The Seattle Sounders cruised to a 3-0 victory over the LA Galaxy at Lumen Field on Sunday. It was the first loss of the season for the Galaxy and a second win in three matches for the Rave Green to start their 2021 season.
Here are three takeaways coming off Sunday’s action.
The narratives surrounding Seattle this offseason weren’t exactly the type you would expect for a team that was coming off another trip to MLS Cup.
Heading into 2021, the Sounders were a popular regression candidate, and not necessarily for wrongheaded reasons. The loss of Jordan Morris to a torn ACL suffered while on loan with Swansea City was a significant one, depriving Seattle of one of the most dynamic attackers in MLS. Throw in the implementation of a new two-forward set-up they had yet to play in, and an early-season injury to star linchpin Nicolas Lodeiro, and it’s understandable why the Sounders weren’t a preseason darling.
Through three games, however, they’re certainly making any speculation of their demise look exceedingly premature. After Sunday’s victory, Seattle have seven points from three matches and have looked like a fine-tuned machine while doing it. So, is head coach Brian Schmetzer surprised at just how quickly his group his adapted to life without Morris and the new formation?
“I’m not surprised at all,” he said after Sunday’s match. “Look, this formation was the brainchild of Djimi [Traore], Preki, Tommy [Dutra], Gonzo [Pineda] – they’re the ones that thought about stuff. I’m just the guy that manages everybody. I have such a talented staff. They plan everything. They’re in there planning training right now. We just won a big game, but we have training tomorrow so those guys are in there doing their jobs. I’m so fortunate to have such talented assistants that it makes my job very easy.
“So, all credit is due to the coaching staff, they’re the ones that come up with all the schemes and how we play and what we do, so very lucky to have them.”
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Sounders’ early-season success is just how sharp they’ve looked without Lodeiro, who has been arguably as important as any one player to his team’s success since his 2016 arrival to MLS.
The crafty Uruguayan finally made his return to the field after missing each of Seattle’s first two games with a quad strain, entering in the 66th minute and finishing out the match. With Lodeiro back and left back Jimmy Medranda (who also subbed on in the second half and assisted on Seattle’s last goal), as well as Fredy Montero returning from injuries, Schmetzer is finally set to have a full compliment of weapons at his disposal, which is a scary thought for the rest of the Western Conference.
“I thought all the subs did well,” Schmetzer said. “I’ll go back to being able to sub Nico off the bench, that was planned, I needed to get him back on the field. But when Danny [Leyva] came on, when Medranda came on, Jordy Delem did a job exactly what I needed him to do. So, I thought all the subs came on and did exactly as planned.”
The Galaxy came flying out of the gate to start the season, managing to be the only team in MLS to take all six points from their first two games on the strength of a five-goal outburst from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. That made the matchup with Seattle a great measuring stick to see how much the hot start would translate against another hot Western Conference opponent.
Coming off Sunday’s loss, head coach Greg Vanney probably described the situation best on his postgame video call.
“This is a bit of a reality check for all of us for myself, for everybody,” Vanney said. “When I say it reality, it's also getting to know each other, getting to understand the style and where we were against a team that's played in the finals so many times over the last several years.
“I think we are better than what we showed today. If we approach the game a little bit differently to start and we're a little bit smarter about some of our decisions, some of those things – we're better than we are today. But it also showed us some things we need to continue to improve on if we want to get to that level where we're competing to win championships.”
There’s still plenty of reason for optimism in Carson, but it was a reminder that they are indeed in Year One under Vanney, and these things are a process. Their next match, a huge El Trafico derby against LAFC Saturday (8 pm ET | FOX, FOX Deportes), will provide another great early-season litmus test.