It’s debatable whether it feels worse to get blown out and know you’re the worst team on the field, or know you’re the better side and come up short. The Seattle Sounders have rarely been the former in their time in MLS, but last night against the Portland Timbers, they definitely got a taste of the latter.
Dominating the game in just about every statistical category save the one that matters, the Sounders failed in their bid get a bit of revenge for their home loss against the hated rivals. The loss leaves the Sounders and Timbers level on points, though the Sounders have the tiebreaker and a game in hand.
There isn’t much time for the Sounders to dwell on this loss, as they must travel down to Los Angeles on the weekend to take on a suddenly struggling LA Galaxy side.
While the Sounders will fancy their chances to get a result in LA, they likely thought the same thing against the Timbers last night. Now they’ll have to regroup with the rest of the conference breathing down their neck.
The Sounders had it set up perfectly to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the conference. Sporting Kansas City, FC Dallas and Minnesota United all lost, and a win against the Timbers would have set up the Sounders up nicely for the stretch run with a four-point cushion with a game in hand. As it is, only four separates first from eighth in the West. Coach Brian Schmetzer rued the lost chance to create distance after the game, and questions about the Supporters’ Shield (for whatever it is worth) were eschewed by the coach, who noted that the first order of business is to take care of the top seeding in the west.
Million-dollar moves, 5-cent finishes
Everyone has an off day. Unfortunately for the Sounders, star striker Raul Ruidiaz picked a bad time to have one. To be certain Ruidiaz wasn’t alone in misfiring towards goal, but his missed chip in the 21st minute stands out as the chance of the game for the Sounders.
While the missed chance came off of a bad Portand turnover, time after time in the first half the Sounders found themselves in dangerous positions, but fired off shots that were either tame, directly at Timbers keeper Steve Clark, or well off target.
The Sounders have been recently blessed with a short injury list; excepting the still-quarantining Brad Smith, everyone save Danny Leyva was in fact available today. As it turns out Smith would have been a welcome addition today. Nouhou has an uncharacteristically shaky defense performance and was taken off at halftime in favor of Gustav Svensson. Almost immediately, Joevin Jones sustained an injury that forced him off the field and left the Sounders with no natural left back.
It should be said that the Timbers hardly threatened the Sounders’ left side, but losing Jones, who was extremely effective in the match to that point, really hurt.
Too slow, Too fast
Coach Schmetzer seemed of two minds after the game, lamenting the lack of forward tempo in attack, and at the same time wondering if the team was too impatient establishing position against a Timbers side that barely threatened aside from counter attacks. Schmetzer noted that he wanted to see his attackers make more runs in behind to attempt to break down the Timbers defensive shell and also have his forwards and midfielders take the time to set up triangles to help move the ball forward. As the game wore on, the Sounders increasingly relied on crosses into the Timbers penalty area, which were either easily cleared or off target.
The Sounders were effective in switching the point of attack from midfield (though they probably didn’t do enough of it), but getting the ball to Morris and Ruidiaz in dangerous positions was another point of contention in the post-game interview. Even if Ruidiaz was having an off-night with his finishing, he’s the type of player who only needs one chance to get a goal. Schmetzer indicated that he thought the service from the midfield to Ruidiaz was lacking, and on a number of occasions he could be seen in the midfield trying to pick up the ball and make passes. That’s not what you want to see from your star forward.