What started out looking like a statement performance for the Seattle Sounders instead turned into one that was a bit more muddled. Despite missing Nicolás Lodeiro, Gustav Svensson and Harry Shipp, the Sounders jumped on Olimpia with an early goal, landed an insurance strike in the second half and nearly jumped out to a 3-0 lead only to be forced to settle for a frustrating 2-2 tie in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League Round of 16 meeting on Thursday.
7 — The Sounders opened the scoring on a well-worked goal that started with a goal kick. Joevin Jones picked up a ball won by Kelvin Leerdam around midfield, made a quick move to beat the first defender and then put Jordan Morris into space on the left wing with a perfect switch. Morris patiently waited for his teammates to join him and then put in a cross that found João Paulo all alone at the back post. João Paulo’s header easily beat the goalkeeper. It was the fastest goal for a Sounder in their debut.
25 — A few minutes after Xavier Arreaga was given a questionable yellow and two more yellows were given to each bench, the referee made another curious decision in not issuing a red card to Yustin Arboleda after he kicked Stefan Frei with a high boot. Instead, the referee gave yellows to both Arboleda and Frei, who had loudly chastised the forward.
49 — Jerry Bengtson got a wonderful look at a potential equalizer when he found himself with an open header about eight yards out. But Stefan Frei was able to make a sprawling save to keep it 1-0.
52 — Arboleda came inches away from an equalizer but his glancing header hit off the post.
54 — Just as it seemed as though Olimpia was grabbing control, Morris flipped the momentum. After receiving a ball on the left wing in space, Morris found Jones on the opposite side. Jones’ initial shot was saved, but Morris was first to the rebound and put it past the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
55 — About a minute later, Morris had a golden chance to make ti 3-0 when he was first to a ball over the top. But despite being in all alone, he opted to try to feed Raúl Ruidíaz for a potential tap-in only to see the ball deflected away.
63 — Shortly after Cristian Maidana entered the match, he had a positive impact. After getting the ball on the right wing, he put a couple moves on Nouhou to create space and then put a ball in front of goal that Arboleda was able to deflect past Frei to make it 2-1.
81 — Arboleda grabbed the equalizer after some sloppy defending by the Sounders. Xavier Arreaga was probably the first culprit, when he tried to let a ball near the endline roll out. Instead Leonardo Garrido was able to get there and put in a cross that immediately caused trouble. The Sounders were able to survive the first shot, but that pulled Frei way out of position and Jorge Benguché was able to put a ball back across the goal that found Arboleda.
Reason for optimism
- João Paulo showed off some impressive positional flexibility. He opened the match as the No. 10, a role he was forced into due to Nicolas Lodeiro’s hamstring tendonitis and Harry Shipp’s illness. He responded with the fastest goal for a debutante in Sounders history. At some point in the first half, he swapped roles with Cristian Roldan and played as more of a No. 8. He’d move back and forth throughout the match and never looked out of place until he left in the 78th minute.
- Morris picked up right where he left off. He assisted on the Sounders’ first goal after getting behind the Olimpia defense and scored the second goal after putting the defense on their heels with his speed again. He of course ultimately scored on that sequence.
- Frei was under intense pressure for most of the second half and although he gave up two goals, neither were really his fault. On the shots he could do anything about, he was often stellar and did well in coming off his line to punch balls and grab stray crosses when he had a chance. The backline may be a work in progress, but the Frei looks as good as ever.
- The Sounders’ depth got tested early and mostly came out looking stellar. Jones and Delem — likely the two players who wouldn’t have been starting otherwise — played well and all three subs did the jobs needed of them. A lack of depth was not why the Sounders gave up two goals.
Needs some work
- The centerback partnership of Arreaga and Yeimar Goméz Andrade has only been together for about two weeks, so some growing pains are to be expected. They showed plenty of promise in this one, but also looked a bit lost on both goals. Olimpia got far too many good looks from inside the box and the duo will need to be better on the return leg.
- There’s no reason to pretend otherwise, but blowing a 2-0 lead under any circumstances is just not good. It’s fair to point out that the Sounders were tired and were clearly struggling with fitness in their first competitive match in three months. It’s also fair to point out that up 2-0 on the road, you have to find a way to see out the result. The Sounders were too sloppy in the back and wasted several very good chances to extend their lead.
The game in on gif
Morris looked gassed by the game and truth be told was already looking beat when this happened, but everything we love about him was on display in this sequence.
This is how we do it. pic.twitter.com/WEkm5FMlLP— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) February 21, 2020
One stat to the tell the tale
61 — Olimpia put in a nearly impossible to believe 61 crosses. They also had 16 corners. It will be interesting to see how they change up tactics in the return leg.
Man of the match
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