Badly needing a response to one of their worst performances of the season, the Seattle Sounders again mustered just enough to allow at least some hope that this season is salvageable. The quality of the performance in the 1-1 tie at Minnesota United on Sunday was not stellar, but it was notably not bad, either. The effort was very clearly there, even if the sharpness was not where it needs to be for this season to come to anything like a satisfying end.
The Sounders grabbed the lead through a well-taken goal that culminated with Yeimar Gomez Andrade hitting a perfect header, and they spent a good deal of the first half on the front foot. But Seattle spent way too much of the second half falling into old habits, sloppy passing, and an inability to maintain possession in the offensive half, and generally did not look very dangerous for large stretch of the game.
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To their credit, however, for all the pressure it seemed like they were under, they didn’t allow Minnesota United too many clear cut chances. Even the one goal they allowed was as much a product of bad luck as bad play, as Yeimar definitely should have dealt with the free kick much more effectively than he did but could probably attempt that exact play 100 more times and never have it result in an own-goal again.
As nice as a win would have been, the thing Brian Schmetzer needed to see from his team was some basic self-belief. I think they at least cleared that hurdle, and maybe the general air of dissatisfaction with the result was a good sign.
“For us to celebrate a road point we need to start winning home games,” Sounders midfielder João Paulo said in the postgame press conference.
Albert Rusnák immediately added, “I don’t think we’re satisfied after taking a lead and being in control. But it’s a point. It’s a point on the road and maybe at the end of the season it will be a difference maker. I don’t think we’re happy with the second-half performance, but at this point it could be valuable.”
None of that should diminish what are still significant issues. As good as Nicolás Lodeiro looked at times, especially over the first 60 minutes, his influence diminished significantly before he was pulled in the 70th minute. Schmetzer said Lodeiro is dealing with some adductor soreness which contributed to that. But this was also just another example of how Lodeiro’s effort can’t be questioned, yet he can’t be asked to be a 90-minute player who covers virtually every blade of grass and be effective.
Similarly, and perhaps more concerning, is the decline we’re seeing from Raúl Ruidíaz in real time. Like Lodeiro, the effort is there. He was more active defensively than I remember seeing him and he was willing to chase in ways we can’t always take for granted. Yet his effectiveness around goal seems to diminish with each game.
Ruidíaz played 87 minutes and didn’t manage to take a single shot. That’s the first time he’s played at least 60 minutes and failed to register a shot since May 16, 2021 and it’s just the second time that’s happened during his entire Sounders career. He has not scored in nine straight games across all competitions, a stretch that includes eight starts and encompasses 732 minutes. That’s easily his longest scoring drought of his Sounders career and probably of his entire professional career. Even more concerning than the lack of goals is that he’s only even put one shot on frame in his past six games.
For a player whose finishing ability has always been what separated him from everyone else, the fall has been particularly harsh.
I asked Schmetzer to assess Ruidíaz’s performance and you could tell he was struggling with that. On one hand, he clearly believes the Sounders need Ruidíaz to be at his best and is reluctant to do something that might hurt Raul's confidence even more. On the other, the Sounders need some production out of their No. 9 and Ruidíaz is not providing any.
“We didn’t give him much help,” Schmetzer said about Ruidíaz. “We didn’t give him much service. He’s pressing to score. Sometimes when players press they’re trying to maybe do too much. You could see he was working hard defensively. He was coming back even later in the game. It wasn’t stellar.”
But he also acknowledged that there has to be a limit to his patience.
“When do you pull the plug? When do you give him rest?,” he said. “He’ll have less minutes on Wednesday. Do we go with a different look vs. Portland? Time is running out for me to make those changes.”
The story of Ruidíaz may as well be the story of the Sounders’ season...