Preview: Seattle Sounders welcome FC Cincinnati into the MLS

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Jordan Morris Seattle Sounders
SEATTLE, WA — FEBRUARY 20: Jordan Morris #13 of Seattle Sounders reacts against the Club Nacional during their game at CenturyLink Field on February 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Seattle, Washington (March 1, 2019) — The new kids are taking on the veterans. In the first match of the MLS season for the Seattle Sounders, expansion team FC Cincinnati is paying a visit.

Seattle will welcome FC Cincinnati into MLS with plenty of physical play. Last season, Seattle had a Cinderella run from the summer break, finishing the season in a playoff spot. It was almost deemed impossible early into the season, with Seattle failing to find consistency. However, this year, the Sounders will have Raúl Ruidíaz for a whole year, but miss out on Osvaldo Alonso, who has joined Minnesota United FC.

Preview: Seattle Sounders welcome FC Cincinnati into the MLS

Either way, this is a Sounders team that is returning plenty of key pieces from last year. In addition, Seattle has earned the comeback of one particularly interesting player: Jordan Morris.

There will be more on that in a minute.

Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati, coached by Alan Koch, will see how well they can blend together as one unit. The exciting part about an expansion team is seeing all the talented players join a whole new squad. However, it’s difficult to find communication when different players from different teams suddenly arrive in a new city.

Seattle isn’t going to take it easy on the “new kids” of MLS.

Seattle Sounders FC vs. FC Cincinnati
2019 MLS Regular Season
Century Link Field
March 2, 2019 — 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET
Stream: ESPN+

What to Watch For

Jordan Morris makes his return

It’s the moment Seattle Sounders fans have been waiting for.

Jordan Morris didn’t compete last season after suffering a torn ACL in the CONCACAF Champions League trainings. However, after a year-long rehabilitation, Morris is ready for the big stage once again. After two solid seasons for the Rave Green in 2016 and 2017 — he even won Rookie of the Year in 2016 — Morris has to be eager to return.

He was Seattle’s biggest fan last year, but now he’s back on the pitch, back in the fold. Morris has been working hard throughout preseason on his communication with Ruidíaz, who has become a top striker for Seattle. Last season, Ruidiaz led the team in scoring with 10 goals, despite joining the team in July.

Ruidiaz doesn’t speak much English, which could cause for a delay in communication. However, last season, Kim Kee-hee entered the Sounders organization, only speaking Korean. He managed to become a starter and find great chemistry with Kelvin Leerdam, Chad Marshall and Nouhou on defense.

Expect Morris to take plenty of chances on goal Saturday. After being away from the pitch for so long, he’ll be welcomed back with plenty of cheers and screams from the fans. That’ll motivate him more than a year-long absence already has motivated him.

If Morris scores, that whole stadium will go crazy.

The Injury Report

Seattle Sounders FC

After a year of injuries left and right for Seattle last year, it’s unusual to see an injury report with one player on it.

However, that’s the case for the opening week of action. Henry Wingo, a midfielder, has been listed as questionable with left groin pain. Sounders FC head coach Brian Schmetzer has not given a timetable for his return or if he will be in the squad on game day.

FC Cincinnati

Only one player is certainly out for FC Cincinnati in the club’s inaugural match on Saturday. Jimmy McLaughlin, a player that rose during the club’s USL days, is out with an ACL injury. This is a big loss for FC Cincinnati. Despite the multitude of MLS players on the roster, McLaughlin had two solid seasons for Cincinnati in the USL.

Meanwhile, four players are listed as questionable.

Defender Greg Garza is listed as a possibility, depending on a quad injury. Meanwhile, FC Cincinnati will need to have forward backups ready. Kekuta Manneh is questionable with an ankle injury, while Darren Mattocks is dealing with a leg contusion.

Finally, forward Emery Welshman has been rehabbing a hamstring injury.

Last Meeting: Never!

There’s a first for everything, MLS fans.

FC Cincinnati has not faced a single team this season. The club has possibly faced the secondary teams for clubs like the New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, Orlando City SC and Philadelphia Union during its USL days, but those are gone.

Now, it’s time to buckle up for the first-tier league.

This is a blessing and a curse for Seattle. Certainly players like Kendall Waston, Mattocks, Garza and Fanendo Adi are going to be familiar faces. They have played for fellow MLS clubs before heading to the newest team. However, the coaching style of Koch is foreign to every player on the pitch for Seattle.

Prediction: Seattle 4, FC Cincinnati 1

This is going to be a rough first match for the “new kids.”

Seattle is going to be almost unstoppable up top with Ruidíaz, Morris and midfielder Víctor Rodríguez. When Rodríguez is healthy, he’s fantastic. He was already smacking curling shots in during preseason, looking like he was ready to pounce on MLS teams. That combination, and also adding Nico Lodeiro is going to be dangerous.

It’s hard to say what type of goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń is going to be for FC Cincinnati. The goalkeeper has some experience around Europe, but mainly served as a backup for clubs. Internationally, he’s made just 14 appearances for Poland.

Meanwhile, on the other end, Stefan Frei has shown his capabilities and his stripes. He has a talented defense in front of him. Kim and Marshall have found a solid partnership. Leerdam is a lock to start on the right. Whether Schmetzer decides to start Nouhou or Brad Smith, who is on loan until the summer, both are talented enough to provide strong defense.

Seattle has a great chance to win this by a landslide. They just can’t underestimate their new MLS opponent.

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