Featuring a lineup that looked much closer to something the Tacoma Defiance might roll out but played every bit like a MLS contender, the Seattle Sounders moved back into the Supporters’ Shield lead with a 1-0 win over Austin FC on Thursday.
Although Raúl Ruidíaz played hero with a 40-yard strike that provided the winning margin, the Sounders looked perfectly capable of grabbing a result even without it. While Austin dominated possession, the Sounders stayed tight defensively and were dangerous when they opened up.
Brian Schmetzer’s lineup featured five teenagers, three players who were on short-term contracts, a goalkeeper getting his first start of the season and at least two players out of position. You wouldn’t have known it, though.
The Sounders actually had the Expected Goals advantage at halftime and were very much in the game when Schmetzer decided to bring in some veterans around the 60th minute.
After a bit of a slow start, Ruidíaz found a moment of magic in the 68th when he blocked a clearance near midfield and then hit a perfectly placed shot that gave Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver no hope.
The final 20 minutes was sometimes a bit dicier, but aside from Julio Cascante’s disallowed goal the Sounders never looked overly bothered.
This sets up a so-called six-point match with Sporting KC on Sunday, albeit with more breathing room than the Sounders likely figured they’d have.
1’ — Adeniran finds some space on the wing and fires off a shot that goes high.
32’ — Baker-Whiting is able to gather a ball in the box and puts his shot on frame, but Brad Stuver saves it.
44’ — Baker-Whiting puts Adeniran into space and he gets behind the defense, but his shot goes wide after what looked like a deflection.
52’ — Alex Ring is left all alone in front of goal, but his header is right at Spencer Richey.
68’ — GOAL! Ruidíaz lines one up from near midfield after a failed clearance and beats Stuver who had come off his line for his 11th goal of the season. 0-1
77’ — DISALLOWED GOAL. After a highly questionable foul call to set up a free kick, Austin appeared to equalize on a Julio Cascante header, but it was disallowed via VAR when he was ruled offside.
80’ — For a brief moment, it looked like Ruidíaz had his second but he was ruled offside.
Don’t doubt the genius: Schmetzer opened himself up for a lot of criticism with his starting lineup, but it worked better than even he probably imagined. Not only was the lineup very young, but it was also very short on experience. Seven of the starters had played at least once for the Defiance this year and four players were making their first MLS start of the year. Brad Smith, João Paulo, and Yeimar were the only regular starters to at the opening whistle. They never looked overwhelmed, even with Austin dominating nearly 75% of possession.
Rui’s a wizard: It’s been a bit since Ruidíaz had scored a real golazo, but he made up for lost time with one of the longest goals in MLS history. Ruidíaz also came close to scoring a second goal, but was narrowly ruled offside. That gives him 11 goals on the season, the most in MLS and already tied for second-most with the Sounders. He’s an absolutely magical player.
Youth is served: It really can’t be overstated just how young this group of players were. Not only did five teenagers start, but there were two players barely old enough to drink and another teen who came off the bench. This was all a testament to the work the organization has done in crafting a pipeline from local clubs to the Academy to Tacoma Defiance and onto the first team. It’s not at all hard to imagine many of these players having long MLS careers.
Did you see that?!?
We asked for Rui magic and we got it.
He said what?!?
This is usually reserved for people on the team, but we’re making an exception today.
Sounders are unreal. Give Schmetz Raul and 10 dudes from Pikes Market and he’ll get a result.— Chad Marshall (@ChadMarshall14) July 23, 2021
The game in one stat
22.4 — The Sounders started a lineup featuring five teenagers — a first in MLS history — and their entire starting lineup was the second youngest of all-time.
Who was the Man of the Match in the 1-0 win over Austin?
This poll is closed