It has been a very, very long time since we’ve been able to discuss a Seattle Sounders victory. If you want to be exact, it has been 140 days. And it somehow feels about twice that long.
The Sounders had hoped to start off the MLS is Back Tournament with a bang, but they only managed 1 point from their first two matches against Chicago and San Jose. With their backs against the wall, facing elimination, Seattle put together a classic Sounders performance by beating the Vancouver Whitecaps by 3-0. Here’s the five things we learned from this game.
Showing up when it counts
The Sounders entered this tournament as one of the favorites to lift the trophy at the end (there is a trophy, right?), but a few key injuries and two lackluster matches put the team behind the 8-ball. And that’s just where they like to be. It’s definitely a tired and over simplified narrative at this point, but the Sounders do consistently show up in these sort of must-win games Wilting under pressure is not something this team does, especially under the leadership of head coach Brian Schmetzer.
“They have strong mentalities. It goes a long way back.” Schmetzer said in his post-game press conference. “This team has always had a winning tradition. It’s based on the mentality of this group never quitting, never saying die. They do everything possible to win games. They reward themselves for their mentality and effort.”
The race is by no means finished. The Sounders clinched a spot in the round of 16 with their win on Sunday night, but they’ll need to do some scoreboard watching to see who they end up playing in the next round.
Jordan Morris this, Jordan Morris that
A lot has happened in the last four months. I do not blame you for one second if you sort of forgot what was going on in the world of soccer. But, let me remind you of one thing right now: Jordan Morris is very, very good at soccer. Like, really freaking good. He now has 12 goals and nine assists in his past 25 MLS appearances. That’s “Best XI” type stuff from our boy.
If you don’t want to believe me because I’m a certified Morris stan, take MLS Analyst Matt Doyle’s word for it.
Armchair Analyst: Jordan Morris has leveled up yet again, and is arguably the league's best winger (non-Carlos Vela edition).— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) July 20, 2020
Across all competitions for club & country he's now got 18g/16a in his last 36 games.
He's so, so much better than I thought he would be. pic.twitter.com/irOrwYOgOi
No healthy centerbacks?
Not everything was all jolly for the Sounders at Disney World on Sunday night. Xavier Arreaga needed to come off after receiving a ball to the head in the 68th minute. Yeimar Gomez Andrade needed to be subbed off in the previous game, and missed the final group stage game with an injury. That leads the Sounders with one healthy out-and-out centerback in Shane O’Neill.
Depending on when the Sounders play next, we may have to see a creative solution at the back for Seattle. Gustav Svensson, Jordy Delem and Josh Atencio all have a reasonable amounts of experience at centerback, but none of them would be starting there under ideal circumstances.
It should be noted that Schmetzer said this about Arreaga after the game: “He’s fine, he’s a tough kid. I took him off as a precaution.”
Raul & Nico play well, Seattle plays well
I’m not a very smart person but I do know a couple things about Major League Soccer. One of those things is this: If your DPs play well, your team will play well. That’s exactly the difference between the Sounders’ first two games and their game against Vancouver.
The first match against San Jose was Nicolas Lodeiro’s first competitive match since the MLS Cup Final on Nov. 10, 2019. That’s nearly seven months without a real game. That’s a long time! It makes sense that he was a little rusty. But thankfully he shook it off and returned to the classic Nico we know and love.
As for Raul Ruidiaz, the quiet start to the tournament is a little more baffling. Even goal scorers can hit a funk, I guess. But I’m happy to see Raul back on the scoresheet.
Nouhou choo choo’d
At some point it needs to be said that no one should be drawing lasting conclusions based on what we see happen at this tournament. Some really good teams are playing like bad teams, and some really bad teams are playing like good teams! It’s just a handful of games after four months of nothing in the middle of a literal theme park.
With that said, I think we should be keeping an eye on the progression to Nouhou’s game. The match against Vancouver was the most complete performance I’ve seen Nouhou put together, maybe ever. His intensity and commitment going forward sparked the Sounders to be aggressive and set the tempo. He made some key defensive stops to help keep a clean sheet. His passing and movement was very, very smart. We even got a classic Nouhou moment when everyone in the world knew he was going to take a shot. It would be fantastic if we could keep seeing this type of performance from Nouhou.
Now it’s your turn. What were the things you learned from this match?