The Seattle Sounders welcomed LAFC to Lumen Field for the two teams’ second meeting of the season. After a lackluster first half, the Sounders’ attack came alive through the defense as they claimed an impressive 2-0 win to improve to 5-0-1 on the season and move four points clear of the Supporters’ Shield lead.
The first half was largely devoid of highlights as LAFC controlled much of the possession and limited Seattle’s ability to string passes together with their press. The best chance for either team came towards the end of the half when Brad Smith ran into the center of the box and struck a cross from Cristian Roldan first-time but his shot went wide of the left side of the goal.
Brian Schmetzer’s side came out in the second half looking much improved, doing a much better job of controlling the game through the opening minutes of the half. That control eventually paid off when the Sounders earned a corner that João Paulo delivered in the 57th minute. Xavier Arreaga rose up to meet the service at the near post and sent his header down into the opposite corner to give Seattle the lead with his first MLS goal.
From there the bulk of the chances belonged to Seattle, with Smith adding an insurance goal to finish off some remarkable work by Alex Roldan in the 73rd. LAFC managed a couple of looks late in the game, but Stefan Cleveland in goal and the defense in front of him did well to mitigate the danger and secure the shutout as the Sounders equaled their best-ever start to a season. The win puts Seattle in the lead for the Supporters’ Shield with 16 points, while they also lead the league in goals scored (13), have allowed the fewest goals and have the best goal differential (+11).
43’ - Cristian Roldan finds Brad Smith in the center of the box with only the goalkeeper to beat, but Smith’s first-time shot is wide of the goal.
57’ - Xavier Arreaga rises to meet a João Paulo corner at the near post and sends his header into the bottom corner at the far post to open the scoring. 1-0
61’ - Following some maintained pressure and the ball bouncing around the area LAFC get a clean shot off from the top of the box, but Stefan Cleveland easily deals with it.
73’ - An excellent sequence of play that included some nifty footwork from Alex Roldan resulted in the wingback sending in a perfect cross towards the penalty spot that Brad Smith ran onto and headed home to double the lead. 2-0
86’ - Cleveland comes out to deal with an LAFC set piece and collides with Arreaga and an attacking player. Arreaga stays down, but is eventually able to continue playing.
Cleveland - progress and prosperity: When Stefan Frei went down, folks in and around the Sounders community were reasonably concerned about the effect that losing not only the team’s captain but one of the best goalkeepers in the league would have on the team. The Sounders happened to be as well-positioned to handle the loss as a team could be, with Spencer Richey and Stefan Cleveland waiting in the wings. Cleveland got the start against LAFC, and quickly showed why the team was so interested in acquiring him ahead of the 2020 season. He handled each shot he faced pretty easily, and pitched in with decent distribution and an impressive command of the area for a guy who hadn’t played an MLS game since 2018. If this was an example of what we can expect going forward, the future of the GK position in Seattle is in safe hands.
Ideal defense: For the first time this season, Schmetzer started what many would assume to be the ideal back-three in the 3-5-2. Arreaga played in the center of the three with Nouhou to his left and Yeimar Gómez Andrade to his right. The trio combined for 7 tackles, 9 interceptions, 15 clearances, 3 blocked shots (all of which came inside the box), and 18 recoveries as they worked to make sure that LAFC’s possession never turned into anything more dangerous. Add in Arreaga’s goal and it’s hard to argue against the quality on offer from this particular group of CBs.
The wind beneath their wings: Brad Smith scored his third goal of the season, putting him in second behind Raúl Ruidíaz on the team, and Alex Roldan picked up his second assist of the season. The two wingbacks have been a huge part of the team’s success through the first six games, providing width throughout while also clearly contributing in the final third. Roldan, in particular, has been something of a revelation at right wingback. Not only has his service from wide areas been a major part of the team’s attack, but his technical ability has directly contributed to the side’s ability to maintain possession and transition quickly from defense into attack. He’s also more than chipped in on the other side of the ball, as his 12 tackles is the second most on the team and he leads the league with 20 interceptions. The move to the 3-5-2 has unlocked the best in a number of players, but few have benefited to the same extent as the wingbacks.
Did you see that?!?
Hang this one in the Louvre.
He said what?!?
Schmetzer on Nouhou: "The vertical play by LAFC going against Nouhou is a dead end. Teams should stop doing that because it’s not going anywhere."— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) May 17, 2021
“Teams should stop doing that.”
One stat to tell the tale
18 — Alex Roldan had 18 duels, the most in the game, and won 76.47% of them according to MLS. Eduard Atuesta had the next most duels with 16, but only won 21.43%.
Man of the Match
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