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Five things we liked from Sounders vs RSL

João Paulo put in a monstrous shift, the defenders are good at passing, and much more!

Kayla Mehring

These are the days of our lives, friends. Drink it up and appreciate it. Your Seattle Sounders are absolutely flying and we saw them dismantle Real Salt Lake on Saturday night to the tune of a 2-0 victory. Here are five things that got our attention from the match.

João Paulo is actually better than you think he is

That’s just a wild thing to think about, really. But it is true. I think every Sounders fans spent last season with a JP-sized hole in their hearts as Seattle slogged along with several different iterations of a midfield.

I understand that caveats abound when his first two matches are against the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake. Both teams were poor and might end up being bad over the course of the season, but I don’t think that should take away from the level of play we’re seeing from João Paulo. Players are not supposed to recover from ACL tears and come back better than they were before the tear happened, but that’s what we’re seeing with JP. He might be better than before he got injured if he carries on at this rate.

Defenders in possession

I originally had planned on writing this section about Yeimar Gómez Andrade’s display in possession on Saturday night. Having looked back on the game, I think that would be a disservice to Jackson Ragen and Nouhou, in particular, to not also add them to the discussion. Let’s set Alex Roldan to one side for a second, and focus on those three players who really are primarily defenders.

Ragen, Nouhou, and Yeimar completed 132 of their 155 passes. Of those passes, they completed 19 of 25 long balls. RSL’s game plan seemed to allow the Sounders' backline to have the ball and do what they wanted with it. And these three guys absolutely punished their opponents for poor planning.

Because of RSL’s poor gameplan, the fourth member of the back four (A. Roldan) basically spent the entire match playing right-midfield. Alex was basically camped on the right corner of RSL’s box all game and punished them with two assists and dangerous crosses all night.

Clean sheets are the best sheets

The most effective way to keep a team from scoring is to not allow them to shoot the ball. The best way to keep a team from shooting is to make sure they don’t have possession. The best way to do that? You guessed it, keep them from having the ball. And, finally, the best way to keep the ball is to get it back as soon as possible when you lose it. The smart soccer people call this counter-pressing, and the Sounders were ON IT against RSL.

Clean sheets are often attributed to goalkeepers and how well they play, but I think Stefan Frei is happy to have only four saves over two matches so far.

Jordan Morris is Him

It’s going to be annoying how often I mention how good Jordan Morris is this season. I’m going to be annoying because a lot of Sounders fans were wanting to reduce his role this offseason or worse — wanting him shipped out. Through just two games I think just about everyone has reconsidered those positions.

He’s scoring goals, yes, but those goals are happening because he’s getting into dangerous spots and seeing much more of the ball. His confidence this season compared to last season is completely different. He’s able to beat guys on the dribble and he’s able to strong-arm his way past central defenders in the box.

According to Fbref, Morris had 58 touches against RSL on Saturday night and 39 touches against Colorado. Looking back on the 2022 season, he only eclipsed 40 touches in two matches. When we saw the best of Jordan in 2020 and 2019, he was routinely getting over 40 touches in a match.

(H/t to Josh on twitter for pointing out these stats)

A note on Xavier Arreaga

We’re two matches the MLS season and Arreaga has played zero minutes. He also didn’t feature in the Club World Cup match in February. Ragen has clearly emerged as the first choice in the pairing with Yeimar in the back line, but what the Sounders do with Arreaga will be interesting. Centerbacks are being traded for a lot of allocation money right now, and Seattle could see Arreaga as surplus to requirements. They could also just decide to keep him as a decent backup option for the remainder of the season.

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