The LA Galaxy racked up more shots, more corner kicks, more possession, more passes completed (plus at a higher rate) and approximately the same expected goals total as Seattle Sounders FC on their nationally-televised visit to Lumen Field Saturday afternoon. They were also superior in aesthetic terms for long stretches.
Yet they found themselves empty-handed at the final whistle, leaking goals off a corner kick, a cheaply-awarded penalty kick and an open header after a set piece to fall 3-2 and end their perfect 2W-0L-0D opening to the 2022 MLS season.
“Infuriating is the emotion at the end of it,” said Galaxy coach Greg Vanney, and he’s neither the first nor the last opponent of Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders to feel that way in similar circumstances.
HIGHLIGHTS: Seattle Sounders FC vs. LA Galaxy | March 12, 2022
Saturday’s victory ended Seattle’s own 0W-2L-0D start to the league campaign, giving them a lift ahead of their massive Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal second-leg clash at Mexico’s Club Leon in midweek and underlining why this edition of the Rave Green are so highly regarded by pundits and adversaries.
“It was certainly a big game because we wanted to continue to build on the early parts of this year. But look, had we drawn 2-2, would we have been hit with a gut punch that we can't recover from? No, the team’s too experienced for that,” said Schmetzer, calling the outcome “more of an educational one for me” postgame.
“What it was, was a good training session for we're going to face in Leon because the Galaxy at times were all over us. And so we had to defend for our lives. And we had to gut out nervy moments, and we'll use this film as kind of a learning lesson for our next opponent, our next match away.”
Montero steps up (again)
You could say the Sounders have bigger fish to fry at the moment as they chase CCL glory. That doesn’t stop them from gutting out resourceful results like this one, powered by the deep roster and fierce culture of competitiveness they’ve nurtured for so many years – one quite similar to what Vanney built at Toronto FC, and continues to work towards in Los Angeles.
Fredy Montero is presently Exhibit A. A club legend on his second stint with SSFC, the Colombian striker is on the back half of his impressive career and recognizes that he’s second choice to star Designated Player Raul Ruidiaz.
But with Ruidiaz nursing a hamstring injury, Montero has stepped up massively, bagging a brace in Tuesday’s 3-0 first-leg defeat of Leon and earning, then converting the penalty on Saturday – despite his teammate Albert Rusnak’s passionate lobbying to take the spot kick.
“I’m enjoying when I play, when I have the opportunity to score, because obviously I'm not going to be playing as many games as Xavi,” Montero, 34, said with a smile as he sat next to center back Xavier Arreaga, who headed home the game-winner from a pinpoint Alex Roldan delivery, in the postgame press conference.
“What happened with Albert, I mean, it’s soccer. He wanted to score, he wanted to kick the PK, but at the same time, the responsibility. I scored the last PK in the previous match. So I believed that I had the confidence to take this one, especially when the game was still 1-1,” he added. “That's it. It stays there, we are professionals and I love Albert, he is a great guy and I believe that he's going to have many chances to score. So for now we move on.”
Chicharito caps BEAUTIFUL team goal from LA Galaxy
The Galaxy will probably dissect plenty of teachable moments from this one, too.
Their buildup play was impressive, especially in the opening stages, and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s opener capped a lovely passing sequence inspired by Raheem Edwards’ driving run from the left flank. Newcomer Douglas Costa played several incisive passes and later scored his first MLS goal off a deflected free kick. Efrain Alvarez and Kevin Cabral both saw good looks clank off the woodwork.
Yet they were let down by brittle defending, inattentive marking and dodgy decision-making, just as was so often the case over the past several seasons.
“We controlled the vast majority of the game,” said Vanney. “I didn't feel like they had really any attacking solutions except for to go long and try to play off long balls or set pieces. I thought we had good control of the game as it relates to the ball, I thought we had good control of the game as it related to chances in the run of play.
“We just undo ourselves by the set-piece goals, the nonsense penalty kick that we gave up for no reason. These things change momentum, they change the emotion of things a little bit. You have a big game that you're very much in control of that feels like you're not in control of it, just because of the scoreline, because we give things away. … We beat ourselves today.”
Seattle were further boosted by Will Bruin’s return from injury, though Nicolas Lodeiro did not dress, and they got a scare when Arreaga’s center-back partner Yeimar Gomez Andrade limped off wincing in the second half. While the strapping Colombian’s fitness for Thursday’s CCL game will be closely watched in light of the Sounders’ relative paucity of proven alternatives, Schmetzer sounded relatively optimistic.
“It's an ankle sprain. It's not a quad pull or a hamstring pull,” said the coach. “So if he can get strapped up and play, he'll play. So ankle sprain, we'll assess him, do the MRI, do all that sort of stuff. And as soon as he's pain-free, he can play.”