It was not the the season opener the Sounders had hoped for, but they played as well as they could Sunday with a weakened starting 11. After falling 1-nil to expansion side LAFC, here are the three takeaways:
1. CONCACAF played too big a role.
It’s not so much that the Sounders were tired, though the first half saw a somewhat sluggish Sounders concede 11 minutes in, and they were easily the better team in the second half. But the starting 11 fielded was not their strongest, due in part to their preparation for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match. Consequently, Clint Dempsey wasn’t in the 18, Chad Marshall saw no minutes and Roman Torres was out at the half. That and Kelvin Leerdam sat out with an injury. If they had the goal scoring threat of Dempsey and more experience in the backline, they could have done better against LAFC.
2. The backline needs work.
There’s no doubt that the Sounders’ backline was vulnerable in the first half. With Nouhou, Jordy Delem and Tony Alfaro, Torres needed a bit more support that can only come from a backline with more reps. Delem, at times, didn’t seem to be on the same page with the rest of the back four and Alfaro, who earned two yellow cards, was inconsistent.
3. The Sounders still played well.
Let’s be clear: the Sounders still played well and did everything in the second half but score. LAFC just played better at the start. The Sounders created a lot of chances with 22 shots (seven on goal), but they just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, leaving three points on the table. Henry Wingo performed like a starter, Magnus Wolff Eikrem provided a spark for the Rave Green, and Will Bruin was a steady threat.
Reasons for hope: Given the starting 11, the Sounders looked sharped for the entire second half. Wolff will be a difference maker with Dempsey on the pitch, and it’s literally the first game in a very, very long season.
Reasons to worry: The Sounders don’t have a player who is as dynamic and fast as Jordan Morris. A loss at the start of the season can let doubt creep into the locker room if not addressed quickly.