TUCSON, Ariz. — The opening 45 minutes of the Seattle Sounders’ first preseason friendly in the Mobile Mini Sun Cup against the Houston Dynamo could not have gone any better.
Trotting out a strong, first-choice lineup, the Sounders pounced on Houston in the first 20 minutes and took a 2-0 lead behind beautiful goals from Nicolás Lodeiro and Raúl Ruidíaz. Víctor Rodríguez was everywhere, and Brad Smith was tremendous in attack on the left flank, creating a plethora of dangerous chances and unbalancing the Dynamo defense.
“I thought Brad helped out a lot, had good pace and was willing to go forward,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “That can come at a price in being out of position defensively, but for the most part I thought he wasn’t. He worked his butt off to come back and make sure that was taken care of first and foremost.
“It’s good to essentially put the first team together and get some quality time on the field,” he continued. “We’re trying to jell and work on some things, and these are perfect times to practice that.”
Jordan Morris also made his first start after recovering from the ACL injury that cost him all of last season. He looked fresh and caused Houston’s back line headaches all evening with his pace and impetus to make runs over the top.
“He was extremely ecstatic after the game,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said of Morris. “He was happy to contribute. Even in that first minute when Gustav [Svensson] found him on that ball over the top, you saw his speed put the left back on notice…If Jordan is able to stretch teams, then it opens up space for those guys to operate.”
Added Frei: “Jordan settled in well and brings a different aspect to our game. He’s got good size, he can hold up a ball, but he’s also got pace that we can use behind. That’s where we found our joy.”
The Sounders made wholesale changes in the 63rd minute, bringing on 11 new players comprised mostly of teenagers on Tacoma Defiance and in the Sounders Academy. The Dynamo, who didn’t take out their starters until the 75th minute, scored three times in the final 20 minutes to claim the 3-2 win.
“Obviously as you make subs on both sides, both teams made a lot of subs, it changes the complexion of the game,” said Schmetzer. “We’ll go back and we’ll coach them up a little bit. It was a tough way for them to come on. The game was pretty fast when they first came on. We’ll find all the good coaching moments and build them up because they have to do the same thing on Wednesday.”
Said Frei: "These are valuable, valuable minutes for young guys. We have some 15-, 16-year-olds on the field that are playing against top players. They’re going to be disappointed that we got scored on three times, but this is important. You have to deal with these emotions, you have to deal with this nervousness that comes with it. Very pleased that they saw the pitch and how they fought because that’s our future.”
The Sounders will take on the rival Portland Timbers on Wednesday (6 p.m. PT; SoundersFC.com) in what will be their first chance for revenge for last season’s penalty-kick shootout loss in the Western Conference Semifinals. More importantly, though, it will be another opportunity to continue to grow and improve before the Sounders open the MLS regular season on March 2 at home against FC Cincinnati (7 p.m. PT; FS1 | TICKETS).
“We’re working on more tactical things,” said Schmetzer, “so the question that we’ll ask, and we’ll watch the film, is, ‘Did we accomplish our goals? Did we see anything that was worked on in training that was actually accomplished on the field of play?’ We’ll continue down that path. We’ve got two more games left to judge and assess.”