The Seattle Sounders suffered their first loss of the season on Saturday night when FC Cincinnati won 1-0. An evenly matched game tilted in the favor of the home team after a silly mistake at the back by the Sounders. Here are the 5 things we liked and didn’t like from the loss.
Not patient enough
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of losing a close game like this one is how close it was to actually being a decent match. The Sounders game plan was clear: eliminate transition opportunities for Cincy and counter quickly. It largely worked over the course of the 90 minutes outside of one silly mistake. However, the ways in which it didn’t work were very frustrating to watch.
In particular I thought João Paulo, Albert Rusnak, and Nico Lodeiro had poor outings. The Sounders would do a great job to win the ball back and the midfield trio would look to push, but often made the wrong decision or pass. A little more patience on the ball on Saturday in the midfield areas and I think we’re discussing a much different result.
Cincy played disruptors
However frustrating it was to watch the Sounders make the wrong decision all night, it should be said that Cincy’s disruption was so good. They are a well-coached and well-drilled team. Within seconds of losing the ball they were either forcing Seattle into a low percentage pass or fouling someone before the Sounders could get a move on. I do not fault a team for taking advantage of a poor referee who had no grasp of Cincy’s tactical fouling.
Letdown by leaders
CINCY GOAL@09brenner gives @fccincinnati the lead pic.twitter.com/fllsnTS5Ts— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 12, 2023
The Sounders completely gifted Cincinnati their goal on Saturday night. Stefan Frei, Yeimar, and Lodeiro were awful on this play. It was a cascading series of errors from three important leaders on the team and you really do expect them to do better. Perhaps Cincy’s press played into Nico’s poor decision making on the ball, but Yeimar needed to do better and I think Frei should be saving that shot. Not to mention Yeimar eventually equalized but it was chalked off because he committed a foul he didn’t need to be making.
Oh well. One of them.
The Sounders had a Heber-sized hole in their build-up strategy on Saturday night. That’s a very interesting thing to happen when he is ostensibly a backup forward and there’s only been three matches played this season. Fredy Montero isn’t expected to be the solution to any problems at this stage of his career, and he certainly tried to play like Heber, but just didn’t do a good job at all in holding the ball up when the Sounders played in transition.
I’m very interested in seeing what sort of adjustments the Sounders make in coming weeks as Ruidiaz gains fitness. Him and Heber are very different types of forwards and the Sounders played some beautiful stuff with Heber’s skillset in the team for the first two matches.
No need to panic
All in all, losing away to a very good Eastern Conference team in the third match of the season is not that big of a deal. The way the match titled on a series of mistakes in quick order right after the Sounders could’ve had a penalty at the other end was very frustrating, but I think this can be a good learning moment for what should be a very good team. The Sounders needed to keep their cool in that phase of the game. Instead of trying to do everything all at once, they needed a calm 2-3 minutes. But hey, them’s the breaks sometimes.
Overall, I was encouraged by a lot of things. In particular I thought the Sounders defended transition moments very, very well against one of the deadliest attacking trios in MLS. Jackson Ragen appears to be coming into his own and is putting in consistent performances at the back, which is something that was missing from his rookie season last year.