The Seattle Sounders have hit the ground running in the 2023 MLS regular season after defeating the Colorado Rapids 4-0 on Sunday in the team’s home opener at Lumen Field. Here are the six best storylines that developed from the night:
Héber opens Sounders account
A bit of a poacher’s instinct in the 53rd minute led to Héber’s first goal with the Rave Green. The Brazilian forward’s effort to crash the box placed him in a position to tap the ball into the net after Nicolás Lodeiro’s initial cross was deflected.
“[Héber’s] come in and done a really, really good job,” forward Jordan Morris said. “He does all the simple things really well, he's a selfless player, he works for the team and then you see his finishing ability inside the box like you saw on [Sunday]…He just needs one chance and he'll bury it, so he's been great and we're fortunate to have him.”
Stefan Frei with the clean sheet
A 4-0 victory for the Sounders also means a clean sheet for goalkeeper Stefan Frei. Beginning his 10th season with the Rave Green, Frei finished Sunday night on a high note, denying two Colorado 1-v-1 chances in the second half and closing out the match with zero goals against. Sunday’s win marked Frei’s 92nd shutout of his career.
João Paulo’s impact in the midfield
After suffering an ACL injury in the Concacaf Champions League in 2022, João Paulo made his way back to the starting lineup and played 80 minutes. His role as a defensive midfielder allowed others to push up into the attack, ultimately supporting his teammates in the buildup of three of the four goals from the night.
“[João Paulo] is such an integral part to this team,” Morris said. “He brings so much leadership and then obviously he's an incredible player on the field so we missed him a lot last year after he got injured and to have him back, he's gonna make a huge difference for us.”
Here to stay
Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan both signed long-term contract extensions in the offseason. Once the young guys on the team, the now-veteran players both stepped up with stellar performances on Sunday. In the 25th minute, Roldan scored the Sounders’ first goal of the season, putting the team up 1-0 in the first half. Morris extended the lead just before the half and capped off the night with a second goal in the 83rd minute.
Depth of younger players
Younger players like Danny Leyva, Léo Chú, Dylan Teves and Josh Atencio all featured in Sunday’s match against the Rapids. With three Homegrown Players and a U-22 Initiative signing all contributing quality minutes, it’s a solid indicator of what’s to come this season.
“Players are getting younger….We have a lot of talented players on the squad,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I'm very, very happy with the team and the makeup of the group and so giving those guys opportunities in games like this is important for their development.”
Jackson Ragen holds down the fort
Center back Jackson Ragen once again impressed in a starting role, coming into his second season with the Sounders at only 24 years old. While he contributed to 23 matches last season and started in 14, the Seattle native will look to build upon Sunday night’s clean sheet as he continues to develop in 2023.
“Jackson played very well,” midfielder João Paulo said. “He's a younger talent, very high on the ball… He's going to be a huge part of our system this year, so we are very happy about everything.”
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