shots, none of which truly troubled the San Jose backline. In contrast to the LAFC loss where the Sounders’ main issue was misfiring on the multitude of chances, here there simply wasn’t much for them to take advantage of on the night.
Beyond that, the 0-0 result garnered the Sounders a valuable road point, which is rarely something to scoff at. And results elsewhere in the Western Conference kept the Sounders in first place as the 2020 season heads into the final stretch. With the Supporters’ Shield officially on ice for this year, a run for the Western Conference title — and staying ahead of the Portland Timbers — will have to suffice as the primary goal for the remainder of the regular season.
No possession and no encores
The messaging from the Sounders in advance of the game was that they knew the 7-1 thrashing of the Earthquakes six weeks ago was likely unrepeatable, if for no other reason that San Jose would be motivated to get revenge. But the Earthquakes adjusted their tactics on the day, declining to exclusively high press and man mark the Sounders. The Earthquakes prevented the Sounders midfield from possessing the ball in advanced positions, and when players did get runs at goal there were ample bodies in the way. The Sounders finished with a season-low four shots that resulted in just .3 xG, the first time they’ve been below 1.0 all season.
Will Bruin saves the day
It was surely a frustrating game for Will Bruin, perhaps more than most. Largely starved of service in dangerous areas, Bruin was mostly relegated to receiving long balls around the midfield to try and keep possession for the Sounders. But he can surely say he earned is paycheck in the 42nd minute when Chris Wondolowski headed a free kick from Cristian Espinoza that was certainly headed towards the back of the Sounders goal. However Bruin stayed with his marker, which left him in position to clear the ball off the goal line and keep the game scoreless. Bruin obviously would have rather sent a ball back through the San Jose goal instead of firing one off into the stands, but who knows how the game would have turned out if he hadn’t been there to clean things up.
Off night for Jordan Morris
Coming off of his last appearance against the San Jose where he torched the Earthquakes backline over and over again, it was unlikely Jordan Morris would have as much space to run as he did on Sept. 10. Still, it was a very quiet night for Morris, who never really found the game. Morris only had a few opportunities to run at the Earthquakes defense, and most of the time when he had the ball, there were two or three defenders around him. The single fantastic run he made in the 81st minute left him through on goal with the opportunity to shoot, or send a cross to a crashing Bruin, but he seemed of two minds on the play and wasn’t able to deliver a quality pass, leaving the golden chance begging.
Perhaps the most interesting thing to come out of the game was after it, when head coach Brian Schmetzer responded to reports that Handwalla Bwana is set to be traded to Nashville SC. Somewhat unusually, Schemtzer confirmed the trade was all but done and further expanded his comments to make it clear that Bwana was the driving force behind the move. Feeling that there was a “logjam” at his position, Schmetzer indicated that Bwana did not see a path forward for playing time, and that he wanted players on the team that wanted to be in Seattle. Schmetzer finally hinted that Sounders would be receiving a player in return who he believes will be of some use to the team down the stretch.