SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders stretched their unbeaten run to open the season by beating Houston Dynamo 2-0 on Wednesday night. Despite numerous absences, the Sounders still managed to put out a strong lineup. The opening half was open with the Sounders creating plenty of quality chances — most notably Fredy Montero and Raúl Ruidíaz both had great looks inside the area within three minutes of each other — but no goals were forthcoming. That changed in the second half.
Kelyn Rowe got the scoring started in the 63rd minute, scoring his first goal as a Sounder and his first MLS goal since 2018. Alex Roldan’s ball from the edge of the box reached Rowe at the near post as he and Ruidíaz both crashed on goal, and the shot beat the ‘keeper. The second goal wouldn’t come until late, but Seattle had plenty of chances between the two goals.
Ruidíaz would get a goal of his own, bringing him level with Chicharito for the Golden Boot. Ruidíaz’s goal was the culmination of a beautiful play that involved a wonderful touch and incredible pass by Montero that set Brad Smith free down the left wing. Smith hit an early, leading cross with his first touch that nutmegged a defender and found Ruidíaz in stride, and the striker made the finish look easy. Seattle now has a week and a half break before their next game, when they travel to face Minnesota United on Sunday, July 18.
7’ — Fredy Montero plays a little slip pass that releases Raúl Ruidíaz behind the defense. Ruidíaz’s shot beats the ‘keeper, but bounces off of the far post.
19’ — Stefan Cleveland’s adventurous spirit nearly results in another goal against the Sounders, but AB Cissoko is there to block the shot.
21’ — Montero nearly scores one himself, but his header off of a cross by Jimmy Medranda is saved.
57’ — The closest look of the half so far is nearly an own goal, as Tim Parker chests a João Paulo cross for what ultimately is a Sounders corner kick.
63’ — Moments after Kelyn Rowe had a great shot from distance saved, he’s at the doorstep to put away a cross from Alex Roldan to open the scoring. 1-0
89’ — Maxi Urruti gets off a clean look following a long throw, but Stefan Cleveland is able to easily handle the shot to keep the lead.
90 + 4’ — Fredy Montero hits an absolutely beautiful ball into the channel for Brad Smith to run onto. Smith’s first-time ball is perfectly struck to meet Raúl Ruidíaz at the far post for the finish. 2-0
Mr. 2-5-3: This game was probably the exact scenario that the Sounders brought Kelyn Rowe in for. Without Cristian Roldan, away with the USMNT, Rowe stepped into the elder Roldan’s spot in midfield along with Danny Leyva and João Paulo. As Roldan has recently, Rowe was at times a central midfielder, while at others he served as effectively a wide forward in a three-forward line with Montero and Ruidíaz. Rowe may not have necessarily had his best game, but he opened his Sounders account with the first goal of the evening, had three other shots, including one good look from distance, and created plenty of danger with some smooth passing and quality crosses. He also led the Sounders with 4 tackles and tied for the most fouls won with 5.
The Craftsman: João Paulo is a very good soccer player. You don’t need me to tell you that. He once again led the team in touches, putting up yet another 100+ touch performance and completing over 80% of his 80 passes on the night. João Paulo isn’t necessarily what you’d call a string-puller, not the type of delicate artist often called a maestro. Instead, the midfielder is something more like a craftsman. He does the difficult, dirty work with a refinement and quality that comes from years of high-level experience. JP is a watchmaker, a fine woodworker, a man who can turn raw materials into works of art that will weather a storm. He may not get the plaudits of other players, but he’s making a strong case for at least being the Sounders MVP.
Fun in context: It’s funny how quickly one’s mood can change. Following draws in the previous two games, there were plenty who were feeling some frustration, as at the very least the draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps felt like it should have been a win. Now the Sounders got a home win against a quality team before heading into the Gold Cup break, and the mood is a bit brighter. The context around the team’s situation hasn’t changed, though. The Sounders are still missing several players, with no return on the immediate horizon, and add a couple more players to that list this week as Cristian Roldan left for international duty ahead of this game and Alex Roldan leaves following. In spite of the absences, the shift to a new formation, the continuing difficulty of scouting and signing players due to the pandemic, the Sounders are unbeaten in 13 games to start the season — a league record — sit atop the Supporters Shield race with the league’s best defense and best goal difference. Things are good in the Emerald City, and they’re even better when you look at how they got here.
Did you see that?!?
Brian Schmetzer’s side closed the game out in style.
He said what?!?
Schmetzer: "It was really important for the team to play well. It's an impressive mini-record, I'm proud of that, but tonight I just wanted the team t perform well. If we play up to our potential, we can win more games than we lose. I'm just glad the streak didn't end tonight."— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) July 8, 2021
One stat to tell the tale
2.1 — The xGD (Expected Goal Difference) between the Sounders and Dynamo was 2.1 (2.6 - 0.5)
Man of the match
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