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Observations from Sounders' least inspiring performance to date

The Leagues Cup opener was really bad and has us rethinking things.

Last Updated
4 min read
Abram Iman / Sounders FC Communications

Leagues Cup was supposed to be a chance for the Seattle Sounders to sort of reset their season and figure out their ideal starting lineup as they geared up for the stretch run.

Just one game in, that feels almost hopelessly optimistic.

Despite repeating a lineup that is very close to full strength, the Sounders looked as bad as they have all year. Even after playing up a man for the final 30 minutes, the Sounders never really controlled the match, struggle to create any good scoring opportunities and looked very naive on all three goals they conceded.

Here are some of my main observations from the game:

Atencio fails to make his case

I thought it was at least a little encouraging that Brian Schmetzer finally made the decision to pull Obed Vargas and replace him with Josh Atencio at halftime. Vargas certainly wasn’t the Sounders’ only problem in the first half, but this was an understandable attempt to inject some life into the game and give Atencio his longest run-out with João Paulo in nearly four months. It didn’t go well.

The Sounders were caught on the counter twice in the first six minutes of the second half. On the first one, Atencio was one of several players who had a chance to break it up and didn’t. He was also caught way up field on the second goal. I wouldn’t say he was the main culprit on either goal, but he didn’t have any positive contributions in the game and hardly made a strong case for more playing time.

I would still like to see Atencio get another extended run out with the first-choice starters, but I can’t really blame the coaches if they feel as though he wasted his chance.

No attack

Perhaps the most disconcerting thing about the Sounders’ performance was just how bad they looked offensively. Granted temperatures were apparently near 100 degrees earlier in the day and this game was at altitude but only two Western Conference teams have allowed fewer goals this season than RSL.

The Sounders struggled to connect passes and offered almost nothing in and around the penalty area. Their seven shots were the second lowest total of any game this season and they were credited with creating zero “big chances.” This all came with a front four that was effectively their first-choice in the first half and while playing a man up for the final 30 minutes.

Raúl Ruidíaz looked especially ineffective in this one and he’s now gone scoreless in nearly 500 minutes while presumably injury free. Not good.

Really worried about Roldan

As you probably heard, Cristian Roldan came out of the match to get checked out for a concussion. I’m not sure when that would have happened, which is itself at least mildly concerning as it suggests it wasn’t some big collision that caused it. Roldan’s initial concussion — which kept him out for about two months — was caused by more of a whiplash injury and this very well may have been something similar. Obviously, I hope he has a speedy recovery but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if he’s out until the Sounders’ next league game on Aug. 20.

Out of ideas?

Up until now, I’ve been reluctant to place too much blame on the coaching staff or even the front office in part because I’ve generally agreed with their assessment that they’ve been tactically sound and are plausibly fixed by getting some key pieces healthy. I think we at least have to question that assumption now.

Yes, Nicolás Lodeiro was out with an adductor injury and Jordan Morris was coming off the bench, but in their places were Albert Rusnák and Léo Chú. Those were players I’d still consider part of an ideal XI.

There’s only a little more than a week left before the summer transfer window closes, but I would hope that a performance like this one at least has Craig Waibel making a few extra phone calls to see if there’s a deal out there capable of injecting some new life into a roster that might also be missing Roldan.

What can we expect against Monterrey?

Monterrey is one of the best teams in the Western Hemisphere and even in the best of circumstances, the Sounders were bound to have their hands full. The Sounders will have to win, either in regulation or via shootout, in order to advance and there are scenarios where that might not even be enough.

What the Sounders need to do, though, is show that this really was a one-off performance. That means they have to show up defensively, create numerous scoring chances and generally look like a team that still wants to finish the season strong.

Everything else you need to know

  • The Sounders next Leagues Cup game is on Sunday at 6 PM. The game is part of the season-ticket package and is airing for free on AppleTV and Univision.
  • If you still need a Leagues Cup refresher, I’d recommend reading this.
  • The USWNT won their World Cup opener 3-0, a performance that was a bit more dominant than the scoreline suggested. They return to action on Wednesday against the Netherlands with a shockingly accessible 6 PM kickoff.
  • Tacoma Defiance player Antonio Herrera was called into Mexico’s U18 team.
  • If you have questions for tonight’s podcast, please feel free to submit them here.