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Sounders close out preseason with strong performances

Only negative from final day of preseason games was Raúl Ruidíaz missing due to a hamstring injury.

TUKWILA — The Seattle Sounders closed out their preseason schedule with a pair of strong performances on Saturday. The starters looked particularly strong in the first half of their game against USL Championship side Louisville City, ultimately holding on for a 2-1 win behind goals from Héber and Cristian Roldan.

The backups were up 3-0 at halftime against Louisville and then played the second half against the Tacoma Defiance, winning that game 3-1. Fredy Montero had a hat trick in those combined matches.

“Physically, it was a good run out,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the opener. “Mentally, I’d like to have kept a clean sheet. Did we slip a little in second half or was there room for improvement? For sure. I was impressed with Louisville. Danny [Cruz] has done a good job. That’s a decent, decent team. He’s got some good players. It was a good test. So, yeah, I’m happy.”

Louisville City is coached by former MLS player Danny Cruz, who is heading into his third season in charge. He guided Louisville City to the top record in the Eastern Conference last year before they lost in the championship game to San Antonio FC. Lou City has 40 wins in 66 regular season matches under Cruz.

Quick recap

The Sounders used a starting lineup very similar to the one that played Al Ahly. The two changes were João Paulo for Josh Atencio and Héber for the injured Raúl Ruidíaz. Jackson Ragen was again starting alongside Yeimar Goméz Andrade.

Perhaps more encouraging than the scoreline was how fluid the Sounders looked in the attack, especially in the first half. The Sounders created numerous dangerous opportunities down both flanks and seemed to handle Louisville’s aggressive press quite well.

The Sounders’ first goal came off a corner. Nicolás Lodeiro whipped in a corner than Yeimar headed towards goal where Héber was able to just tap it in.

The second goal came off a ball that pinged around in the box before falling to the feet of Cristian Roldan, who was able to guide it into the net.

The Sounders had several other quality chances with Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan both getting in behind the defense on a couple occasions.

“First half I thought there was some really good attacking movements,” Schmetzer said. “We were dangerous, 2-0 at half was a fair assessment.”

Louisville’s goal came from Dylan Mares, who rifled in a shot from close range in the 70th minute.

João Paulo goes 80

Another encouraging aspect of the game was João Paulo starting and going about 80 minutes, looking very much like his old self in the process. João Paulo has been working his way back from an ACL tear that cost him most of last season.

“João is a player who’s really hard to replace,” Cristian Roldan said. “He wins balls, he creates overloads, knows when to play the ball in behind, when to slow the game down. He’s a player who’s really important to our success. Slowly but surely he’ll work up to 90 minutes and he’ll get sharper. To see him play 80 minutes is really good to see. It’s good for us to see a happy João.”

Raúl Ruidíaz doesn’t play

The biggest area of concern, meanwhile, was the availability of Ruidíaz. The Sounders forward apparently suffered a hamstring strain during training this week and was held out of the match. With more than a week before the MLS regular-season opener against the Colorado Rapids, Schmetzer wasn’t quite ready to rule out his striker.

“We want to be super careful at the beginning of the year,” Schmetzer said. “We’re just trying to manage and make sure everyone is healthy for Colorado.”

What to call this new formation?

Although the Sounders are still listing their formation as a 4-2-3-1, it does not play like that especially when they are in possession. In the first match, Nouhou barely ventured past midfield on one side, while Alex Roldan was often positioned higher up the pitch than Cristian on the right side. It was also Lodeiro who most often flared to the left to take up space you might normally find an overlapping fullback. It might be more accurate to list the formation as a 3-2-3-2 with a strong left lean.

Depth on display in the second game

The second group the Sounders put out was an excellent showcase of the depth behind Brian Schmetzer’s Starting XI. Following the scoring woes for Sounders forwards not named Raúl Ruidíaz in 2022, it’s reassuring that his potential backups scored 5 goals and assisted on another over the course of the day, regardless of the opposition.

In the second group, Fredy Montero had a hat trick over the course of 90 minutes and set up a goal for Léo Chú — who also had an assist for one of Montero’s goals — and Eythor Bjørgolfsson scored for Defiance during their 45 minutes after spelling Héber towards the end of the first 90-minute match.

Josh Atencio and Danny Leyva showed why they’ve been in and around the first team for years at this point, bossing midfield with the second group. Leyva even got on the scoresheet, setting up Montero’s first goal with an excellent ball from about 30 yards out off of a free kick, then wrapped up the scoring with a goal after picking up a loose ball at the top of the box and finishing low to the far post.

Fullback is relatively thin behind Alex Roldan and Nouhou, although Kelyn Rowe seems to have the backup left back spot firmly in hand. Rowe was a vocal leader with the second group throughout the 90 minutes and helped to provide stability to the young group. On the right side Reed Baker-Whiting and Ethan Dobbelaere each spent 45 minutes at fullback — the two covered the right side throughout the 90, and swapped spots midway through — showing well, seeming to display some progression from their performances last season. On that right they showed a desire and willingness to progress the ball decisively, the technical ability and awareness to do it effectively, and paired that with solid defensive positioning.


Match 1 v Lou City


Frei; Nouhou, Ragen, Yeimar, A.Roldan; João Paulo (Kitahara 10’), Rusnák; Morris, Lodeiro, C.Roldan; Héber (Bjørgolfsson 4’)

Match 2 v Lou City and Defiance in 45s


Cleveland; Rowe, Arreaga, Cissoko, Baker-Whiting; Atencio, Leyva; Chú, Teves, Dobbelaere; Montero

Defiance final 45


Castro; Sousa, Katsaros (Miglietti), Uderitz, Baker; Kitahara, Ovalle; Rothrock (Bowen), Herrera, Minoungou; Bjørgolfsson

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