SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders put themselves in about as good of a position as a team could hope for before having to head to León in a CCL knock-out round. Thanks to a 3-0 win over Club León, Seattle will travel to Mexico in a week with a promising lead and a trip to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals within their grasp. Fredy Montero had a first-half brace and Jordan Morris put the icing on the cake in the final moments of regulation. The team kept a clean sheet while only having 30.7% of possession but limiting León to only three shots on the evening.
Those possession numbers tell an interesting story. The Sounders very clearly ceded the ball to León, but that didn’t mean that they were passive. Seattle out-shot the visitor 14-3, and took 12 of those shots from inside the penalty area. Brian Schmetzer’s side dictated the tempo of the game, forcing their Liga MX opponents to play on their terms and got the best out of their players as a result. The attack showed chemistry we’ve not really seen so far, while the defense was stalwart while João Paulo and Obed Vargas covered every inch of the midfield to make life as difficult as possible for their counterparts. The Sounders are back in action on Saturday afternoon when they host the LA Galaxy in league play before heading down for the reverse leg against León on Thursday.
10’ — León work the ball through Seattle’s defense, but João Paulo reads the play developing and steps in the way of a dangerous ball in front of goal and sends it out.
19’ — Following a little stiff arm from Nouhou at the edge of Seattle’s box, León send in a free kick that is first dealt with by Obed Vargas, then Cristian Roldan before Stefan Frei has it safely in his arms.
22’ — João Paulo makes a powerful run through the middle before attempting to thread a through ball for Jordan Morris, but the goalkeeper gets to it just ahead of Morris.
27’ — Albert Rusnák nearly opens his Sounders account when a perfectly weighted ball from JP puts the ball on his feet in front of goal but the ‘keeper gets enough on it to keep the game tied.
29’ — Cristian Roldan is toppled over in the León area and the ref awards a penalty.
32’ — Goal Sounders! Fredy Montero takes the PK, finishing to his right and sending the ‘keeper the other way! Sounders 1-0
33’ — Nouhou makes an incredible block, diving in to prevent a cross from coming in at the edge of the box and managing to avoid giving up a corner as well.
39’ — Montero makes it two! The Roldans play some slick football to work their way down the right side before Cristian sends in a cross that Montero clips in! 2-0
46’ — The Sounders attacking midfielders all work their way through León together before Morris cuts it back for Rusnák, but Rusnák’s flick ends up with the ‘keeper.
49’ — Cristian Roldan is played into space on the right and hits a great early cross to send Morris in alone, but his shot comes too close to the ‘keeper and it’s saved.
78’ — Montero tackles the ball away near midfield and turns towards goal before playing a gorgeous cross for Roldan, who gets to it ahead of the GK but can’t do anything with it.
90’ — Jordan Morris! Nouhou pauses, then plays a ball for Roldan to run onto down the left. Roldan hits the ball first time across goal for Morris to slam home for the third! 3-0
Fredy Montero, still pretty super: Fredy Montero’s two goals tonight were his 69th and 70th goals in his Sounders career. They were his first and second of the season, and while they would have been enough to call this a good performance on their own Montero did so much more. While he wasn’t credited with any tackles, key passes or assists, Montero’s defensive work and his passing helped to create plenty of danger for the Sounders. It’s probably not reasonable or realistic to expect him to put in this kind of performance multiple times a week, if he can show the same kind of vision and awareness on a consistent basis the team will find Raúl Ruidíaz’s absences much easier to weather.
Obed Vargas keeps growing: Obed Vargas has now played 270 minutes in CCL and another 99 minutes in MLS, and seemingly with every minute he gets better. He was already an impressive inclusion in that first leg against Motagua where he looked more than deserving of his place in the lineup for the first competitive game of the season. Against León he was bossing the midfield alongside João Paulo with an understanding of time and space that was well beyond his 16 years. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but his positioning consistently either made the field smaller for his opponents or bigger of his teammates. His movement in defense consistently shepherded attackers into less dangerous positions that resulted in bad or safe passes and was a significant part of why, León was punchless despite 70% of possession.
Cristian Roldan, swashbuckler: I regret to inform you that it’s once again time to ask if Cristian Roldan is actually best used as the right-sided attacker in Seattle’s 4-2-3-1. He lined up there tonight and wreaked havoc on the León defense, proving especially dangerous in transition. Roldan had two assists, five key passes and won the penalty that Montero scored. His runs were consistently dangerous, his passing in León’s half was a frequent source of Sounders chances, and he did his share of the work on the other side of the ball as he led the team with 11 recoveries and nine duels won. No player better showed the team’s desire to put the loss against RSL behind them. Maybe this is the way to find a place for Obed Vargas in the squad and also get the most out of the rest of the attack going forward.
Did you see that?!?
In the words of Tenacious D, “that’s ... teamwork!”
He said what?!?
Schmetzer on the disparity between MLS and CCL results: ‘The one constant is always the spirit and the effort of the players in that locker room’— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) March 9, 2022
One stat to tell the tale
20.6 — The Sounders took 1 shot for every 20.6 passes they attempted.
Man of the match
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