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Three takeaways from the Seattle Sounders’ first road win of the season

May 9, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Seattle Sounders FC forward Will Bruin (17) celebrates his goal against Toronto FC during the first half at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Sounders managed their second win of the season Wednesday on the road at BMO Field in Toronto, despite a conservative roster and defensive-minded formation. Rookie midfielder Handwalla Bwana scored the game-winner in the 54th minute to help Seattle secure its first win in Toronto in three years.

Here are three takeaways from the match.

Seattle switches to 5-4-1

Whether it was injuries, fixture congestion or a new tactical approach, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer rearranged his squad into a 5-4-1 for Wednesday’s match — away from the club’s usual 4-2-3-1.

The move ceded possession to Toronto, which outshot the Sounders 24-9 over the span of the match. But Seattle’s stout defense combined with productive counterattacks undid Toronto at home.

Schmetzer was up-front when asked what the result meant to his club.

“It’s massive,” Schmetzer said. “Toronto has been a good rival. It is a great club and we have a good rivalry here. I enjoy my chess matches with Greg (Vanney). I think he has done a great job with this club but now it is on to (Portland) and that is a big one for us, a little closer to home, a little less travel time. So we’ll get them back up and prepare for that.”

Rookie notches game-winner

Handwalla Bwana, signed to a Homegrown Player contract ahead of the 2018 season, made his fourth start of the season for Seattle and notched the game-winning goal. The 18-year-old ran to the end of a Will Bruin through-ball in the 54th minute before slotting it past Toronto keeper Alex Bono to lift Seattle to three points on the road.

“They wanted me to drive the defenders as much as I could and open more space,” Bwana said regarding his instructions for the match. “It’s an unbelievable moment, as a kid you dream of scoring your first professional goal. I couldn’t do it without my teammates, obviously the most important thing is getting the three points.”

Asked if his phone had received the customary deluge of texts and well-wishes from friends and family, Bwana joked that he doesn’t have cell service in Canada, but was looking forward to returning to the U.S. to receive the congratulations.

Stefan Frei stands tall at clutch moments

It was a busy evening for Sounders keeper Stefan Frei at BMO field. The Seattle keeper made six saves to preserve the Sounders’ first road win of the season, but none was bigger than his stoppage-time denial of Tosaint Ricketts in the 93rd minute.

As a looping ball found its way in to Ricketts in the dying seconds of the match, the Canadian attempted to volley the ball toward goal, but was met with a charging Frei and the ball clattered off the Seattle keeper’s right knee to help the Sounders hold on for a critical three road points against the defending MLS Cup champions.

 

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