For the second match in a row, the Sounders struck early by scoring with their first shot of the game. But unlike Saturday’s game against Sporting KC, a 3-0 win, Seattle couldn’t convert its early success against CF Montreal into three points.
Both the Montreal and Sporting KC matchups featured mid-game lulls where Seattle let the other team settle back in. Saturday, though, the Sounders surged in the second half and came away with three points. Wednesday, they couldn’t finish their chances and suffered a 2-1 defeat.
“It just didn’t work out today,” Jordan Morris said, referencing Seattle’s struggles against Montreal’s pressure. “It’s definitely a learning thing — if things aren’t going our way, we need to shift our game plan.”
The loss marks the first for the Sounders (7-2-7, 23 points) since May 22, a 1-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids. Still, Seattle has been in good form as of late. It won five of its last eight MLS contests, and flashed depth on both ends of the field without key players like top-scorer Raul Ruidiaz and center back Xavier Arreaga due to injury. That showed once again, despite the loss, against a Montreal team that’s second in the Eastern Conference and had scored the third-most goals (30) in the MLS before Wednesday’s game.
Entering the matchup, it was Montreal, who has scored five goals in the opening two minutes of a half, who was favored to score quickly. But instead, it was the Sounders who struck first at Lumen Field.
Cristian Roldan located Morris on a long, over-the-top ball that beat the Montreal defense, and Morris shook off the last defender and buried the third-minute chance in the bottom left corner. He waved to his dog, Maisie, after scoring his second goal in the last two games, a goal which also marked Roldan’s second assist in the same period.
It seemed fitting that the two playmakers had connected once again, just minutes into the game, for the surging Sounders.
“I thought in this game, it was good for us to score early,” coach Brian Schmetzer said.
But after the goal, Montreal took advantage of a mistake by youngster Jackson Ragen. Montreal’s veteran striker Kei Kamara stole the ball off a poor first touch from the center back, and capitalized on the counterattack in the 18th minute. There was nothing Yeimar, the last defender, could do but watch. Kamara found Mason Toye, who equalized the score by burying a shot into the bottom right corner.
“That’s a learning moment for that kid (Ragen),” Schmetzer said. “I really wasn’t concerned until they scored the goal… and then they made things difficult for us.”
The mistake negated the Sounders’ early goal, and seemed almost inevitable. After Seattle scored with its first chance of the night, it didn’t record another shot until the 38th minute. Montreal had seven shots in that same period.
Both Roldan and Morris said Seattle couldn’t break Montreal’s pressure, something they’d anticipated from watching film. After conceding the early goal, Montreal controlled possession and forced the Sounders to retreat deeper and deeper into their own half. Their continuous pressure forced turnovers and mistakes.
At times, Seattle needed to play longballs to exploit 3-on-3 situations with Montreal’s backline but lost the ball in its own half, Roldan and Morris said. At other times, they were forcing too many long balls.
“We tried to play through the press, and once we got through, we rushed our final pass,” Roldan said. “We were disjointed. We didn’t build towards a goal.”
Seattle settled down on both ends of the field and started generating quality chances after halftime, though. Roldan cut inside and fired a shot from inside the 18-yard box with his left foot, one that Montreal’s goalie couldn’t hold. Montero was a fraction of a second away from cleaning up the rebound to give Seattle the lead, but didn’t get there in time.
The momentum continued to swing back and forth, and eventually Montreal converted. Goalie Stefan Frei had to deny Toye’s header in the 58th minute, but the forward got on the end of Kamara’s cross for his second goal of the match just four minutes later.
“They hurt us on a couple of goals, they’re going to say they’re good goals for them but I’m going to say that we could’ve done better on both of those goals,” Schmetzer said.
The Sounders played their second game of a stretch that features three in eight days. Montreal was in perhaps an even worse spot, playing its third game of an eight-day stretch. It was also without its top two scorers this season for Wednesday night’s clash at Lumen Field: midfielder Djordje Mihailovic (seven goals) has been nursing an ankle injury since the end of May, and Romell Quioto (six goals) didn’t start, likely because of rotating personnel.
Montreal did, however, have Kamara up top, who is tied for the fourth-most goals in MLS history (133). That presence paid off. Kamara had two assists, and Toye scored both goals before he was substituted in the second half.
The Sounders kept pushing for an equalizer, finishing with 11 shots compared to Montreal’s 13. They shifted Morris to center-forward for the final 15 minutes. But it wasn’t enough.
“When we did win the ball back, I think we didn’t do a good enough job connecting that first pass, cause they were pressing really high,” Morris said. “If we were able to break through that first line of pressure, opportunities would’ve been created.”
Morris used his speed to get in behind but elected to cross instead of shoot and watched the ball get intercepted. Alex Roldan delivered a strong first-touch cross, but Morris’ header was straight at the goalie.
And Yeimar had one final chance, a golden one at the edge of the 6-yard box, but his shot ended up in the same place as Morris’ and the Sounders tasted defeat for the first time since late May.