It was always going to be a tough task once the whistle blew for Sounders FC match against Egyptian side Al Ahly in the 2022 FIFA Club World Cup In Morocco. Why you ask
If you put the romanticism of playing Real World in the third round aside the Rave Green had to play at their best from start to finish. Mentally and physically. Both goals are tough to achieve if you are playing your first real game against a club that not only won its first-round game but was undefeated since last August and had already played 15 games in the Egyptian Premier League. Sounders FC if you care to remember were winless in their last four games dating back to last year.
BACKLINE IN MIDSEASON FORM
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer inserted Jackson Ragen into the backline a sign that the upcoming youngster would be given every chance to show he has arrived. Ragen and the rest of the backline which was led by Yeimar played near-perfect football. When needed Yeimar, Alex Roldan, and Nohou were patient and decisive when tackling. The communication between the four was midseason form. The rear guard had five blocked shots and allowed just one shot on goal. Unfortunately, it was in the 88th-minute deflected game-winner. The play of the big four bodes for a bright MLS season for the Sounders
MIDFIELD PLAY NOT SO MUCH
The midfield play was lacking. Schmetzer started Josh Antecio alongside Albert Rusnak and behind Nicolas Lodeiro Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris. While the five defended well there was no extra pass to spring a player into space. Two things were missing.
The player did not move to space early enough and the ball handler was slow in recognizing the open player. This in part is due to a lack of game reps. Familiarity in practice is one thing, familiarity in games is a whole other animal. The lack of creativity in the midfield made for a hard at the office for striker Raul Ruidiaz who was often bracketed by two defenders.
JOAO PAULO RETURN
Nine months after tearing his ACL in the match that ultimately sent the Sounders to the FIFA Club World Cup the Sounder’s creative midfielder Joao Paulo returned in the 68th minute. The return of Paulo was an absolute bright spot that is a work in progress.
This game was about what one would expect if the Sounders were unable to score early. The Sounder’s defense was stellar and the offense never really got off track. With the midfield struggling a special moment was needed for the Sounders if they were to advance. Unfortunately, that special moment went to Al Ahly in the 88th minute a crossbar rebounder that was struck a second time, deflected off a defender and into the back of the net for the winner. The game made the Sounders a better team despite the loss.
Many teachable moments for Schmetzer and his staff to show the team before hosting the MLS season opener on February 26th against the Colorado Rapids.
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- Saturdays match marked the first official contest of Seattle’s 2023 campaign, with the club competing in the FIFA Club World Cup for the first time in team history. Sounders FC qualified for the intercontinental club championship by becoming the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League, a feat the Rave Green accomplished with a 5-2 aggregate win over Liga MX side Pumas in last spring’s CCL Final.
- Following the loss, Al Ahly advances to face reigning European champion Real Madrid on Wednesday, February 8 in the Moroccan capital of Rabat. No team has won a greater number of FIFA Club World Cup titles than Real Madrid, with four (2014, 2016-2018). The winner of Wednesday’s contest moves on to the FIFA Club World Cup Final on February 11.
- Saturday’s match marked Seattle’s first-ever game against African opposition, with Al Ahly playing in its eighth FIFA Club World Cup. A perennial standout in the Confederation of African Football Champions League, the Egyptian club owns 42 domestic league titles and 10 continental championships.
- Domestically, Al Ahly is currently atop the Egyptian Premier League with an unbeaten record of 11-0-4.
- In addition to Sounders FC (Concacaf / USA) and Al Ahly (CAF / Egypt), the remainder of the FIFA Club World Cup field is comprised of Real Madrid (UEFA / Spain), Flamengo (CONMEBOL / Brazil), Auckland City (Oceania Football Confederation / New Zealand), Al-Hilal (Asian Football Confederation / Saudi Arabia) and Wydad AC (CAF / Morocco).
- Earlier on Saturday in Rabat, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal defeated Moroccan side Wydad 5-3 on penalties following a 1-1 deadlock, with the winner set to face Brazilian power Flamengo in the tournament’s other semifinal matchup on February 7.
- Head Coach Brian Schmetzer deployed a 4-2-3-1 formation in his first starting XI of the 2023 season. Stefan Frei led a backline composed of Alex Roldan, Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Jackson Ragen and Nouhou, with Josh Atencio and Albert Rusnák anchoring central midfield. Cristian Roldan, Nicolás Lodeiro and Jordan Morris led the attack, with Raúl Ruidíaz reprising his starting striker role.
- Seattle midfielder João Paulo made his return from injury for the Rave Green in the 68th minute of play, replacing Atencio in central midfield. The Brazilian suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament in his right knee on May 4 of last season in Seattle’s continental championship-clinching win over Liga MX’s Pumas.
- Sounders FC now looks toward opening its 2023 MLS regular-season campaign against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, February 26 at 5:00 p.m. PT on the Emerald Queen Casino Pitch at Lumen Field.
Seattle Sounders FC 0 – Al Ahly SC 1
Saturday, February 4, 2023
Venue: Stade Ibn-Batouta, Tangier, Morocco
Referee: Anthony Taylor
Assistants: Gary Beswick, Adam Nunn
Fourth Official: Ning Ma
VAR: Jerome Brisard
Weather: 60 degrees and clear
ASC – Afsha 88’
ASC – Percy Tau (caution) 59’
LINEUPS & STATS
Seattle Sounders FC – Stefan Frei; Alex Roldan, Yeimar, Jackson Ragen (Fredy Montero 90’+1’), Nouhou; Josh Atencio (João Paulo 68’), Albert Rusnák (Héber 90’+1’), Cristian Roldan (Danny Leyva 84’), Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris; Raúl Ruidíaz
Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Jacob Castro, Xavier Arreaga, Abdoulaye Cissoko, Kelyn Rowe, Ethan Dobbelaere, Dylan Teves, Léo Chú
Total shots: 12
Shots on goal: 2
Al Ahly SC – Mohamed El Shenawy; Mohamed Hany, Mahmoud Metwaly, Mohamed Abdelmonem, Ali Maâloul; Aliou Dieng, Percy Tau (Ramy Rabia 90’+3’), Hamdi Fathi (Afsha 64’), Amr El Soleya, Taher Mohamed (Ahmed Abdelkader 63’); Kahraba (Mohamed Sherif 63’)
Substitutes not used: Ali Lotfi, Mohamed Fakhri, Khaled Abdelfattah, Mohamed Ashraf, H. El Shahat, Yasser Ibrahim, M. Attia, Hamza Alaa
Total shots: 9
Shots on goal: 1