LOS ANGELES – The Seattle Sounders played a hard-fought, back-and-forth match against expansion side LAFC on Sunday that was scoreless until second-half stoppage time, but a free-kick goal from LAFC defender Laurent Ciman at the death gave the hosts a shocking 1-0 victory at Banc of California Stadium.
It was the first match ever played at LAFC’s new state-of-the-art facility in downtown Los Angeles in front of a raucous sold-out crowd of 22,000 onlookers.
The Sounders were dealt a big blow right before kickoff after center back Román Torres was a late scratch from the starting lineup due to a hamstring injury he suffered in training on Friday. Already without their other starting center back Chad Marshall (neck sprain), Sounders paired defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson and South Korea international Kim Kee-hee, who made his first MLS start, in front of goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
The back line held its own in the first half, holding a charged up LAFC side off the score sheet. Seattle had a couple of good looks at opening the scoring in the first 45 minutes, including a golden opportunity from midfielder Alex Roldan that LAFC defender Steven Beitashour did well to head off the line.
Neither side managed to break through until the dying seconds of the match, when Ciman blasted a free kick that deflected off Frei and into net to send the home team to the victory.
BACK LINE STANDS TALL
Torres and Marshall are one of the more imposing center back tandems in MLS when they’re both healthy, so it was obviously a less than ideal scenario when it was announced Torres was scratched with Marshall already ruled out. Svensson and Kim managed to stand tall, however, and Seattle were just seconds away from procuring the clean sheet against a star-studded LAFC attack until Ciman’s late winner. Marshall and Torres are still the first-choice pairing but in a league where it’s imperative to have depth over the course of a long season, it’s good for Head Coach Brian Schmetzer to know he’s got options.
Kim Kee-hee goes up for a header in his first career MLS start against LAFC / Mike Fiechtner
FIRED UP HOSTS
LAFC has been the talk of the league since kicking off their debut MLS campaign, entering Sunday having won four out of its six matches, all of which took place on the road before Sunday’s home opener. The crowd was fired up from the get-go and the Sounders knew coming in they would have to deal with an opponent that was rocking and ready. That’s part of what makes the result all the more frustrating, as Seattle will surely feel there was at least a point in the match, if not three, had they done better with their chances and not succumbed to the late defensive lapse. On the flip side, if the Sounders defend like that on the road in the majority of their matches away from CenturyLink Field this season, they should find themselves taking points more often than not.
This will be a tough pill to swallow for Seattle, but there’s not much time to dwell on anything as they look to bounce back from the defeat. Seattle will play host to Columbus Crew SC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, May 5, before a pair of tough road matches against Toronto FC on May 9 and the Portland Timbers on May 13. That’s certainly not an easy slate of opponents, but at the same time, getting back on the field right after a tough result can also sometimes be exactly what the doctor ordered.