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The Montreal press threw the Sounders tantrums

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SEATTLE — Five-game homestands are a relative rarity in MLS. Until this year, the Seattle Sounders had never played more than three consecutive league games at home. When they do happen, they are almost always related to some type of construction, whether it’s a new stadium or significant renovations.

The Sounders’ long streak of home games did not go as planned. It was originally only supposed to consist of four games, which would still have been the longest in team history, but was extended by one game after the Concacaf Champions League forced a reschedule.

Whatever the cause, this seemed to present a great opportunity for the Sounders to regain some ground. After securing 10 points in the first four games, it seemed to be working out perfectly. A victory on Wednesday would have allowed the Sounders to move as far as fourth in the Western Conference standings, quite a feat considering they had been in last place just two months ago.

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It wasn’t meant to be. After Jordan Morris gave them a 1-0 lead over CF Montreal less than three minutes into the game, the Sounders struggled to find a steady rhythm. In the end, they fell 2-1 after a pair of avoidable goals from Mason Toye.

“Yeah, frustrated, I think,” Morris told reporters when asked about his emotions after the loss. “It was an opportunity for us to continue climbing positions and every time we play at home we want to win, so it’s a difficult result.”

The result itself was perhaps more predictable than it seemed. The win moved Montreal to the top of the Eastern Conference and has been one of the highest scoring teams in the league all year. Their relatively anonymous reputation aside, this has been a very good team.

long stays at home

Equipment Games Points PPG Year
Equipment Games Points PPG Year
Los Angeles Galaxy 6 eleven 1.83 2003
Sporty KC 10 18 1.80 2011
DC attached 7 19 2.71 2018
Portland Woods 10 14 1.40 2019
austin fc 7 7 1.00 2021
mermaids 5 10 2.00 2022

Extended stays also tend to be more difficult to maximize than they seem. Of the five longest I found, only DC United, which scored 19 points in seven straight home games toward the end of 2018, had a better average per game than the Sounders’ 2.0 during this recently concluded stretch.

While that provides some context, it shouldn’t diminish the sense of missed opportunity. Watching the game unfold, it’s not hard to feel like the Sounders were their worst enemies for much of the night.

The solid defense and smooth transitions to fast breaks that have defined much of their game since the CCL final were frustratingly lacking against Montreal. The midfield was particularly beside themselves, often unable to connect forward passes and generate sustained real pressure. The main culprit seemed to be the Montreal press, which came out as a 3-5-2 and limited the Sounders to just 11 shots and .9 expected goals, both among their lowest finishes at home in 2022.

“I think we tried to play through the pressure and then once we got through we rushed our final pass, rushed the final piece,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “I feel like once we break that line, the game opens up and becomes a track meet. I don’t think that’s what we’re good at and I think that’s what happened today. We were disjointed. Four guys attacking and then six behind the ball. Trying to get on the field. We didn’t build towards a goal, we just ended up kicking a long ball based on their pressure.”

What particularly frustrated Roldan was that early on the Sounders found some success playing vertically. The Sounders’ goal came from Roldan winning a ball and then quickly playing Morris from behind. For the first 15 minutes or so, similar openings seemed to be available. But after Montreal tied it up, the Sounders seemed to stop looking for those longer balls from above.

Perhaps in an effort to establish possession and perhaps just show they could, the Sounders seemed insistent on playing through the pressure rather than going over it. Roland shook his head.

“I’ve always liked our 3-v-3 chances up front,” he said. “They were playing us aggressively. If we stretch the line, spaces are going to open up, they are not going to press so much. Sending a message, just like they’re sending us a message, that if they’re going to push, we’re just going to ignore it and go straight ahead. I felt like that’s something we didn’t do.”

This result alone was not a disaster. The Sounders are still in playoff spot and one game down from most of their competition. It would not take a long series of results to move to an even more advantageous position. But this too was a missed opportunity, in part because the upcoming schedule looks so much more daunting. Four of the Sounders’ six games in July are away from home and three of them will be played on short rest. You can bet at least some of the Sounders’ opponents will see what Montreal did and do their best to emulate it. The Sounders can’t afford to get complacent.

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