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No Blues for the Rave Green: Sounders slide into playoff spot

Sounders remain perfect against St. Louis, winning 2-1 on the road.

Last Updated
7 min read
Joe Puetz-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t always pretty or easy, but the Seattle Sounders went on the road to face St. Louis CITY FC and are coming home with a 2-1 win. Following a relatively quiet first half that finished 0-0, Seattle took a 2-0 lead before the hosts cut the deficit in a much more active final 45 minutes.

Seattle’s best moments going forward during the first half generally involved Jordan Morris either in the 18-yard box or running with the ball and open field ahead of him. The first real look at goal in the game came early when Morris did well to keep control of the ball on the end line before João Paulo unleashed what proved to be a non-threatening shot. Late in the half it was Morris again running down the right side in a foot race with St. Louis’s number 6, Njabulo Blom. Morris pushed the ball ahead of Blom and started gaining speed but was brought down and Blom was shown a yellow.

The second half started positively for the Sounders, with Obed Vargas making an excellent run into the box along the end line from the right, but his attempt to chip the ball towards the penalty spot was headed away. Cristian Roldan recovered the ball and fired off a shot from the top of the box in a bit of foreshadowing, but the shot went wide. Then in the 66th minute it was Cristian Roldan again, this time receiving a pass from Albert Rusnák as he entered the box. Roldan hit the ball in what may have been a shot or may have been intended for Raúl Ruidíaz near the spot or Morris at the back post, but the intentions didn’t matter much when his effort was deflected sending the ball floating over Roman Bürki – the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year – and into the back of the net.

With a lead, Seattle didn’t waste any time in adding to it. Rusnák again played provider in the 69th minute, this time running towards the back line with Morris ahead of him. Rusnák played a fantastic through ball that put Morris in behind and isolated against Bürki, and Morris finished like a player who believes they should be the team’s starting No. 9.

Aziel Jackson forced a nearly disastrous turnover a few minutes later when he stole the ball off of Jackson Ragen, but Yeimar defended him well and Ragen recovered to force a predictable shot that Stefan Frei easily caught. The Sounders wouldn’t be so lucky in the 82nd minute, though. St. Louis worked the ball into Seattle’s defensive third and probed for a way through before the ball eventually reached Eduard Löwen at the right corner of the box where he was able to send a ball into the box that took a couple of touches, the final one coming from fullback Tomas Totland to put it in the back of the net and cut Seattle’s lead in half.

Both sides had real chances to add another goal in the final minutes of the game. First Morris attempted to turn provider on a play not completely dissimilar to his own goal, this time playing Danny Musovski in for a 1v1 with the GK but Musovski sent his shot went wide to his left. St. Louis had two dangerous looks in stoppage time off of poor fouls from Seattle. In the first minute of stoppage, Paul Rothrock committed a foul at the edge of the box, and Löwen again sent a tantalizing ball into the box but it went through untouched and fizzed just wide of the post. Then in the 90+6, Morris committed a foul near midfield. The ball was sent in and bounced out to João Klauss who took a great shot from the top of the area that hit the far post but nothing more.

In the end, Seattle were able to hang on for the win, jump St. Louis in the standings and into the final playoff spot. Although St. Louis particularly poured on the pressure once they were trailing – the hosts outshot Seattle 22-7 for the night, but 13-3 in the second half – but Seattle was able to make the most of their chances and generally limit their opponents to low-percentage looks. With this result, the Sounders can hopefully build up some confidence as they climb into 9th place before they head home to take on Real Salt Lake on Wednesday at Lumen Field.

Key moments

9 - Shot! Seattle create some sustained pressure and Jordan Morris fights to keep possession at the end line setting up a look from João Paulo.

13 - St. Louis get out in transition, but Seattle are able to drop back and limit the danger, clearing the ball after a blocked cross.

39 - Morris gets on his horse down the left, pushing the ball ahead of Njabulo Blom and running into space but is pulled down and Blom is shown yellow.

55 - Obed Vargas makes a great run into the box, beating Joakim Nilsson on his way. His final ball gets cleared and Cristian Roldan collects but shoots wide.

66 - GOAL! Cristian Roldan gets the feed from Albert Rusnák and goes to play a cross that’s deflected and lifted over Roman Bürki! Sounders lead 1-0

69 - GOAL! This time it’s Jordan Morris 1v1 with the GK and leaving absolutely no doubt! Rusnák plays a great through ball to put him in and double the lead. 2-0

76 - Aziel Jackson takes the ball off of Jackson Ragen’s foot and gets in behind, but Yeimar tracks back and slows him down, allowing Frei to catch an easy shot.

82 - Goal, St. Louis. Soft pressure from the Sounders allows a ball into the box from Eduard Löwen to be redirected into the net by Tomas Totland. 2-1 Sounders

86 - Morris gets out on the run in transition, this time playing Danny Musovski in behind, but Musovski’s shot is pulled wide.

90+1 - Paul Rothrock commits a foul at the edge of the box, and Löwen sends in a dangerous ball that goes all the way through the box and out.

90+6 - Jordan Morris is called for a foul near midfield. The service in is deflected out to João Klauss but his shot from outside hits the post and is cleared.

Quick thoughts

Who is your No. 9?: Not for the first time, Raúl Ruidíaz was largely anonymous in this game. He had a total of three shots, one of them from inside the area – his only touch in the box – and none of them really gave Bürki much to worry about. He created no chances, had no passes into the final third, and apart from winning 4 of 7 ground duels and drawing two fouls, he really didn’t do much to help the team. He was more or less uninvolved in both goals, while Morris had the kind of goal that should be his bread and butter, was credited with one chance created and just generally seemed like a near-constant threat to get in behind even if his teammates weren’t always looking for him. Morris is simply a better fit as the starting striker for this team as constructed and with the way they want to play. Especially with Pedro de La Vega working towards his return it’s time for Morris to get his shot as the No. 9 in the team’s actual formation.

Speaking of position battles: A striker controversy isn’t the only potential serious question about who to start on Brian Schmetzer’s hands. With Nouhou serving his suspension Cody Baker stepped in to start on the left side of Seattle’s defense. Baker only played about an hour, coming off for Reed Baker-Whiting in the 61st minute, but in his time on the field he was one of the best players on the field. He won 4 of 6 duels (3 of 4 ground duels, 1 of 2 aerial duels), won both of his tackles, drew a foul, committed none, and had three clearances and three recoveries. He was a vital part of Seattle’s ability to limit the St. Louis attack, but he was also a constant positive force when the Sounders had the ball. He had seven passes into the final third, was credited with one chance created, and was looking to combine at every opportunity. He was also frequently looking to play Morris in behind, but the two clearly haven’t played together much and couldn’t quite get on the same page. I don’t think he’s the solution to Seattle’s attacking problems, but I think how much better of a fit for the team’s approach he is shouldn’t be ignored.

Reverse Whose Line: With all the love in the world for Drew Carey and “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, for the Sounders every point matters. The three points tonight push Seattle into a playoff spot. Ninth place in the West isn’t where the team wants to be – it’s not where they need to be – but it’s a step in the right direction. On the heels of their U.S. Open Cup win on Wednesday, it’s another example to the team and the fans that they can find ways to win even with a rotated lineup or on the road. They need to do the same when they come home for their midweek match against RSL and continue to get results and climb the standings so that if or when they are able to get everyone healthy and fit and add reinforcements in the Summer they’re able to push for more than just a trip to the postseason.

Notable quote

Player spotlight

Obed Vargas – Deployed once again on the right wing, he was consistently getting into dangerous spots with the ball at his feet and looking to find his teammates. He was a key part of the team’s approach in possession, and won eight of his nine duels.