clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Postgame Pontifications: Gritty win shows how much things have changed

One-goal wins, like the one against the Galaxy, were hard to come by a year ago.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The most glaring symptom of the Seattle Sounders’ struggles in 2022 was their penchant for one-goal losses. It wasn’t so much that the Sounders were awful last year — evidenced by their +1 goal-difference — it was their rather galling ability to grind out results.

Of their 17 losses a year ago, 15 were by just a single goal. For the season, the Sounders ended up finishing 7-15-5 in games decided by one goal or less for an average of .96 points per game. Their struggles were particularly acute on the road, where 11 of 12 losses were by one goal and they only had two ties. The last time they won a road game by one goal was almost exactly one year ago, on April 2, 2022.

While having nearly 80% of their matches was a high-water mark under head coach Brian Schmetzer, it was also the worst they’ve ever fared in such matches. Under Schmetzer, the Sounders had averaged about 1.55 points per game in such close matches prior to last year. If the Sounders had simply performed at their historic norms in close matches, they’d have picked up an additional 16 points last year. That would have pushed them from 11th in the Western Conference all the way to second.

It’s in that context that Saturday’s 2-1 win over the LA Galaxy felt so important. It wasn’t that the Sounders necessarily played great — they were outshot 28-9 and lost the xG battle 2.4-1.1 — it was that they found a way to see out the win even after the tide had very clearly turned against them in the second half.

“That’s a game we maybe would have tied or even lost last year,” Sounders forward Jordan Morris said, fresh off scoring his league-leading eighth goal of the season. “To see the progression in terms of grinding out a result and working until the end ... at the end, it’s three points either way.”

You don’t even need to be very creative to find a good example of this game going differently in 2022. Last August, the Sounders visited the LA Galaxy with their season very much still in the balance. After falling behind 2-0 in the first half, the Sounders came storming back to take a 3-2 lead deep into stoppage time. But they were forced to settle for a 3-3 tie after VAR awarded a somewhat questionable penalty after a shot deflected off Xavier Arreaga’s arm.

As luck would have it, the Galaxy had a very similar situation late in this game when a cross deflected off the arm of Nouhou, who had his hands clasped behind his back. This time, VAR decided not to intervene.

Galaxy head coach Greg Vanney was animatedly upset by that decision, but the Sounders have no reason to be worried about his feelings.

“Any win on the road is a good one,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Credit to Stef Frei for a monster performance, lots of guys blocking shots, we were able to close it out.”

There was, of course, some genuinely positive play from the Sounders, too. After mostly being the aggressors and dictating play in their first five games, the Sounders staked out a more reactive posture. They still picked their moments to press, but were more interested in looking for opportunities to hit on the counter. The first goal actually came out of a situation where they seemed to bait the Galaxy into such a situation, passing the ball around for about a minute before springing the attack along the left wing with Nicolás Lodeiro putting Léo Chú into space with a beautiful through ball and Morris finishing off Chú’s cross.

The second goal was similar with the Sounders connecting 11 mostly innocuous passes before Chú was able to burst into the open field before firing his shot from about 25 yards out.

But space became much harder to find in the second half when the Galaxy moved to a 3-5-2 and allowed themselves to get a bit more vertical. The Sounders also didn’t help themselves by failing to sustain many possessions or winning the second-balls they’ve been so dominant on through the first five games. Those are things they can learn from. They’ll also be a lot easier to digest knowing that it didn’t cost them a win.

“We stopped playing,” Schmetzer said. “We had some chances to make it 3-1, but no one is going to care what happened with tactics three months from now. We just know it’s three points.”

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Sounder At Heart Weekly Roundup newsletter!

A twice weekly roundup of Seattle Sounders and OL Reign news from Sounder at Heart