The Seattle Sounders looked revitalized in front of 48,458 at CenturyLink Field Sunday, but couldn’t finish several chances and conceded a late goal on a defensive miscommunication, drawing with the Los Angeles Galaxy, 1-1. Nicolas Lodeiro, the designated player signed Wednesday, showed value in his first outing, providing a level of orchestration the midfield lacked this season.
Seattle’s interim head coach, Brian Schmetzer, who stepped up to the top job after the club parted ways with longtime coach Sigi Schmid Tuesday, said he was pleased with his team’s performance but was unhappy with the score.
“The guys played hard,” Schmetzer said. “Absolutely no complaint about their commitment to the game. We just need to score the second goal, the third goal, the fourth goal. It’s not good, and we’re frustrated.”
Seattle (6-12-3) has reason to be frustrated. The Sounders fired off 18 shots over the course of 90 minutes, eight on target, but a series of big stops and near-misses cost Seattle despite forcing the Galaxy back on their heels for most of the match.
Lodeiro made his Sounders debut in the central midfield, as Seattle adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation designed to deal with the Galaxy’s attacking trio of Robbie Keane, Giovanni dos Santos and Steven Gerrard.
The 27-year-old Uruguayan made his presence felt early and often, stringing passes through the midfield and setting up numerous balls into open space for teammates, who seemed to play with greater freedom. In a few instances, Lodeiro out-thought his teammates, sending passes to places they were not ready for, though those lessened as the match wore on.
Schmetzer said that the development of chemistry between Lodeiro and fellow designated player Clint Dempsey would be crucial.
“We just need to fine tune it to make sure he and Clint figure out the right spacing,” Schmetzer said. “We could have done a better job keeping Clint higher, which would be my preference, keeping him closer to goal because we’re going to need to rely on Clint.
“Other than that, you saw his ability to cover ground at a high level, connect passes and run the team. Together, Clint leads the front line, Nicolas leads through the middle. I was encouraged.”
Cristian Roldan notched the second goal of his MLS career—and second in a month—when he fired a low shot through traffic atop the penalty area, assisted by Nelson Valdez from a back pass in the 49th minute.
From there, the story of the match became wasted opportunities for Seattle, which had a number of close calls offensively. Two involved Lodeiro or Jordan Morris missing just outside the post. Others were turned aside by LA keeper Brian Rowe, who finished with five saves.
Los Angeles (9-3-9) clawed back in the 78th minute, cashing in one of its few promising attacks when a Gerrard cross found substitute Sebastian Lletget, who converted at the back post as the ball dropped between defender Brad Evans and GK Stefan Frei. Lletget’s goal was his third against the Sounders in two games, as he scored two goals in the Galaxy’s comeback win against Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup July 20.
Evans claimed that he had heard a “leave it” call, inferring it came from Frei, but admitted that he should have cleared the ball either way.
Seattle had one more opportunity in the closing seconds of stoppage time. Right back Tyrone Mears carried the ball into the alley, and swung in a cross in front of a sprinting Morris. Morris slid for the ball, but mishit it and sent it over the net on the final play of the match.
Schmetzer began his new policy of making remarks to his team before allowing them to discuss things among themselves, when Lodeiro apparently took a leadership role along with Dempsey and Evans.
Schmetzer said that while he was encouraged, his team needed to get on the right side of the results.
“They worked too hard today not to get the result and not to put that team away earlier,” Schmetzer said. “We need to get this team, this franchise, to right the ship.”
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena expresses respect for Schmid
With Tuesday’s dismissal of Schmid, Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is the last of the old American brigade in the MLS coaching world. Arena reflected on the rivalry he was a part of throughout their careers after the Galaxy’s draw with Seattle.
Arena said it was strange to not see Schmid on the sideline.
“(Sigi)’s given so much to the game in this country at every level,” Arena said. “Collegiately, internationally, professionally, he’s so well respected by all of us. It’s sad when you see that. At the same time ,we know what we sign up for. We understand that. But my respect goes to Sigi, and I understand that it’s a business.
“We’ve temporarily lost one of the great people in the game in this country. We were around in the days where nothing was happening, we didn’t have a professional league, but we stuck in there and built our collegiate programs. I played my last collegiate game against Sigi in the NCAA semifinals, so we have a history going back a long time. It’s certainly sad when you see someone like that leave.”
Arena, who coached the USMNT in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup, became coach of the Galaxy in 2008, the same year Schmid joined the Sounders. Since then, a rivalry has developed around the clubs, as each won trophies, often at the expense of the other.
“I wish him the best,” Arena said. “I know he’s going to be back in the game in some capacity.”