SEATTLE — On a damp and miserable Sunday night the Seattle Sounders opened their MLS regular season with a 1-0 loss to Nashville SC. The conference-hopping opponents, now a part of the Western Conference, showed that their defensive stability is just as effective a foundation for success in the West as it was in the East as they made life incredibly difficult for a Sounders attack that’s still very much in the “getting to know each other” phase despite the side’s 5-0 win against Motagua on Thursday. The Sounders dominated possession for much of the first half, but Nashville had the better of the chances through the opening 45 minutes.
Ultimately neither side created too much danger, both taking a total of 10 shots. Excluding the shot that proved to be the deciding goal — a pretty big caveat, admittedly — both sides had 0.4 xG, with the goal more than doubling Nashville’s final tally to 0.9 xG.
Losing the home opener is, to be sure, not ideal, but it’s also not unheard of. The Sounders’ last lost the regular season home opener in 2018, coincidentally another game played three days after a substantial home CCL win. Weirdly that was also a 1-0 loss to a team they’d never played before, as LAFC came to Seattle to start their inaugural season. The team has a week to regroup and get ready for the next game on Sunday, March 5 when they will travel to face Real Salt Lake. That game starts a hectic 10-day run where the team will play four games with two legs against Leon in CCL and a home game against the LA Galaxy thrown in for good measure.
6’ — A pass from Yeimar is easily picked off and Hany Mukhtar unleashes a shot from the top of the box, but it goes wide.
10’ — Nouhou cuts back to lose a defender before unleashing a cross that’s put out for a corner as the Sounders start playing more in Nashville’s half.
23’ — Hany Mukhtar receives the ball at the top of Seattle’s box and takes a dribble to open up space, then releases a shot that forces a diving save from Stefan Frei to keep the score level.
41’ — An absolute dime of a sliding through ball from João Paulo sends Alex Roldan in down the right side and he gets a couple of tries at a ball into the box but the ‘keeper handles it.
79’ — Léo Chú gets the best look of the half for the Sounders as Nashville’s back line misplays a ball that he’s able to run onto, but the shot is off the mark.
80’ — At the other end Nashville work the ball around and find Anibal Godoy open at the back post for a finish that beats Frei. 0-1 Nashville
90’ +3 — Lodeiro hits a fadeaway header inside the box that goes just inches wide of the near post off of a cross from Fredy Montero.
Home troubles: In the aftermath of a home loss to start the regular season, it’s hard to shake the way the team played at home in 2021 and especially down the stretch to end the season. For most of last year, it’s not that the Sounders were bad at home, they just weren’t as good as we’ve come to expect. Tonight the Sounders struggled to create real danger on offense, and ultimately a defensive error left the team and fans looking for answers. It’s a new season, in many ways it’s a new team, but even if there are new reasons the same ultimate problem seems to be rearing its head.
Breaking down the block: It’s no surprise to anyone that breaking down a team that is defensively solid and compresses the field is a tough task. If you can’t find space to run in behind — something that Nashville did a good job of preventing — then it takes a combination of smart movement to pull defenders and create gaps and a deft touch and keen eye to find and utilize those gaps. The Sounders seem to have a number of players capable of all of the above, and added a player who seems capable of excelling at picking out those passes in Albert Rusnák, but no one quite seemed up to the task in the cold and rain on Sunday night. Chemistry and familiarity are still a work in progress, especially in the attack, and while the pieces all seem to be there it’s going to take time to figure out how they all work best together.
Where does Rusnák best fit?: The addition of Albert Rusnák to the Sounders has been seen as something of a coup. Rusnák put up a double-double as the focal point for RSL’s attack in 2021, and it’s pretty fair to say that the Sounders were adding him to a more talented squad. The expectations are high. It obviously takes time for a team to gel, for guys to figure out a new teammate’s tendencies and preferences, and the same goes for that new teammate and the players around them. Those struggles or challenges are then compounded by needing to move people around to find the best way to utilize everyone’s skills and get the most out of them. Rusnák has moved around quite a bit through just three games, lining up in every spot in the team’s attacking midfield band of three, as well as dropping back a line to play in the double-pivot or at times serving as part of what looked like a midfield three. He’s finding touches, but they’re not as often in places where he can impact the game. The season’s young, but at this point how to get the most out of Albert Rusnák while also maximizing the rest of the squad’s abilities looks like the biggest question to be answered.
Did you see that?!?
If not for Stefan Frei this one could have been worse.
He said what?!?
Brian Schmetzer lists every tournament the Sounders are playing in this season and reiterates that ‘Every single game matters. Every game for this franchise means something.’— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) February 28, 2022
One stat to tell the tale
45.4% — The Sounders won only 45.4% of the duels against Nashville.
Man of the match
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