When Seattle Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer penciled in AB Cissoko, who made his MLS debut for the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night in a 2-1 away win over the LA Galaxy, to the starting lineup, he expected the young Frenchman to do what everyone else on the club has done so far this season: his job.
It’s not easy replacing Nouhou, who is in the middle of a tremendous season yet missed Saturday’s match with a a left adductor strain, but Cissoko slid in seamlessly along the back line and helped stifle a potent Galaxy attack.
“Cissoko is a 21-year-old kid who only played for [Tacoma] Defiance,” said Schmetzer. “Lots of people might have written him off or said this is too big a game. He stepped in, next man up, and did a tremendous job out there. He was really, really good for his debut.”
Cissoko’s brilliant showing was just a microcosm of what the Sounders have done all year. They’ve been without two 2020 MLS Best XI players in Nicolás Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, veteran goalkeeper Stefan Frei as well as still adapting to a formation change. None of it has mattered. If anything, it’s shown the utter grit and determination within the group to not only grind out results, but to put together a Supporters’ Shield-leading output through the first third of the season.
“The mentality within the group is fantastic,” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “We’re missing a lot of guys, guys that can change the game for us, especially in the offensive third. To be able to start the way we did without those guys is fantastic, the chemistry and the culture within the group is what you’re seeing on the field.”
Added goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, who has been stellar in filling in for Frei: “It’s the mentality of the club. We have a decent number of starters out, but that shows the depth. We’ve done really well the whole season with everyone is stepping in where they need to step in, whether it’s myself, AB, or any of the guys right now on the bench who can step in and do the job. That’s one of the beauties of this club.”
The Sounders have yet to concede from the run of play in 810 minutes, a jarring stat given everything that they’ve been missing, but the never-say-die attitude was on full display again on Saturday. After falling behind early on a penalty kick, Seattle found an equalizer before halftime on a Yeimar header off a corner kick. The Sounders then found the match-winner four minutes after halftime on a Raúl Ruidíaz goal.
Seattle has already had one nine-point week this season and has a chance for another with two big Western Conference home matches coming up on Wednesday against Real Salt Lake (6 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Prime Video, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) and next Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps (7 p.m. PT; JOEtv, Prime Video, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS). Rest assured, this result against the Galaxy is one that will continue to galvanize the group.
“The team obviously has mental toughness,” said Schmetzer. “It’s a word that everybody uses. But this team has it.
“There were guys out there who were cramping up,” he continued. “There were guys out there who could barely run. They had enough mental strength to close out seven minutes, seven minutes of stoppage time with certain characteristics. Of course they had it in [their hearts], but they also connected a few passes. They established some possession. They were able to win some fouls. They defended well. There was a lot in that last seven minutes that I’m awfully proud of.”