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Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake, recap: Back to the Western Conference championship

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Sounders dispatch RSL 2-0, await winner of LAFC-Galaxy.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — For the third time in four years under Brian Schmetzer’s guidance, the Seattle Sounders are going to the Western Conference finals. They punched their ticket with a convincing 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday in which the hosts ceded 62 percent of possession but out shot their opponents 20-7.

The Sounders got a goal and an assist from Nicolas Lodeiro who looked very much like the best player on the pitch. They also got a goal from Gustav Svensson and an assist from Raúl Ruidiaz. They’ll next face the winner of the LAFC-LA Galaxy match next Tuesday.

Key moments

  • It only took five minutes for the Sounders to rattle the RSL goal. Given just a bit of space, Lodeiro laced a left-footed shot that beat Nick Rimando but clanged off the post. The rebound came back to Ruidíaz but his follow-up attempt was blocked by Nedum Onuoha.
  • The match’s tone was set in the 28th minute when Onuoha tackled Jordan Morris from behind on a counter attack.
  • Despite ceding the bulk of possession, the Sounders continued to generate scoring chances. Rimando came up with a diving stop on a Ruidíaz header in the 14th minute; RSL were able to diffuse a chance when Morris rounded Rimando but his touch took him too wide; and Rimando stopped Ruidiaz again on a reaction save from a close-range volley in the 43rd minute.
  • The Sounders went into halftime having allowed RSL to possess the ball a ton, but had also only given up one shot on frame while the Sounders had repeatedly gotten out on the counter and tested Rimando.
  • The Sounders came out firing in the second half. Kelvin Leerdam hit a well-struck volley that beat Rimando in the 47th minute only for Onuoha to clear it off the line.
  • The match took a potentially scary turn in the 48th minute, though, when Roman Torres had to come off with a strained hamstring and was replaced by Xavier Arreaga.
  • The big break came in the 64th minute, just moments after Victor Rodriguez replaced Joevin Jones. After Leerdam won a corner with a hustle play, Lodeiro served a perfect ball to Svensson at the near post. His glancing header was able to beat Rimando and send the crowd into ecstasy.
  • Lodeiro then effectively put the match away when Ruidíaz got in behind the RSL defense. He waited patiently for help to arrive and then set up Lodeiro, who curled his shot past Rimando for the 2-0 lead.
  • Just a couple minutes later, any faint hope RSL had was extinguished when Everton Luiz was sent off for a tackle on Svensson. Rather than leave the field in anything like a timely manner, Luiz first stood over Svensson and yelled at him. He then chose to walk off the field by going past the Sounders bench and through the Brougham End. Luckily, there was no further incident.

Talking points

Embracing the counter-attack: Although Brian Schmetzer insisted that ceding possession was not part of the game plan, the Sounders sure looked comfortable letting RSL pass it around and then springing attacks. Ruidíaz, Jordan Morris and Lodeiro all looked particularly happy to run at backpedaling defenders. While their 222 completed passes has to be among their fewest of the season, their 20 shots were one of their best outputs. The trick was that the Sounders never allowed RSL to possess deep in their end, allowing just 16 passes to be sent into the penalty area with none of them coming from 20 yards in. I doubt the Sounders could pull off that high-wire act against a team as talented as LAFC, but it was an interesting wrinkle nonetheless.

Let’s hear it for consistency: It’s easy to get caught up in the single-year greatness of LAFC or even the admittedly impressive trophy haul that Atlanta United has pulled off in their first three years, but no other team can come close to matching the Sounders’ three trips to the conference finals in three years. Say what you will about Schmetzer’s tactical nous, but it’s hard to find any fault with the results. There’s a big test awaiting them next week, but it’s probably best not to count them out.

Stabilizing the defense: One of the main things we’ve wanted this team to do is to not only take a lead but to build on it. The Sounders did exactly that and it was mainly due to the defense not letting RSL get anything like comfortable. RSL only managed to take two shots from inside the penalty area and the only save Stefan Frei had to make was relatively easy. The three goals they allowed to FC Dallas is starting to look like it may have been more the exception than the rule as this team now has three shutouts in four games.

Did you see that?!?

This hero is Gene Juarez, the Sounders head of security trying to talk some sense into Luiz.

He said what?!?

Always happy to play the punching bag if that’s what you need Brian.

One stat to tell the tale

60 — Schmetzer loves to talk about duels and this was a good example of why. The Sounders outdueled RSL 60-44 in this one.

Poll

Man of the Match

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Nicolas Lodeiro
    (932 votes)
  • 28%
    Gustav Svensson
    (391 votes)
  • 1%
    Raul Ruidiaz
    (21 votes)
  • 1%
    Kelvin Leerdam
    (18 votes)
1362 votes total Vote Now