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Postgame Pontifications: Reluctant to change

Sounders wasted an opportunity to go for three points.

Last Updated
3 min read
Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

The concept of a “false dawn” is relatively straightforward. Broadly, it’s the idea that a situation has improved when it really hasn’t.

It’s surely a bit premature to call the Seattle Sounders’ 5-0 win over CF Montreal a “false dawn,” but after their 0-0 tie with FC Dallas on Saturday, there’s at least some evidence that it might have been.

After doing so much right against Montreal, the Sounders largely reverted to their previous form against Dallas. They did an okay job creating some quality chances, but didn’t create enough of them. The Sounders were stout defensively, but were a bit too conservative as the game wore on. In the end, they were forced to settle for just one point against one of the league’s worst teams.

In a vacuum, any road point should be savored. MLS is a league where home teams tend to have an outsized advantage and the Sounders have never been particularly good in Frisco.

Unfortunately, the Sounders have put themselves in a position where they must maximize on their chances to claim full points wherever they are. The Sounders are now just 0-3-1 on the road and have now played what promises to be two of their easiest opponents.

Asked to assess the degree to which the Sounders maintained their momentum from a week ago, head coach Brian Schmetzer seemed to appreciate that this performance fell short.

“The weather was perfect, the field was perfect, they had a bunch of injuries,” Schmetzer said about an FC Dallas team that has been arguably even harder hit by absences than the Sounders. “We had just come off a real good performance. I don’t think we played up to that level. Right now, emotionally, it feels like we left some points on the table.”

What makes Schmetzer’s comments a bit more frustrating is that, by his own admission, he didn’t make coaching decisions explicitly designed to grab those two extra points. The only substitute Schmetzer made before the 85th minute was to bring in João Paulo for Josh Atencio in the 65th minute, closer to a like-for-like replacement than one designed to push the tempo.

To that end, while the Sounders dominated possession after João Paulo’s entry — they had the ball about 58% of the time — it didn’t get translated into a single shot. In fact, the only touch the Sounders had inside the penalty area after Jordan Morris’ header in the 58th minute was an Obed Vargas dribble that ultimately went out in the 90th minute.

Generally speaking, it looked a lot more like the Sounders were playing to preserve a point than going all out looking for a win. Schmetzer effectively confirmed as much.

“I thought the team was playing okay,” he said when asked why Léo Chú never got off the bench or why he waited so long to make other changes. “We could have gone for the win, and really gone for it, but sometimes a point is a good point. That contradicts my feelings emotionally. They were creating a couple of chances and thought some guys could win it in end. We weren’t behind.”

If any game called for some bold moves, though, this was probably it. There’s obviously some value in simply claiming any points, especially given how scarce they’ve been for the Sounders. But it also seemed pretty obvious that several players simply weren’t very effective toward the latter stages of the match.

Raúl Ruidíaz, who certainly deserved an opportunity build off his previous game, was clearly struggling to remain involved in the second half. His only shot in the game was a decent effort from about 22 yards, and he only had three touches after João Paulo entered the game. Danny Musovski, who was also coming off a very strong performance a week earlier, finally replaced him in the 86th minute and managed to get on the ball seven times. Dylan Teves was the only other sub, and he came in during stoppage time and was able to get a touch.

All of this underscores what has been a consistent complaint about Schmetzer over the years. For all the talk of depth, the Schmetzer rarely seems inclined to use it during a match or to make lineup changes based on form. Two years ago, that was one of the things he pointed to as a potential culprit for the Sounders missing the playoffs, and a year ago it nearly cost them again.

There’s an understandable desire not to panic now as the Sounders are not exactly playing poorly, but they can’t afford to waste opportunities like the one they had in Dallas.