SEATTLE — It didn’t go remotely as expected, but the Seattle Sounders ended up right where they wanted to be: With a bye into the Western Conference semifinals courtesy of a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
The Sounders didn’t make it easy on themselves, falling behind 1-0 in the second half, but sent their 42,617 fans — the second largest of the season — home happy courtesy of a pair of Raúl Ruidíaz goals that both came in the final 15 minutes.
Aside from taking them from 11 points out in late June to a rather improbable first-round bye, the Sounders also set the MLS record for best half in a season by going 14-2-1 over the final 17 games.
- The Sounders brought Ruidíaz to Seattle to do one thing: score goals. So far, he’s delivered at a pace quite unlike anyone else in Sounders history. Through 14 games, he now has 10 goals, the fastest any Sounders player has reached that milestone.
- The first goal was simply a product of a good run a perfect cross as he basically just needed to run into it. But the second was absolutely gorgeous, as he took a first-time pass from Nicolás Lodeiro and finished with a defender all over his back.
The defense is fine
- The Sounders have not registered a shutout since beat the Colorado Rapids 4-0 on Sept. 29, but I’m not really seeing any area of concern. The goal they allowed in this one was more than a little fluky, taking an awkward deflection off Chad Marshall’s chest. The only moment of concern after that was when the whole team was pressed forward on a set piece and Nouhou had to sprint about 80 yards to keep it from being a 2-on-0 break.
Trick-or-treating is on
- It’s true that team’s with a first-round bye have only advanced in half of the series since MLS adopted this format a few years ago. But simply avoiding the opportunity to be upset in the Knockout Round is huge. Barring a rather huge upset in the 3-6 game, the Sounders will likely be visiting LAFC on Nov. 4. That’s a whole lot better than trying to pull off the Thursday-Sunday turnaround and hosting Sporting KC (the worst-case scenario if they had finished fourth).
- Anyone with kids can at least appreciate that avoiding the Knockout Round meant we didn’t have to worry about a playoff game potentially being played on Halloween. At the very least that would have depressed attendance. At the very worst, it would have meant a lot fewer cute pictures from Sounders fans.
The Sounders’ first real chance came in the 26th minute when Osvaldo Alonso hit a ball through traffic that forced J.T. Marcinkowski into a sprawling save. The rebound came out to Nicolas Lodeiro, whose shot rang off the post.
The Earthquakes took the lead in the 65th minute when Danny Hoesen’s seemingly innocuous shot from sharp angle deflected off Chad Marshall and inside the near post. It was ruled an own-goal.
Just as it was starting to look like a disappointing end to the regular-season, the Sounders came storming back. First Ruidiaz equalized when he put away Cristian Roldan’s pinpoint cross in the 79th minute.
Great cross from Roldan. 1-1 pic.twitter.com/sIVssZV87V— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) October 28, 2018
That would have likely been enough to salvage some pride, but it might not have been enough to get the Sounders out of the Knockout Round. That goal came in the 93rd minute.
It started with a Victor Rodriguez pass to Nicolás Lodeiro, who put Ruidíaz in behind the Earthquakes defense with a first-time pass. Ruidíaz scored easily, his 10th of the season and completing his third Sounders brace.
Ruidiaz Winner. 2-1 Seattle pic.twitter.com/9Obyihe3Id— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) October 28, 2018
SJ - Marshall (OG), 64
SEA - Ruidíaz (Roldan, Rodriguez), 79
SEA - Ruidíaz (Lodeiro, Rodriguez), 93
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam; Alonso, Svensson; Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Roldan; Ruidíaz.
Earthquakes (4-4-2): Maercinkowski; Salinas, Cummings, Affolter, Lima; Yuiell, Calvillo, Godoy, Thompson; Wondolowski, Hoesen.
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