Sounders midfielder Kelyn Rowe made a scary prediction Sunday.
“We’re still trying to get used to each other. We’re still getting game fit,” Rowe said during a video conference call with media. “As things progress, you’ll see us get better and better.”
What’s better than a second blowout at Lumen Field is a chilling thought. On Sunday, it was another brace from Raul Ruidiaz that helped Seattle collect a 3-0 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Seattle leapfrogged L.A. for the lead in the Western Conference.
Much like in the road draw against Los Angeles FC last week, the Sounders created a lot of good looks in the opening half. Yet on Sunday, the Sounders outshot the Galaxy 6-2, scoring twice before the 25-minute mark.
Sounders defender Brad Smith kicked things off by chasing down a pass from forward Will Bruin to swipe a left-footed cross to Ruidiaz in the box. The striker raised his right leg to meet the ball and knock it down past Galaxy keeper Jonathan Bond for the score in the 20th minute.
Three minutes later, multiple Sounders players had touches on the ball before Smith rushed to a Bond deflection and tapped it in for a goal in the 23rd minute. It’s Smith’s second of the season.
Ruidiaz slammed the door shut on the Galaxy with the brace in second-half stoppage time. He has four goals in three games.
“We pose problems for teams in the attacking half based on the tactics and our personnel,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media. In the club’s opening three matches, they’ve scored eight goals and conceded one, which was off a set piece.
Due to safety precautions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sounders (2-0-1) only seated 7,148 people for the match. But those supporting the Rave Green unleashed cheers for the goals that made it seem like the standard 40,000 people were in attendance.
L.A. put pressure on the Sounders defense for the remainder of the first half, heading into the break nearly even in shots (6-5). Seattle’s back line and keeper Stefan Frei were able to keep the Galaxy out of the net.
In the second half, Galaxy forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had a clean look at goal in the 52nd minute. Smart defending by Nouhou helped send the ball wide of the goal. Chicharito dropped to his knees in disbelief in the keeper’s box, also looking for a foul on the play.
“We worked all week on just preventing service to Chicharito,” Schmetzer said. “He scored a couple of goals when balls were coming from 30-, 35-yards out, but really where he’s really dangerous is when the Galaxy get closer to the end line. His movement in the box is so good.”
Hernandez entered the match as MLS’s back-to-back player-of-the-week winner. He totaled five goals in L.A.’s opening two wins and only needed a brace against Seattle to break the league’s record for most scores to open a season. Chicago Fire FC forward Ante Razov scored six times in his first three games in 1999.
Schmetzer replaced Xavier Arreaga with Yeimar Gomez Andrade, having the latter play on the right side of the defensive line. Yeimar, Shane O’Neill and Nouhou met most scoring threats and potential counterattacks to help shut down Chicharito.
The Galaxy moved to their own two-forward rotation in the second half, but still couldn’t slip a goal past the Sounders. Frei finished the match with two saves for his 84th MLS career shutout, which ranks fourth all-time.
“It’s difficult to break us down,” Rowe said. “That’s what we want to do. If you’re a lone forward — they switched to two forwards in the second half — it’s hard to get anywhere near there (goal). You saw a little bit of frustration from Chicharito. We, defensively, did a good job.”
First-year Galaxy coach Greg Vanney has revived the club, but Sunday’s loss was familiar. The last time Vanney coached against Schmetzer, it was the 2019 MLS Cup at Lumen Field and Vanney coached Toronto FC. The Reds lost 3-1. The sides didn’t face each other during the league’s truncated 2020 season where opponents were regionalized.
The Sounders have a five-game unbeaten streak against the Galaxy (2-1-0).
Schmetzer made two changes overall to the starting lineup. Midfielder Josh Atencio, a homegrown player from Bellevue, suffered a quad injury in training Saturday and didn’t get what the coached called an “earned start.” Rowe, a free-agent pickup who starred at Federal Way High, received the nod.
Nico Lodeiro (quad), Fredy Montero (hamstring) and Jimmy Medranda (quad) returned from their injuries and were listed as substitutes. Lodeiro was Schmetzer’s first sub, entering the match for Bruin in the 66th minute.
It’s the first time since Lodeiro was signed in 2016 that he’s entered an MLS match as a substitute.
The Sounders travel for the Cascadia derby against Portland next Sunday. The matinee matchup at Providence Park will air nationally on ABC.
“We’re slowly progressing to where we want to be,” Smith said during a video conference call with media. “The good thing is we’re getting these results and can only get better.”