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Seattle Sounders squad left hurting after cruel late loss at LAFC

The pain of Sunday night’s loss to Los Angeles FC was intensely apparent in the Seattle Sounders locker room after the match. As the majority of the 22,000 in attendance for the inaugural match at Banc of California Stadium continued to celebrate their club’s first home victory thanks to a stoppage time goal by captain Laurent Ciman, the Sounders sat in the visiting locker room in quiet contemplation.

Brian Schmetzer, normally calm and composed regardless of his team’s result, was animated and irritated that his team failed to take at least a point. “[Seattle] played with their heart, they played together as a group, they were committed and should have got a point out of the game,” said Schmetzer before pausing to add, “Actually we could have got more than a point out of the game because we had some chances that we probably should have put away.”

Seattle played very well for the majority of the match and it looked as though they would record their first clean sheet of the season before Ciman took his free kick. While it was hit with good pace it was essentially right at Stefan Frei before knuckling at the last second, bouncing off Frei’s arm and into the back of the net. It’s a save that Frei makes routinely 99 percent of the time without much difficulty and a cruel way to lose a match late.

Frei for his part immediately took the blame saying, “That is on me. It’s a cruel part of this position and it’s not the first time and unless I retire tomorrow it won’t be the last time. Its brutal not because you give up the goal but because you let down all your teammates.” When asked if Frei had addressed the team after the match, Schmetzer quickly defended his keeper saying simply, “No. He doesn’t have to. He’s saved us more times than not.”

Seattle actually contained the likes of Carlos Vela, Diego Rossi, and Marco Urena throughout the match, only allowing four shots on goal, although two of which were recorded by Urena. The defence, anchored by the unexpected combination of Gustav Svensson and Kim Kee-Hee at centre-back (Chad Marshall did not travel due to a neck injury and Roman Torres was a late scratch after suffering a right hamstring strain in warmups), made a number of crucial tackles to deny LAFC scoring opportunities. Nouhou and Alex Roldan seemed to be especially targeted on their side of the field as time after time LA tried to move the ball along their wing. The young Sounders both had solid performances defensively and limited opportunities for LA from wide positions.

It would be easy from a Seattle perspective to overreact to the loss, especially given they sit at the bottom of the Western Conference and are averaging less than a goal a game, but Sounders were the more dangerous side in LA. They had two great chances within the first eight minutes of the match and, if not for Jordan Harvey deflecting a Clint Dempsey shot and Steven Beitashour clearing an Alex Roldan header off the line, Seattle could have had an early lead. Later in the first half Will Bruin looked to have a wide open net as Ciman went to ground trying to deny the pass but Bruin couldn’t get a shot away before Ciman cleared the bouncing ball from his back. There also wasn’t the familiar slow start that has plagued Sounders historically and there was no dip in energy or effort and if lucky bounces start to go Seattle’s way, don’t be surprised to see them climb back up the table.

Seattle now returns home where they will be looking to find a breakthrough as they prepare to host Columbus Crew SC. “We’re not ‘good’ with moving forward after losses like this;” said Schmetzer, “we’re gonna think about it, we’re gonna look at film, we’re gonna get it better, get it right. Effort was there, if the team plays with that effort we’re gonna win more games than we’re gonna lose.”

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