SEATTLE — It might go down in history as one of the wildest MLS Cup playoff matches of all time, but that will be of little solace to the Seattle Sounders who came out on the wrong end of a 3(2)-2(4) penalty shootout loss to the Portland Timbers. Along the way, they took the lead once and equalized twice in a match that had so many emotional moments that it’s hard to fully capture them.
The Sounders briefly managed to pull ahead in the aggregate-goal series when Raúl Ruidíaz put away a mistake by Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella and seemed done after Sebastian Blanco put Portland back ahead 10 minutes later. Yet they somehow found a stoppage-time equalizer, only to concede a goal at the start of overtime and then tied it again on a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty.
The penalty shootout went badly quickly after Will Bruin hit the post and Osvaldo Alonso’s penalty was saved to put the Sounders in a 3-1 hole. Frei gave them a lifeline when he stopped Liam Ridgewell’s attempt and nearly gave the Sounders another chance to equalize, but he couldn’t keep out Dairon Asprilla’s attempt despite getting a hand on it.
In the end, it was exhausting.
All hail Raul
- Let’s not let the depressing ending take away from what has to be one of the more heroic performances in Sounders history. Ruidíaz scored three goals in this series, including a stoppage-time equalizer that deserves to go down in history as one of the all-time greats in MLS playoff history. He capped it off by nailing his penalty in the shootout. He finishes off his first year as a Sounder scoring 13 goals in 16 games. He already is tied for third all-time among Sounders postseason goal-scorers. Kinda looking forward to seeing him play a full season.
The penalty shootout
- The lineup the Sounders used for the penalty shootout was surprising to say the least. Ruidiaz opening made sense, but I was definitely surprised to see Bruin second, Alonso third and Handwalla Bwana fourth. Most shocking was that Lodeiro — who took all six of the regulation penalties the Sounders attempted this year — was held until fifth. Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said that was by Lodeiro’s request.
- Penalties are about as close to a crapshoot as it gets in soccer so second-guessing the order is probably pointless, but given his shootout history I was particularly surprised to see Alonso third, traditionally the spot you put your best shooter. At the very least, Alonso has not had much recent experience from the spot. It showed, as his attempt was easily saved.
What a gut punch
- Schmetzer called it the worst loss he’s ever experienced. I suspect that’s at least in part because it’s the most recent one, but I think this may sting a bit more than even last year’s MLS Cup final as this one seemed far more winnable and this season had a sense of destiny about it. Losing to your biggest rivals at home doesn’t help either.
With the Timbers clearly looking for the counter and rather bunkered in, the first half was short on clear cut chances for either side. There was at least one moment of mild controversy, though, when Harry Shipp sent a cross into the box that Liam Ridgewell clearly touched with his hand. Referee Jair Marrufo appeared to have a good view of it and likely determined that the contact was incidental.
It definitely hits his hand. Ref judges no intent. pic.twitter.com/EyhkFKu9Gk— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 9, 2018
Ruidiaz had the Sounders’ first real scoring chance of the second half in the 54th minute when he got on the end of a Roman Torres header with only Jeff Attinella to beat. But his redirected volley went just wide.
Ruidiaz made up for that miss in the 68th minute when he capitalized on a rather massive error by Attinella. The Timbers goalkeeper came out to try to claim a cross, but dropped it. Ruidiaz hit it off the turf and past Liam Ridgewell.
Thanks, JEFF JEFF JEFF. pic.twitter.com/cGPtzhYCh0— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 9, 2018
The Timbers struck back 10 minutes later on a sequence that started with another seemingly innocuous cross. Jorge Villafaña put in a looping cross that should have been dealt with relatively easily, but Nouhou was unable to effectively clear. It fell to Dairon Asprilla, who tapped it back to Sebastian Blanco. The midfielder took a couple touches toward goal and then unleashed a shot that beat Frei to the far post.
The man is unstoppable. Seba Blanco puts us ahead on aggregate. #OnwardRoseCity #RCTID @Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/C7rRXiGI2N— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) November 9, 2018
Although the Timbers did a rather amazing job attempting to kill off the game, they couldn’t quite hold their lead. Again, it came from a cross that wasn’t dealt with effectively, this time pinging around in the box before Ruidíaz hit a stinging volley from the edge of the penalty area that seemed to nearly tear through the net.
Worth every penny. pic.twitter.com/2XqDPfzShr— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 9, 2018
Almost as soon as overtime started, the Timbers went back ahead when Diego Valeri floated a cross to Asprilla who easily scored at the back post in the 92nd minute.
Dairon Asprilla heads home a brilliant cross from Diego Valeri. #OnwardRoseCity #RCTID @Audi #MLSCupPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/ny4rl99DL3— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) November 9, 2018
The Sounders were able to answer back relatively quickly when Blanco was called for a handball inside the penalty area. Lodeiro rolled the equalizer in as Attinella dove the wrong way.
Calm. Cool. Collected. 4-4 pic.twitter.com/AAUPSTzuTX— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 9, 2018
For a moment, at least, it looked like the Sounders took the lead in extra time on what would have been Ruidíaz’s third goal. It was almost immediately ruled out, though, as the ball deflected off his hand.
Ruidiaz hand ball. pic.twitter.com/zAii0QtnOf— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 9, 2018
That allowed the game to go to a shootout. It did not go well for the Sounders. After Ruidiaz converted the Sounders’ first attempt, Will Bruin hit the post on the second and Osvaldo Alonso’s was rather easily saved. The Sounders got a bit of a reprieve when Frei stopped Liam Ridgewell and Handwalla Bwana slyly rolled in his. But needing one more save to keep them alive, Frei couldn’t quite keep out Asprilla’s attempt despite getting a hand on it.
68 — Ruidiaz
78 — Blanco (Asprilla)
90+3 — Ruidiaz
93 — Asprilla (Valeri)
97 — Lodeiro
Shootout (Timbers 4-2)
Melano — converted
Ruidiaz — converted
Valeri — converted
Bruin — missed
Blanco — converted
Alonso — saved
Ridgewell — saved
Bwana — converted
Asprilla — converted
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Kim, Torres, Leerdam (Bwana 84); Alonso, Svensson; Rodriguez (McCrary 105), Lodeiro, Shipp (Bruin 80); Ruidiaz.
Timbers (4-2-3-1): Attinella; Villafaña, Ridgewell, Mabiala, Powell (Valentin 103); Flores (Olum 83), Chara; Blanco, Valeri, Polo (Asprilla 72); Ebobisse (Melano 89).
Man of the Match
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