The Seattle Sounders kicked off their participation in the MLS is Back Tournament with a game against Matias Almeyda’s San Jose Earthquakes. The game was not unlike any game against the Earthquakes, regardless of who is in charge, as their man-marking system made what was already effectively a preseason game in terms of fitness and on-field chemistry even more of a slog. Both teams had their chances, but both ‘keepers were up to the challenge. At least there can only be one first game.
Here are five things that we saw.
How about that weather?
At 9 PM local time, the game against San Jose kicked off in 88% humidity, with a temperature around 81 degrees. Under any circumstances, playing the first competitive game in four months against the high-intensity man-marking system of the Earthquakes would always be tough, but that combination of heat and humidity makes just being outside a strenuous activity. The atmospheric conditions won’t be changing any time soon, but at least the next two games of the group stage for the Sounders will be either much earlier or a bit later. Who would have thought that the morning kickoff would be so appealing?
Shaking off the rust
That game was rough. There were other mitigating factors — an unconventional system from their opponent, the hot, swampy evening air — but faced with a real opponent, the Sounders collectively were just a little bit out of sync. Passes were a little too slow, or a little bit off the mark, and instincts just weren’t as sharp as they needed to be. With time those things should improve, but with something on the line in these games the Sounders are going to need to start clicking sooner than later.
The referee’s job is hard
Refereeing is hard. At any level, it’s a tough job trying to strike the right balance of letting the teams play without things getting too physical. Maybe things start to get a little rough early in the game, so you show a couple of yellow cards in the hopes of calming everyone down. The trouble comes when things don’t calm down, and no more punishment is given out. That seemed to be the case as tackles came flying in late from both sides throughout the night. Add in what looked like clear shouts for penalties from both sides, and referee Drew Fischer’s performance is hardly confidence inducing. Hopefully the referees are just shaking off some rust as well.
There wasn’t a lot that seemed to go right, but keeping San Jose off the board will still likely be seen as a silver lining. After giving up the opening goals in both of their prior 2020 MLS games, Brian Schmetzer will certainly see this as something to build off of, and a lot of the credit goes to Stefan Frei. Frei made eight saves — San Jose put up a whopping 16 shots — including a few highlight reel-worthy diving stops. Over the last few years Frei has become as reliable as a sunburn when you fall asleep on the beach, but the rest of the team is going to have to make his job a little easier as this tournament continues.
Earlier this week I wrote about the two big positional questions facing the Sounders defense. The two questions coming into the game seemed to be who would start beside Xavier Arreaga at centerback, and who of Joevin Jones and Nouhou would start at left back, and coming out of this game it seems like we know the answers. Yeimar Gómez Andrade started as Arreaga’s partner and Nouhou started at LB, and the two of them arguably put in the best performances from anyone not named Stefan Frei. No one’s game was perfect, but Gómez Andrade’s comfort on the ball and sturdy defending eased a lot of pressure, and Nouhou provided the defense we’ve come to expect while also pitching in with a couple really nice attacking moves. It’s just one game, but if this was a sign of things to come, I like those answers.
Go Sounders. Let’s meet back here bright and early on Tuesday.