At the press conference after the Seattle Sounders’ 3-3 draw against the LA Galaxy, head coach Brian Schmetzer was asked about the halftime chalk-talk as the team dealt with a comically snakebitten first half that saw his team trailing 2-0. Schmetzer demurred about the details, preferring to keep matters in-house, but after what may have been the unluckiest half of soccer since he took the reigns as head coach, one can guess that the notes on the whiteboard resembled something like this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
After all, what does one say after yet another half of soccer where the Sounders could credibly claim to have been the better side — dominant even — yet found themselves staring another deficit in the face?
That said, whatever recipe Schmetzer drew up at after the first half had the Sounders cooking with gas in the second, as they mounted a furious three-goal comeback that saw them ready to take a somewhat unlikely three points on the road, until misfortune rang the bell again with a VAR-assisted penalty, that rescued a point for the home side.
Still, the continued solid performances surely mean the Sounders' luck will turn at some point, though relying on the dice rolling in your favor is a great way to find yourself busted. But when things aren’t going your way, sometimes a rub on the rabbit’s foot doesn’t hurt, as long as it’s not a monkey’s paw in disguise.
What’s old is new again
Schmetzer rolled out a three-man backline and paired Jordan Morris and Raúl Ruidíaz up top for the first time this year. It was a formation the Sounders had planned to use in 2021, until a cascade of injuries forced Schmetzer to scrap the plan. And for much of this year, it was back to the tried and trusted 4-2-3-1 that brought the Sounders such much success over the years. But with the offensive attack all but non-existent during the summer swoon, Schmetzer decided a change was needed and by all accounts, it was a smart one. The Sounders were all over the Galaxy for about 80 minutes Friday night (more on that in a bit), and carved out plenty of chances that on another night would have seen them put up 5 or 6 goals.
Morris and Ruidíaz fit well together
Getting your two most dangerous attackers in positions where they can do the most damage is a good way to score some goals. And given the Sounders were in desperate need of some offensive punch, pairing the two up top was a great way to mix things up. While Morris is generally thought to be more effective out wide taking on defenders in space, he did more than a passable job in a more advanced position, just barely missing out on a goal earlier in the match as he was (correctly) ruled offside. He eventually got his goal in classic poacher’s fashion, being in the right place at the right time to stab home a saved shot.
Healthy Ruidíaz gives Sounders a chance
Morris’ strike partner is still rounding into fitness, having missed most of the summer with hamstring issues, but Ruidíaz finally looks like he’s ready to help carry the Sounders over the red line. Getting the Sounders back into the match with some heady play, finding a wide -open Kelyn Rowe on the back post who clinically swept the ball into the back of the net. And in arguably the wildest sequence of the season, after Albert Rusnák managed to hit the post and the bar in quick succession, Ruidíaz managed to finally turn round the Sounders’ luck, heading a cross from Nicolás Lodeiro past Jonathan Bond.
Schmetzer has done his best Macgyver impersonation as tries to put the Sounders back together again, but unable to fortify his team as he usually has been able to in the secondary transfer window means that things will be a bit less stable than he’d like at this point in the season. And with injuries continuing to rob him of the consistency he’d like, the only thing that might be for certain is rotating lineups and formation. While Danny Leyva seems to be making a late push to claim a spot in the defensive midfield, there are still questions to answer about the left side of the field, though Rowe certainly helped his cause with a much-needed goal.
Defense still struggling
Three goals scored for a team that was struggling to score one is nice, but the reason the Sounders didn’t walk out of Carson with the victory — and why they have struggled this summer — is just as much on the defense as the offense. The characteristic lapse in concentration got the Sounders behind early, while a somewhat fluky goal from Victor Vasquez that caught Stefan Frei out was a fitting metaphor for the Sounders' woes. And if the Sounders could have scored 5 goals, the Galaxy could have matched them with some golden chances that were left wanting. So the Sounders still have a lot of work to do, and a clean sheet in Portland would be a good way to give the defense some confidence down the stretch.