In Pictures: Sounders down Dynamo 4-1 with impressive team performance

Any fears of Seattle Sounders FC regressing to their early season scoring woes with Raul Ruidiaz off with the Peruvian National Team were quickly erased by his replacement Will Bruin in the 18th minute as Seattle opened the scoring against visitors Houston Dynamo en route to a 4-1 victory.

With the Dynamo needing to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, Houston played aggressively and allowed the game to be an open and end-to-end affair. Unfortunately for the Dynamo, it was the Sounders who took advantage of the extra space and dominated much of the match despite losing the overall possession battle.

What stood out the most in the match was the incisive, accurate passing of Seattle especially in Houston’s end of the field as they were able to pass circles around the defense at times and set up some of the most stunning goals of Seattle’s season.

“When the players are engaged and the coaching is at a high level you get moments like this where the team really kinda comes together and they play well,” said coach Brian Schmetzer after the match. “I think the last two games I think we’ve played well, we’ve had some good moments and we’ll try and continue those.”

While Bruin’s opener was a beautiful finish with his weaker left foot, the second goal on a counter-attack was even more impressive as Nico Lodeiro made a near end-to-end run with the ball, drawing five defenders before finding Cristian Roldan wide open inside the box for the finish.

The second half was punctuated by a Victor Rodriguez brace as Seattle continued press the defense and create chances with their passing. Bruin made a very clever dummy on Kelvin Leerdam’s low cross into the box allowing Rodriguez to get a shot away that took a fortunate deflection for his first goal.

The second was the result of Sounders taking advantage of the Houston defense over committing men to the ball, allowing Seattle to make quick passes between defenders into open space. Handwalla Bwana, moments after coming into the match, would ultimately get the assist on the goal as he split two defenders with his short pass to Rodriguez who was then one-on-one with the keeper from about eight yards out.

With the convincing lead, Schmetzer elected to use his substitutions to bring Henry Wingo and Alex Roldan into the match in an attempt to get the young players some extra minutes knowing that Seattle will need to rotate the lineup some with a short turnaround between matches in Orlando and then Houston.

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The changes seemed to unsettle the Seattle defense and allowed Houston to pull back one goal in the 87th minute but by then the match was well out of reach and while the team was disappointed to give up the clean sheet, it was still an impressive performance that puts Seattle on the cusp of their 10th consecutive postseason appearance, which would tie the MLS record.

Perhaps just as important for Seattle is that the win also eliminates Houston from playoff contention and could provide the Sounders with a confidence boost knowing that all of the three teams they will face the rest of the regular season are already out of the playoffs.

Still don’t expect Seattle to overlook those opponents as Bruin said after the match, “midweek game, cross-country in Orlando, a team that you know guys are going to be playing for jobs so that’s always a tough environment to go play in… so we’re going to need to up our game to be able to get a good result.”

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In pictures: Alonso and Roldan brothers lead Seattle to 3-1 win over Minnesota

Seattle Sounders FC notched their first win of the season on Sunday with a 3-1 win at home against Minnesota United FC. Sounders scored two goals in two minutes from Gustav Svensson and Will Bruin to give Seattle an early lead after 25 minutes. Minnesota brought one back in the 66th minute from Christian Ramirez before Jordy Delem scored his first MLS goal in the dying seconds of the match to end the visitors’ comeback bid.

For the second-straight week Alex Roldan got the start as Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Clint Dempsey both started on the bench before coming on as substitutes. Roldan brought a needed energy to the lineup and made great off-ball runs to create space for his teammates. “I always liked Alex,” said coach Brian Schmetzer after the match. “I thought he was very, very good [at Seattle U]… I just think it’s a great storyline because Alex is becoming not just Cristian’s brother but he’s becoming his own man and I enjoy that.” While he didn’t show up on the stat sheet this week, he outperformed both Dempsey and Eikrem his 60 minutes on the pitch and made a solid case for his continued inclusion in the lineup.

Osvaldo Alonso was healthy enough to make his first start for Seattle since August 27th of last year when he suffered the right quad strain that kept him out of the 2017 MLS Cup. With Alonso in the lineup Seattle are able to control the midfield and organize their attack and that was on display against Minnesota. When Eikrem replaced Alonso in the 75th minute for a planned substitution, Minnesota was able to find more attacking chances due to not having Alonso’s defensive presence in the centre of the pitch.

It was also a great game for Cristian Roldan, recording assists on the first two goals of the match. Playing much of the match in an attacking midfield position, Roldan coordinated the attack, ran at defenders, and drew the attention of the Minnesota defense which opened the field for his teammates.

He and Alonso would get the assists on the first goal of the match as Roldan, playing just in front of United’s back four, draws two defenders as the pass comes from Alonso and makes a first touch pass to Svensson in the now vacated space. Svensson then unleashes a rocket of a ball into the top left corner of the goal with one of the better strikes we’ll see this season.

The second assist for Roldan is the more impressive if not the flashier of the two as he makes a smart run into space on the left wing to stretch the defense before hitting a first time cross into the box. His cross is low and well hit but most impressively it splits two defenders from 20 yards away to find Bruin open at the top of the six-yard-box.

The biggest concern for Seattle though, as they look towards LAFC next week, is how their pace and aggression dropped off after the first 30 minutes of the match. “It was a good [opening] 30 minutes. The key is that we need to watch the film and figure out why, after 30 minutes, the team didn’t perform as well as they should have,” said Schmetzer. “I challenged them at halftime a little bit. ‘You want to be a championship team? Championship teams are able to finish games out, close games out, get that third goal and make sure that the game becomes a little easier.’ After the game, my opinion changed a little bit and I said, ‘Well, championship teams actually kind of win ugly sometimes, and you’ve got to gut things through.’ That’s another character trait of championship teams. In October, nobody’s going to remember that this was a hard game. They’re just going to say, 3-1 scoreline and that’s three points.”

Seattle Sounders next match sees them opening up Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles as they face LAFC. They’ll be looking to get revenge on the league’s newest team after losing 1-0 in the opening game of the season as they kick off at 6 PM PT (1 AM GMT) on Sunday April 29th.

Check out exclusive photos of Sunday’s game, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Sounders get first point and first goals in 2-2 draw at Sporting Kansas City

Seattle Sounders (0-3-1, 1 pt) registered their first point and goals of the 2018 campaign on Sunday in a 2-2 draw with Sporting Kansas City (4-1-2, 14 pts) at Children’s Mercy Park. A late first-half equaliser from Will Bruin gave Seattle their first goal of the year and Cristian Roldan would give the visitors their first lead of the MLS season. Graham Zusi would bring the home side back level just five minutes later though and neither side would manage another breakthrough.

It was somewhat of a surprise to see Alex Roldan in the starting lineup just in front of Jordan McCrary but the rookie midfielder looked very good against the Western Conference leaders. The younger Roldan looked confident on the ball and helped to setup the attack that lead to Seattle’s second goal. Hopefully for Seattle this is not just a flash in the pan but a sign of things to come for the Seattle University alum.

Sounders fans were also treated to the return of Osvaldo Alonso from injury, coming on as a substitute in the 68th minute. With Alonso on the field for Handwalla Bwana, coach Brian Schmetzer pushed Cristian Roldan into an attacking position and brought Nicolas Lodeiro out wide which allowed Roldan to play more aggressively and ultimately lead to scoring the second goal. With Alonso on the field Seattle’s midfield looked more disciplined and structured defensively, something that was badly missing in their home loss to Montreal.

It was not such a great night for Nouhou who seemed to be a step slow all night, directly leading to both Sporting goals. The first goal came from a penalty kick conceded by a poor challenge from Nouhou while the second was due to him not getting back to stop Zusi.

The play starts with Nouhou making a long attacking run into space before hitting an ill-advised high shot from about 25 yards out. As Sporting restarted play, Nouhou doesn’t get back into position in time and leaves Zusi open on the wing. Even once Zusi receives the pass and is dribbling into the box, Nouhou doesn’t get back to mark his man and allows Zusi to walk in one-on-one against Frei and tie the match.

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Sporting controlled possession for the majority of the match and forced Stefan Frei into making six saves compared to Tim Melia’s one but made defensive mistakes to let Seattle on the board against the run of play. While Seattle does well to keep the play alive after Bruin’s first chance clanked off the crossbar, Jimmy Medranda gets caught watching the ball on the second chance and allows Bruin to score on a tap in.

Although Seattle was unable to hold on to the lead, the second goal showed the Sounders’ potential in attack. Alex Roldan out plays Zusi on a long clearance to get to the ball and then makes a perfectly weighted outside-of-the-foot pass around a defender to Bruin. With a defender on him, Bruin has the wherewithal to pull the ball back and find Christian Roldan at the top of the box for a shot. Roldan is able to hit the ball with power while also placing it in the far corner, past the stretching arm of Melia.

Seattle is going to want to see more possessions like this next weekend when they host Minnesota United FC (2-4-0, 6 pts) on Sunday at 1 PM as they look to record their first win of the season.

Second half explosion gives Sounders 4-0 win over Santa Tecla in CCL

After a disappointing 2-1 loss in El Salvador to Santa Tecla in the opening round of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, Seattle Sounders FC returned home to CenturyLink Field and dominated the second half to win 4-0 and advance 5-2 on aggregate.

Santa Tecla did well in the first half to negate chances for Seattle in the final third as they bunkered in deep in their half. Seattle was noticeably frustrated by their inability to get a goal in the first half and brought on Magnus Wolff Eikram to start the second in response.

Coach Brian Schmetzer replaced Tony Alfaro with Gustav Svensson and switched to a 4-4-2 diamond to bring a more attacking look at Santa Tecla. The move paid off as Sounders scored just two minutes into the second half. Seattle was able to put much more pressure on their opponents and created space for Nicolas Lodeiro in the box to find Will Bruin in front of goal to open the scoring.

Eikram’s ability to find open space and make creative passes opened up the attack for Seattle and really stretched the Santa Tecla defense. Eikram was able to get balls wide down the wings to teammates to allow Seattle to put dangerous crosses into the box and open up the match. Then his already strong understanding with Clint Dempsey led to a beautiful give-and-go as Eikram opened his scoring account with Seattle to make the match 4-0.

“Its a couple of pounds off my shoulders,” said Eikram when asked about scoring his first goal for Seattle. “I’m ready to go again on Sunday.”

It was also a great night for Lodeiro who scored the second goal and assisted on the first and third. Lodeiro thrived in the second half with Eikram in the match and Dempsey and Bruin as forwards, finding open space created by the other attackers. His corners were consistently into dangerous areas and created opportunities for Seattle to score throughout the match. Chad Marshall managed to finish his second chance from a corner in the 81st minute with a powerful header to make the match 3-0, rewarding Lodeiro for his consistent service.

Schmetzer gave a lot of credit to his players after the match for their performance, noting that they were frustrated in the first half but stayed mentally tough in the second. “I think you had a resolute group that was in that locker room that was pissed off and so they wanted to get that goal to open up the game,” said Schmetzer post-match.

It’s also worth noting as well how dominant Seattle has been at CenturyLink under Schmetzer. Sounders have only lost once – to Toronto FC last year – in his tenure while outscoring opponents 19-0 in their last six home games. While Schmetzer dismissed the previous five games from last season, he noted that “it’s important that the attacking players get in that rhythm and that flow so it was good for Dempsey to be involved although he didn’t score, it was good for Lodeiro, [and] Bruin. Goal scorers are streaky like that so [the 4-0 win] was a great way to start the homestand of 2018 and we hope that continues.”

Seattle will face Chivas Guadalajara in the second round of CCL play, hosting the first leg on Wednesday March 7th at 7 PM. First for the Sounders though is their regular season opener as they host newcomers Los Angeles FC this Sunday at 2 PM Pacific.

In pictures: Seattle Sounders 4-0 Santa Tecla – Sounders cruise into CCL quarterfinals

Seattle Sounders 4-0 Santa Tecla – Seattle overturned their 2-1 first-leg defeat in emphatic style as they put four goals past El Salvador’s Santa Tecla to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

The Sounders knew they had to break down a solid Santa Tecla defence to have any chance of progressing but they went into halftime with the score at 0-0. Brian Schmetzer made a tactical switch to a 4-4-2 diamond formation for the second minutes, and it paid dividends almost immediately.

Will Bruin opened the scoring in the 47th minute, before Nicolas Lodeiro put the hosts in the driving seat on 69 minutes. Lodeiro – who assisted Bruin’s goal – then set up Chad Marshall off a set piece in the 81st minute to make it 3-0.

Winter signing Magnus Wolff Eikrem made his debut on Thursday night, coming on for the start of the second-half. He made an immediate impact, impressing with his passing and off the ball movement. He capped off a fine debut by scoring the final goal in the 83rd minute.

The Sounders will now face Liga MX side CD Guadalajara in the quarterfinals, starting with the home leg next Wednesday.

Check out exclusive photos from Seattle’s win over Santa Tecla on Thursday night, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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Gallery: Exclusive photos as the Sounders clinch Western Conference Championship in style against Houston

For the second year running, the Seattle Sounders are the Western Conference Champions. And for the second year running, they will travel to Toronto for the MLS Cup Final. They won the title last year and will be looking to defend the cup in what should be another intriguing finale.

The Sounders seem to come alive in the playoffs. They didn’t enjoy the best of regular seasons but once again rallied when it mattered most and came into the postseason in good form. That form has only improved as they’ve yet to conceded in this season’s playoffs.

Last week’s 2-0 win in Houston was impressive. But they made sure of the job by winning 3-0 in Thursday night’s second-leg, taking the series 5-0 on aggregate.

Goals from Victor Rodriguez, Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin got the job done in style on Thursday, albeit against a shorthanded Dynamo side that once again finished the game with 10 men. But the added bonus for the Sounders was seeing Jordan Morris return to the field for the first time since September.

Check out exclusive photos from the Sounders Western Conference Championship win on Thursday, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs DC United

Major League Soccer:  Seattle Sounders vs DC United

CenturyLink Field – Wednesday, July 19 – 22:30 ET (03:30 BST)

Match Odds: Seattle 1/2 – Draw 3/1 – DC United 5/1

Seattle Sounders vs DC United: Preview

Seattle Sounders take on DC United as Major League Soccer restarts after a two-week break for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Sounders will be missing three huge names in their starting lineup as Christian Roldan, Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris are away with the USMNT.

They come into the midweek clash having only lost one of their last 19 home matches in the league. An extremely impressive run that will be hard for DC to put to an end to.

MLS Cup holders Seattle have fallen off the pace so far this term. A surge of consistency will need to start sooner, rather than later if they are to have a chance of retaining their crown.

DC United are on course for the wooden spoon. However, Minnesota United are giving them a close battle for it. All jokes aside, this is far from the standard we expect from DC. They have lost four consecutive games in all competitions and six in a row away from home.

One win in seven highlights how tough a run of form they are in. Something has to chance, and fast. But they have lost their last three games at Seattle, without even scoring a goal. So the chances of an away win on Wednesday look very slim.

Seattle Sounders vs DC United: Team News

Seattle Sounders remain without Henry Wingo (ankle) and Seyi Adekoya (ankle). Harry Shipp is listed as questionable with a hand fracture. Jordan Morris, Oniel Fisher, Clint Dempsey and Christian Roldan are away on international duty, though Roldan may be available after being dropped from the USA squad for the quarterfinals.

DC United attacker Patrick Mullins remains out after knee surgery and Bobby Boswell has a groin problem so both will be absent. Rob Vincent (knee) and Nick DeLeon (abdominal strain) are listed as questionable. Bill Hamid is away on international duty with the USMNT.

Seattle Sounders vs DC United: Key Points

Seattle Sounders’ last five: W/L/D/D/W

DC United’s last five: L/W/L/L/L

Key Stat: DC United have lost their last five away matches in MLS.

Key Player: Will Bruin – With Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris missing, this is a chance for Bruin to stake his claim for a starting spot going forward as he will lead the line.

Seattle Sounders vs DC United: Prediction

Seattle Sounders 3-0 DC United – It’s hard to see DC United finding any way to pick up points at CenturyLink Field. Their poor season has no sign of improving whilst Bill Hamid is absent too. We expect reigning champs Seattle to run riot in front of the home crowd.

Gallery: Exclusive photos from the Sounders’ dramatic 1-1 draw with Orlando City on Wednesday

Seattle Sounders were seconds away from securing a fourth-straight MLS win at home by a 1-0 scoreline on Wednesday night. But then Scott Sutter headed in to earn Orlando a dramatic late point at CenturyLink Field.

Seattle will be devastated to not have taken all three points after standing firm for so long defensively, while carving out numerous openings themselves, with Joe Bendik putting in a great shift for Orlando.

Will Bruin opened the scoring in the 19th minute as fired a low and accurate drive into the bottom-left corner. But the visitors managed to stay in the game and waited for that one moment, which came in stoppage time as Kaka stepped up and delivered a dangerous cross from a free-kick, with Scott Sutter heading in to score his first MLS goal at a crucial time.

The result leaves Seattle outside the playoffs in the West, while Orlando sit in fourth in the East, six points off Toronto FC at the top of the standings.

Check out exclusive photos from Wednesday’s game below, courtesy of MLSGB photographers Denise McCooey and Paul Kahl.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs LA Galaxy

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs. LA Galaxy

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Friday, April 15 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Match Odds: Houston 13/8 – Draw 13/5 – LA Galaxy 6/4

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo welcome LA Galaxy to BBVA Compass Stadium in this week’s Friday night MLS clash in what is a key Western Conference battle at this early stage of the campaign.

Houston started the season in great form, scoring eight goals in their opening two games, but they have only picked up one win so far and are looking to snap a three-game winless run here.

Owen Coyle’s side were perhaps unlucky to draw with Seattle last weekend, with Chad Marshall’s 94th minute equaliser preventing the Dynamo from picking up all three points. They need to bounce back straight away against another strong Western opponent but will be confident of doing so.

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Houston are unbeaten in six home games now, while the Galaxy haven’t won any of their last seven on the road. Add in the fact that Houston have won each of their last four home games against LA and it’s difficult to overlook the hosts here.

The Galaxy travel to Houston off the back of their 1-1 home draw with Portland on Sunday night. A late Nat Borchers own goal rescued a point for an injury-struck Galaxy team but they will need to put in a better performance if they are to take anything away from Friday’s clash.

LA haven’t scored away from home in two attempts so far this term. A 1-0 loss to Colorado was followed by a 0-0 draw in Vancouver and so the team’s road troubles aren’t showing any signs of improving just yet.

LA Galaxy vs Portland Timbers

Bruce Arena knows this is a big game. The Galaxy sit three points above Houston in the West coming into the match and so there is plenty at stake at this early stage.

These two met three times during the regular season last year. Houston won the only clash at BBVA Compass Stadium 3-0. The Galaxy won one home game 1-0, with the pair drawing 1-1 at StubHub Center in the first meeting of last season.

Team News

Houston will be without Colleen Warner once again, while Abdoulie Mansally is a doubt with an ongoing concussion issue.

LA Galaxy will be without Nigel De Jong after his horror tackle on Darlington Nagbe last weekend. At the time of writing a suspension has yet to be issued, although the MLS Disciplinary Committee are expected to hand out a multiple-game ban to the midfielder before Friday’s game. Robbie Keane and Dan Kennedy remain injured, while Steven Gerrard, Jeff Larentowicz, Leonardo and Robbie Rogers are all doubts.

Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s last five: D/W/L/L/D

LA Galaxy’s last five: W/L/W/D/D

Key Stat: Houston have won each of their last four home games against LA Galaxy by a combined score of 9-2.

Key Player: Will Bruin – The Dynamo forward started the season in blistering form, picking up three goals and two assists in his opening three matches. He hasn’t contributed to a goal in the last two games but he will be desperate to be back amongst the goals against the Galaxy here and could cause them real problems.

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Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 2-0 LA Galaxy – Houston have performed better than their 1-2-2 record suggests so far and will expect to beat a Galaxy side that struggles away from home. Injuries and suspensions to key players won’t help LA’s cause and so a second defeat of the campaign looks to be in line for the Western Conference giants.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Chicago Fire

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs. Chicago Fire

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Friday, July 3 – 21:00 ET (02:00 BST)

Match Odds: Houston Dynamo 6/5 – Draw 5/2 – Chicago Fire 11/5

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo host Eastern Conference’s basement side Chicago Fire on Friday night, looking to get their first win in three, while the hosts are looking for a first win in five.

Owen Coyle’s men have suffered back-to-back defeats away from home, suffering losses at Portland Timbers and FC Dallas both by the scoreline of 2-0 in their last two games.

Home comforts at BBVA Compass Stadium has seen Houston Dynamo pick up valuable wins over higher placed teams like New York Red Bulls, Portland Timbers and also Columbus Crew, scoring eight goals in those three matches.

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After this game they play consecutive away games again, this time in San Jose before a visit to Real Salt Lake in what are two very tough fixtures against Western rivals.

They will need Will Bruin back to his best and ready to add more goals to his impressive tally of seven for the season.

Chicago Fire are on a poor run of form with no wins in their last four matches and no wins in the seven matches the Fire have played away from Toyota Park.

Their dreadful away form needs to change. With only two points picked up on the road, it’s clear to see why they are struggling at the bottom of the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

Top scorer David Accam is still set to miss out having been absent for the defeat at home to DC United last week in what is a huge worry for Frank Yallop and his side as they look to win for the first time in five attempts at BBVA Compass Stadium.

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The last meeting between the two saw Chicago Fire run out 2-1 winners over Houston Dynamo in what was also the last game for former head coach Dominic Kinnear, while the Dynamo won the last game in Houston by a 2-0 scoreline.

Team News

Houston Dynamo will be without Rob Lovejoy (hamstring).

Chicago Fire will still be missing Shaun Maloney (bulging disc), David Accam (hamstring) and also Patrick Nyarko (knee).

Key Points

Houston Dynamo last five in MLS: L/D/W/L/L

Chicago Fire last five in MLS: W/L/L/L/L

Key Stat: Chicago Fire have not won any of their last 15 away games in MLS.

Key Player: Giles Barnes – The Englishman has hit six goals and has one assist to his name this season. Last season’s Dynamo MVP will look to a lowly Chicago Fire to continue impressing with goals and grabbing assists.

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Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 2-0 Chicago Fire – A comfortable win for Houston as they end successive defeats with victory in front of their home fans. Chicago Fire on the other hand look to be without a win in five after this.