The Sounders weathered a stormy first half before beating the St. Louis 3-0.
SEATTLE — The Sounders hosted the St. Louis City SC for the first time on Saturday night. The visitors made the game difficult, but in the end Seattle’s High Life Soccer proved too much as the goals overflowed in the second half and Seattle won 3-0. The win moves the Sounders into first place in the West with 16 points and a +12 goal difference in 7 games.
The first half was something of a knockdown-dragout affair with plenty of physical play and few quality chances for either side. The best chance of the half probably belonged to the visitors as Nicholas Gioacchini got to the byline and found João Klauss on the doorstep, but the forward’s shot hit the outside of the near post and out for a Stefan Free goal kick.
The second half was more like the first 20 minutes; the game went back and forth as both teams created several chances. Then in the 65th minute Josh Atencio changed everything. After taking a few shots earlier to find his range, Atencio received a drop pass from Nico Lodeiro outside the box and unleashed a banger to beat the St. Louis goalkeeper. Louis Roman Bürki.
Minutes later, Raúl Ruidíaz added to the scoreline with his first goal of the season. Ruidíaz capitalized on an error from Bürki as the GK let a cross from Alex Roldan slip through his hands, and Ruidíaz finished from inside the 6-yard box. Seattle got another in the 89th minute when a dangerous Lodeiro corner led to an STL own goal.
5′ — A bit of excitement for everyone as Nico Lodeiro sends in a cross from the left that Roman Bürki seems to misjudge as it hits the post, but nothing comes of it.
14′ — Josh Atencio went through the defense of St. Louis before rising from just inside the box, but it hit right at the ‘keeper.
16′ — St. almost landed. Louis on the board when Klauss made clean contact from a low cross to the near post, but his shot hit the woodwork and went out.
24′ — Cristian Roldan met a corner from Lodeiro at the near post and his header was well placed, but Bürki saved again.
25′ — Léo Chú found Jordan Morris with a good ball out on the right wing, and Morris played a centering ball for Lodeiro, but Bürki intervened and Lodeiro took it out for the goal kick.
44′ — Léo Chú gets in behind a defender and runs with Morris to join on the right. Chú looked at himself, but saved the shot.
53′ — Atencio looks again, finds an open shooting lane and pulls up from deep, but his shot goes wide.
58′ — The Roldans brought the ball down the right and Cristian Roldan sent in a dangerous cross that was cleared by a defender for a corner.
65′ — JOSH ATENCIO!!! Bend over, kid. Atencio scored his first MLS goal by blasting into the back of the net from 20 yards. The Sounders lead 1-0!
70′ — Raúl Ruidíaz is back, baby! A cross from Alex Roldan goes through Bürki’s hands and Ruidíaz is there on the doorstep to put it in and double the lead! 2-0 Sounders
88′ — Nico Lodeiro almost found Ruidíaz for another goal, but a defender’s outstretched leg denied the striker and the ball went out for a corner.
89′ — That’s three! Nico Lodeiro sent in a dangerous corner that Jordan Morris headed to Jake Nerwinski, who put it into his own goal. 3-0 Sounders
Riding in hot hands: After a week’s worth of speculation about whether another productive game from Léo Chú and Jordan Morris would keep Raúl Ruidíaz on the bench, Brian Schmetzer replaced just one player from the Starting XI last week as Nouhou in the lineup and João Paulo did not enter due to injury. The high-flying duo struggled to find the same success they had in the previous two weeks as the St. Louis made life miserable with their press and “physical” play, although they did create some dangerous chances. With Ruidíaz finding his way onto the scoresheet, I expect him to reclaim his starting spot, but Josh Atencio’s performance could give Schmetzer another hot hand to ride.
Josh Atencio, folks: Josh Atencio first rose to prominence in early 2021 with the Sounders first team, but has since struggled to reach the same heights. That’s the only past tense after tonight. Atencio was dynamic in every phase of the game, helping to break down the St. Louis press. Louis with his dribbling and passing. He racked up interceptions and recoveries, his tackles were clean, and after some dangerous shots he scored his first MLS goal when he BLAMO’d the ball into the back of the net to beat Bürki from far. Outside of the competition for spots in the Sounders midfield, Atencio is blossoming.
Fort Lumen: The Seattle Sounders have made being hard to beat at home a stated goal for this season as part of their efforts to put 2022 and the season’s failures behind them. They have been undeniably successful in that effort, as they have surrendered zero goals at Lumen Field through four games, with three wins and a scoreless draw against LAFC. Those four shutouts mean the team has matched their home shutout total from last season.
Have a hit, kid!
3 — The Sounders have won three straight in MLS for the first time since a four-game stretch that ended with a 4-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps on Oct. 9, 2021.