Sounders vs. LAFC, recap: Sunny and scoreless
Sounders and LAFC play to a 0-0 draw.
The Seattle Sounders hosted LAFC in one of the league’s marquee matches. Despite some end-to-end play, the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Neither side created much danger in the end; Seattle took a slight edge in xG as they finished with 1.4 xG to LAFC’s 1.2, with Seattle being credited with 2 Big Chances to LA’s 1. There were definitely opportunities to grab all three points, but a draw was just about representative of the play on the field.
The first half was tense and tight, with the biggest bit of excitement coming late when a scuffle broke out after Aaron Long took a few kicks at a ball that was already in Stefan Frei’s hands after a free kick. The Sounders probably had the best looks in a largely even 45 minutes, but ultimately there were more yellow cards (5 total) than clear-cut chances as the two teams went into halftime tied 0-0.
The second half had some action of its own, with a scramble in LA’s 6-yard box yielding a couple of close but scruffy looks for the Sounders and Stefan Frei coming up with a big save in stoppage time. The most notable event, though, was probably Jackson Ragen having to sub out with an injury, making way for Xavier Arreaga to make his first appearance of the season. Obed Vargas also made his first appearance of the season, coming on for João Paulo in the 63rd minute, officially marking his return from injury after missing the back end of 2022.
Ultimately, the draw is a bit of a letdown, as the Sounders had a chance to get a win against an LAFC side that’s on tired legs, but this was a marked improvement over the game against FC Cincinnati and is the third clean sheet at home for the season. The Sounders will travel to face Sporting Kansas City for their next game on Saturday, March 25.
5’ — Jordan Morris earns the first corner kick of the day, as he runs in behind and gets on the end of an excellent ball over the top from Nouhou.
23’ — Albert Rusnák makes a late-arriving run onto a clearance, and while his effort from the top of the box is kept low it strikes the far post before going out for a goal kick.
29’ — Raúl Ruidíaz attempts the spectacular, throwing down a leaping scissor kick as he connects with a headed clearance inside the box, but the shot is easily gathered.
43’ — Stefan Frei makes an exceptional reaction save on Denis Bouanga off of a free kick routine, and a scuffle ensues after Aaron Long kicks at the ball in Frei’s hands.
45’ +1 — Ruidíaz nearly grabs one as the Sounders slice through LAFC’s back line, but his shot is just tipped away from the far post.
67’ — Seattle nearly gets the opener off of a corner, with Cristian Roldan flicking the service on but Xavier Arreaga’s header at the near post goes wide.
75’ — A bit of a scramble in LAFC’s 6-yard box off of a free kick, but despite several swings from a few feet away the Sounders can’t find the net and settle for a corner.
89’ — Denis Bouanga finds Kwadwo Opoku in the Sounders’ area, but the first-time effort goes well over the bar.
90’ +2 — Frei makes a crucial kick save to keep LAFC off the board!
A strong foundation: I’m not going to try to convince anyone that it’s not frustrating to score 0 goals in two games, especially when one of those games comes at Lumen Field in front of the largest home crowd so far this season. It’s definitely a letdown following the high-flying opening pair of games, but scoring in soccer is a pretty rare event as far as these things go. Goals will come, especially as Ruidíaz works back into full fitness and finds his form and Héber returns from injury. Through the first four games, Seattle have only given up 1 goal, and even including the Club World Cup game the team has allowed just 2 goals in 5 games and has been very hard to beat at Lumen Field. After the struggles of last year, particularly at home, it bodes well for the season that the defensive foundation is already in place. Goals will come, and keeping the opponent off the board means those goals have an even better chance of winning games.
Getting healthy: Jackson Ragen had to come off with what Brian Schmetzer indicated is a bruised rib, and Héber is still probably a couple of weeks away from being back on the field, but today’s game was a good indication of the team’s progression back to full health. Ruidíaz made his first start and played over an hour, coming off in a planned substitution in the 63rd minute. Obed Vargas made his return to the field following his back injury and the subsequent muscle injury he picked up in Spain during preseason, and looked like his old self after his long layoff. JP was once again all over the field helping the Sounders control the midfield and make life hard for LAFC, coming off only because he was sitting on a yellow card. As Stefan Frei noted after the game, it’s not only good to have everyone healthy for the sake of health, but it also makes the level of training higher as players compete for their place on the field.
Flowers for Cristian Roldan: Cristian Roldan once again showed why he’s well worth his new contract. Roldan was, as always, a menace on the wings throughout the game, winning 7 of 8 ground duels and 6 of 6 aerial duels, 3 of 4 tackles, and drawing 4 fouls. He created two chances — only Carlos Vela’s 3 chances created bested that number — and generated 0.24 xG and 0.3 xA. To effectively underscore his impact throughout the field, when Alex Roldan subbed off late in the game Cristian dropped back to play right back/right wingback for the last 10 minutes plus stoppage time. Roldan is a key player for the Sounders and helps to maintain the level throughout the team, and while he might not necessarily be the determining factor for the squad’s ceiling he absolutely keeps the floor from dropping out when he’s on the field.
Did you see that?!?
Stefan Frei coming up clutch, what else would you expect?
What a save by @Stefan24Frei! pic.twitter.com/u8FOwoAGor— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) March 18, 2023
He said what?!?
9 months after his last game, Obed Vargas returned to the field against the same opponent.
“Obviously I was nervous warming up. It was a long, long journey coming back. My last game was against LAFC…” so it was cool to come back against LAFC according to Obed Vargas.— Defensa y Boosticia (@timostlundfoss) March 18, 2023
One stat to tell the tale
3 — The Sounders have kept 3 clean sheets in their 3 home games so far this season.