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Shorthanded and struggling in LA

A Pedro de la Vega penalty wasn’t enough to secure a comeback for Seattle as the Sounders fall 2-1 on the road against LAFC in the season opener.

Last Updated
5 min read
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY

The Seattle Sounders started their season on the road against LAFC, the same team that ended their season last year. Despite a number of good chances, the Sounders fell 2-1 to their hosts as Timothy Tillman and Mateusz Bogusz both scored bangers on either side of halftime before Pedro de la Vega got one back for Seattle on a penalty in the 73rd minute.

Despite a good first half in which the Sounders had the first real chance and generated plenty of good looks, it was LAFC that went into halftime with a lead. Not long after good play from the Sounders resulted in sustained possession around the box and eventually a corner won by Raúl Ruidíaz, the home team stormed down to Seattle’s end in the 45th minute. Left back Omar Campos sent in a cross that found Timothy Tillman unmarked in the box, and Tillman volleyed it home to open the scoring. Replay seemed to show Jackson Ragen pointing Tillman out to Nouhou, but Nouhou remained on the near post as the cross came in and the shot when passed him.

The second half didn’t start well. Rather than Seattle coming out of halftime energized, Bouanga nearly added a second goal within two minutes of the start of the half. In the 55th minute LAFC’s lead was doubled, though, this time with Mateusz Bogusz smashing a shot from just inside the area off of the crossbar to beat Andrew Thomas.

Seattle got back in the game courtesy of a 73rd minute penalty from the debutant, Pedro de la Vega. Jordan Morris was brought down in the box by Aaron Long nearly five minutes earlier, and after a lengthy VAR check the penalty was awarded. De la Vega stepped up to the spot and sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way to breath some life back into the game for the Sounders and open his MLS account just minutes into his first appearance for the club. Despite his introduction to the game providing the spark the team seemed to need, Seattle just didn’t have enough to claw their way all the way back into the game.

Key moments

3' - SHOT! Jordan Morris registers the first shot of the game after some nice play down the right puts him 1v1 with Hugo Lloris, but the shot is easily saved.

15’ - SHOT! Raul Ruidiaz lines up from just outside the box on a free kick after Leo Chu is brought down. The effort is deflected, but Lloris catches.

17’ - SAVE! Bouanga splits the centerbacks on a run and rounds Andrew Thomas in space, but his shot is too soft and Nathan clears it out of danger.

23’ - CHANCE! Bouanga goes to the end line and sends the ball across, but it hits off the crossbar and goes out for a Sounders throw.

43’ - CHANCE! A great ball from Obed Vargas puts Morris in space. After some passing around the box, Ruidiaz gets a shot off that’s blocked out for a corner.

45’ - GOAL! LAFC open the scoring, as Timothy Tillman is left unmarked and volleys in a cross that beats Andrew Thomas. 1-0 LAFC

47’ - SHOT! Bouanga unleashes a shot from the top of the box after cutting inside, and his effort clangs off the bar.

55’ - GOAL! LAFC double there lead, this time with Mateusz Bogusz ripping a shot from the top of the box that goes in off the upright. 2-0 LAFC

73’ - GOAL! Pedro de la Vega’s first real action as a Sounder is a penalty goal, sending Hugo Lloris the wrong way after a lengthy VAR check.

Quick thoughts

Last years problems arent not this years problems: There were plenty of frustrating things about the first hour or so of this game, and some of the big ones would have been immediately familiar to anyone who watched last season. In no small part, a good chunk of frustration can be attributed to the decision-making on Seattle’s left side. LAFC’s opening goal came from Timothy Tillman, who was left completely unmarked by Nouhou, who opted to stay on the near post rather than mark the player and then could do nothing but flop at the shot as it beat him and Andrew Thomas to that post. In the attack, while Seattle got into dangerous spots and created some quality chances, more than a few trips to LAFC’s end were squandered when Leo Chu received the ball on the wing, saw himself 1v1 with the opposing right back, and rather than attempting to beat his man or make a pass he stepped on the ball and waited to make a decision until he’d been double-teamed and forced into a negative pass. Both players need to show some growth in their decision-making if they’re going to be key contributors to a title contender.

Pedro de la Vega is the truth: Pedro de la Vega made his first MLS appearance in the 64th minute, and 10 minutes later he had opened his account on a well-taken penalty and given the Sounders some hope of finding a result after trailing 2-0. The comeback never materialized, but in his half-hour or so on the field de la Vega showed why the Sounders followed him for so long and were willing to commit the resources needed to bring him in. Beyond his goal, Pepo had three successful dribbles on four attempts, two passes into the final third, and won four of seven duels. He seemed like a genuine threat to make something happen every time he got on the ball, regardless of where he was on the field. He showed a desire to go towards goal every time he got on the ball, paired with a tenacity and willingness to ride challenges and beat players on the dribble, as well as a creativity in his pass selection and shape that will be deadly once he’s had more time to gel with the team. This was just a taste, but the no. 10 jersey seems to be in good hands.

Theres just something about Los Angeles: The Sounders have now failed to win away against LAFC in the regular season on eight occasions. The only win Seattle has claimed at what is now known as BMO Stadium was in the famous 2019 Western Conference Final. That place has simply been a house of horrors from the day that it opened for the Sounders. Maybe it’s just an LA* thing, though. After a win on their first trip to play the LA Galaxy in 2009, it took seven years of trips in the regular season before Seattle finally won again in 2016. Since then, the Sounders have only lost once on the road against the Galaxy in the regular season. Maybe it’s just a matter of time.

Notable quote

"The game, obviously it’s not a point or three points; I thought there were some good moments in the game, but we need to be more lethal in our attacking movements...that’s the story of the game." - Brian Schmetzer

Man of the match

Pedro de la Vega. It’s Pepo; honestly, who else could it have even been? Seattle generated some quality chances in the first half, but the Young DP’s introduction in the second half completely and immediately changed the team, making them much more dangerous. To score the team’s first goal of the season, his first in a competitive game as a Sounder, only made his place here more certain.