The goal was expected. A player like Carlos Vela won’t go too long without scoring and two months was long enough.

The way the Sounders’ poor clearances and sagging defense allowed Los Angeles FC to create seemingly easy chances was surprising. Vela tucked himself within Seattle’s backline in the box, watching teammate Jose Cifuentes toy with Cristian Roldan until losing him and arcing a pass to Vela.

The Mexican international booted the ball into the goal with his left foot, giving LAFC a 2-1 lead in the 43rd minute. As the Sounders headed into halftime, what adjustments could be made to regain control of the match were minimal.

The Sounders’ top defenders were on the field and their top striker, Raul Ruidiaz, was out because of a hamstring injury. Without many options, the Sounders dissolved into a 2-1 loss at Banc of California Stadium on Friday night.

“Things were just a little bit disjointed,” Sounders forward Jordan Morris said. “We weren’t able to create as much as we wanted, obviously. They definitely made it tough. They’re a good team.”

LAFC was supposed to win the match. The Black & Gold (15-4-3) are the MLS Supporters’ Shield leaders and the late-night match was the home debut for European stars Gareth Bale (Wales) and Giorgio Chiellini (Italy), who recently signed with the club. And the best regular-season result the Sounders have collected on LAFC’s turf was a draw in 2021.

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Yet, when the Sounders jumped on the home side early — Roldan charging at Chiellini with fancy footwork to send a shot at goal that LAFC defender Jesus David Murillo knocked in for an own goal in the 14th minute — it appeared the visitors would flex that two-time league champion swag.

Instead, LAFC forward Kwadwo Opoku ripped a shot through Seattle’s defense for the equalizer in the 35th minute and the Black & Gold held the Sounders without a shot on goal in the entire half.

“You expect a good team that’s playing at home like LAFC to raise the intensity of their performance,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “But after we took a lead at 1-0, there were many moments where we just didn’t play like we had those first 20 to 25 minutes.

“They started to get a hold of the game a little bit and yeah, there were some defensive errors that we’ll clean up. But it was down to us not continuing to be on the front foot.”

Schmetzer subbed on forward Fredy Montero for Will Bruin and center back Jackson Ragen for wingback Jimmy Medranda in the 55th minute. He also tweaked the formation, moving Morris up top with Montero, but the adjustments didn’t matter.

“We were just trying to get a goal and it’s just frustrating,” said Morris, whose team is on a three-game road losing streak. “We’d tried to maybe exploit (LAFC), get our wingbacks high and have more people in the box and it didn’t work out, unfortunately.”

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Seattle (9-11-2) ended the match without a shot on goal. The Sounders, who have advanced to the postseason every season since they joined MLS in 2009, remain below the playoff line with 12 regular-season games remaining.

The Sounders return to host FC Dallas at Lumen Field on Tuesday. Dallas (8-6-8, 32 points) is currently fifth in MLS Western Conference standings.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” Bruin said. “We’ll watch tape and see what we can do better, but I don’t have an answer of why we haven’t been able to get many wins here.”

Schmetzer made one lineup change from the rotation that gutted out a 1-0 win against Colorado last week. Midfielder Kelyn Rowe was sent off in the match and served his one-game suspension against LAFC. Defender Nouhou replaced Rowe, missing the Colorado match due to an unspecified disciplinary matter.

“It doesn’t seem like we’ve got the right pieces yet,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll keep tinkering a little bit. What I take out of this (loss) is what I love about the squad — that they just never quit. Lots of teams would’ve packed it in and given up. Our team never quits and that’s why they were able to put together some spells, quality in some of those moments wasn’t there.”

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