By Jacob Sokol
Nouhou Tolo and McKinze Gaines dueling last season (Photo courtesy of Charlotte FC)
What We've Seen So Far
The Seattle Sounders have had a good start to the MLS season, currently sitting in second place in the Western Conference. Jordan Morris has been the main catalyst of a successful campaign, scoring nine times in 15 matches. The only issue is they’ve possibly relied too heavily on Morris's ability to finish. He last featured against the New York Red Bulls where he scored a game-winner in a 1-0 win. In the last two matches, he has been unavailable due to injury, leading to zero goals for Seattle. Héber and Ruidíaz, their second-best scorers, are sitting on two goals apiece this season.
Seattle, when firing on all cylinders, is arguably the best team in Major League Soccer. They average 57% possession per game, which is second-best in the league behind Columbus, and they have the most touches on the ball per game out of any team in the league. With all that possession, it is very difficult for their opponents to score. They’ve only conceded 14 goals across 17 games this season, which is why Stefan Frei leads the league in clean sheets with 9.
When playing on the road this season, Seattle has been relatively consistent with three wins out of 6. It should be noted their wins were against Sporting Kansas City, LA Galaxy, and Houston Dynamo, who are all having rough seasons. Morris also scored 5 out of the seven goals in these away wins. Without Morris at their disposal, Seattle is a beast lacking a bit of bite.
OUT: Sota Kitahara (right quad strain)
OUT: Jordan Morris (left abductor strain)
OUT: Obed Vargas (international duty)
Questionable: Ethan Dobblelaere (right ankle sprain)
*This injury report is based on the availability report from Seattle’s match against Portland on 06/03/23, minus Cristian Roldan and Cody Baker, who ended up playing in the game.
Players to watch
Léo Chú - Outside of Morris, Chú is arguably Seattle’s biggest attacking threat, creating five assists across 16 matches this season. It’s important to note though, that four of those five assists came to Morris in his single-game performance against Sporting Kansas City. Before that match, Chú wasn’t Brian Schmetzer’s first choice to start. He was only in the lineup against Kansas City due to 6 players being absent for international duty. Since that game, he has been a key member of the starting lineup, playing creative passes from the wing.
Cristian Roldan - Roldan is one of the most consistent players in MLS with 252 appearances across the last eight seasons. Along with Jordan Morris, he was one of a handful of MLS players to make the World Cup roster in 2022. He was also a key part of Seattle's CONCACAF Champions League win last year. Due to concussion protocol, he started last week on the bench, getting subbed into the game later on. He should be expected to start against Charlotte this coming week.
Raúl Ruidíaz - Ruidíaz has been plagued by injuries lately, suffering his most recent hamstring injury in late April that kept him out for about a month. When Ruidíaz is healthy, he’s one of the most lethal strikers in the league. In his time with the Sounders, he has scored 70 goals in 117 games. That is one of the best goal-scoring ratios in league history. Whether he starts or comes off the bench against Charlotte, he can change the game.
Sounders starting XI
Here is the starting XI for Seattle this past weekend against Portland. Most of these players will remain as starters, but Reed Baker-Whiting is very likely to be replaced by Roldan, who only sat the bench due to concussion protocols. Beyond Roldan, Ruidíaz might be able to sneak into the lineup, but that will mostly be determined by match fitness since Ruidíaz is coming back from a recent injury.
Seattle Sounders passing network from last week's match (Graphic found on MLSsoccer.com)
A lot of play for the Sounders goes through Rusnák and João Paulo in the center of the pitch. We also see Chú as the highest attacking midfielder.
Seattle Sounders zones of control* (Graphic found on theanalyst.com)
*For the zones of control, blue symbolizes areas on the field where the Seattle Sounders have had at least 55% of total touches. Red represents areas where their opponents have had at least 55% of total touches.
As previously mentioned, Seattle is one of the best teams in the league at retaining possession. The zones of control map above shows they earn the majority of touches in most of the areas on the field.
An injured Jordan Morris is the biggest factor in Seattle’s matchup with Charlotte FC. Without him, it is hard to see where the Sounders will find their goals.
Charlotte FC, who typically likes to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, will most likely have to play more defensively with counter attacks against Seattle to find success.
A win for Seattle could see them firmly at the top of the table, while a win for Charlotte could push them one step further to securing a playoff spot. The game will be played Saturday, June 10th, at Bank of America Stadium at 7:30 pm.