SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders lost 2-1 at home as they played host to Austin FC in a midweek matchup. Seattle’s struggles against what should be weaker opposition continued as they piled on the pressure but seemed to lack a bit of the incisiveness and urgency that was required. Meanwhile Austin pressed the Sounders and made their best opportunities count.
Ethan Finlay opened the scoring in the 36th minute, finishing a look from near the penalty spot with aplomb, but the chance came too easily. The pass to Finlay looked like it could have easily been cut out by ether or both of João Paulo or Albert Rusnák, but both pulled out as if they worried they’d collide or thought the other player would get the ball. The result was a well-taken goal and a familiar feeling.
The Sounders created a number of good chances at the start of the second half, most notably a play where Héber put Dylan Teves in behind the backline and 1v1 with Austin goalkeeper Brad Stuver. Teves looked likely to have scored as he hit his shot through the ‘keeper’s legs but Stuver got just enough of a touch to slow the ball down and grab it behind himself. A few minutes later Ethan Finlay popped up again, this time playing provider for Gyasi Zardes’s first goal of the season as Zardes headed home a cross from in-between Yeimar and João Paulo.
Seattle were hardly out of the game, though, creating plenty of chances and finally finding a goal in the 79th minute from substitute Fredy Montero. Alex Roldan played a ball for Jordan Morris to run onto on the right side, and Morris found Héber inside the 18. Héber was able to gain control of the ball and spot Fredy Montero running into the box and laid the ball off for Montero to smash low into the corner to pull one back.
The Sounders almost leveled the score in the 84th with a great look for Jordan Morris, but his flying kick from close range drew a fantastic save from Stuver. Seattle had another great chance to tie the game, this time late in stoppage as Héber had a header at the back post following a corner, but the effort was nowhere near goal. That’s now two straight home losses with both losses coming against teams at or near the bottom of the Western Conference at kickoff.
1’ — The excitement starts early as Seattle get in behind the Austin defense via a ball from Héber to release Dylan Teves, but Teves’s ball to Jordan Morris is cut out by the GK.
9’ — Jackson Ragen lifts a ball over the fullback from inside the Sounders’ half for Alex Roldan to run onto. Roldan’s cross for Nico Lodeiro is put out for a cross, though.
26’ — Cody Baker gets the Sounders out on a counter as he drives and plays it to Lodeiro who hits an early cross for Héber, but the pass is just off and goes out for a goal kick.
29’ — Héber dishes the ball wide for Dylan Teves knowing he’ll get it back. Teves finds the run with a cross, but Héber’s touch puts the ball over the goal.
35’ — Dylan Teves has the best chance of the game as he’s played in behind with a great ball from Héber, but Brad Stover makes a great save.
36’ — On the other end the Sounders are slow to step a few times inside their own 18 and Ethan Finlay punishes them with a shot from near the penalty spot. 1-0 Austin
50’ — The Sounders get into and stay in Austin’s area for a prolonged period as they force several corners, but eventually Lodeiro puts in a shot that goes high.
53’ — A short corner routine leads to a ball into the box from Nico Lodeiro that Dylan Teves connects with, but the shot is saved by Stuver.
57’ — Gyasi Zardes doubles Austin’s lead, rising up between João Paulo and Yeimar to head home a cross from Finlay. 2-0 Austin
69’ — Héber has a good read from inside the area, seeing Albert Rusnák making a late run and dropping the ball to him, but the shot is blocked out for a corner.
79’ — FREDY MONTERO! Some slick play down the right wing puts Héber on the ball near the penalty spot and setting up Montero to beat Stuver. 2-1 Austin
84’ — What a save from Stuver! João Paulo hits an excellent switch for Roldan, who follows it with an equally great cross of his own to Jordan Morris, but the pointblank shot is saved.
90’ + 4 — Héber with a late chance on a corner, but his header from the edge of the six goes wide.
A Seattle Freeze: After going 4-0-1, +10 at Lumen Field in MLS to start the season, the Sounders have now lost their last two home games 2-1 against teams on significant winless streaks — Sporting Kansas City went into that game winless in 10 to start the season, and Austin FC hadn’t won in eight games before Wednesday night. These are teams that were well outside of the playoff spots going into the games facing off against a Seattle team at the opposite end of the table and going home with three points. As Fredy Montero put it, “we are the Seattle Sounders, I think we’re the best team in MLS and teams play us like it’s ... a Final.” The Sounders need to play like they’re that Seattle Sounders team again.
The Bake Show: In his first start since signing an MLS contract, Cody Baker lined up at left back as Nouhou continues to work back to full fitness and recovers from malaria. Baker played 84 minutes, and his 78 touches put him level with Yeimar and behind only João Paulo with 95 touches for the Sounders. To say that the players around him trusted him as Seattle pushed to make up for an early deficit would be an understatement. Although the second goal came from his side, it’s hard to put much blame on him as he kept on his man while Jackson Ragen pursued Ethan Finlay who put in the cross for Gyasi Zardes. On the whole Baker did well to limit the danger Finlay presented from his side as he won 4/7 of his total duels, added 8 recoveries and completed 53 of 66 passes attempted. He wasn’t a maestro, but he was more than capable and continued to build on the performances that earned him his First Team deal.
Injuries, ailments and absences: It’s tough to say that there’s good news after another home loss, but between news out of training from the week and tonight’s game, the Sounders are starting to get some guys back. Nouhou made his return with a short stint at the end of the game as the team staff gauged his ability to potentially play on the weekend, while new father Léo Chú came back after missing time with the birth of his first child and dealing with a knock to play half an hour in which he looked dangerous but a little rusty. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start and there’s no better time to start getting guys back. There will be plenty of minutes to go around as guys work back to fitness and shake off the rust.
Did you see that?!?
Fredy Montero, uh, finds a way.
Our goal machine since Day 1 in MLS: @_fredymontero pic.twitter.com/3AFfzqe5Rr— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) May 18, 2023
He said what?!?
Fredy Montero on how teams approach playing the Sounders:
“We are the Seattle Sounders, I think we’re the best team in MLS and teams play us like it’s the last game of the season, like it’s a Final.”— Defensa y Boosticia (@timostlundfoss) May 18, 2023
One stat to tell the tale
1 — Both Ethan Finlay and Gyasi Zardes scored their first goal of the season tonight.
Man of the match
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