The Seattle Sounders may feel unlucky to come away from their midweek game in Sandy, Utah with just one point after twice taking the lead. But a 2-2 draw against Real Salt Lake is a decent result in the grander scheme of things, and probably fair all things considered.
Trips to Rio Tinto Stadium have historically been difficult for the Sounders, and playing at elevation on short rest complicated things further, to say nothing of any motivation RSL may be feeling amidst tremendous change within the club’s front office. The result puts Seattle in second place in the West, two points behind SKC with a game in hand, and on a three-game unbeaten run since returning to play following the MLS is Back Tournament.
Brian Schmetzer fielded a significantly changed lineup from the one that played against LAFC, with key players like Jordan Morris, João Paulo and Kelvin Leerdam getting some rest and Gustav Svensson already on his way to join the Sweden National Team. The 5-4-1 that Schmetzer utilized provided some defensive stability, but the group proved to be rather fragile on corners and set pieces.
RSL’s first goal came when Justen Glad was able to get a largely uncontested header off of a corner, and Frei was forced into several important saves from similar situations to keep the result within reach. The second goal from RSL also came from a set piece, although the set piece defending was hardly at fault. Ultimately, Schmetzer and the team will wish they had gotten more, but will look to build on mostly solid performances from the entire back line and move forward to Sunday’s game at home against Portland.
29’ — After Aaron Herrera is judged to have extended his arm to block the ball, Nicolas Lodeiro calmly beats the ‘keeper to finish the penalty. 1-0
35’ — Alex Roldan nearly puts the ball on a platter for Raul Ruidíaz, but RSL goalkeeper Andrew Putna clears the service away.
51’ — Justen Glad has no trouble winning the ball on a corner and his header squeezes under Frei. 1-1
69’ — Alex Roldan beats a man out wide with a bit of skill before playing a beautiful cross into the box, and Yeimar Gómez Andrade finishes with a powerful header. 2-1
82’ — Nicolas Lodeiro slips in Jordan Morris behind the RSL line and Morris sets up Ruidíaz with a perfect cross. But the goal is disallowed as Morris is judged offside.
85’ — The Sounders clear a corner, but Pablo Ruiz collects the ball and hits a rocket that beats Frei after glancing off the head of Gómez Andrade. 2-2
90’ — Stefan Frei dives to his right to save a header off of a set piece and preserve the result.
Taking what you can get. Even in a condensed season, and maybe even especially in a condensed season, the league isn’t a sprint, it’s more of a marathon. While stacking up wins and high-scoring performances is appealing, there’s a lot of value in being able to get key players rest, getting bench players meaningful minutes, and still getting a result. Getting solid performances from those bench players helps too.
Testing depth. Speaking of bench players, resting some key players meant that spots starts for the likes of Alex Roldan, Jordy Delem, and Nouhou. All three put in decent shifts, highlighted by Alex Roldan’s beautiful assist on Gómez Andrade’s goal. The roles that those three played were slightly different from what they might normally be called upon to do under other circumstances, but on Wednesday their jobs were simplified and they played to their strengths.
Set pieces need work. Seattle’s set-piece defending simply wasn’t good enough. On RSL’s first goal Glad had no trouble winning the header as Delem appeared to be marking Gómez Andrade rather than the RSL defender. The set piece defending issues didn’t stop there, though, as RSL repeatedly created dangerous chances from them. The Sounders defense was solid from open play, but if they want to be able to retain their crown as MLS Champions they’ll need to clean things up on dead ball situations.
One stat to tell the tale
6 — Yeimar Gómez Andrade led Seattle with six clearances as the defense held off RSL as their attack piled on pressure.
The game in one gif
This goal deserved to be a winner.
Look at this play in full. Lodeiro dummies from an offside position, Alex Roldan slips a tackle and puts in a perfect cross to Yeimar at back post. pic.twitter.com/i1ny9q26is— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) September 3, 2020
Quote of the day
"It's important that they understand they worked too hard to get control of the game, in a place we've not had results and close that game out to get three points." - Schmetzer— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) September 3, 2020