Coming off of a dramatic 1-1 draw away against León that saw the Seattle Sounders through to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, Brian Schmetzer opted for a mildly rotated lineup to face Austin FC in the last game before the international break. The team took a lead through Will Bruin, but Austin fought back to claim a 1-1 draw that both teams will find a bit of frustration and relief in.
Austin controlled the opening 15 or 20 minutes of the game, but Seattle were able to assert themselves and got their reward before the end of the half through Will Bruin’s 75th career MLS goal. João Paulo collected the ball on the right side of midfield and sent a ball into space for Cristian Roldan to run onto with no defenders in sight. Roldan carried the ball and patiently picked out Bruin making a run to the near post, and Bruin beat a defender and the goalkeeper to open the scoring.
The Sounders very nearly doubled their lead early in the second half, but a glorious chance for either of Léo Chú or Albert Rusnák off of a scuffed João Paulo shot was sent over the bar by Chú.
Both sides had their chances, but it was Austin who had the bulk of them and eventually one paid off for Diego Fagundez who leveled the score in the 70th minute.
For all their efforts and opportunities, neither side found any more joy after that point. Stefan Cleveland has to take a lot of credit for that, as he racked up 7 saves with some really impressive stops to limit the damage and hold onto a point for Seattle. The Sounders won’t play again until April 2 when they travel to face Minnesota United, but a number of players will compete with their national teams and Tacoma Defiance play their first MLS Next Pro game on March 27 at noon against Real Monarchs at Starfire Sports Complex.
10′ — Austin capitalizes on some unimpressive defending to create an excellent look at Seattle’s goal, but Alex Roldán gets himself in the way to block the shot.
26′ — The Sounders get their best chance of the half as Bruin drives across the top of the box before hitting a ball across to Albert Rusnak whose shot is easily handled by the GK.
34′ — Austin get another good look from a designed set piece, but Moussa Djitté’s shot goes into the ground and pops up off of a defender before Stefan Cleveland catches it.
43′ — Sounders goal! João Paulo hits a beautiful ball into space for a wildly wide open Cristian Roldan. Roldan drives and hits a cross that Will Bruin puts away! 1-0 Sounders
50′ — Will Bruin Hits a great ball into space for Cristian Roldan, who then finds João Paulo in the Austin area. He lines up a scuffed shot that Léo Chú gets onto and puts over the bar. Unfortunately for the Sounders, it looked like Rusnák was perfectly lined up to slot it into an empty net of Chú had let it go.
64′ — Austin takes a long throw into Seattle’s area and Alex Ring gets a volley off that pings the goal post. Maxi Urruti’s follow-up attempt on the rebound goes over the goal.
67′ — Austin recycles the ball before sending in a cross. The header is on-target, but Cleveland leaps and gets a good swipe to clear it over the bar.
70′ — Austin levels the score through Diego Fagundez, who controls the ball inside the box in traffic following a recycled corner and beats Cleveland. 1-1
76′ — Stefan Cleveland! Austin gets another great look at goal, but Cleveland makes a spectacular reaction save on a snap redirection from the edge of the 6-yard box.
80′ — Obed Vargas creates a turnover on Austin’s endline, turns his man around and drives into the box before finding Montero, but the shot is stopped and covered by the GK.
Avoiding a banana peel: Coming off of a high-pressure game against León in CCL, it would have been understandable to see heavy rotation and it wouldn’t have been completely surprising to see the team drop this game. Looking elsewhere in the league, CF Montreal was the only other team that played in CCL last week that even claimed a point this weekend. NYCFC got beat at home by the Philadelphia Union, while the New England Revolution will go down in history as the first team to lose to Charlotte FC. Even in Liga MX, León were the only team who played midweek to claim a point. The Sounders clearly didn’t go into this game looking for a draw, but it’s hard to be too upset about a road tie that at times could or should have been a win and just as easily have been a truly frustrating loss. Now there’s a break to try to get a few guys healthy again.
Cristian RolDante’s Inferno: Cristian Roldan is much loved, for obvious reasons, in these parts, and by most of the folks who get paid to have opinions on Major League Soccer. He’s been outstanding this year, with 1 goal and 6 assists through 8 games between MLS and CCL. He’s simply had opposing defenses in hell, with Cristian and his brother Alex as their constant tormentors. With Concacaf World Cup Qualifiers upon us once again, and Cristian receiving another call-up from Gregg Berhalter, USMNT fans are in hell alongside so many defenders. Roldan is an inexplicable lightning rod with certain subsets of that fandom, but he’ll have his opportunities to give them cause to cheer his name with his club and national teammate Jordan Morris over the three games in this window. If he can translate his form to the US, he’s as good of a bet to help get a result on the road to November’s Men’s World Cup.
Jackson Ragen looms wide: No, it wasn’t a perfect performance. What it was, though, was another very good outing from the young-ish CB while handling immense pressure from the opposing team. Jackson Ragen and the rest of the defense faced 21 shots, 9 corners and 22 crosses, and while they did give up a goal the work required to limit it to just that one was immense. Ragen himself had 12 clearances — 8 of those were headed — to go with 5 recoveries and a pair of interceptions. On top of that his passing was a huge asset in relieving pressure as he completed 89% of his 53 passes while going 1/1 on crosses and 5/8 on long balls. Ragen continues to be a well-balanced and skillful player on either side of the ball who provides a calmness at CB, both on the field and in my own mind.
João Paulo continues to do João Paulo things.
Will Bruin: “Maybe we could have a few more league points but I’m not worried at all. We’ll be right up there at the end of the year. We’re balancing a lot of different aspects and are doing a good job of that.”
—Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) March 20, 2022
In the broader context of the season, it’s easy to feel good about the direction the Sounders are going.
73 — No player had more touches for the Sounders than Jackson Ragen’s 73.
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