Cristian Roldan’s frustration was palpable even through a face mask and video camera.
The midfielder’s Sounders FC team talked about LAFC’s preference to high-press defensively. There were scouting reports about tendencies of certain players. And even training on how to form a defensive wall for free kicks, each player keeping 10 toes down in case the attempt is a dribble instead of a lob.
But all the work vanished seconds into the Saturday afternoon match at Banc of California Stadium. The Black and Gold capitalized on an early foul, and the Sounders needed second-half heroics, again, to escape with a 1-1 draw.
“It was a huge opportunity for us to come in and get three points with some of their guys missing,” Roldan said during a postgame video conference call with media. “Given the circumstances, going down 1-0 in the first minute of the game. Chasing the game from the opening whistle, really, and having chances, having the possibility to win the game, for me it’s a point earned.”
The nationally televised game had the possibility of another blowout win for the Sounders like their MLS opener against Minnesota. LAFC played without forward Carlos Vela (right quad) and midfielder Diego Rossi (left hamstring) — MLS’s last two Golden Boot award-winners — due to injuries. Key defender Tristan Blackmon missed the start due to “Health and Safety protocols,” a category that ranges from illness or quarantines related to the pandemic and non-COVID related ailments.
The Sounders were without midfielder Nico Lodeiro (left quad) but started the same lineup as the season opener.
Rave Green center back Xavier Arreaga helped LAFC balance the scale. He committed a foul against forward Kwadwo Opoku inches outside the penalty box that resulted in a free kick for LAFC.
As the Sounders lined up to defend the pending shot, Nouhou was shown on the broadcast motioning to Sounders keeper Stefan Frei about whether he should lay down behind the wall of defense. Frei gestured “no.”
LAFC midfielder Eduard Atuesta took his chances on a low kick, the Sounders’ five-player wall jumping and opening a clear path to the goal. The ball grazed past Frei’s reach, allowing the score 85 seconds into the match.
“It was not a good foul to give up in that area of the field,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media. “Whether it’s Atuesta or Vela, you never want to give up fouls in that part of the field. Especially that early on in the game.
“We messaged the group that LAFC was going to come out right from the referee’s whistle and press and get after us, so that was a little bit disappointing. But stuff like that happens.”
LAFC’s vulnerable lineup showed the remainder of the match. Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz, who has scored five goals in four appearances against LAFC, had two shots on-target before 10 minutes passed in the game. Roldan also had a solid chance in the 25th minute.
But it was a low header by Sounders defender Brad Smith in the 54th minute that ended up being the equalizer. It was his first goal since playing for Liverpool in the English Premier League in 2016.
“I’m happy to score,” Smith said during a video conference call with media. “But we’re disappointed overall because in the first half we created a lot more chances and should be coming away with three points. That’s what matters at the end of the day.”
Schmetzer began his substitutions in the 75th minute. The group worked their way to Ruidiaz getting another attempt in the 89th minute off a cross from Alex Roldan. The ball sailed over the cross bar. Schmetzer told the media the Peruvian felt he didn’t time his jump well.
“You’re going to give up some chances, but I didn’t feel too threatened,” Schmetzer said of the team’s defense. “We could’ve been a little bit more patient (offensively).”
The Sounders (1-0-1) return to host the L.A. Galaxy (1-1-0) at Lumen Field on May 2.
Plenty of time to fix the miscues that nearly led to a loss Saturday.
“You don’t expect to see Atuesta put it down there and those goals don’t happen very often,” Cristian Roldan said. “It’s not the worst thing in the world. Certainly something we need to talk about.”
- Sounders forward Fredy Montero, who passed Clint Dempsey for most MLS regular-season scores in a Sounders jersey (48) with a late goal against the Loons, didn’t travel due to a left quad strain. Reserve Jimmy Medranda remains out with a left hamstring strain.