SEATTLE — The conditions for the 2022 MLS season opener may have been straight from the Seattle Sounders’ playbook, but it was Nashville SC who basked in the “Seattle Sunshine” at the end of 90 minutes at Lumen Field. From the opening minutes, Nashville showed they were up for the fight, strategically pressing the Sounders into turnovers. And while they didn’t create a ton of opportunities, they certainly kept the Sounders from doing much to start the game.
The Sounders got back into the game after the shaky start, and by the second half, they were by and large in control of the game. But when the scoreline reads 0-0 and it’s getting late, well, sometimes you leave yourself open to one mistake sending the fans home on a sour note.
And so it was Sunday, when a failed clearance allowed Nashville to convert one of the very few chances they had in the second half. And while the Sounders were better in the attacking half, they were only marginally so, and the dearth of truly gilt-edged chances cost them.
So the Sounders will move on and try to right things on the road next weekend in a place they rarely have success, with a Champions League home-and-away series to navigate besides. Schedule congestion is a bear in MLS, and sometimes the bear eats you.
Nashville is good
Nashville might not set the world alight offensively, but they don’t need to. Ever since their debut in the Covid-stricken 2020 season, Gary Smith’s side has displayed a defensive ethos that allowed them to make the (expanded) playoffs in their inaugural season and tonight, the Sounders got a taste of that medicine. Playing in a low defensive block and not allowing the Sounders to get in behind their backline, they found it difficult to create any tempo or sense of urgency until Nashville scored. As coach Brian Schmetzer said after the game, it’s better not to wait until the opposing team scores to shift into gear, particularly when it’s late in the match.
Offense is a work in progress
Nashville’s defensive qualities aside, the consensus post match was that the Sounders didn’t do themselves any favors. The lack of tempo from the Sounders was evident for most of the match, and the failure to test Nashville early and get an opening goal meant the Sounders were in for a grind. That the Sounders were missing Raúl Ruidíaz and had Nicolás Lodeiro starting on the bench certainly hurt, but hoping for a moment of magic as opposed to a consistent dynamic attack will leave you disappointed more often than not.
Sounders don’t think home form is carrying over
The Sounders’ mediocre home form was the subject of much consternation last season, and dropping the opening match in 2022 won’t do much to quell those concerns. Still, neither the players nor Schmetzer were overly concerned about the early season loss. The list of teams that don’t drop points at home in MLS is a short one (it doesn’t exist), so one or two hiccups are bound to happen, though laying an egg in the opener doesn’t make that reality any easier to swallow.
Same as it ever was
You may have seen this one before, too: MLS sides in Concacaf Champions League struggle in the league. It killed the Sounders’ start to the year in 2016 (though the loss of Oba Martins didn’t help), and the sides playing the 2022 version combined for a whopping 1 point, and that was by a team (New England Revolution) that advanced via forfeit. How that bodes for the Sounders as they advance in the CCL is anyone’s guess, but for Schmetzer, the next game is the most important, so the Sounders will have to endure. Same as it ever was.
Is Obed Vargas long for the Sounders?
Three games in and the Sounders latest teenage phenom continues to play with a level of composure and maturity that belies his years. That’s not to say that Vargas is on the verge of an all-star appearance or a move abroad, but once again, the native of Alaska gave the Sounders a more than solid shift. With the Sounders needing to manage schedule congestion and players coming in and out of the lineup, that Vargas has been able to start three games and more than hold his own has surely been invaluable for Schmetzer. It’s likely he’ll continue to rely on Vargas until his squad gets fully fit. Or, maybe he eventually wins the spot outright.