The Seattle Sounders FC had one thing in mind at the beginning of the 2019 season: no more slow starts. So far, so good.
The past two seasons have seen the team struggle at the beginning of the season but they were able to use hot second halves – including the best half of a season in MLS history last year – to propel them into the playoffs. That wasn’t something they wanted to count on this year. With the MLS changing from a two-leg playoff system to single elimination games, the Sounders know how important home field advantage will be and if they want to put themselves in the best possible position, they are going to need to come out of the gates strong and continue that trend. Well last night kept the current pattern as the team was able to defeat the Colorado Rapids 2-0.
The Sounders came out firing early, almost immediately putting legendary goalkeeper Tim Howard – who announced he will retire at the end of the season – under pressure. It didn’t take long for that pressure to break as defender Kelvin Leerdam, for the second straight week, found a pinballed shot land at his feet and booted the rebound into the back of the net in only the fifth minute.
The Sounders wouldn’t rest on their laurels, however, as only three minutes later they struck again. Forward Raúl Ruidíaz, who averaged 0.82 goals per 90 minutes last season, decided he couldn’t be shown up by a defender and fired a rocked past Howard for his second goal of the season and his seventh straight game with at least one goal.
From there, both teams started tightening up and the game started to get out of hand. Colorado decided their best course of action was to foul and dive all over the pitch and referee Baldomero Toledo decided to respond by giving out more cards than a Hallmark store going out of business. Rapids defender Keegan Rosenberry, who got burned on the second goal while arguing with teammates, was issued a yellow in the 17th minute. Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson got one in the 25th for a pretty light foul that was embellished. Colorado’s Benny Feilhaber would get one eight minutes later for fouling everything in a green jersey.
The second half, while admittedly chippier, wasn’t made any better by Toledo’s continued seemingly random card issuance. Despite being the aggressors, no one on the Rapids was issued any cards in the second half. Not even Kei Kamara, who was jumping on people’s backs and responding to literally almost every foul call against his team by screaming in Toledo’s face and trying to pick fights with Sounders captain Nicolas Lodeiro. Instead, Toledo gave a yellow to Jordan Morris – JORDAN MORRIS, THE NICEST PERSON TO EVER PLAY SOCCER – for a goal attempt that saw his foot go a little high.
In the 59th minute, Toledo gave Colorado a free kick. When they took it, it was deflected by Christian Roldan which earned him a yellow card for… something? Seriously, the official scoreline says “extra flag for checker.” I had to look up this terminology and apparently it means that the person keeping track has no idea what the card was for and is telling the person recapping to go ask Toledo.
Leerdam would see his own yellow six minutes later when he got frustrated by yet another touch foul being called against Seattle and kicked the ball into the sky. Finally, Lodeiro would get his own yellow in the 93rd for time wasting on a corner kick when the game probably should have just been whistled dead.
Despite Toledo handing out cards like a new family at Christmastime, both teams had their chances at more goals. Colorado was able to put a few between the sticks, but nearly all of them were fired right at Stefan Frei, who easily gobbled them up. They also had a few that were just wide. Seattle, on the other hand, seemed to give up good looks in the second half, looking for perfect ones. Their best chance came as Morris flew up the right side and hit a wide open Harry Shipp, but Shipp’s touch sailed over the goal.
After two goals in eight minutes and then 76 minutes of back-and-forth after, the Sounders came away with their second win of the season in as many games. They continue their strong start but their next game will be a test as they travel away from CenturyLink Field for the first time to take on the Chicago Fire on March 16.