SEATTLE — The conventional wisdom coming into to the Seattle Sounders’ matchup against Real Salt Lake was that the visitors would come in and establish a bunker that would have made the generals protecting Fort Wagner proud.
Sometimes conventional wisdom holds up.
Real Salt Lake spent the first 25 minutes of the game barely interested in possessing the ball, much less attacking with it. The Sounders attacked by air and on the ground, and nearly found success immediately with an apparent Jordan Morris goal in the first minute, only for it to be disallowed for offside. Morris did finally find his goal in the 28th minute and when Yeimar headed the ball in the 61st minute it looked the the Sounders would cruise from there.
Of course, sometimes conventional wisdom doesn’t hold.
RSL came to life after the second goal — with the help of a Nouhou own-goal in the — and pressured the Sounders down the stretch, but the Sounders held firm and claimed a 2-1 victory to keep their distance from the rest of the Western Conference, and keep pace with the Supporter’s Shield pack. The Sounders will now make the trip to Southern California to take on an arguably more depleted LAFC with the opportunity to grab some valuable road points as they look to continue their run atop the standings.
It’s typically Raúl Ruidíaz and Jordan Morris who get the plaudits for their goal-scoring antics, but you have to wonder how this game would have gone without a monster performance from the Colombian centerback. In addition to clearing everything that came his way and effectively neutralizing any attack from the RSL front line, Yeimar was also tidy in possession and distribution. Yeimar was so dominant that RSL took off their main attacking threat in Sam Johnson with 24 minutes remaining. On top of all that, he scored the game-winner.
RSL makes Sounders work
Give credit to RSL — they didn’t give up when the game could have gotten out of hand. After 30 minutes, the Sounders had nearly 70% of the possession in the game, and a 1-0 lead. That goal sparked something in the visitors, because they played the Sounders to even for the rest of the half, nearly shading the possession battle 49-51. From there, it’s fair to say the played the Sounders close to even with both sides having seven shots. However, none of RSL’s shots were on target, thanks in no small part to some solid defending from Yeimar and the backline, who cleared 17 balls out of the penalty area.
More missed chances
Coach Brian Schmetzer lamented that the game could have been easier had the Sounders finished more of the high-quality chances that presented themselves. It’s hard to criticize players for being unselfish, but a couple of attacks that seemed to beg for goals ended without even direct shots on target. In the 83rd minute, a fantastic pass left Lodeiro wide open in the penalty box, though instead of taking a shot he left the ball for Jordan Morris, who had a tight angle shot that never threatened. In stoppage time, Cristian Roldan, who is making a habit of finding himself one-on-one with the opposing keeper, attempted to set Morris up for a tap-in instead of taking a shot himself. Again, it’s hard to criticize players to trying get their teammates on the scoresheet, but in another game the Sounders might have regretted leaving those on the table. Lodeiro also could have gotten a couple more assists, as he set up Will Bruin and Roldan with chances in front of goal.
Familiar faces fit in
With Joevin Jones still nursing a sprained ankle, Brad Smith has already made himself at home along the Sounders backline, though today he played up a line as the Sounders needed Nouhou’s defense to help close out a tight game. It was another Sounders legend who provided his familiar presence, when Roman Torres made his on-field return to the Sounders after a short tenure with Inter Miami. With Xavier Arreaga expected to miss upwards of a month, Torres figures to get his share of playing time until Arreaga returns. Coming off the bench to add to the sounders depth, Torres slotted right back in and gave the Sounders a few minutes while helping to see the game out.
Jordan Morris MVP watch
Now sitting fourth in both goals and assists — the only player who ranks among the top 5 in both categories — Morris continues his MVP campaign. He opened the Sounders scoring with a well-worked goal courtesy of a Roldan cross, who did well to create space on the wing before sending a cutback pass. Morris was active throughout the game, though didn’t get too involved when he moved up to forward late in the game. He truly is a winger now.