SEATTLE — All the elements were there for a satisfying night.
Cristian Roldan had put in gritty 90-minute shift in his return from national team duty. Designated Player Nicolás Lodeiro entered the game in the 87th minute to an uproarious ovation from the 31,000 fans in attendance, his first appearance in three months. And Fredy Montero had summoned a bit more magic with a well-placed header that put the Seattle Sounders on the path to end their summer doldrums.
Unfortunately, storybook endings aren’t always happy ones.
Despite their early domination of the match, the Sounders wilted under the pressure from FC Dallas late, and finally broke in extra time when Franco Jara punched home a scrambled ball in the box in the 91st minute, rescuing a point for the visitors, and further confounding the Sounders.
The frustrating result — combined with Sporting Kansas City’s demolition of LAFC — officially displaced the Sounders from the top of the West on tiebreakers and points per game. The Sounders will have a short break from league play, hosting Tigres in MLS/Liga MX Leagues Cup venture, before embarking on the most difficult road stretch of the year, as they face the Portland Timbers, FC Dallas and MLS Champion Columbus Crew in consecutive matches starting a week from Sunday.
Here are a few things that will be sticking with us from this one:
It was fair to call Lodeiro’s inclusion on the Sounders bench Wednesday a surprise, if not an outright shock. As recently as a couple weeks ago, it was assumed that it would be near the end of summer before the Sounders talisman would don the rave green kit. The knee surgery Lodeiro underwent at the end of May capped a frustrating start to the year, which saw the midfielder make just one 24-minute appearance. However, things seemed to take a turn for the better about 10 days ago, when Lodeiro’s presence increased at training, and when Schmetzer said he looked “very good,” it was probably a hint that the timeline had been accelerated. So when Lodeiro entered the game as a substitute in the 87th minute with the Sounders nursing a 1-0 lead, the storyline was there to cap his return. Unfortunately, Lodeiro and the Sounders will have to be happy with a cameo ended up being more hopeful prelude than anything immediately helpful.
Cristian slots back in
There were no such fitness issues for Cristian Roldan, fresh off his triumphant stint with the U.S. National Team. Roldan was his usual dogged self, often filling the wide channels that had often gone unused in his absence. Roldan was effective late, using his skill and determination to make long runs up the field to create dangerous chances and — on the rare occasion for the Sounders — keep possession. It was something the Sounders had been missing for the last month, and but for some poor finishing, his performance should have netted an assist or two.
Quality lacking in front of goal
The reason Roldan wasn’t on the scoresheet with any assists was down to one thing: Some dire finishing from the Sounders. Whether it was crosses from out wide from the run of play that were easily cleared by Dallas’ sturdy defense, close-range shots that simply weren’t put on goal, or wild shots from distance that had little chance of troubling Jimmy Maurer, the Sounders simply did not have on their finishing boots. It’s been a troubling trend over the last month, which has seen the Sounders fail to score multiple goals in a game since a 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo on July 7 — the last home win for the Sounders.
Sounders can’t control possession late
Though it happens to every team on occasion, the Sounders typically aren’t the team to give up late goals which result in dropped points. When you’re struggling with confidence and home form, a late equalizer makes the salt sting just a bit more. To be fair to Dallas, the late goal was hardly undeserved. The Sounders had trouble dealing with the pressure once Fredy Montero put them ahead in the 72nd minute. And in the last moments of the match, when the Sounders needed a professional performance through possession and yes even time-wasting, they weren’t able to see the game out. Dallas controlled the extra time period, and a lack of concentration in the final moments led to their undoing.
One Sounder who didn’t have any such issues was newly minuted All-Star Yeimar Gomez Andrade, who provided a steady presence along the backline. More than that, he put out several fires, notably in the 22nd when fellow All-Star Alex Roldan was caught in possession and presented Dallas with a golden opportunity to take an early lead against the run of play. Yeimar stepped up and covered the play expertly, and it wasn’t his only cleanup job on the night. As usual, he manned his area well, rarely letting Dallas’ attackers get the better of him, and getting into good positions to defend in the rare instances when they did. It was a fine defensive performance which will be overshadowed by the late concession.