The Seattle Sounders hit Los Angeles on a Friday night hoping to have some fun. LAFC had their own plans for a big night out, and had the most fun as Seattle head home with nothing but a 2-1 loss. The Sounders took an early lead, opening the scoring in the 14th minute through an own goal forced by an excellent play from Cristian Roldan. Unfortunately other than a near goal from Xavier Arreaga on a corner kick just after the half-hour mark the Sounders didn’t really have much in the way of “good plays” for a while after that. Following the goal LAFC seemingly remembered that they were the home team and drowned the Sounders in wave after wave of pressure with Seattle’s defense and midfield consistently getting thrashed in the undertow.
LAFC equalized in the 35th minute with a great goal from Kwadwo Opoku, but the play started with an unnecessary back pass from Nouhou that force Arreaga into a poor clearance into the midfield. From there LA won the ball and were clinical in how they diced through the midfield to set up Opoku’s blast from outside the box into the far side netting. Not ten minutes later Carlos Vela completed the comeback, running unmarked while Nouhou stood rooted to the ground watching as the ball came in. In the second half Seattle made an effort to get back into the game, and LAFC were content to let them try as they used the spaces the Sounders left to attack when they had the ball. There were chances, but no one really came that close to changing the score. Seattle heads home with a chance to right some wrongs as they host FC Dallas on Tuesday, August 2.
6’ — Cristian Roldan loses the ball surrounded by three players and LAFC charge at goal. Carlos Vela gets on the ball and gets a shot off, but Stefan Frei catches it.
14’ — Cristian Roldan wins the ball and drives into the box, dribbling through defenders before playing the ball across the box and off a defender for an own goal! 1-0
27’ — Carlos Vela appeared to even the game after a misplay by Nouhou, but upon review he’s judged to have controlled the ball with his arm and the goal comes back.
32’ — Arreaga nearly doubles the lead, running through the middle of the box unmarked on a corner, but his shot goes wide.
35’ — Kwadwo Opoku finishes off an attack after a Sounders turnover with a laser to Frei’s far post. 1-1
41’ — Frei saves his defense’s blushes, coming up huge as everyone lost their runners to stop Chicho Arango at point blank range.
44’ — Carlos Vela gives LAFC the lead. Jordan Morris keeps him onside as no one tracks Vela’s run, and he puts the ball away. 1-2
55’ — Will Bruin nearly evens the score, but the ball goes wide after coming off of him as he tries to avoid colliding with Jimmy Medranda and a defender.
I want to go fast: After a solid start and a first half lead for the Sounders, LAFC ramped up the tempo and the pressure and Seattle often looked like they’d taken a handful of melatonin. Maybe it was an effort to stay calm and play through the press, but the end result was less calm and more catatonic. Cristian Roldan and Albert Rusnák were both getting caught with the ball at their feet or dribbling into a crowd, and LAFC would come away with an attack close to goal and the defense scrambling. Not until late in the game did the Sounders show much urgency, but it was too little too late.
What’s going on with Nouhou? Nouhou has, for all his chaos, been something of a constant in his time as a Sounder. Yes, he’s a Tasmanian Devil whirling around the field, but he’s also been a very solid defensive presence who rarely got beat by his man. He’s never really been any kind of a threat going forward, but he could pop up here and there with a decent cross or a surprising run. Since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, though, Nouhou has clearly regressed. He’s not so hard to beat as he once was, and often can be found lagging behind the play having made an unnecessary run into the attack leaving his defensive duties to the likes of Rusnák or Roldan, or one of the centerbacks covering for him. Nouhou seems to have become a caricature of the meme of himself, most interested in finally scoring a goal. Something’s got to change, because this isn’t working.
It’s still not that bad: Okay, tonight was bad. I don’t want to take anything away from how frustrating this game was, I just want to contextualize it. The Sounders lost 1-2 against what is clearly the best team in the league right now. They were already the best team in the league, and then they added Gareth Bale and Giorgio Chiellini. For all the retirement jokes we might want to make about the pair of them, they’re both clearly still legit players. Even after that result, the Sounders are a point outside of playoff position. That’s in spite of a pretty frustrating start to the season while managing league play and CCL, and the CCL “hangover” that came after winning. We’ve largely been without Raúl Ruidíaz and we lost João Paulo for the season. We’re very much still in it, and we won’t have to play LAFC again until we meet in the playoffs. Even when it’s bad, it’s never really that bad.
Did you see that?!?
There was, for a moment, a bit of joy.
One stat to tell the tale
The Sounders haven’t created more than 1.00 xG away from home in a loss since the 4-3 loss in San Jose on April.
Man of the match