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The Review: LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

Pedro de la Vega and Nathan were our two bigger winners this week.

Last Updated
3 min read
Sounders FC Communications

The Seattle Sounders season started with a bit of a hiccup against Western Conference rivals LAFC as their trip to BMO Stadium ended in a 2-1 defeat on Saturday. The win moved LAFC to an all-time record of 7-0-0 on opening day, which is an MLS record.

While it's very rare that the opening game of the MLS season is indicative of much in the grand scheme of things, there were a few interesting talking points from Saturday that are worth digging into. Let's get into it.


Pedro de la Vega is as good as advertised

There are huge shoes to fill for anyone who comes in and takes the No. 10 shirt for the Sounders. If the second half on Saturday is any indication of what's to come for the new guy, we need not worry about the future.

The circumstances for Pepo to come on were not ideal. Seattle had been outplayed for most of the second half and were down 2-0. Within minutes the Sounders had won a penalty and a chance to get back into the game. You'd understand a 23-year-old on his debut deferring to veterans such as Jordan Morris or Cristian Roldan, but the confidence to grab the ball and take the PK in that situation was very admirable.

The goal gets the headlines, but he was a much needed spark offensively. Fearless on the ball. Creative and positive. If this is a sign of things to come, then we're in for a treat.

Nathan solid in the back

It feels a little silly to single out a centerback for praise in a game where the Sounders conceded two goals, but here we are. I thought the Brazilian defender had been Seattle's man of the match until he was subbed off. He won his battles well and was really good on the ball. That he's already seemingly won the "third CB" role ahead of Xavier Arreaga is massive.



Depending on how you want to slice it, the Sounders kicked off the first game of the season without five "starters." One of them came on in the second half, de la Vega, but Brian Schmetzer told the media that he was only fit enough for a maximum of 30 minutes. Stefan Frei, Yeimar Gomez Andrade, João Paulo, and Albert Rusnák were not even fit enough for the bench. Any sort of conclusions of Saturday's performance should be caveated by this fact. It's certainly too early to call this a worrying situation as most of these appear to be relatively short-term, but it's obviously well short of ideal. It should be said at this point that of those four, only Rusnák was slated to start before he picked up an ankle injury on Friday.

Left side liability

The Sounders experienced a familiar issue to kick off the 2024 season: a left side that's not good enough. This mainly came down to Nouhou and Léo Chú, but to an extent included Raúl Ruidíaz, too. LAFC exploited the left side offensively and defensively.

You've probably seen the clip of LAFC's first goal. You can see Jackson Ragen pointing to LAFC's Timothy Tillman in the penalty area. Ragen even has time before the cross to turn around and tell Nouhou to move up. Instead of listening, Nouhou retreats to the back post leaving Tillman even more open and probably blocking Andrew Thomas' line of sight in the process. Not great.

Offensively, Chú was a blackhole on the ball. LAFC figured this out early on and funneled Seattle's possession to his side. So much about Chú's style of play requires him to see so much of the ball, but he hasn't shown that he's good enough to carry that load. Again, it's just one game and there were so many injuries. I doubt Chu is seen as the long-term starter on the left side once Pepo is fully fit.

Talking Tactics

Schmetzer debuted a new formation on Saturday and I think it's worth dissecting a little bit. Whether it was a forced hand due to the injuries or if it's seen as a genuine option down the road, Seattle lined up in a true 4-4-2 for most of the game against LAFC.

Simply put: I thought it was OK defensively but lacked structure going forward. That could've been due to personnel, lack of familiarity, or just the simple fact that LAFC were the better team. It looked better without Ruidíaz and Chú on the field, but even by that point LAFC decided to retreat into a defensive shell.

The crux of this formation, or at least the version that played on Saturday, required Cristian Roldan to effectively play two positions as a third central midfielder and as a right winger. Perhaps a fully fit Alex Roldan gives you the legs to do this, but Cristian was having to do way too much to make everything work.

What Happens Next

The Sounders have their home opener this coming week against Austin FC. Austin lost their opening match to a depleted Minnesota United at home. The focus for the week should be the Sounders getting healthier. If that happens, Austin should be easy to beat at home.