Slow start? Who said anything about a slow start?
In 2018, it took the Seattle Sounders eight MLS matches to reach six goals scored. In 2019? Just one match plus eight minutes.
After clobbering FC Cincinnati 4-1 last weekend, the Sounders took aim at the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night, looking to dispel the seemingly constant narrative of slow starts in recent years. Using a fifth minute Kelvin Leerdam goal and Raul Ruidiaz punching another shot into the back of the net three minutes later, the Sounders jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
The strikes set a new club record for the fastest time to reach two goals to start a match. The previous record, set on October 25, 2015 in a 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake, featured goals by Clint Dempsey in the fifth minute and Marco Pappa in the 10th.
Despite not finishing off any other chances in the remaining 82 minutes on Saturday at CenturyLink, Seattle's defense held strong and the team fought out their first shutout victory of the season. In fact, 2019 marks the first time in the last seven years that a Sounders team started an MLS season 2-0-0.
While Head Coach Brian Schmetzer continues to caution people that "it's early", it is impossible to deny the fast start to this season compared to others of recent memory. Last year, it took until that eighth game, a 2-1 victory in Toronto on May 9, for the team to reach at least six points in the standings. This season, they've reached six points in just two games and sit atop the Western Conference standings.
And yet, the team isn't happy. Midfielder Cristian Roldan called the game "a little bit frustrating" in an on-field interview following the win.
"I want to dictate the tempo every game," Roldan said. "At times we've really got to slow it down and I felt like it was frustrating because we were up 2-0 and we weren’t controlling the tempo of the game. So I think that can get better."
Nicolas Lodeiro also called the game "strange", explaining that "we scored early and fast and then needed more control of the game. We needed to keep possession and play with the ball." Schmetzer has stated multiple times he that wants his teams to be possession based, and while the club still held the ball 62.9% of the time on Saturday, there is always room for improvement.
Meanwhile, it is hard to improve upon the season for right back Kelvin Leerdam so far. After just one goal in 41 MLS appearances coming into 2019, Leerdam has scored two goals in two games, equaling Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz for the team lead.
Ruidiaz has now scored in seven consecutive MLS competitions, including the playoffs, and has 15 goals in 18 appearances since joining the club last Summer.
“I’m going to compliment my team, that was a pretty tremendous opening 10 minutes," Schmetzer said. "They were up for the game. They were fast. They played fast. The quality of the goals and the quality of some of our play was tremendous."
Also notable from Saturday's match is referee Baldomero Toledo, who handed out seven yellow cards, including five to players in Rave Green. Toledo also called 32 total fouls, 18 of which came against Colorado. The continuous stoppage of play clearly factored into the "strange" and "frustrating" nature of the match, even if Schmetzer called Toledo a good referee during his post-game comments.
The Sounders now prepare for their first road trip of 2019 as the team will travel to Chicago next week and face the Fire on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. PST. Sports Radio 950 KJR's Pre-Match Show will begin at 9:30 a.m.
Hear a preview of that match as well as Schmetzer's full comments and a game recap from Saturday in KJR's Sounders FC Postgame Show featuring Jackson Felts, Pete Fewing, and Wade Webber. Also below, check out highlights from the match plus comments from Roldan, Leerdam, and Lodeiro.