Sounders were set up to fail in US Open Cup loss to Galaxy
The way 2016 has gone for the Sounders, it’s hard to feel too surprised by a result like their 4-2 loss to the Galaxy in the quarterfinal of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, especially when you look at the players that Sigi Schmid put on the pitch compared to those of their opponent. The Sounders were not in a position to win this match – even when they were in the lead – because the coaching staff decided not to take it seriously.
The final score was a direct result of that decision. But the manner in which it happened reflects even more issues. Schmid should have included at least one starting center back in the lineup, and he should have included more insurance on the bench. The Sounders set themselves up to fail, and fail they did.
I totally get why the club fielded a weakened lineup. The Sounders have won this trophy four times, and they currently sit second-to-last in the Western Conference standings. It’s impossible for Seattle to win the MLS Cup at this point, but missing the playoffs for the first time in the club’s history is a big deal.
Seattle’s 4-2 loss didn’t look like a foregone conclusion for much of the 90-plus minutes. The Sounders went up early thanks to a very poor pass by Los Angeles’ goalkeeper, and they took the lead again in the second half. The Sounders had multiple chances before and after the Galaxy equalized again, but it was pretty clear how much Los Angeles dominated them for much of this match. So after the Galaxy brought on their ringers, Seattle barely had anything to counter with and was subsequently destroyed in the final 10 minutes.
Seattle’s midfield in particular that lined up against Los Angeles was embarrassing. Sure, Michael Farfan scored due to a horrible error, but his inclusion reflects how awful Seattle’s depth is at that position. Zach Mathers, a rookie loaned to the club by S2 for this match, was probably the best player in midfield if not the entire Sounders lineup.
Zach Scott’s inclusion was also an understandable decision. It’s hard to justify risking either starting center backs before a big league match. His experience should have been a good combination with Tony Alfaro, who has lots of talent but is still raw. But the duo that played valiantly against Real Salt Lake crumbled to pieces when Galaxy stars Giovani Dos Santos and Gyasi Zardes entered the match.
Brad Evans came on fairly late for Nathan Sturgis in the hope of stabilizing the midfield and getting a winner, but he should have swapped in for Scott, who was completely overwhelmed by the Galaxy’s stars. Scott directly contributed to Los Angeles’ go-ahead goal, and he was frozen in place – as was Alfaro – for Sebastian Lletget’s late insurance score.
Thanks to Evans’ introduction and Aaron Kovar’s awful injury and subsequent substitution, there wasn’t much that the Sounders could do to get back into the match late. Jordan Morris, the only solid attacker on the bench, came on in the 82nd minute. But it was too little too late as the Sounders were barely able to even get the ball near the Galaxy’s goal thanks to the onslaught at the other end. Morris can’t do it all on his own, and his teammates were simply too tired and ineffective at that point to provide any real chances for him.
Now it’s on to the rest of the MLS season. The Sounders are in ninth place in the Western Conference with 20 points. They are nine points behind the Timbers, who are just above the playoff line in sixth place. Seattle also has two games remaining against its Cascadia rivals. This means that nothing is set in stone and that reaching the playoffs is, in theory, still possible. That starts with Sunday’s match at Sporting KC. If the Sounders can get their home form on track, away wins like that will be absolutely crucial in clawing their way back up the standings.
Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.