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Seattle Sounders pounce early to grab win at Chicago Fire

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire are adding Nicolás Gaitán, but he won’t solve what the Seattle Sounders did to the Fire’s defense on Saturday.

The Sounders didn’t take long to get going in a 4-2 win at SeatGeek Stadium. Seattle nearly scored in the second minute with Victor Rodriguez setting up Jordan Morris at the back post, but David Ousted was there to deny the close-range attempt.

In the eighth minute that duo connected again, this time with Morris setting up Rodriguez at the back post. Rodriguez was wide open and roofed the ball into the open net for an early Sounders lead.

Seattle kept the pressure going. In the 15th minute, Nicolás Lodeiro hit a perfect through ball to Morris in front of goal. The American finished well to double the Seattle lead.

“That’s been a calling card for the Seattle Sounders,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We’re going to come out and try to impose our will on teams early.”

With a two-goal deficit at home, the Fire pushed forward and created some quality chances. However, Stefan Frei was there to make quality saves on multiple occasions before halftime. Frei finished with 10 saves.

Early in the second half, Seattle added to the lead from the penalty spot. Rodriguez beat Bastian Schweinsteiger off the dribble and then was tripped in the box by Fire defender Marcelo. Lodeiro chipped the penalty in off the crossbar in the 49th minute.

The Fire got on the board in the 57th minute when Raheem Edwards headed in a C.J. Sapong cross. Edwards came on at halftime as the Fire’s second sub. The Fire switched from a back four to a back three after going down 2-0.

“I think we made a decent push,” Edwards said. “Obviously a couple mistakes, but I think overall the second half performance was pretty decent. We changed formation obviously, and we brought it to Seattle so I think we can build on that for next game.”

Fabian Herbers, who also came off the bench, got the Fire within one in the 84th minute. Seattle finished off the match on a counter four minutes later. Brad Smith assisted Raúl Ruidíaz to put the match away.

“I’m very happy we were able to score four goals on the road,” Schmetzer said. “That doesn’t happen very often. It shows the quality of the team. Yeah, we let a couple goals in, but we can look at that, we can work on that.”

Defensively, the Fire have not looked solid to start the season. Last week, they showed improvement in that regard against Orlando, but still gave up a goal that was caused by poor defensive communication.

Saturday’s four goals showed the Fire still have plenty of work to do on that side of the ball. That’s something coach Veljko Paunović admitted after the match.

“As we said in the past, it’s not easy to sign a player,” Paunović said. “We are working on that, we are aware and I agree we have to fix our defense.”

Mar 16, 2019; Chicago, IL, USA; Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris (13) reacts after scoring a goal against the Chicago Fire during the first half at SeatGeek Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Paunović and his players tried to come up with positive spin after the first two matches of the season. However, that was not the case this time.

“I think today we were beaten by a better team,” Paunović said. “In the end of the day I think we lost the game because of our mistakes. That’s my responsibility obviously.”

The Fire’s 0-2-1 start matches last season’s record through three matches. The Sounders, not known for hot starts in recent years, are 3-0-0 to start an MLS season for the first time since their expansion year in 2009.

The Fire had more possession than the opponent for the third straight match. They also finished with 25 shots (12 on target). The attack looks dangerous and Gaitán could add even more. So far that hasn’t been enough though.

“Of course it’s always better if you have more points, but I still believe we have talented players,” Schweinsteiger said. “The second half felt much better, but we still have to stay positive, minimize our mistakes, play more at our feet, play more simple football, which we did in the second half I think. Then we created more and more chances.”

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