SEATTLE — Five-game homestands are a relative rarity in MLS. Until this year, the Seattle Sounders had never played more than three straight league games at home. When they do occur, they are almost always linked to some sort of construction, either of a new stadium or major renovations.
The Sounders’ long home game streak didn’t go as planned. Originally it was supposed to consist of just four games – which would still have been the longest in the team’s history – but was extended by one game after the Champions League Concacaf forced a postponement.
Whatever the cause, it seemed to present a pretty massive opportunity for the Sounders to make up ground. After getting 10 points in the first four games, he seemed to be setting himself up pretty much perfectly. A win on Wednesday would have lifted the Sounders to fourth in the Western Conference standings, a feat considering they were the last dead just two months ago.
It wasn’t meant to be. After Jordan Morris gave them a 1-0 lead over CF Montreal less than three minutes into the game, the Sounders struggled to find a consistent rhythm. In the end, they lost 2-1 after a pair of largely avoidable goals from Mason Toye.
“Yeah, frustrated, I think,” Morris told reporters when asked about his emotions after the loss. “It was an opportunity for us to keep climbing the rankings and every time we play at home we want to win, so it’s a tough result.”
The outcome itself was perhaps more predictable than it seemed. The win lifted Montreal to the top of the Eastern Conference and they were one of the league’s most successful teams all year. Aside from their relatively anonymous reputation, this has been a very good team.
Long homestands also tend to be harder to max out than it looks. Of the longest five I found, only DC United, who had 19 points in seven straight home games late in 2018, had a better 2.0 per game average than the Sounders during that recently concluded streak.
While this gives some context, it shouldn’t diminish the sense of missed opportunity. Watching the game unfold, it’s not hard to feel like the Sounders were their own worst enemy for much of the night.
The solid defense and smooth transitions to counterattacks that have defined much of their game since the CCL Finals were frustratingly lacking against Montreal. The midfielder was in particularly bad shape, often unable to chain forward passes and generate real sustained pressure. The main culprit seemed to be the Montreal press, which came out 3-5-2 and limited the Sounders to just 11 shots and 0.9 expected goals, both among their lowest home yields of 2022.
“I think we tried to play with the press and then once we got through, we rushed our last pass, we rushed the last play,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “I feel like once we cross that line, the game opens up and becomes a bit of a track encounter. I don’t think that’s what we’re good at and I think that’s kind of what happened today. We were disjointed. Four guys on the attack then six guys behind the ball. I’m just trying to get on the pitch. We didn’t build towards a goal, we just ended up hitting a long ball depending on their press.
What particularly frustrated Roldan was that early on the Sounders found some success playing vertically. The Sounders goal came out of Roldan winning a ball then quickly playing Morris behind. For the first 15 minutes or so, similar openings seemed to be available. But after Montreal tied, the Sounders seemed to stop looking for those longer balls over the top.
Perhaps in an effort to establish possession and maybe just prove they could, the Sounders seemed to insist on playing through the press rather than over it. Roldan was left shaking his head.
“I always liked our 3v3 chances up front,” he said. “They were playing us aggressively. If we stretch the line, spaces will open up, they won’t squeeze as much. Send a message – just like they send a message to us – that if they’re going to support it, we’re just going to get around it and move forward with candor, verticality. I felt like it was something we didn’t do. »
This result in itself was not a disaster. The Sounders still find themselves in the playoffs and one game short of most of their competition. It wouldn’t take a long string of results to move into an even more advantageous position. But it was also a wasted opportunity, in part because the upcoming schedule looks so much more daunting. Four of the Sounders’ six games in July are on the road and three of them will be played on short rest. You can bet that at least some of the Sounders’ opponents will see what Montreal has done and do their best to emulate it. The Sounders can’t afford to be complacent.