The Sounders were jolted back into MLS play with an early ping and blat of the ball off the goal post and cross bar Saturday. Stefan Cleveland’s eyes widened at the shots in the fourth and 10th minutes against FC Dallas.
Cleveland settled in by halftime, but Dallas just kept pressuring. The keeper cradled back-to-back saves in the 60th and 64th minute only to see forward Jesus Ferreira bury a right-footed shot in the 65th minute.
U.S. international Paul Arriola provided the insurance goal in the 88th, kicking the Sounders out of Toyota Stadium with a 2-0 loss to the delight of 19,096 people in attendance. Ferreira is third in the league’s Golden Boot race with seven goals to open the season.
Saturday was a sobering result for the Sounders (2-5-1), who were crowned the region’s top club with a CONCACAF Champions League title at Lumen Field on Wednesday. They are on a three-game losing streak in MLS play, dropping matches to Miami and San Jose before closing out the CCL run.
“This was always going to be a hard game,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of the turnaround. “The way the game played out, I have to own this a little bit because the team, actually, was playing well and I had in my mind (that) we’re going into the second half and try and bring some of the (first-choice) guys on.”
Sounders winger Jimmy Medranda suffered a cramp in the 58th minute, which began Schmetzer’s substitutions putting fullback Alex Roldan in the match. Schmetzer then brought on forward Sam Adeniran, midfielder Albert Rusnak and winger Cristian Roldan in the 63rd minute for Will Bruin, Josh Atencio and Leo Chu, respectively.
“Anytime you put three guys on the field at the same time, it’s a little bit of a risk,” Schmetzer continued. “Will maybe deserved some more minutes (and) Josh. So, I’ll own this one. The team performed well. We had one little mistake and got caught flat-footed and they scored to open things up, (but) I’m not sure that goal was because we subbed three guys on. (Dallas) was on top of us and we needed to establish a little bit more possession, that’s why I wanted to get Albert and Cristian on the field.”
Chu should’ve had the Sounders’ opening score in the 24th minute. Dallas defender Emmanuel Twumasi slipped, letting the ball get past him to open a clear run for Chu. But the Brazilian’s shot was high in challenging keeper Maarten Paes, Twumasi also recovering enough to bump Chu on the shot.
Dallas outshot the Sounders 21-4 in the match, prompting Cleveland to praise the backline for not conceding more goals.
“It was humid, and it was hot out there; I was slipping, everybody was slipping,” Cleveland said of the heat wave hovering over Texas. “It was kind of like the Miami game where we played a bit of a rotated lineup, but at the end of the day, the 11 guys that started the night is still a very good MLS team. … There were a few mental errors and it was a track meet at the end. It’s frustrating. Yes, of course, everybody was happy on Wednesday, but come (Saturday) we were focused on the game and it was a disappointing one.”
There were 10 starting rotation changes from the historic CCL win overall. Only midfielder Ethan Dobbelaere, the 19-year-old from Seattle, made a season debut.
Dobbelaere was loaned to Czech Republic second-division side MFK Vyškov in February but returned a month later because of a broken hand injury and was formally recalled last week in order to be eligible for Saturday’s match. The Roosevelt grad started in place of Alex Roldan at right wingback.
Schmetzer also shifted the formation, playing Bruin up top and pinching Fredy Montero alongside Chu a line back with Obed Vargas and Atencio in the middle.
Nouhou, who left Wednesday’s match in the 11th minute due to a thigh contusion, started at center back against Dallas with Jackson Ragen and AB Cissoko. Ragen slotted in for Xavier Arreaga, who is under concussion protocol.
Cleveland replaced Stefan Frei in goal for the third time this season.
Dallas (5-1-4) made one change from the starters that had a draw against Sporting Kansas City in their last outing. First-year coach Nico Estevez swapped defender Jose Antonio Martínez for Matt Hedges.
Estevez and Dallas players took time to congratulate the Sounders on the CCL achievement. Seattle, a two-time MLS Cup winner, is the first club in the league to win the regional championship after four previous tries since this iteration of the tournament was established in 2008.
“It was a bit of a mix,” Cleveland said of the reception. “People are happy for us, but we’ve had a target on our back for a long time, it’s kind of the price for being a successful club. The target just got a little bit bigger. … Now it’s our job to step up and defend that — show everybody why we were the first team to do it.”
There’s more schedule congestion ahead for Seattle with the club hosting San Jose on Wednesday for a U.S. Open Cup match at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. The Sounders are entering in the round of 32, last winning the championship in 2014.