The Seattle Sounders went on the road for the first time in the young MLS season to face FC Cincinnati. Despite a few chances, the Sounders fell 1-0 in their first trip to Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.
The first half ended scoreless, with both teams getting good looks. Morris created the first chance of the game in the 2nd minute with a run behind the defense down the left, but Fredy Montero’s shot off of a feed from Morris was hit soft and wide. Morris had a great look of his own almost 15 minutes later on an empty net after beating Roman Celentano to a ball outside the box, but his went wide as well. Cincinnati’s best look came as Brandon Vasquez attempted a back heel that took a deflection off of Jackson Ragen towards the empty half of the net, but Nouhou eventually cleared it from the area.
Around the hour mark there was a VAR check to determine if a hand ball had been committed in Cincinnati’s penalty area. After it was determined no penalty should be awarded, Cincinnati capitalized on a pair of mistakes in the back by Seattle to create a couple of chances, eventually scoring the opening goal.
Cincinnati went down to 10 men after Nick Hagglund was shown a red card for a foul on Raúl Ruidíaz, and Seattle pushed for an equalizer over the final 10+ minutes. The Sounders seemed to have found the tying goal through a header from Yeimar, but the goal was eventually ruled off due to a foul by Yeimar earlier in the play. In the end, after about 14 minutes of added time, the Sounders head home with a frustrating first defeat of the MLS season and a home game against the reigning MLS champions LAFC on the horizon.
2’ — Jordan Morris gets a chance to test the Cincinnati backline early, running in behind before finding Fredy Montero with a centering pass but the shot trickles wide of the goal.
16’ — Jordan Morris beats the ‘keeper to a ball just outside the box and gets a shot off on the open net under pressure, but his effort curls away and goes wide.
35’ — Brandon Vasquez tries a back heel that deflects off of Jackson Ragen and is headed for goal before Nouhou clears the danger.
63’ — Brenner opens the scoring, giving Cincinnati a 1-0 lead. A Sounders giveaway leads to a shot from the top of the box that Stefan Frei gets a hand to but can’t keep out.
67’ — Just minutes after the opener, Brenner runs at goal again but Alex Roldan is able to dive in and put the ball out for a corner at the last moment.
83’ — After a look at the monitor, Nick Hagglund is shown a red card for taking down Raúl Ruidíaz from behind as the striker ran in on goal.
90’ — Yeimar appears to level the score, but the goal is called off due to a foul earlier in the play.
What does the response look like? Following two dominant wins to open the season, the Sounders struggled on the road against Cincinnati. On one hand, it makes sense, Cincinnati are arguably a much better team than either of the Colorado Rapids or Real Salt Lake. The Sounders struggled to create clear chances against Cincinnati, though, despite Cincinnati leaving plenty of space for Seattle’s wide players to work in. Similarly, while passing and ball security had been a clear strength in weeks 1 and 2, the Sounders frequently gave the ball up cheaply and committed unforced errors, including on Cincinnati’s goal. We’ve seen Seattle bounce back from a tough loss after the Club World Cup defeat against Al Ahly, so how will they respond with LAFC coming to town for week 4?
Solving for H: So, it turns out, Héber is maybe more important to how the Sounders played in the first two games than we may have appreciated. Sure, this game was on the road against a team with a distinctly different style and tactical approach, but the lack of meaningful hold-up play clearly hurt Seattle. There was some loose or sloppy passing that obviously didn’t help either, but Fredy Montero managed 18 touches and went 5 for 8 passing in his 58 minutes on the field.
Montero’s not a guy who needs a ton of touches, but he does want to be involved, and those numbers indicate a struggle for him to meaningfully impact the game. When he did receive the ball, it was under pressure and he had a hard time keeping control of the ball long enough to find a teammate when he did get a touch. Ruidíaz was much more involved in his time on the field, and generated some danger, but the way he plays is drastically different from Héber’s game. If Seattle’s new approach in possession and attack is going to be productive throughout the season, they need to find a different fulcrum for that possession when they don’t have a hold-up forward on the field.
Sometimes you just have a bad day: I don’t want to linger too long on any of this, because ultimately I think this game is more likely to be an aberration than a sign of things to come. Seattle’s struggles, and especially the goal, seem to be a direct result of the Sounders failing at the basic parts of the game they did so well in the first two games. Seattle won the duels battle 70-63, but more often than not it seemed like Cincinnati came away with the second ball, Seattle rarely made use of their three-back shape in possession and struggled to gauge when to go long versus playing through pressure. In the minute leading up to the goal, all of those things came into play as Cincinnati nearly scored first when the ball recycled back to Frei and the fullbacks both stayed high and Frei attempted to play out to Alex Roldan but got his pass picked off. Brenner’s ensuing shot went out for a goal kick, but seconds later he was putting the ball in the back of the net after a pass from Nouhou to Nico Lodeiro under pressure became a turnover. It was a rough day out for everyone, but they should be better than that.
Did you see that?!?
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He said what?!?
Jordan Morris admits "it did feel a little bit like last year, but it's 100% correctable." He adds "the way we played those first two games wasn't a fluke. ... "We just need to be cleaner in those little moments."— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) March 12, 2023
One stat to tell the tale
0 — After generating a league-leading 6 Big Chances created in the opening 2 games, the Sounders created 0 Big Chances against Cincinnati according to Fotmob.
Man of the match