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Merciless at Children’s Mercy Park: One more lead squandered

The Sounders took an early lead but ultimately fell 2-1 on the road against SKC.

Last Updated
5 min read
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders went to Children’s Mercy Park to face Sporting Kansas City with a chance to deepen SKC’s suffering and stretch their own unbeaten run. Instead, despite taking an early 1-0 lead, the Sounders lost 2-1.

Seattle started strong, piling on pressure from the opening whistle and generating some genuinely good looks culminating in a simple, but wonderful goal from Jordan Morris in the 12th minute. João Paulo spotted Morris making a run from the right-central channel in behind the defense and clipped a pass over the back line for Morris to run onto. With only Tim Melia to beat he picked his head up and put the shot to the side of Melia and into the back of the net. All was right with the world for a brief moment, and the potential for a repeat of last year’s trip to Kansas City seemed real and tangible.

Unfortunately, seven minutes later Johnny Russell hit a low shot from outside the area to the far post that Frei couldn’t quite keep out, and the game was level before 20 minutes had been played. The goal came from a bit of opportunism from Russell and some indecisiveness from the Sounders as Obed Vargas and Reed Baker-Whiting met in the box with the ball at their feet but instead of either of them clearing the danger the ball only got as far as Russell.

Both teams had chances to add to their tally and take the lead in the final 25 minutes of the first half, but despite a handful of shots no one really provided fans a reason to get out of their seats. Seattle did start the second half much the same way they started the first, putting SKC under plenty of pressure. Obed Vargas and Morris both created dangerous chances in the first 15 minutes, but nothing came of those moments. There was a shout for a Sounders penalty as Ruidíaz seemed to be fouled and went down in the area, but the play was looked at and referee Guido Gonzalez ultimately was not told to go to the monitor and play continued.

Everything changed for the much, much worse in the 73rd minute when Reed Baker-Whiting pulled back Alenis Vargas as he got beat down the wing and was shown his second yellow card of the match. With the Sounders reduced to 10 men they made their first substitution as Cody Baker replaced Ruidíaz, and at that point Seattle seemed to just about give up any hopes of getting more than a point out of the game. They’d end up settling for even less, thanks to an 85th minute goal from Alenis Vargas who made a wide run around and behind Baker and nutmegged Frei with his tight angle shot at the near post to give SKC the 2-1 lead.

Seattle generated a few more looks at goal in the game’s waning minutes, but never looked particularly likely to claw back a result. They now head home with a week to prepare for their home match against Minnesota United on Saturday, June 15.

Key moments

6 - Despite early pressure from the Sounders the first look at goal comes to Daniel Salloi who hits a shot that Stefan Frei blocks but spills before eventually collecting.

10 - Albert Rusnák and Raúl Ruidíaz work a nice give-and-go into the SKC area to set up a good look for Rusnák, but he can’t keep the shot down.

12 - GOAL! João Paulo plays Jordan Morris in behind with a lovely chipped ball, and he easily puts his shot beyond Tim Melia to open the scoring. 1-0 Sounders

19 - Goal, SKC. Seattle can’t clear the ball and Johnny Russel levels the game with a low rip from outside that Frei dives and gets a touch to, but can’t keep out. 1-1

48 - Rusnák plays Morris into space down the left side. Morris beats Jacob Davis on the dribble and sends a dangerous ball across goal but it’s cleared away.

58 - A great play down the right side leads to Obed Vargas driving into the box and laying the ball off for Ruidíaz who seems to get fouled but no penalty is given.

73 - Red Card. Reed Baker-Whiting is shown his second yellow of the match, and the Sounders will spend the rest of the match down a player.

85 - Goal, SKC. Alenis Vargas gets around and behind Cody Baker and hits a shot from a tight angle that nutmegs Frei at the near post. 2-1 SKC

Quick thoughts

Not bad, but not good enough: The Seattle defense has mostly been respectable in 2024. Through 17 games they’ve allowed 21 goals, averaging 1.2 goals allowed per game. Those aren’t terrible numbers, but they’re a very clear step down from last season. If the attack were performing at anything near the level of talent within the group it would probably be enough to be winning games. The problem is that the attack isn’t doing that, and the team’s defense is struggling to pitch shutouts in order to make a single goal stand up. It has now been over a month since the team’s last clean sheet, which came in their 0-0 draw against the LA Galaxy on May 5. They have given up at least one goal in eight straight games in all competitions. They’re just not doing themselves any favors.

Spots need to be earned: There are plenty of questions to be asked about personnel decisions with this team, although some of those have been mooted for much of the season due to injury and availability. This game brought two particular personnel questions into focus, and they unfortunately include two unquestioned club legends: Stefan Frei and Raúl Ruidíaz. Players inevitably decline with age, but there was some hope coming into this season that with both being healthy they might be able to hold off Father Time for a little bit longer. Whether it’s age or other factors, they’ve both had significant struggles impacting games positively, and Ruidíaz seems to be particularly struggling to keep up with the pace of players around him. Against SKC Frei allowed two goals, making a diving effort that came up short on the first and allowing an absolute howler on the second as he got nutmegged at his near post to give the hosts the lead. There’s no guarantee that Andrew Thomas is ready to be the number 1 or that he’ll be better than Frei has been, but at this point it feels like the team needs to find out.

Change has to start now: The team is aware that something has to change. There’s no getting around it. While there should be very serious consideration and effort into trying to improve the roster during the upcoming transfer window, the reality is that we’re over a month away from July 18th when the window opens. We sit at the halfway point of the season now with 17 games played, and by July 18 we’ll be seven games closer to the end of the regular season. Even if Craig Waibel could snap his fingers and have all of his business done as soon as the window opens, 10 games isn’t a lot of time to turn things around. The change needs to start with the talent that’s already here. Hopefully, some players get healthy and we can finally see what Braudilio Rodrigues has to offer, and Pedro de La Vega can get on and stay on the field, but the reality is that the guys who have already been playing are the ones who need to step up and the coaching staff needs to find a way to get more out of their squad than they have been.

Notable quote

Player spotlight

Jordan Morris – Morris has now scored in three of the Sounders’ last four games. He was a constant threat, and teammates were regularly looking for him in behind even if they weren’t always able to find him.