One will be hard-pressed to find a Sounders FC game which such a disparity between the first and second half. Especially in a losing cause. Sounder FC Brian Schmetzer selected the best available for his team’s opening League Cup Tournament against the Real Salt Lake Saturday Night in Sandy Utah. Spoiler alert, it was the same lineup he used in the Rave Green’s match against FC Dallas. Notable absences from the starting X1 were Raul Ruidiaz who did not make the trip due to a right abductor issue. Forward Jordan Morris spent the week in DC participating in MLS All-Star game activities.
Schmetzer’s tactic of a high press for the first few minutes of the game was spot in. Real Salt Lake was unbeaten in its last nine MLS games. Sitting back and inviting the hottest team in MLS to attack at will would be similar to throwing in the towel before the game began. Pressing that same team for 90 minutes would be impossible. A cloak and dagger were the smart and safe bet. After some stumbling around with no clear rhythm RSL found its footing at the 20th-minute mark.
Real Salt Lake’s midfield of Pablo Ruiz and Brian Ojeda dominated the central midfield with their quick, long passes to Diego Luna and Jefferson Savarino which put Sounder’s backline on its back heels. RSL forwards Cristian Arango and Danny Musovski were able to find pockets in between the Sounder’s backline.
Despite the lion’s share of possession, RSL was unable to get the ball past Stefan Frei who made several spectacular saves. Minutes before halftime Schmetzer looked like a genius when the Sounders switched to a high press. The change in strategy caught RSL off guard. Alex Roldan’s cross to a running Raul Ruidiaz in the RSL box looked to be a sure goal until the Peruvian striker stubbed his toe on the follow-through. Another spectacular save by Frei saw the half end at nil-nil.
Schmetzer raised eyebrows when he made three substitutions to start the second half. Josh Atencio replaced Obed Vargas, Dylan Teves replaced Cristian Roldan, and Jordan Morris was inserted for Leo Chu. The substations made sense the question is how much they affected the flow of the game. CRoldan suffered a concussion in the first half so it makes sense Schmetzer made that substitution. He could have waited another ten minutes before making the other two.
Schmetzer’s substitutions looked like they were spot-on three minutes into the half. Albert Rusnak and Ruidiaz each had a shot that was blocked just outside of the RSL goal box. A foul could have been called on either shot. None was called and RSL went into a full-mode jailbreak counterattack that caught the Sounders flatfooted, disorganized, and scrambling to get back and defend.
The lethal RSL counterattack overwhelmed the Sounders Arango dribbled the ball down the middle of the field passed and received the ball back after a nifty give-and-go with Musovski. His shot hit the leg of a sprawling Nohou and bounced right into the feet of a wide-open Savarino who slotted it home for the 1-0 lead. RSL doubled its lead three minutes later when Arango turned goal scorer when he beat Jackson Ragen on the right flank with a couple of nifty dribbles that freed him to beat Frei with a right-footed top-corner shot.
A red card to Marcelo Silva in the 60th minute saw RSL go down to ten men. With the Sounders unable to take advantage of the man advantage RSL added insult to injury with a third goal in the 88th minute. For the Sounders this was not so much about that they lost the game. It was more about how they lost the game.
“ People wearing the yellow jerseys did not make the call, We have to make plays , the did not decide the game. We as a staff will assess our performance did, we put out the right line up did we make the right substitutions.” A visibly emotional Schmetzer said after the game .
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- Sounders FC sits in third place with zero points through one match in West Group 2 of Leagues Cup 2023. The Rave Green conclude Group Stage action next Sunday at home vs. CF Monterrey. RSL faces Monterrey on Wednesday, July 26 at America First Field.
- With the start this evening, Stefan Frei tied Osvaldo Alonso for the most all-competition appearances for Sounders FC in the MLS era (339). Frei already passed Alonso earlier this season in all-competition starts.
- There were no changes to Coach Schmetzer’s starting XI from last weekend’s match vs. FC Dallas.
- Nico Lodeiro remained in Seattle due to feeling some right adductor pain late this week. The move is mainly precautionary, as the injury is not expected to be long-term.
- RSL defender Marcelo Silva was issued a red card in the 60th minute, forcing the home side to play with 10 men for the final half hour of the match.
- In Leagues Cup 2023, the top two teams from each group advance to compete in the single-match elimination Knockout Rounds, beginning with the Round of 32 on August 2-4, followed by the Round of 16 on August 6-8, the Quarterfinals on August 11-12 and the two Semifinal matches on August 15. The Leagues Cup 2023 Final and Third Place match are being held on Saturday, August 19, determining the three clubs that qualify for the 2024 Concacaf Champions League.
Seattle Sounders FC 0 – Real Salt Lake 3
Leagues Cup 2023 – Group Stage
Saturday, July 22, 2023
Venue: America First Field
Referee: Guillermo Pacheco Larios
Assistants: Michel Alejandro Morales Morales, Jéssica Fernanda Morales Morales
Fourth Official: Iván López Sánchez
VAR: Óscar Mejía García
Weather: 94 degrees and clear
RSL – Jefferson Savarino 48’
RSL – Cristian Arango (Pablo Ruiz) 51’
RSL – Rubio Rubín 88’
RSL – Bryan Oviedo (caution) 33’
RSL – Cristian Arango (caution) 45’+2’
SEA – Yeimar (caution) 45’+2’
RSL – Marcelo Silva (ejection) 60’
RSL – Brayan Vera (caution) 81’
LINEUPS & STATS
Seattle Sounders FC – Stefan Frei; Alex Roldan, Yeimar (Abdoulaye Cissoko 54’), Jackson Ragen, Nouhou; João Paulo (Héber 70’), Obed Vargas (Josh Atencio 46’), Cristian Roldan (Dylan Teves 46’), Albert Rusnák, Léo Chú (Jordan Morris 46’); Raúl Ruidíaz
Substitutes not used: Stefan Cleveland, Jacob Castro, Fredy Montero, Cody Baker, Reed Baker-Whiting
Total shots: 7
Shots on goal: 1
Real Salt Lake – Zac MacMath; Bryan Oviedo, Brayan Vera, Marcelo Silva, Emeka Eneli; Diego Luna (Rubio Rubín 72’), Pablo Ruiz (Jasper Löffelsend 84’), Braian Ojeda, Jefferson Savarino (Bode Hidalgo 72’); Cristian Arango (Justen Glad 63’), Danny Musovski (Anderson Julio 72’)
Substitutes not used: Tomas Gómez, Gavin Beaver, Nelson Palacio, Damir Kreilach, Bertin Jacquesson, Scott Caldwell
Total shots: 19
Shots on goal: 8