FC Cincinnati captured one moment of brilliance on Saturday evening. And that was about it.
But what did you expect? Last year when Los Angeles FC marched into CenturyLink Field and beat the Seattle Sounders in their first-ever MLS match, they featured Diego Rossi, Carlos Vela and a squad loaded with talent of all ages that went on to finish third place in the Western Conference. Cincinnati has built their team far differently.
MLS' newest club spent millions of allocation dollars bringing on MLS veterans including forward Fanendo Adi, centerback Kendall Waston and defender Alvas Powell, who probably won't have enjoyable flight home after their 4-1 loss to Seattle on Saturday.
Powell found himself alone on an island numerous times, leading to goals by Kelvin Leerdam, Jordan Morris, Morris again and Raul Ruidiaz to finish the scoring in the 87th minute. With the way Cincinnati defended Seattle over the course of 90 minutes, plus added time, the final score could have been 8-1. Even Nouhou, the Sounders' backup left back, nearly scored in the final seconds of the game.
The Rave Green were not going to let another expansion club walk into their building and win, as LAFC did in 2018. Saturday's complete domination in all facets of the game clearly confirmed that.
To be fair, Cincinnati's lone moment of brilliance might win Goal of the Week when all is said and done in MLS' first week of action. In the 13th minute, midfielder Leonardo Bertone fired a 25 yard rocket into the lower left corner of the goal, past a fully-extended Stefan Frei, to give FCC an early 1-0 lead.
"You always worry a little bit," Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said. "You always think ‘oh my God here it goes again, our record against expansion teams, so on and so forth,’ but we weren’t in panic mode at all."
Before and after that goal, Seattle's attack left Cincinnati in the dust. The Sounders controlled the ball with 64.3% possession in the first half, 63.4% in the second, plus an 84.5% passing accuracy to FCC's 72.9%. The "shots" statistic isn't any better for the visitors- 23 to 7, Seattle.
But the night belonged to one man above all others- Jordan Morris, your Budweiser Man of the Match. Returning to meaningful action for the first time since his ACL tear in February, 2018, Morris scored twice, in the 27th and 43rd minutes, to give Seattle a 2-1 lead and stamp an exclamation point on the first half. His first goal featured a deflection, which may not have mattered, and second goal illustrated Morris' clinical-finishing ability, a powerful strike from the right side of the box into the upper left corner of the net.
“It was amazing...it was an emotional moment and my teammates helped me get through last year because there were some tough times...It was really, really special,” Morris said.
Nearly everything worked for Seattle on Saturday. Leerdam, who had scored one goal in 41 games for the Sounders coming into the 2019 regular season-opener, scored the club's first goal of the year, slamming home a deflected cross by Nicolas Lodeiro.
Ruidiaz, who scored 10 goals in less-than-half of a season to end 2018, finally scored in the closing minutes after multiple missed chances throughout.
"I liked the way we scored the goals," goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. "We scored them in different ways, a little bit of individual brilliance and a lot of overlapping and dangerous crosses. There was a plethora of different attacking modes on display today."
Victor Rodriguez, Seattle's third Designated Player according to General Manager Garth Lagerwey, facilitated countless chances against Cincinnati, including assists on Morris' second goal and Ruidiaz's goal. His eight shots and five chances created both led the Sounders on Saturday.
Cincinnati's road from here doesn't get any easier, as they go from facing one of the league's best attacks to possibly (probably?) MLS' best team and defending MLS Cup Champions- Atlanta United. On the road. Good luck, FCC.
The Sounders, meanwhile, get to stay home and await the Colorado Rapids, who will make their way to CenturyLink Field next Saturday for a 7:00 p.m. match. Colorado scored a 94th minute short-handed goal to tie Portland 3-3 in their regular season-opening match earlier this weekend. The Rapids finished second-to-last place in the Western Conference in 2018 with 31 points.
Listen to the Sounders FC Pre-Match Show next Saturday for Seattle vs. Colorado, starting at 6:30 p.m. And below, watch highlights from Saturday's victory while listening to 950 KJR's Postgame Show as Jackson Felts, Wade Webber, Pete Fewing and Danny Jackson break down the Sounders' win over Cincinnati plus hear from Brian Schmetzer.