The Seattle Sounders came into their matchup against the LA Galaxy with some headwinds against them. Coming off two disappointing home draws, and with Nicolás Lodeiro and Stefan Frei out for the foreseeable future due to complications from existing injuries, the last thing head coach Brian Schmetzer wanted to deal with was the loss of one of the early front-runners for Defensive Player of the Year. But that’s exactly what the Sounders were looking at, as centerback revelation Nouhou was held out of action due to what was described as tightness in his adductor.
The late injury meant that recent signee AB Cissoko would make his debut in the highly anticipated matchup in Carson. It also meant that the already shorthanded Sounders would be unable to fill their bench, having only 17 available players. On the road against a Galaxy side looking for revenge after a 3-0 drubbing earlier this season, the Sounders would need a sturdy performance to get a result.
They got that and then some.
While they didn’t match the dominant performance in that earlier matchup versus the Galaxy, it was arguably more impressive, as the Sounders used a set-piece and a scrappy rebound goal to leave Southern California with all three points, extending their lead atop the Supporters’ Shield standings. The Sounders now find themselves in a similar position as they did before the break, with two winnable home games which could allow them to solidify their status as front runners.
Ruidíaz begins revenge tour
The news that Peru dropped Raúl Ruidíaz from the national team roster ahead of Copa America was met with surprise by most. Nonetheless, Schmetzer was hardly one to look a gift-horse in the mouth, noting that Ruidíaz returned to the team hungry and motivated to help the team. With no national team obligations for the remainder of the summer, Ruidíaz was free to continue his hot start to the MLS season, and in a matchup of the two Golden Boot leaders, Ruidíaz won the individual battle. While he didn’t necessarily dominate the game, he was in the right place to stick a rebound from a Cristian Roldan shot past the goalkeeper. Ruidíaz now has seven goals, tied with Chicarito for tops in MLS.
Depth tested, again
The cliché about defenders and referees is that the less you hear about them, the better. While head referee Drew Fisher was likely the subject of some salty words from Sounders partisans, no such language would describe the performance of Cissoko in his first appearance. Signed from the Tacoma Defiance earlier this year, Cissoko hardly put a foot wrong in his debut, helping the Sounders keep Chicharito off the score sheet. The 21-year-old appears to be another potential find for the Sounders as they look to continue to inject youth into the first-team squad.
In hockey it’s the penalty kill and (American) football it’s the two-minute drill. Soccer of course has its own version of closing out a tight game when the clock hits 90:00, and the Sounders put on a clinic, as they’ve done all season. With seven minutes held up by the fourth official, the Sounders were able to calmly end the match drawing timely fouls and winning throw-ins deep in the Galaxy’s defensive end. While it won’t match the last minutes of the game against San Jose for drama, this was a professional closing performance. Will Bruin in particular was key in the final stretch, using his body to win the ball.
The Sounders historically have been dangerous on set-piece corners and free kicks, having the likes of Eddie Johnson finishing off Mauro Rosales service. João Paulo seems to be doing his best to provide a worthy successor, this time setting up Yeimar Goméz Andrade for the equalizer. The assist was João Paulo’s fifth of the season, and the fourth that comes off a set piece. Being dangerous on set-pieces is always a bonus but it’s especially the case when a team is struggling to generate chances, as the Sounders were especially in the first half.
The Sounders have appeared to pull off another scouting coup in picking up Stef Cleveland. In his fourth start for the Sounders, Cleveland was a steady presence in the back, helping the Sounders continue their record of not conceding a goal from the run of play. Cleveland has allowed just two goals all year, both of which came from the penalty spot. Cleveland was fully in command of his penalty box throughout and continues to show that that the Sounders appear to be in good hands with the long-term injury to Frei.