SEATTLE — Every good feud needs the blowoff match.
While a midseason regular season MLS match in June may not seem like the time for it, the matchup between Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders was the first game between the two since, “The Incident.” And while that dustup remained front and center in the minds of the fans, somewhat lost in the leadup to the match —though surely a talking point on the minds of the players — was that Sporting Kansas City had come into this match having won their past three trips to Lumen Field.
Adding considerable barbecue sauce to that wound is that the last meeting included one of the most meme’d incidents in the league last year.
While Karma has seemingly bitten SKC in the backside in the eight months since, the Sounders were certainly eager to close this particular chapter of the rivalry. The best way to do that was with a victory in front of the Brougham Faithful. The more convincing, the more cathartic.
At the end of the Sounders’ 3-0 comprehensive victory Saturday below the Seattle sun-splashed skies, there was a certain extra satisfaction to be taken by players and fans alike. The Sounders got off to a quick start, and though it wasn’t a 90-minute drubbing that fans might have savored, it was convincing all the same. And when Cristian Roldan slotted the final ball past Melia to provide the final margin, it was a fitting end as the heels had been vanquished and the faces reigned supreme.
Just the way a blowoff match should end.
Bruin’s big show
With Raúl Ruidíaz out for at least another week or so (though he was present during pregame warmups, certainly a welcome sight), the Sounders needed their vaunted depth to pick up the scoring slack until their scoring talisman could make his return. After some struggles last week in their 1-1 draw against LAFC, that depth showed up in a big way in the form of Will Bruin, who easily had his best match of the season. Opening up the scoring early with a well-taken header off a cross from Cristian Roldan, Bruin was particularly influential thoughout the match, holding up the ball and using an assortment of clever back heels to release his teammates in wide areas for dangerous attacks. With a three-game week and the chance to solidify their position in the MLS standings, the Sounders could surely use another performance like Saturday’s.
After the match, head coach Brian Schmetzer said he asked Cristian Roldan about last year’s incident. Schmetzer indicated that Roldan had long since moved on, and the extra motivation — if any — came more from SKC having the Sounders’ number at home over the last couple of seasons. Whether or not Roldan would admit he had some extra motivation, or took some extra pleasure from scoring against Melia, is a question for another day, but regardless his influence could be felt throughout this match. From his contribution on the first Sounders’ goal to capping off the scoring late. Roldan was all over the field Saturday, though it would have been a surprise for that not to be the case. His effort is one of the defining characteristics of his game, and why he remains in contention for a spot on the USMNT World Cup squad.
Jordan uses his head
Speaking of the World cup, Jordan Morris seems the subject of eternal debate about whether he ends up making the (now) 26-man squad in November. Morris — like Roldan — has a unique skill set that would make him an asset to the team. But he knows he needs to be in good form and scoring goals for that to matter. With three goals in his last four matches in all competitions — all headers — Morris seems to be turning the corner, important not only for his World Cup hopes but for the Sounders as they try to manage this mini-injury crisis. Morris said that he has consciously been working on improving his aerial game so as to provide his skill set another dimension, and increasing his output without the ball at his feet is one way to give Gregg Berhalter something else to think about.
Melia gets his just desserts
While the Sounders may have talked down last year’s incident with Melia, fans have long memories. Melia was always likely to get a hostile reaction, and so he did, booed on his every touch of the ball. The sound of the jeers was not lost on the Sounders players, who admitted they found the catcalls more than a little amusing. Still, the screams and shouts could have fallen on deaf ears had SKC managed an early goal, or worse earned a result. Fortunately, Bruin’s opening tally knocked Melia down, and Roldan’s finisher knocked SKC out.
Sounders’ home form continues
Last week’s draw with LAFC aside, the frustration of the Sounders’ lackluster home form from last year has by and large been forgotten, along with their slow start to the MLS season. The Sounders are now a perfectly respectable 5-2-1 at home in league play and 9-2-1 at Lumen Field across all competitions. With a win at home against Montreal on Wednesday, the Sounders would close out the five-game homestead with a 4-0-1 record, more than acceptable given the injury issues and international absences that have hit them over the last month, and an excellent springboard to the start of the second half of the MLS season.