Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

FC Cincinnati takes advantage of mistakes to beat Sounders

By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

There were glitches in the Sounders’ two shutouts to open the season. Errant passes midfielder Cristian Roldan hoped would be cleaned up in time for the club’s first MLS road match Saturday.

Instead, back-to-back giveaways outside the box resulted in FC Cincinnati forward Brenner scoring the match’s only goal in the 63rd minute. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei was able to get his right glove on the ball, but not with enough force to get the save as his side lost 1-0 at TQL Stadium.

FCC defender Nick Hagglund was shown a red card and sent off in the 83rd minute because he tugged at Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz on a clear breakaway for goal. Teammate Albert Rusnak hit the ensuing free-kick sequence into the defensive wall.

The Sounders couldn’t take advantage of being up a player to equalize. The one look that seemed to be a benefit – forward Jordan Morris finding defender Yeimar for a header attempt into the back of the net in second-half stoppage time – was disallowed because of a foul on the buildup of the scoring play. Yeimar was also shown a yellow card.

FCC dominated possession in the opening half at 62.5% had four corner kicks while the Sounders couldn’t work for one. But the teams were goalless headed into the break.

Morris had the Sounders’ best chance when he tried to slice a shot past his defender and into an empty net in the 16th minute. The cross-body attempt was impressive but wide of goal.

Miscommunication between Sounders defender Nouhou and Frei almost gifted Cincinnati a goal in the 35th minute. Nouhou cleared forward Brandon Vazquez’s attempt a foot from the goal line.

The sellout crowd of 25,513 wasn’t welcoming to the Sounders for their first trip to the stadium. An altercation between the players on the field in the 41st minute triggered a curse-filled chant from the stands that previously was only heard when the Sounders played at Providence Park in Portland.

The Cincinnati faithful let loose against the visitors again in the 61st minute when the Sounders campaigned for a handball on a header attempt. Referee Joseph Dickerson wasn’t called by VAR to review the play.

FCC joined MLS in 2019 and played twice at Lumen Field, going 0-1-1. It made noise last season by reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals and is a strong contender this season.

The lone “win” for the Sounders was denying Cincinnati (2-0-1) from scoring multiple goals at home. It ends an MLS record of seven straight home matches of scoring in bunches.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was forced to make a lineup change after Heber suffered a left hamstring injury Wednesday during training. The forward started in place of Ruidiaz (hamstring) for the opening two matches of the season and scored twice.

Ruidiaz is medically cleared but didn’t get the nod to start Saturday. That went to forward Fredy Montero. Schmetzer subbed Ruidiaz on in the 58th minute.

The match extended about 15 minutes after the 90 mark due to the discipline and scrums.

Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan didn’t make any changes from the lineup that finished in a goalless draw against Orlando in Florida last week.

Seattle (2-1-0) returns to host Los Angeles FC at Lumen Field on Saturday. LAFC are the reigning MLS Cup champions.

Forward Heber out 2-4 weeks with hamstring injury

Sounders forward Heber suffered a left hamstring injury during Wednesday’s training and will miss 2-4 weeks.

The Brazilian started Seattle’s opening two MLS matches and pocketed goals in the shutout wins against Colorado (4-0) and Real Salt Lake (2-0).

The Sounders received Heber through an exchange with New York City FC in December. Seattle sought productive depth up top to counter injuries to striker Raul Ruidiaz. The Peruvian was unavailable for selection for the Colorado match due to a hamstring injury.

Heber’s injury occurred during full-field work on Seattle’s offensive tactics. He was keeping pace with the ball on the wing and slipped. Heber laid on his backside for a moment and was visibly angry due to knowing he was hurt as he walked off the field with a trainer. Members of the Sounders’ medical team followed.

NYCFC received $400,000 in guaranteed allocation money (GAM), stretched over two years, for Heber’s MLS rights. He joined the Eastern Conference club in 2019 and scored 30 goals in 88 appearances across all competitions.

Heber, 31, suffered a right ACL injury in 2020 and was limited to seven matches in 2021, making one start during NYCFC’s league championship run. He bounced back to make 29 MLS appearances in 2022 and had eight goals in 1,001 logged minutes.

Seattle defeated NYCFC 4-2 in aggregate scoring in a CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series last year. Heber subbed on in the 76th minute of the second leg match at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.