SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders came into Sunday night’s match with the Colorado Rapids with a few objectives. On the heels of two impressive road victories, the Sounders had already tied their franchise record for most road wins in a season. But there was still a Lumen-sized monkey on their proverbial backs.
Seattle’s home form this year had been just slightly above average by MLS standards and well below their own. Historically strong both home and away, their 6-3-4 record coming into the match had them on pace for their worst home points per game of all time.
The Rapids match provided the Sounders with a chance to start making things right with the home faithful, in addition to knocking down a rival, while maintaining their advantage atop the Western Conference after Sporting Kansas City won and a suddenly resurgent Portland Timbers lurking in the shadows.
Consider those objectives met.
The 3-0 victory definitely had the feel-good vibes, particularly for the first 60-odd minutes, as the Sounders raced out to an early lead, added the all-important second goal halfway through the first half, and closed out the first 45 in some style. The Sounders looked really set to pour it on in the second half, but VAR removed the fourth goal and a 60th-minute red card effectively took the air out of the game.
From there the game lost pretty much all its rhythm, and to be fair the Rapids acquitted themselves well given the handicap. But the game had been decided by that point, and the Sounders were able to see the game out, getting some key players off the field and providing some bench players some valuable minutes.
Goals change games, and when you’re trying to make a statement at home, getting one early can set the tone. So when Cristian Roldan capitalized on an early turnover — and some shaky goalkeeping — barely a minute in, it surely gave the Sounders a boost. Still, for Brian Schmetzer, it was the second goal he found even more important, as it really forced the Rapids to change their tactics. To be fair to the Rapids, they responded well to the second goal and probably should have pulled one back before João Paulo’s capper. But the difference between the teams are the difference-makers in attack, and once the Sounders got their third just before the halftime whistle, the game was decided.
JP goes full #BeastMode
Speaking of that third goal. Oh, that goal. João Paulo strictly speaking isn’t a goal scorer, and when the Sounders are at full strength, he isn’t required to be. But his combination of quality on the ball, physicality and dogged determination are not often seen in MLS. All of it was on display on his marauding run through the Rapids defense in first-half stoppage time. It was part slalom, part Beast Mode, capped with a clinical finish that left all of the bodies — and jaws — on the floor. Asked after the game which was his favorite goal, João Paulo admitted that the volley against Minnesota tops the list, and based on technical difficulty it’s hard to make a case otherwise. But as a moment of individual brilliance, João Paulo surely added another goal to the discussion.
Medranda brings balance
The Sounders’ attack this season has been at points a bit one-side, with Alex Roldan’s ascent as an All-Star right wingback helping to supply a significant percentage of dangerous chances through his precision crossing and interplay. That one-sidedness has its downsides when it’s not working, however, as it makes the Sounders predictable. One way of course to prevent teams from keying in on one side of the field is to balance things out, and the emergence of Jimmy Medranda as a left-sided threat has allowed the team to even the field. Medranda has been a revelation, not only with his scoring but his defense, directly setting up the first goal by closing down the Rapids in on their endline, which allowed the ball to fall to Will Bruin, who set up Cristian Roldan to finish the opener. And of course, he’s showed a penchant for the spectacular offensively, hammering home the Sounders second goal with a powerful shot past Rapids keeper Clint Irwin (he had a second controversially disallowed through VAR). As Schmetzer said after the game, Medranda is a very good defender and scores golazos.
Bruin provides the influence
You might have heard this one before: Will Bruin didn’t score — and didn’t even register a shot — but he had a very good game. As much as Bruin might not prefer it to be ture, he’s proving himself invaluable with performances just like this one. Providing excellent holdup play for most of the game, Bruin has become an expert at making runs that help open opportunities for his teammates. His pass in the 20th minute to release Cristian Roldan to set up the second goal was simply sublime, the kind of pass you’d expect Nicolas Lodeiro or João Paulo to pull off. He also had the assist on Roldan’s goal and would have had an assist if Medranda’s second goal had been allowed to stand. Bruin will get his chances to score between international duty and injuries, but what he provided in this game can’t be overstated.
Cristian Roldan can’t stop scoring
What a run of form for Cristian Roldan as he heads off for international duty with the United States men’s national team With the Sounders missing a fair amount of their attacking options, Roldan said he’s taken it upon himself to be more aggressive and selfish, particularly when he plays in a more advanced position. That mindset was on full display on the first goal, as Roldan found himself in the penalty area to receive the pass from Will Bruin to fire past Irwin, his fourth goal in four games. Of all of the Sounders who depart for action during the break, it might be Roldan who the Sounders miss the most.