There’s usually a price to pay for a wild night on the town.
The Seattle Sounders were still basking in the glory of their Concacaf Champions League victory on Wednesday evening before a sold-out Lumen Field crowd. Still the talk of the town for the show on the field and off, the victory capped a memorable run through the tournament, and more widely for the Sounders organization. The memorable champagne-soaked postgame celebrations are surely still fresh in the minds of the players and fans alike, as they enjoyed their triumph late into the Seattle night.
Of course, those late-night celebrations give way to the next day's obligations, and it’s rarely a good time when you wake up.
Sure, you can prepare as best you can. Drink a lot of water, pop some ibuprofen and maybe mix in some of that surefire remedy your uncle told you about. But you’re never going to be 100% walking into the school or the office the next day, so you just make sure you’re not wearing last night's clothes, brush your teeth and hope the adrenaline can pull you through the day.
Fake it ‘till you make it.
And for the first half of the Sounders match at FC Dallas, they did that and probably a little more. Some set-piece shakiness aside, they evenly matched the home side, though truth be told neither side set the field alight. In fact, the Sounders had arguably the best chance to take the lead, only for Leo Chu to set his shot on a breakaway wide. But when that adrenaline wears off, well, you get a second half where the Sounders were second best, and FC Dallas was ultimately good value for the 2-0 win they left the stadium with.
While very few expected the heavily rotated Sounders side to do much in this match, it’s still another loss that leaves them far from the top of the Western Conference and a fair distance from the MLS playoffs.
Still worth it, though, like all epic nights are.
However unlikely it seemed the Sounders were going to get a result in this match surely wasn't helped by the field conditions that had the Sounders doing the impression of a child using rollerskates for the first time. Seemingly every time the Sounders were in a promising attacking position — or compromising defensive situation — they seemed to lose their footing. It began to border on the comical, culminating in a slip by AB Cissoko on the ultimate game-winning goal from Jesus Ferriera, though to be fair the goal was constructed well before that partial slip.
The kids are fine
It was, as expected, a heavily rotated lineup after Wednesday's match, with Josh Atencio, Cissoko and Ethan Dobbelare seeing big minutes in the match. By and large, all three put in solid if not spectacular shifts. Obed Vargas, only nominally a reserve especially with Joao Paulo now out for the season, followed up his Wednesday shift in the Champions League with a solid, if unspectacular, start in Frisco. Whether Vargas can be considered a “kid” will likely be a moot discussion by the end of the year, as he figures to see a ton of minutes for the rest of the year.
Chu missing the final piece
Leo Chu has been mostly relegated to play with reserves, particularly with the Sounders’ attacking talent finally returning to health. So for the time being, he’ll have to make the most of his opportunities in matches like this one, when the Sounders are heavily rotating their lineup. How the game might have changed had he taken advantage of his biggest one. Getting through on goal in the first half from the halfway line, Chu had a golden opportunity to give the Sounders a first-half lead, but his attempted chip of the goalkeeper went agonizingly wide. Chu was a threat going forward and gave FC Dallas problems on more than one occasion, but he wasn’t able to finish.
Schmetzer owns changes
There’s something to be said for sticking with what’s working. And with the Sounders matching FC Dallas even as they struggled a bit in the second half, Schmetzer eventually decided to go to his bench to bring in some of his starters. One change was forced as Jimmy Medranda had to come off with cramps, but when the Cristian Roldan, Albert Rusnak and Sam Adeniran came in the 63’, well, it didn’t work. Jesus Ferreira scored two minutes later, and the Sounders really never threatened after that. The game was put to bed when Paul Arriola volleyed a shot past Stefan Cleveland in the 88th minute.
It doesn’t get easier
Schmetzer would never agree, but this match was mostly a throwaway, with the Sounders at half-strength at best, and coming off the emotional high of Wednesday. Still, a loss is a loss, and the Sounders are more than floundering in league play. The nature of MLS’s forgiving playoff structure combined with the Sounders' games in hand means that a run of three or four wins will vault the Sounders into playoff contention. But you’ve got to win those games, and MLS sides won't be laying down for the regional champions. Indeed, they may have more motivation to knock them off their perch. So the Sounders will need to figure it out, and soon.