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Sounders vs SKC, recap: Fallen fortress

A slow and sloppy start doomed the Sounders in a 2-1 loss to Sporting.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders lost at home for the first time in 2023 as Sporting Kansas City came to town and beat them 2-1 on the strength of their first-half performance. Seattle played one of their worst halves of the season and left themselves with too much to do in the second 45 as they gave up two soft goals.

The Sounders had their home shutout streak put to an early end as SKC opened the scoring with a goal in the 4th minute. The defense got picked apart as every player involved was slow to close down or apply pressure and Erik Thommy beat Stefan Frei easily. In the 31st minute, Kansas City doubled their lead, as Seattle continued to play one of the worst halves of soccer the team has played this season.

With no true left back option available, João Paulo suspended for yellow-card accumulation, and Cristian Roldan still out while dealing with lingering concussion symptoms, Alex Roldan filled in out left with Reed Baker-Whiting deployed at right back. Obed Vargas stepped into midfield alongside Albert Rusnák, and Jordan Morris started up top ahead of a band of three comprised of Léo Chú, Héber and Nico Lodeiro. No one looked particularly comfortable or confident in their roles, as defensive positioning was consistently off, balls were frequently misplayed, and more than a few fairly simple passes found their way to SKC players rather than Sounders teammates.

The Sounders looked much better in the second half, putting SKC under much more pressure than they managed in the first half. Cody Baker and Fredy Montero entered the game in the 57th minute, and the corresponding adjustments seemed to put guys in more familiar positions and get better play out of the squad. Fredy Montero drew a penalty that Nico Lodeiro put away shortly after the hour mark, but try as they might the team couldn’t find the equalizer.

Seattle have to turn around quickly as they travel to face the LA Galaxy in the US Open Cup on Wednesday.

Key moments

4’ — As Seattle struggle to find a foothold to start the game, SKC strike first as Erik Thommy finishes off some slick passing with an easy finish past Stefan Frei. 1-0 SKC

11’ — Jordan Morris finds Léo Chú out wide, then makes a run into the box. Chú crosses into the box and nearly combines with Morris for a goal but the header goes toward the sideline.

24’ — Léo Chú dribbles through the KC defense and slips Morris through, who then plays a ball across the box for Nico Lodeiro but the defender reaches it first and knocks it away.

30’ — Héber lays a ball off for Nico Lodeiro blasts a shot into the stands after some clever play from Obed Vargas and Reed Baker-Whiting to create the chance.

31’ — Alan Pulido doubles SKC’s lead as the Sounder defense gets caught sleepwalking. 2-0 SKC

34’ — Lodeiro finds Héber in a pocket of space, but the near post shot that follows is easily handled by Tim Melia.

40’ — A chance falls to Reed Baker-Whiting at the top of the box, but his half-volley effort flies into the North end.

64’ — Fredy Montero runs into the box to collect a chipped ball from Obed Vargas and takes a forearm to the face to draw a penalty.

66’ — Lodeiro steps up to take the PK and calmly slots it home to beat Melia and get the Sounders on the board. 2-1 SKC

72’ — Albert Rusnák gets into space down the right side and plays a ball across for Morris who gets there, but can’t quite direct his effort on frame.

83’ — Cody Baker drives down the left with the ball and spots a run into the box from Montero, but just can’t connect as the ball drifts out for a goal kick.

86’ — Johnny Russell looks to be in on goal, but a great recovery run and defensive positioning from Jackson Ragen ends the danger.

90’ — Héber hits Morris in stride with a great ball, and Morris’s shot is well-taken as Melia stops it but concedes a corner.

Quick thoughts

The System of Theseus: Seattle started the season playing the team’s typical 4-2-3-1 with some interesting wrinkles to get the most out of guys like Jordan Morris, Nouhou and Alex Roldan, to name a few. As players have come in and out of the lineup for one reason or another, Brian Schmetzer and his staff have attempted to maintain the system of play and keep as many of the first-choice group on the field, but against SKC we may have seen the limits of this approach. It does appear that there is a point at which too many individual pieces have been changed or moved for the system to still be the same. The starting lineup included six players who were either making their first appearance in a particular spot, or playing outside of their preferred/best role. That’s a lot of change, it changes what the other five guys who are playing in their usual spot have around them, and for some players it was entirely too much. Schmetzer acknowledged as much in his post-game press conference, suggesting that in the future he’d likely only make those changes to one or the other of the offense or defense rather than across the full squad.

Mid-season stumbles: Since starting the season 5-1-1 with a +12 goal difference, the Sounders have now gone 1-2-1, -3 in their last four games. That run started with the 4-1 loss on the road against the Portland Timbers, and has included a dower scoreless draw in Utah against Real Salt Lake and today’s loss, the first home loss of the season. There have been absences through injury, illness and suspension, but Seattle will need to find a way to turn things around with the guys who are available. Raúl Ruidíaz is still a ways away from coming back, Cristian Roldan’s recovery from a concussion doesn’t exactly have a timeline, and Nouhou is on his way back according to Schmetzer, having contracted and been treated for malaria, but he’s still got some way to go. The team’s strong start still has them on top of the Western Conference for now, but that won’t be the case for long if performances don’t improve.

Welcome young Cody Baker: There will seemingly be plenty to write about Cody Baker in the coming weeks, but in his first MLS appearance Baker was a significant part of the team’s improved second half. Entering the game just before the hour mark, replacing Reed Baker-Whiting and allowing Alex Roldan to move over to his preferred right back/wing spot as Baker stepped into the left back role once again. Baker defended well, undoubtedly benefiting from SKC’s drop in intensity, but he also helped to facilitate possession from the left side and nearly connected with Montero on an impressive cross after taking some space on the dribble. Baker started in that spot against San Diego Loyal in the Open Cup before joining the team on a short-term deal for this game. It sounds like he’s in line to start there again on Wednesday in the Open Cup against the Galaxy, and may do the same on the road against the Houston Dynamo next weekend. That would be the last time he could play in MLS on a short-term deal, so any news on an MLS contract likely wouldn’t come until after that point.

Did you see that?!?

Nico Lodeiro is practically automatic from the spot.

He said what?!?

Nouhou’s illness, explained. According to Schmetzer he’s on the back-end of recovery, but no further details on Nouhou’s medical information will be coming.

One stat to tell the tale

468 — Seattle’s home shutout streak ended at 468 minutes of scoreless football for visiting teams.


Man of the match

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Nico Lodeiro
    (76 votes)
  • 50%
    Cody Baker
    (137 votes)
  • 6%
    Reed Baker-Whiting
    (17 votes)
  • 14%
    Jordan Morris
    (40 votes)
270 votes total Vote Now

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