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Postgame Pontifications: Let's not overreact, yet

There's an urge to say we've seen this all before but there's reason to be patient.

Last Updated
3 min read
Kayla Mehring / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE – It's tempting to draw broad conclusions from the first few games of any season. That's especially true when those games seem to be a continuation of whatever may have been going on the previous season.

Unfortunately, that's the exact situation the Seattle Sounders find themselves in through two matches of 2024.

The 0-0 tie with Austin FC at Lumen Field wasn't just their second straight game in which they'd failed to score a non-penalty goal, making them one of just two teams in MLS who have yet to score one in 2024. It also extends an open-play goal scoring drought that goes back to last season's playoffs which is now about 324 minutes long. Beyond that, it continues a run of 16 home games across all competitions in which the Sounders have scored two goals or fewer, a stretch of time in which they've scored just 15 total goals and been shut out six times.

So, yes, the frustration you're probably feeling is well-founded, especially when you consider that Austin was coming off a disastrous home performance and might be one of the worst teams in the league. I'm not going to even attempt to convince you that this result was good, or frankly acceptable.

Offensively, the Sounders did well to squeeze off 23 shots, but very few of them were genuinely dangerous. Raúl Ruidíaz had a wonderful look that he hit off the crossbar and had another shot that Brad Stuver just barely saved (although the referee called it a goal kick); Josh Atencio had a header that forced Stuver to make a nice save; and there were a few more half-chances that just missed the mark. But in general it felt an awful lot like the game that ended the Sounders' 2023.

"A lot of the balls were coming from outside against a packed defense," Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said, alluding to their nine blocked shots. "It’s what has been plaguing us since last year. We were close but not close enough."

While Schmetzer's comments did strike a similar chord we heard all too often last year, neither he nor anyone else seemed to be genuinely freaking out.

It bears reminding that it is just Game 2 of a 34-game season. It's also the second straight game in which the Sounders played without four virtually-guaranteed starters, one of whom – Albert Rusnák – was expected to be the centerpiece of an updated offensive approach. The Sounders' shouldn't need to be at 100% health in order to be effective, but most teams will struggle when they're missing 57% of their starting spine.

For as uninspiring as the Sounders' play was inside the opponent's penalty area, they were dominant everywhere else. Austin had two completely harmless shots from well outside the penalty area and only had four touches inside of the penalty area. The only game last year where the Sounders' allowed fewer than Austin's .04 xG was the second home playoff game against FC Dallas, who had .02 xG. In fact, dating back to the start of last year, only one team in all of MLS has kept an opponent to a lower xG in a game.

Atencio was especially good, earning Man of the Match honors after filling up the stat sheet with 61 of 75 passing; going 2-for-2 on dribbles; making four interceptions and 14 recoveries; winning 11 of 16 duels; and firing off a team-high six shots.

"We focus on each play and what we can do better," Atencio said when asked how the team moves forward after a frustrating result. "If we keep doing what’s good and fix what’s wrong, we’re going to get better every week. There are some things that aren’t issues and don’t need to be fixed."

One of the more consistently positive players in the locker room, Atencio refuses to allow himself to focus on the uninspiring home form that stretches back at least two seasons. He is far more concerned about what comes next.

"If there’s a trend that we’ve not been dominant at home, we’ll come out next game and try to dominate," he said.

The Sounders are not playing great, but there's more than enough time to fix it.