Sounders earn a clean sheet and cool off a red hot Galaxy team that had earned back to back wins
Going into this weekend’s epic clash between Sounders and Galaxy at Lumen Field, most of the headlines were devoted to Javier Hernández and his unbelievable start to the season. To be fair the hype was understandable, as over the course of his first two games “Chicharito” had already tallied a league high five goals becoming only the second player to achieve that mark in MLS history.
However, despite the spotlight being completely on the Mexican striker, it was “La Pulga” who had not only outplayed his counterpart but absolutely stole the show when Jair Marrufo blew the final whistle on Sunday night. Raúl Ruidíaz was dangerous immediately after kick off, putting himself in dangerous position within the initial five minutes of play. By the 20th t the Peruvian had already put away his first goal with a fantastic one touch finish, as a result of an orchestrated combination between Brad Smith and Will Bruin.
On the other side, Hernández was unable to get a single shot on target and despite finding spaces at times by making clever runs, the Sounders defense did a brilliant job isolating him and keeping him from getting possession in the final third. For a player who prior to this game was scoring every 7 touches, a lot of credit goes to the 3 center backs that with physicality, anticipation and positioning kept the Galaxy’s player from getting any quality chances.
“We worked all week in preventing service to Chicharito” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer in the post game conference as he explained the importance of keeping Javier from certain areas where he can cause havoc and than moved on to praise his players.
“Nouhou obviously did a great job, Yeimar stepped did a great job and we prevented service to him. Look, long straight balls into Chicharito against Shane, that was in our favor”.
The Rave Green’s defensive strategy was executed to perfection and that says a lot of the entire coaching staff’s work during the week of preparation as Seattle neutralized the leagues most effective goal scorer today. Although this 3-5-2 formation matched up well with how the visitors are built to attack, the order and discipline in transition defensive in display over the 90 minutes, it’s the trade mark of good coaching.
Not to say that Greg Vanney is not an excellent coach but his overall game plan was ineffective to say the least from a defensive stand point and the Sounders golden boot striker was more than a handful. His team was unable to prevent the wingbacks from getting forward with easy, at times over committing to press Seattle in certain areas also disorganized their defensive shape. The home team’s passing sequences and ball movement caused his team to give up unnecessary space between lines, space Sounders exposed consistently.
“I think we are better than what we showed today. If we approach the game a little bit differently to start and we’re a little bit smarter about some of our decisions, some of those things … we’re better than we are today. But it also showed us some things we need to continue to improve on if we want to get to that level where we’re competing to win championships.”
Ruidíaz actually gave the Galaxy the final dagger of the game, in a play triggered by a long ball to Jimmy Medranda who with speed found himself behind the LA defenders on the left flank and set up Raúl with a perfect ball inside the penalty area in the 90 plus minutes. Perhaps with a more discreet brand but a more resounding capability to finish in front of goal there is no doubt that Ruidíaz put an absolute clinic against the five-time MLS champions.
The Club Universitario product continues to grow as a player and within this new formation, his runs off the ball, passing and spacing, Raúl seemed to make the most out of his 38 touches on the ball. Although it is somewhat premature to come up with conclusions 3 weeks into the year, Seattle’s transition into this new formation has been beyond successful and for now it has boost their top scorer’s instincts in the box.
The two-striker set up has been a big reason behind Ruidíaz’s dominance in front of goal. Bruin’s hold up play selectively dropping into the midfield 20-30 yards allows him to play behind him, occupies defenders and with runs back into the box creates pockets of space where Raúl can roam. Plus having two wingbacks that can stretch out rival back lines and can place quality crosses could ultimately double the amount of opportunities the Peruvian National Team forward has to put the ball away.
After scoring his second brace of 2021, Raúl Ruidíaz now has 46 goals since signing with Seattle leaving him 11 goals from tying Clint Dempsey (57) who is second in the franchise’s All-Time leading scorers list and 15 from teammate Fredy Montero. Considering this offense should be even more Lethal with Lodeiro and his current form, it is not outlandish to think Raúl could become the club’s historic top scorer in what its only his 4th year with Sounders.