SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders’ return match against Motagua Thursday might have started out with some nervous energy on behalf of the home team. It’s been noted —perhaps ad nauseum at this point — the Sounders premature exit in the 2020 version of the tournament was a bitter disappointment given the team was coming off their second MLS title with a team that was mostly intact, at least at the top of the roster. And a mostly dour 0-0 draw in the away leg of the opening round didn’t do much to brighten spirits.
So after 30 minutes with no score for the home side and Motagua with the clear best chance of the match, fans could have been forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu.
A few moments later, the Sounders got a boost from a very familar face, and by the end of the match, everybody was getting in on the fun.
A 5-0 victory over a defeated and deflated Motagua side won’t suddenly make the Sounders favorites to win the tournament — though it certainly moves them near the top of the list. So the Sounders will move on and look to do more than merely survive and advance. They’ll hope to thrive as well.
Nicolas Lodeiro looks like he’s back
Nicolás Lodiero had so many stops and starts over the last 18 months that Sounders fans must have wondered if they’d seen the last of their talisman at the height of his powers. Whether Thursday’s performance was more substance than flash, it was surely good to see Lodeiro putting in his trademark work rate and quality in a more than solid 60-minute performance. Sparking the Sounders’ rout with a well-taken goal to open the scoring, Lodeiro seemed to grow more into the game, even if his incisive passing didn’t quite come off. From here the Sounders will hope that Lodeiro can continue to build on his performance as the MLS season gets underway, and look to advance deep in the tournament.
Sounders get everyone some run
Granted, João Paulo won’t be coming off the bench much at all this year, but the level of quality the Sounders have at their disposal might be unmatched in MLS history. A bold statement to be sure, but it hardly needs mentioning that it will be tough to make the field. Even without the likes of Will Bruin, Jimmy Medranda and Josh Atencio being available, there were still some notable scratches from the gameday roster and the Sounders didn’t miss beat once the subs started entering.
João Paulo’s return
It’s not hard to see what the Sounders were missing last week in Motagua with the 2021 team MVP not in action. In only one half of action, João Paulo provided an unmistakable boost with his doggedness and work-rate, breaking down an admittedly beaten down Motagua side. Still, with João Paulo bossing the midfield, it was only a matter of time before the Sounders took firm control of the match. And they did. The Sounders scored four of their five goals after João Paulo entered at halftime.
Jordan Morris back on the scoresheet
Jordan Morris has been back in action for several months and has even earned a start in World Cup qualifying with the United States national team since his ACL injury. Still, after scoring the third goal which essentially put the game on ice, the expression of relief on his face was clear. After the match, head coach Brian Schmetzer pushed back on whether the goal meant getting a monkey off his back. Scoring goals and helping his team win is great of course, but just being back on the field, playing the game he loves, is what gives him joy.