In a tournament defined by its odd timing and awkward run-up, the teams who made the least mistakes in early rounds would always be the most likely to go through. The Sounders were not one of those teams against Chicago.
Xavier Arreaga will have to shoulder the brunt of the blame as he misplayed a Fire clearance on the first goal and lost his marker on a corner for the second goal. Still, sloppy play could be found in all parts of the field. Seattle bossed possession (which was largely granted to them by the Fire’s deep defensive shape) but lacked ideas going forward. Their midfield was solid but stagnant. On the whole, they were not the better team and fell 2-1 and are now 0-1-1 through two group-stage matches.
To have any hopes of advancing, they’ll need to beat the Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday.
7’ — Raul Ruidiaz found success early dropping deeper into the midfield to pick up the ball in possession. In the 7th minute, he did just that before finding Nicolas Lodeiro open at the top of the box for a clean shot at goal.
22’ — Miguel Ibarra showed off his defensive prowess by picking off the Fire at midfield, which set Shandon Hopeau up for a good chance inside the box. The Homegrown Player making his first MLS start pulled the shot left of target.
40’ — The Fire began to grow into the game later in the half as their wingbacks got into more advance positions. Jonathan Bornstein put in a good cross for his opposite wingback, Przemyslaw Frankowski, but Nouhou made an excellent intervention to disrupt the header.
50’ — The Fire continued to grow in confidence early in the second half. With the Sounders sitting a little too deep, Robert Beric got on the ball with space in the 18 but fired his shot high.
54’ — Catastrophic error in the back as Arreaga misjudged a Chicago clearance that bounced over his head and put Beric in on goal. The DP striker showed his class by cooly cutting past a recovering Yeimar Gomez Andrade before finishing bottom corner.
77’ — Sounders got on the board for the first time this tournament thanks to a nice passage of play that found Jordan Morris open on the end line. Morris put in a well angled low cross for Handwalla Bwana who provided a clean left-footed finish.
84’ — Pushing for a winner, the Sounders ended up getting snakebit on the other end. Beric forced a corner with a good shot from the top of the box, and then Mauricio Pineda scored off the set piece which inexplicable bounced through the Sounders 6-yard box (and Morris’ legs).
Morning coffee conundrums
The Sounders are suddenly lacking wing depth. Going into the season, winger seemed to be one position group where the Sounders ran two or three deep with borderline starter quality talent. Behind the presumptive starters (Morris and Cristian Roldan) were Joevin Jones, Miguel Ibarra, and Harry Shipp. With Shipp retired, Jones hurt (he was listed out with a left adductor strain), and Roldan having to slide back to holding mid to cover for João Paulo, that depth has now been decimated. Hopeau showed a few promising flashes, but mostly looked hesitant in the first half while Handwalla Bwana chipped in with a goal but lacked the between-the-lines creativity of a Jones, Ibarra, or Shipp (not to mention Victor Rodriguez).
Arreaga’s form is trending in the wrong direction. After an up and down first year with the Sounders, the centerback seemed to be growing into his role, closing out last season with a strong performance against LAFC in the playoffs and opening this season with a smooth outing against the Fire at CenturyLink. In the last two matches though, he’s been a troubling mixture of passive and reckless — a telltale sign of a centerback lacking confidence. The quality is still there, but the pressure is now on to prove the Sounders made a smart investment when they spent big to get him last summer.
Familiar reserves provided a few bright spots. Though Bwana may not have shown the creative impetus in possession needed to break down Chicago’s deep block, he did flash his trademark combination of quickness and composure when he dashed toward the PK spot and slotted his shot back post for the Sounders’ lone goal. He also looked more willing to attack 1v1 on the dribble, which should be his bread and butter moving forward. Even if his dribbles don’t always pan out, having a player who can consistently put outside backs on their back foot should be an asset moving forward.
Speaking of outside backs, how about those Alex Roldan crosses?! The younger Roldan put eight balls into the box in only 15 minutes of play. The services came from different angles and different heights and almost all were dangerous.
One stat to tell the tale
1 — The Sounders only managed one shot on target and seven total shots despite having over 60% possession and completing more than 90% of their passes. Not good enough.
Quote of the day
Not exactly high praise or cheery optimism from the skipper...
"It's been a mandate by the club to get younger players in the squad, so I'm doing what I can." - Schmetzer on Hopeau's debut— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) July 14, 2020
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