Showdown of Western Conference powers ends goalless for Sounders, LAFC

For a Western Conference primer between MLS clubs who should be atop the standings this fall, Saturday had everything a fan would want.

Except goals.

The Sounders have yet to concede at home this season after a 0-0 draw with Los Angeles FC on a picturesque afternoon at Lumen Field.

LAFC had four daring looks and a wanting cross in the closing five minutes against a rotated Sounders lineup that should have given the visitors their first win at Lumen since 2018. LAFC forward Kwadwo Opoku had the ball deflect off him on a sitter in the 89th minute. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei had a left-footed kick save to stop LAFC forward Denis Bouanga’s close-range shot from burying into the back of the net in second-half stoppage time.

LAFC (2-0-1) is winless in their past seven trips to Seattle.

Nouhou, who signed a three-year deal this month, flexed the first muscle of The Sounders’ defense in the third minute when he cleared a challenge in the keeper’s box. He nixed another attempt in the sixth minute and the Sounders (2-1-1) settled into control of majority of the game.

The closing 10 minutes of the opening half were the type of grudge match you’d expect from the defending CONCACAF Champions League (Seattle) and MLS Cup (LAFC) winners. It became a real fray in the 43rd minute when on the end of a free kick that Sounders keeper Stefan Frei went to ground to snuff out, LAFC defender Aaron Long took two kicks at the ball.

Nouhou immediately pushed Long off Frei, who was still on the turf, and teammate Jackson Ragen joined in shoving Long back. It took a moment for referee Ismail Elfath to separate everyone, issuing Nouhou and Long yellow cards.

Later, Sounders midfielder Albert Rusnak was shown a yellow for a foul in the 45th minute. Sounders midfielder Joao Paulo was tagged with a yellow card in the 35th minute for tripping near center circle.

The yellow-card distribution continued in the second half as LAFC midfielder Kellyn Acosta (48th minute) and Sounders fullback Alex Roldan (56th) committed rough fouls.

The Sounders’ first good attempt at goal bounced off the post in the 23rd minute. Rusnak tried to sneak a low shot from distance into narrow space between the side of the net and LAFC keeper John McCarthy.

The Sounders debuted their red and black Bruce Lee kits Saturday and Raul Ruidiaz invoked some martial arts on his first honest attempt at goal in the 29th minute. He leapt seemingly twice his 5-foot-7 frame for a right-footed scissor kick, but right into the belly of LAFC keeper John McCarthy for the easy save.

Frei and McCarthy each had two saves in the opening half. The sides were split on possession and won 21 duels apiece.

Rotating forwards has been the only changes Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer has made to his lineups to open the MLS season. Saturday was the return of Ruidiaz up top.

Ruidiaz missed the past three starts due to working his way back from a hamstring injury. Expected backup Heber suffered a hamstring in training earlier this month after starting twice in place of Ruidiaz to open league play. Fredy Montero started the road loss against FC Cincinnati.

But Schmetzer had to sub off Ragen in the 55th minute for Xavier Arreaga because of a no-contact injury. Ragen needed medical attention on the field but was able to walk off unassisted and taken to the locker room for evaluation. The native Seattleite played every minute of the team’s previous four matches, including the FIFA men’s Club World Cup loss in Morocco.

Arreaga had a solid chance at goal on a corner kick in the 68th minute.

Ruidiaz and Joao Paulo, who’s returning from a torn ACL, were subbed off in the 63rd minute for winger Leo Chu and midfielder Obed Vargas. The appearance for Vargas is the first since suffering a season-ending back injury in June 2022.

Montero entered the match in the 79th minute for Roldan.

LAFC coach Steve Cherundolo made three changes to the starting lineup that lost its second leg CCL matchup to Costa Rica’s L.D. Alajuelense on Wednesday. The main return was midfielder Kellyn Acosta.

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