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It worked for winless Sporting Kansas City last week. On Wednesday, an Austin FC team that hadn't won an MLS match since March, capitalized on mistakes to piece together a 2-1 victory — their first against the Sounders since joining the league in 2021.
"I don't know what it is," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. "We were very good at home for the first few games of the year. Clean sheets. Good defensively. We will try and correct that for sure."
Austin forward Gyasi Zardes split Sounders players Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Joao Paulo in the box to head down a goal in the 57th minute that prompted Schmetzer to start his substitutions.
The home side started the same lineup that wrestled loose a 1-0 win Saturday in Houston. Players showed signs of exhaustion by making sloppy errors, Schmetzer subbing on Leo Chu (60th minute), Fredy Montero (71st) and Josh Atencio (71st).
The Sounders kept pressure in the box for its first goal in the 79th minute. Heber couldn't corral a cross set for himself and stretched to tip it to Montero. The club's leading scorer notched another with a low, right-footed shot.
Jordan Morris appeared to have the equalizer in the 84th minute that was saved to the agony of a majority of the 30,026 in attendance.
"One result doesn't change what we have done during the whole season," said Montero, who has 79 goals through all competitions with the Sounders. "What I saw from the outside [in the first half] is that the game wasn't open for us. They were compact and not giving us spaces we know Jordan can use, Heber and even Nico [Lodeiro] when he got the ball at his feet.
"They did a good job. Obviously every team now is studying us when they come to play against us here in Seattle, they know what we're good at."
Austin (3-5-4) scored their opening goal in the 36th minute. It was a recycled play where Ethan Finlay found a pocket at the top of the box and sent a left-footed shot to the bottom right corner.
The Sounders (7-4-2) sandwiched the goal with attempts that were saved by Austin keeper Brad Stuver. Dylan Teves had a breakaway shot right into Stuver's hands in the 35th minute while Nico Lodeiro's shot from distance off a free kick was punched over the net by Stuver in the 39th minute.
"Their pressing was good," Schmetzer said of Austin. "They pressed with intensity, with desire and made it difficult for us to get past that first line. When we did get past that first line, they back pressed and got compact. It was their ability to stymie us in our attacking phase of the game that let us down [Wednesday]."
Sounders keeper Stefan Frei had to be examined in the 3rd minute. He left his line to smother an attempt from Zardes and was hit in the face as Zardes tried to redirect his body away from a sliding Frei.
Sounders defender Cody Baker started for a second consecutive match at left back. He signed a four-year deal with the first team Tuesday. Mainstay defender Nouhou was available and substituted on in the 84th minute. He missed the past six matches due to contracting malaria.
Fans cheered for Nouhou and for Austin forward Will Bruin, who entered in the 83rd minute. Bruin played six years in Seattle.
Chu returned to the lineup after missing the past two matches, including a U.S. Open Cup loss, to witness the birth of his son and heal from a foot injury.
The Sounders return to the road with a Cascadia rivalry game against Vancouver on Saturday.
"It's always tough when you're coming in game after game after game," Teves said. "I wouldn't say we started too slow for the most part because we had a few chances in the beginning. We couldn't put them away and that's what hindered our performance."
World Cup glimpse
FIFA unveiled its branding for the 2026 men's World Cup, which will take place in Canada, U.S. and Mexico. Rainbow colors in a psychedelic design are the backdrop to the number 26 with the official golden trophy at the forefront.
Seattle is one of 16 host cities for the tournament. The Sounders aired a video of the branding launch at halftime Wednesday. Seattle FIFA World Cup — formerly known as SEA 2026 — is expected to unveil its variation of the branding Thursday.
The World Cup will feature 104 matches in summer 2026.