The Seattle Sounders battled the San Jose Earthquakes to a scoreless draw in their opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Fla.
The Rave Green started the match on a bright note, with Nouhou whipping in some dangerous crosses and Raúl Ruidíaz testing the goalkeeper from distance. Once the match started to settle though, it was the Earthquakes who took control of proceedings. However, the best chance of the half fell to Cristian Roldan, who forced Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel Vega into an impressive stop from a 1-v-1 breakaway.
Seattle got a foothold in possession in the second half as Joevin Jones came in for Jordy Delem, with Roldan moving back into central midfield. Looking to pile on the pressure, the Earthquakes once again peppered the Sounders goal with a slew of shots from outside the box, but the best chances of the half once again fell to the Rave Green.
Roldan forced Vega into a diving save off a powerful shot from inside the box inside the first ten minutes, while Nicolás Lodeiro, making his first start since the 2019 MLS Cup, nearly opened the scoring with a pile-driver to the near post. But the preeminent chance of the half fell to Ruidíaz off a play keyed by substitute Shandon Hopeau. Kelvin Leerdam whipped in a first-time cross off of the Hawaiian Homegrown’s excellent through ball, finding the feet of Seattle’s Peruvian striker, but Vega once again came up with the vital intervention.
The Sounders now prepare for their second groups stage match in the MLS is Back Tournament and second match of the 2020 season against Chicago, when they face the Fire on Tuesday, July 14 at 6 a.m. PT (ESPN).
Shaking Off the Rust
It was the first match in four months for Seattle and San Jose, and while it ended with 25 combined shots and some moments of excellent combination play, the lengthy layoff was apparent. Entering the tournaments as the defending MLS Cup champions, the Sounders produced several moments where they flexed their title-contending credentials. But those moments of brilliance were outnumbered by promising plays that broke down on miscommunications or miscued passes. Still, there were enough encouraging moments indicate the attack will start to click in the coming matches.
One of the more encouraging aspects of the match were the performances of Seattle’s center backs, Yeimar Gómez Andrade and Xavier Arreaga. The pair combined for 13 defensive actions and 10 recoveries as they kept San Jose’s attack at bay.
It appears as if the time spent training together during preparations for the MLS is Back Tournament paid off, as their chemistry and communication limited the Earthquakes to just a single shot from inside the box. More importantly, their balance was excellent, with Arreaga stepping into midfield to break up passes on the ground and Gómez Andrade dominating in the air.
Stefan Frei Does Stefan Frei Things
Even though the Earthquakes struggled to break Seattle down in the final third, they still managed to force Stefan Frei into a string of impressive diving saves. Every time San Jose ripped a shot from distance, Seattle’s goalkeeper was equal to the task, producing eight saves and keeping the clean sheet.