It would be a stretch to suggest that a couple positive results should erase any negative feelings that have built up over three months, but the Seattle Sounders are finally at least starting to make some progress.
The 3-2 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps was just the kind of performance that can kickstart a season. In erasing two deficits, scoring multiple goals for just the second time in three months, getting multiple standout performances and their latest game-winner in about two years, the Sounders showed they still have quite a bit of fight left in them.
Here’s some of my main observations:
Leo Chu is that guy
During the course of the season, we’ve seen a lot of progress from Léo Chú. Once believed to be a bit of a bust, he’s now establishing himself as one of the top U22 signings since the program was created a couple of years ago. This was not his best performance by any stretch, but what’s impressive is that teams must know what the Sounders are trying to do with him at this point and don’t seem particularly capable of stopping it. Chú was once again the Sounders’ most dangerous players and showed a new wrinkle to his game by popping up at the back post in similar fashion to what you might expect from Cristian Roldan. If Chú can start scoring, in addition to everything else he does, watch out.
Nobody puts Nico Lodeiro in a corner
Lodeiro may be listed as a right midfielder on the lineup sheet, but that doesn’t mean that’s where he’s going to play. Just look at these two heatmaps from his last start at center mid (at home against San Jose) and the Whitecaps game where he was a nominal right wing.
Put another way, Lodeiro was doing a lot of roaming and honestly, it kinda worked. I don’t think this is ideal in any sense and he made some comments at training on Monday that suggest he’s not super thrilled with this setup. Still, it’s an effective way to create overloads and it doesn’t seem to be exposing the Sounders to a crazy number of counter-attacks.
Just a smidge of balance
Part of what allowed Lodeiro’s roaming to work, I’ll argue, was the return of Alex Roldan. Even though he wasn’t his most effective, Roldan was at least able to stretch the field on the right side. He did set up one very good chance when he lofted a cross that Raúl Ruidíaz put on frame. Still, that’s a pretty unbalanced formation and I’m a little worried how sustainable that shape is.
João Paulo: Shadow All-Star
I don’t think João Paulo is worried about stuff like making all-star teams and such, but boy is he playing like someone with something to prove. He turned in another amazing performance this week, filling up the stat sheet with 91 of 96 passing, connecting on 7 of 8 long balls, winning 6 of 8 duels, and losing possession just six times on 108 touches. He did this all while playing with staples in his head after clashing heads in the first half.
Somehow this is a second-place team
The Sounders have gone just 5-6-4 over the past three months. That’s not a very good record. Thanks to the struggles of their fellow Western Conference teams, though, they’re really not in much worse of a situation than when their struggles started. They’re currently in second place in the Western Conference, three points behind St. Louis City and two points ahead of third-place LAFC. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but it’s not out of the question that they could head into the Leagues Cup break in even better position if they can just finish these last two games strong.
Everything else you need to know
- The Sounders return to action on Wednesday at the San Jose Earthquakes. Kickoff is at 7:39 PM and it’s only available through MLS Season Pass.
- The Earthquakes are trying to beat the Sounders in consecutive meetings for the first time since 2015.
- The Earthquakes will be missing a few key pieces, including goalkeeper Daniel who was red-carded in their 1-1 tie with LAFC. Cade Cowell and Jackson Yuiell will also missing due to the Gold Cup duty.
- Léo Chú was named Player of the Week for his efforts.