LA MANGA, SPAIN -- The Sounders FC had some issues to clear up following their 3-0 loss to Rosenborg BK in their first game of the La Manga Cup. On Sunday against Stabaek IF, it became clear very quickly that those deficiencies had been addressed.
Goals by Fredy Montero and Roger Levesque, both assisted by Freddie Ljungberg, put the Sounders up 2-0 in the first half. Then a stingy defense and a gutsy effort by Levesque in the second half kept Stabaek at bay and gave the Sounders a 2-0 win as Kasey Keller picked up the clean sheet.
From the second minute of the match it was apparent that issues of off-the-ball movement and aggressiveness in the offensive end wouldn’t plague them again this game. Osvaldo Alonso took a pass from Montero at the top of the box and shot. His attempt missed wide, but it showed a much more assertive approach.
“That was something we talked about. We didn’t think our movement off the ball was very good in the first game. We didn’t think our endeavor was always very good either,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We wanted to address those two things and I thought it was much better.”
That mentality held throughout and led to the Sounders first goal in the 31st minute.
Ljungberg muscled away a Stabaek midfielder, then pushed the ball up the field with Montero trailing immediately behind him. With five Stabaek players back on the defensive end, Ljungberg slowed possession before laying off a pass. Then Alonso led Ljungberg with a pass into the box that drew some of the defensive focus to Ljungberg running toward the right post. He slid the ball to Montero running across the goal to the near post and Montero beat his defender to the ball, popping it into the net for the 1-0 lead.
“It demonstrated our patience as well,” Ljungberg said. “(Alonso) could’ve shot it if he wanted to but he passed it and soon it was scored in the net. I think that’s the way it should be played, but for me it showed we were patient in the team on that specific goal.”
In the 34th minute, Ljungberg nearly made it 2-0 when Alonso found him with another pass into the box, but Ljungberg’s shot missed just wide of the goal.
The movement that marked the game for the Sounders wasn’t limited to the midfielders and forwards either. In the 43rd minute Leo Gonzalez ran up the left side of the box, but his cross to Levesque was cleared away for a corner kick.
Ljungberg struck the corner kick perfectly to Levesque running at the near post and Levesque headed it home for the 2-0 lead in the 43rd minute.
“I got in right place at the right time and Freddie whipped a great ball, as he usually does and I found the back of the net,” Levesque said, crediting assistant coach Brian Schmetzer’s extra work with him after practice for helping find his finishing touch.
Seattle subbed nine new field players in the second half, leaving only Levesque and the goalkeeper Keller in for the whole 90 minutes. That didn’t change the Sounders approach though, as they continued to dominate defensively while moving the ball at will on the offensive end.
In the 66th minute, trialist Jeff Parke carried the ball up the middle of the field - a skill he showed great acumen for throughout the second half - and laid it off to the right side. Eventually, it came centered to Levesque, who fell victim to a hard tackle and had to be taken off with a sprained ankle. He stayed off for nearly 10 minutes before returning with a noticeable limp, helping the Sounders finish the clean sheet with a good defensive performance.
“He’s a pretty tough customer,” Schmid said of Levesque. “He gets out there and takes care of business, and he’s always one who will do whatever he can to help the team. I tried to explain to him to stay up front, but it’s sort of tough to tell Roger not to work. He just gets on the field and starts working.”
The Sounders will take Monday off before returning to the training field on Tuesday. They will play a training game on Wednesday and their final game of the La Manga Cup Thursday to finish off the Spanish leg of training camp.
Sounders FC: Kasey Keller, James Riley (Zach Scott 60), Jhon Kennedy Hurt ado (Jamel Wallace 60), Tyrone Marshall (Jeff Parke 46), Leo Gonzalez (Tyson Wahl 46), David Estrada (Lamar Neagle 60), Osvaldo Alonso (Stephen King 60), Nathan Sturgis (Peter Vagenas 46), Roger Levesque, Freddie Ljungberg (Steve Zakuani 60), Fredy Montero (Tye Perdido 60).
Stabaek IF starters: Jon Knudsen, Vegar Hedenstad, Morten Skjonsberg, Kristian Onsted (Daniel Nannskog 45), Barni Eiriksson, Mikkel Diskerud (Tor Marius Gromstad 46), Palmi Palmason, Henning Hauger (Diogo 46), Pontus Farnerud, Espen Hoff (Jorgen Skjrlvik 68), Veigar Pall Gunnarson (Jan Tomerness 68).
Sounders FC: Fredy Montero 30 (Freddie Ljungberg, Osvaldo Alonso); Roger Levesque 42 (Ljungberg).
Stabaek IF: None.