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The Review: Seattle Sounders at LA Galaxy

There were some tactical improvements, even if the results remain frustratingly poor.

Last Updated
4 min read
Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

The hope for the Seattle Sounders to jumpstart their season will be delayed for at least another week as they fell 1-0 to the LA Galaxy. In a twist of cruel irony, the Sounders actually played pretty well on Saturday night, but you can’t put points on the board with moral victories.

This five-game start to the season matches the worst start to an MLS regular season for the Sounders, who also started 0-3-2 in 2013. If you’re inclined to look on the bright side, the Sounders followed up that start by going 4-0-1 in their next five.

The vibes are very, very grim. We aren’t having fun. Let’s talk about the game, I guess.

Talking Tactics

For the first time this season, the Sounders played in a formation and approach that resembles Ol’ Reliable. Well, sort of. It’s hard to tell if what ended up happening was due to game state or if it was there original plan, but Seattle lined up in a 4-2-3-1 that ended up playing with a back 3, a midfield that was essentially 4 midfielders in a line, and then 3 forward players. Playing this way meant you got to maximize the strengths of two players while doing their best to get something that resembles a sum better than its parts.

The two players that it benefited the most was Jordan Morris and Nouhou. Let’s talk about Morris first. Nominally speaking, he was playing “left wing” on paper, but in reality he was playing the same position he’s been playing all season. He is a wide forward that has the freedom to drift in and out to find the ball. Whether he’s doing it slightly wider or starting more narrow, he’s still a dangerous threat and was against the Galaxy. A shame about the miss, though.

The second player that benefited from the way the Sounders played on Saturday night was Nouhou. Unlike Morris, the Cameroonian was actually playing a different position tactically. On a formation graphic, he was listed at the leftback, but with the way things played out he was just a third centerback. Which is his best position. Positionally he was much more in line with Jackson Ragen and Yeimar Gomez Andrade and he was tasked with much less offensive responsibility than previous weeks. Take the passing maps from the Colorado or Austin matches, for example. He is obviously the deeper of the two fullbacks in those instances, but he’s still playing as a fullback based on where he receives the ball. Just tucked inside a bit more. It was different against the Galaxy, where he was used earlier and deeper in the buildup phase.

This is the best way to use Nouhou and if his starting spot is truly untouchable then this is how you have to use him going forward (pun fully intended). I still worry about his mental lapses, which were present on the Galaxy goal, but this is undoubtedly the way to maximize his strengths while hiding his weaknesses effectively.

Dissecting the Narrative

A very bad start to the season after five games. ‘Is it time to panic?’ Depends on who you ask. A lot of fans are ready to break the glass and push the big red button, but the locker room isn’t. At least not yet. I was struck by the messaging in the post game press conference from Brian Schmetzer, Stefan Frei, and Cristian Roldan.

Schmetzer said, “If I felt the team was really negative or coming apart, I’d be way more worried. I’ll reflect on making sure [the players are] not too positive because we are in last place. We have to have that balance.”

Frei said, “It’s not hard to keep it positive. There’s a lot of good things.”

Roldan said, “We’ve gone through spells like this before, probably even worse. Unfortunately, this spell is at the beginning of a season and that’s where it changes. … We really believe we can get out of this.”

I always try to operate from a point of view that the coaching staff and the players have access to way more information than anyone else. They are smarter than me too. I’m just a guy who watches games on TV and they’re the ones who have to actually play and coach the games for a living. As a fan and an analyst of the games the Sounders have played so far, I’m not seeing a whole lot to hang my hat on other than the fact that they have good players who haven’t played a lot. Those in the locker room feel differently and I’m inclined to trust them. At least for now.

Setting aside how forgiving MLS can be on a whole, there’s really no point in panicking after five games. Even if they were really, really bad games that were hard to watch and made everyone very grumpy. It doesn’t make anyone feel better to point out how unlucky the Sounders have been, but even the best teams in the world have a hard time overcoming bad luck.

I think it’s wise for everyone, myself included, to take a big deep breath and recalibrate. The sky isn’t falling down. It’s just been some bad games and some bottom percentile outcomes. It can get better. Will it? We’ll have to wait and see.