Even with the rotated lineup head coach Brian Schmetzer put on the field Wednesday against the LA Galaxy, the Seattle Sounders had a very winnable match on Wednesday. The LA Galaxy entered the night at the bottom of the Western Conference, had just fired their manager and their $7 million Designated Player had been so bad that he’d lost his starting job.
As it turns out, the Sounders needed some last minute heroics from their own star DP just to salvage a point.
When Jordan Morris combined with Raúl Ruidíaz to seemingly will the ball past Galaxy keeper David Bingham late in stoppage time, there was surely a sigh of relief, as the Sounders had controlled large parts of the second half, but were unable to consistently create danger. And when Chicharito — the most criticized DP since the last LA Galaxy flop — slotted a ball past Stefan Frei to give the Galaxy the lead in the 77th minute, it looked like the Sounders were set to suffer a second straight defeat. But the Sounders’ stars showed up when it counted.
The 1-1 draw leaves the Sounders with a path to finish first in the Western Conference, though they no longer control their own destiny. They’ll need a win in the season finale against the surging San Jose Earthquakes, and for Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers to drop points.
Typically, pulling out a last-minute draw away from home would leave the road side feeling pretty good, but Schmetzer was pensive postgame, acknowledging that the team’s recent run of form needs to improve for the playoff run. The draw leaves the Sounders 1-2-3 in their last six games, eliminating them from Supporters’ Shield contention and leaving them fighting for a top-3 seed. Injuries, international duty and rotation have take some of the steam out Sounders’ attack, but more alarming might the shaky defensive performance over the last several games. The good news is that the Sounders appear to be fully healthy, with Brad Smith a good bet to return this weekend, and at least two weeks off before the playoffs start will hopefully give the Sounders time to work out some kinks on both sides of the ball.
Alex Roldan solidifies spot
This is surely the most pleasant surprise of the year, and something nobody saw coming. Alex Roldan was once again a bright spot for the Sounders, and the team’s best player at least until Morris and Ruidiaz combined to save a point. Matching up with Best XI-contender Cristian Pavon, Roldan held his own defensively. Roldan had the most important play early in the game, when he made a diving header to clear a shot off the line to keep things scoreless. Offensively, his experience as a midfielder is paying off, as he continues to show off the ability to pick out a cross, and displays a short passing game which opened up teammates more than once. Incredible for someone who was cut last year and came back effectively as a trialist.
Ethan Dobbelaere gets a taste
Schmetzer does stay loyal to his proven veterans, but he may get a bit too much criticism for not playing his kids. Against LA, he backed up his earlier proclamation that he’d be rotating the team by starting the 17-year-old Dobbelaere at the right wing. While Dobbelaere wasn’t spectacular, he hardly looked out of place on the pitch. More aggressive early in the game going at the Galaxy, his performance would have likely have been seen in a different light had what appeared to be an obvious penalty been called.
What is a hand ball anymore?
The aforementioned penalty shout occurred early in the first half, when Dobbelaere received the ball and drove on the edge on the 18 before taking a shot from distance. The ball clearly hit Daniel Steres — who was several feet away — on the hand before going out for a corner. The VAR checked the play, but surprisingly the penalty wasn’t called, leaving Sounders players, fans and television commentators confused.