The Seattle Sounders became the first team ever to go 10 straight matches unbeaten against the LA Galaxy after winning 2-1 on Saturday night. It wasn’t the prettiest of performances, but it was a massive three points early in a season full of promise. Here are five things we saw from the match:
I think it makes the most sense to analyze this match from back to front to truly appreciate the greatness. Obviously, a 2-1 win where the opponent more than doubles the Sounders xG created isn’t ideal. Very little from this match neared perfection and that’s why I loved it so much. The second half against the Galaxy was a marked improvement from last season, and as far as I’m concerned, I’ve seen enough from this team to start putting some distance between the comparisons.
The Galaxy came out in the second half with a completely different formation and plan of attack. They threw everything at the second half because, effectively, their season was on the line. They generated quality chances, but their one goal came from a set piece and an error from Stefan Frei. A classic “bend but not break” performance.
With all of that said, I prefer the comfortable wins by a lot of goals.
A dominant first half without even trying
One hallmark of a good team is their ability to win when they don’t play well. This isn’t meant to sound negative or flippant, it’s just that seasons are long and you have to be able to rely on your processes and talent to get points when things aren’t “on.” The Galaxy setup in the first half was woefully naïve and the Sounders easily took advantage of it. The best way to defend this Seattle team is to have an energetic press that forces mistakes (LAFC, FC Cincinnati) and the Galaxy did exactly the opposite. They sat in a mid-block, didn’t press the ball, and the Sounders picked them apart.
When you have a player like Léo Chú in the form of his life, the last thing you want to do is give him a bunch of space to attack your backline with the ball at his feet.
Learned more about the best XI
Brian Schmetzer made some interesting choices with the starting XI and subs on Saturday. He had to navigate some tricky situations and I think he mostly did so with a passing grade. First, how can you break up the dynamic duo of Morris and Chú? That problem is easy to solve and you just go with the hot hand. The duo rewarded Schmetzer’s faith in them with a goal apiece, and Chú assisted Morris’ goal. Raúl Ruidíaz will get his chance to shine again soon, I think.
The other big call that Schmetzer had to make this weekend was regarding the fullbacks. Alex Roldán was coming off a slight knock he received with his national team. Nouhou had to travel the farthest of any player on duty and only trained with the team once. Kelyn Rowe was injured, so the same backline that started against SKC couldn’t go here. Brian ended up going with Alex Roldán at LB and Cristian at RB. Alex seemed uncomfortable in the role on the left. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see this option in the future.
A concern about Stefan Frei
Goalkeeping is very difficult and I won’t fool anyone by saying I fully understand how it all works. However, in the past Frei has been known to have a howler or two a season, which is common even for the most elite goalkeepers in the world. My current concern around Frei is that it seems like his age is starting to show. It’s to be expected that a 36-year-old goalkeeper won’t be as nimble as their younger self. He really should be doing better on the three goals the Sounders have conceded this season and hopefully this is just a blip in form and not something that will still be a worry a few weeks from now.
Greg Vanney is losing the plot
Vanney is ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS for what he feels is a series of missed hand balls against the Galaxy. At one point the #LAGalaxy manager stood up and demonstrated the handballs himself. pic.twitter.com/qLtteCDv02— Mike Gray (@MikeGrayAFC) April 2, 2023
It’s got to be tough to have millions of dollars of talent on your roster and they let you down constantly. Anyways, one rule about the internet is that you never want to get so mad that you become a meme. That’s exactly what happened to Vanney on Saturday night. I mean, just look at that pose. He’s doing the SpongeBob meme in real life. You can’t get that angry about something, it’s unbecoming.
I don’t know enough about the other three calls that Vanney referenced in his press conference, but the Nouhou situation just isn’t a handball. Bad teams make excuses for losses and I have to imagine Vanney made a spectacle in the press conference to take heat off his team underperforming. Hey, it worked!