SEATTLE — The math may have suggested Saturday’s encounter with the Colorado Rapids was not a literal must-win, but the Seattle Sounders came into the game knowing that anything less than three points would be a major problem. They delivered in a big way.
Especially in the second half of their 4-0 win, the Sounders looked about as good as they have all year. Granted, this was against the second worst road team in the league, but it was also an opponent playing with absolutely zero to lose.
The Sounders responded with a brace from Raúl Ruidíaz and goals from Nicolas Lodeiro and Victor Rodriguez. Lodeiro also had a pair of assists and Rodriguez had one.
The win at least temporarily vaults the Sounders into fourth place and they are just four points out of second, which would give them a bye into the Western Conference semifinals. If they can just take care of business in their final two home games — against the Houston Dynamo on Oct. 8 and the San Jose Earthquakes in the season finale — they should be in fine shape.
- The Sounders have been struggling to get goal-scoring from their outside mids this year, but Rodriguez looked about as dangerous as any. This was his first goal since his strike against the Portland Timbers on June 30 and it was the first time he played 90 minutes since that game as well. He was admittedly relieved to get back onto the scoresheet, as he seems to know that his contributions will be sorely needed if the Sounders are to make another postseason run.
- The four attackers accounted for all four goals and four assists; Cristian Roldan and Kelvin Leerdam also had an assist. Not a bad day at the office.
- As good as the others were, Lodeiro was an absolute beast. He had 114 touches and completed a rather remarkable 91.6 percent of his 86 passes, while constantly pushing the attack.
The playoff picture
- The game to watch tonight will be the Portland Timbers hosting FC Dallas. The Sounders are currently even on points with the Timbers with the same number of games played. Even if the Timbers get a point and move ahead in the standings, the Sounders will still be in great position to potentially move past them for that home game in the Knockout Round. The other one to watch is Sporting KC hosting Real Salt Lake. That’s a tricky one for the Sounders, but a KC win solidifies the Sounders’ playoff positioning while a RSL win would keep a first-round bye within reach. The LA Galaxy-Vancouver Whitecaps game also has some intrigue, although that game will likely serve more as an elimination game than anything else.
- The Sounders’ fate could well be tied to the negotiations that are still ongoing between them and the various national federations who could potentially be taking players for one or both of the next two games. A Sounders spokesperson said as many as seven Sounders could be called in during the Oct. 8-16 window. Ruidíaz, Gustav Svensson and Nicolas Lodeiro all seem like safe bets to be called in and miss at least one of the next two games, if not both. Cristian Roldan and Jordy Delem also seem like solid bets to be called in. No one confirmed this, but Román Torres and Kim Kee-hee are likely the others being considered.
Like the Philadelphia Union match, the Sounders opened strong. The big difference is that they managed to maintain that pressure throughout the first half, culminating with Ruidíaz’s first goal of the game in the 22nd minute. The credit for the goal belongs mostly to Lodeiro, who put in Rodriguez to start the sequence, had his shot saved and then found Ruidíaz after collecting the rebound.
The Sounders dodged a bit of a bullet in the 33rd minute when VAR took a closer look at an Osvaldo Alonso tackle that was initially ruled a yellow-card offense. Replays showed him clearly stepping on Jack Price, but it was apparently deemed not reckless.
After a second tactical substitution at halftime, the Rapids came out firing in the second half and had the Sounders under a fair amount of pressure in the first five minutes.
But after a Stefan Frei save, the Sounders came right back down and drew a penalty. Lodeiro did a great job of putting himself in a dangerous position and would have had a quality chance if not for Kelyn Acosta taking him down just inside the penalty area. Although Tim Howard guessed correctly, Lodeiro still managed to sneak his shot in for his eighth goal.
It took another 20 minutes, but the Sounders put the game away in the 73rd minute with Lodeiro in the middle of it again. The play started with Roldan stealing a pass in the Rapids’ end, pushing it to Rodriguez who then put in Lodeiro, who did a rather remarkable job of fighting off a couple defenders before finding Ruidíaz for a relative tap-in.
The final strike was in a sense meaningless but in a larger context, may have been the most important. Rodriguez has been struggling constantly with confidence and injuries so for him to score in such an authoritative manner has to be huge for him.
Sounders (4-2-3-1): Frei; Nouhou, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam; Alonso, Svensson; Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Roldan; Ruidíaz.
Rapids (4-4-2); Howard; Wynne, Smith, Wilson, Ford; Serna, Price, Boateng, Acosta; Garnes, Martinez.
Man of the Match
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