The conditions for the season opener may have been straight from the Sounders’ playbook. But it was Nashville SC who basked in the “Seattle Sunshine” at the end of 90 at Lumen Field. Nashville showed they were up for the fight from the get-go, strategically pressing into turnovers. And while they didn’t create many opportunities, they certainly kept the Sounders from doing much to start the game.
Seattle Sounders: 4-2-3-1
Let's get it.
Our @Delta Starting XI! ⚽️
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) February 28, 2022
Nashville SC: 4-2-3-1
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) February 28, 2022
The city of Seattle had set the scene. The mood surrounding the Seattle Sounders was about as good as you could ask following a disappointing end to last season. They were coming off a resounding win over Motagua in Concacaf Champions League, seemingly shaking off the frustration that had carried over.
Nashville SC came out with a game plan to frustrate the Sounders and execute it flawlessly. However, their press was compelling enough that the Sounders struggled to get out of their end. The Sounders eventually started connecting passes, but it was mainly through their two fullbacks and rarely through the middle of the park.
After Nashville broke through for the game’s first goal in the 80th minute, the Sounders applied sustained pressure. And it wasn’t until the 87th minute that they put a shot on frame. A 0-0 score probably would have been a fair result, but it’s hard to argue the Sounders deserved any better than the 1-0 loss.
That "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL" just hits different
— Nashville SC (@NashvilleSC) March 1, 2022
“Yeah, that’s an organized team; they are very cohesive in the way they play,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said of Nashville. “We didn’t get too many opportunities to run in behind the backline because of the way they play. It’s always frustrating to play a game like that, but I didn’t think we played very well. I felt that we were lacking a little bit today.”
Perhaps the best illustration of the Sounders’ struggles was the degree to which their two most attack-oriented starters were limited. Sam Adeniran replaced the injured Raúl Ruidíaz at forward. Jordan Morris combined for just 33 touches, one-shot, and zero dribbles inside the penalty area in 119 combined minutes.
Nashville deserves credit for executing their game plan. They were committed to not letting the Sounders break them down through the middle of the park and did an excellent job defending the zones in and around the penalty area.
What’s most frustrating is that it feels like a continuation of what happened through much of last year. When the Sounders had their worst-ever home record during the MLS era, they failed to win their final three home games.
The Sounders mostly rejected this concern. Similarly, they were unwilling to pin this result on having just played in the Champions League. Although, it does seem notable that the three other MLS teams who played a midweek CCL game all lost their openers as well.
Post Match Thoughts
The consensus post-match was Nashville’s defensive qualities aside was that the Sounders didn’t do themselves any favors. The lack of tempo from the Sounders was evident for most of the match. The failure to test Nashville early meant they were in for a grind.
The Sounders were missing Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro starting on the bench certainly hurt. But hoping for a moment of magic as opposed to a consistent dynamic attack will leave you disappointed more often than not.
The Sounders’ home form was the subject of much consternation last season, and dropping the opening match in 2022 won’t do much to quell those concerns. Still, neither the players nor Schmetzer was overly concerned about the early-season loss. But, of course, one or two hiccups are bound to happen, though laying an egg in the opener doesn’t make that reality any easier to swallow.
Sounders will move on and try to right things on the road next weekend in a place they rarely have success, with a Champions League home-and-away series to navigate besides. After that, the team has a week to regroup and prepare for the next game to face Real Salt Lake. That game starts a 10-day run where the team will play four games against Leon in CCL, RSL, and a home game against the LA Galaxy.