Another game, another all-out Sounders assault from the opening kickoff that had their opponent in disarray.
Goals by Victor Rodriguez and Jordan Morris before Saturday’s contest was even 15 minutes old proved enough to carry the Rave Green to a 4-2 victory over the winless Chicago Fire. The difference this time around was, after the initial onslaught, the Sounders added some insurance early in the second half when a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick gave them a crucial three-goal lead and some breathing room they’d badly need.
For Morris, the early goal was his third in three games and as many as he scored the entire 2017 campaign before being sidelined all of 2018 with a torn ACL in his knee.
“It’s great to be just out there playing and doing what I love to do,” Morris told reporters postgame in audio supplied by an MLS official. “Obviously, anything I can do to help the team win is what’s important. But yeah it’s been fun just being back out there.”
It wasn’t all smooth for the Sounders, who spoiled the Fire’s home opener in front of a disappointing crowd of 10,032 fans at 28,000-capacity SeatGeek Stadium.
Raheem Edwards broke the shutout quest on a 56th-minute header and Fabian Herbers caught the Sounders standing around in their own box in the 84th minute to cut the lead to 3-2. But Raul Ruidiaz restored the two-goal advantage in the 88th minute after a nice run down the left flank by Brad Smith.
“One thing we can take away, that we can work on, especially on the road is a game that’s 3-0 shouldn’t be as tense as it was towards the end,” Morris said. “Obviously, a huge result and we’re going to be happy, but there are some things we can work on there to close out games a little bit better.”
Ruidiaz, earlier in the half, had whiffed on a shot attempt from deep inside the box. But this time, the Peruvian striker didn’t miss, taking an excellent Smith pass and converting his third goal of the season and his 16th goal in 19 regular-season and playoff games since joining the Sounders last July.
For the Sounders, their 3-0 start to the season is their best in a decade. They lead all of Major League Soccer with 10 goals scored.
“The team feels very good,” Lodeiro said after collecting his team-leading third assist this season and 39th since joining the Sounders in July 2016, the most by any MLS player over that span. “This is very important for our confidence because when you win, you feel confident and can go away happy and calmer. It’s very important.”
The Sounders, for a third consecutive match, completely overwhelmed their opponent in the opening 20 minutes. Rodriguez’s goal in the seventh minute came after Morris slid a pass across the goal mouth to the Spanish winger, who tapped it home top-shelf with his left foot.
Just moments prior, Morris had nearly opened the scoring from close range before Chicago goalkeeper David Ousted made a sprawling hand save. But Morris made up for that in the 15th minute with a brilliant play to deaden a Lodeiro pass on the run, shake off a defender and loft the ball over Ousted and into the net.
“Obviously, that’s a new calling card for the Seattle Sounders,” coach Brian Schmetzer said of the fast-attacking swarm by his team. “We’re going to come out and we’re going to try to impose our will on teams early. Sometimes, that makes a game go easier as it progresses. But at 2-0, we seem to get stuck. And then, other teams come back and it becomes a challenge. It becomes a grind.”
The Sounders should have had a third goal of their own by the 26th minute when Kelvin Leerdam got free down the right side and fired a ball past Ousted and into the net.
But the play was ruled offside, even though replays appeared to show Leerdam had kept himself ahead of the last defender. Momentum began to swing shortly after that, as the Fire — having caught their breath following the initial surge — began mounting some attacks of their own.
Stefan Frei had already made an earlier hand save to keep the Fire off the scoreboard and was at his best in the 41st minute with a leaping, left-handed stop off Przemyslaw Frankowski. In all, he’d make 10 saves.
“That was a big performance by Stef because they could have scored a couple more,” Schmetzer said.
Schmetzer let his players know by halftime that, still up only 2-0, they needed to add some insurance given how Chicago was playing its way back into the match. And it didn’t take long for the Sounders to deliver in the second half, with Lodeiro converting a penalty kick in the 49th minute after Rodriguez was hauled down in the box.
Rodriguez had completely undressed Fire star Bastien Schweinsteiger with a brilliant feint before he was fouled. Lodeiro rattled his penalty try off the underside of the crossbar, with the ball landing beyond the goal line before bouncing back out of the net again.
That three-goal advantage proved fortuitous for the Sounders, since the Fire didn’t stop coming at them. Edwards was left unmarked in the box and easily headed the ball past Frei to make it 3-1.
The Sounders appeared to possess the ball better after that and slowed the game’s tempo down in a bid to drain the clock. But Herbers made it a one-goal game in the dying minutes when, after being knocked to the ground following his initial shot, he was able to pick himself up unguarded and slot home his rebound.
That made for a tighter finish than anyone really would have liked until Ruidiaz put things away. Nonetheless, Schmetzer was pleased with the road result.
“We talked about that, about playing the same way away from home as at home,” Schmetzer said. “So, for us it was another game where we wanted to come out fast, come out strong. And I think we accomplished that.”