The Seattle Sounders sent a message to the rest of MLS with their incredible 6-2 win over the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday. Raúl Ruidíaz and Fredy Montero both notched a brace and Jimmy Medranda produced a Goal of the Year candidate to round off a perfect week that also saw the team secure passage to the semifinal of the Leagues Cup.
The win at Providence Park was impressive but there were still some nervy defensive moments in the first half, when Portland’s direct service and deep runs from midfield caused the Sounders all sorts of problems.
Seattle’s Expected Goals Against at half time was 1.5, the highest number of any half this season. After conceding early in the second half, momentum was firmly with the hosts. The Sounders’ reaction was swift and decisive. Their ability to regain the lead again so quickly seemed to knock Portland out of their stride. With Nicolás Lodeiro on the field as a halftime substitute, the team never looked back.
Another change that perhaps went unnoticed but had a positive effect on Seattle’s defensive presence was the introduction of Josh Atencio. His ability to cover ground and break up play allowed the Sounders to deny Portland the transition opportunities they created in the first half. With important veteran players returning to the squad, Atencio will still be a key player in the second half of the campaign.
FC Dallas’ season was kickstarted by a superb 4-0 win over LA Galaxy that showcased the incredible potential of Ricardo Pepi.
Pepi has the ability to be an elite finisher in MLS and beyond and gives Dallas a cutting edge in the final third. Further wins against Austin and Sporting Kanas City have shown that they cannot be overlooked despite their lowly league position. Dallas has never been a happy hunting ground for the Sounders, who have failed to pick up a win in their last 10 visits to Toyota Stadium.
The Sounders were dominant in their clash at Lumen Field a few weeks ago but Dallas did offer a more attacking threat when Franco Jara and Bryan Acosta came off the bench. Both players were again left out of the starting line up in the loss against Sporting KC at the weekend, but I would expect some sort of an attacking reshuffle for this clash. Dallas started the season as a team that wanted to dominate possession but two of their most recent victories have come with less of the ball, perhaps highlighting a more pragmatic approach from Head Coach Luchi Gonzalez.
Lodeiro will look to build on his 45 minutes at the weekend and his ability to dictate play for Seattle means they have another attacking dimension while also being able to increase their share of possession.
One to Watch
João Paulo managed to take Lodeiro off a corner kick and delivered a superb ball for Medranda to smash home. It will be interesting to see how the two choose who will take set pieces moving forward.