The Seattle Sounders are going to their third MLS Cup final in four years thanks to one of the biggest upsets in league history. Bookmakers had the Sounders +600 to win, meaning LAFC were 6-to-1 favorites. They sure didn’t play like it.
Even after giving up the game’s first goal, the Sounders were the better team for much of the first half and went into halftime leading 2-1 on goals from Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolas Lodeiro. LAFC dominated the second half, but Ruidiaz struck again to provide the winning 3-1 margin.
For all their possession, LAFC created surprisingly few scoring opportunities — although they will likely feel a bit hard done by some missed handball calls. The Sounders, meanwhile, may have only had 31 percent of possession but could hav easily scored another goal or two after wasting two breakaways late in the match.
None of that should really matter now. The Sounders will face the winner of Wednesday’s match between Atlanta United and Toronto FC in MLS Cup on Nov. 10, the third time they’ve played in the league championship in Brian Schmetzer’s four seasons in charge. If Atlanta wins, the match will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. If TFC wins, the match will be at CenturyLink Field.
- Despite the Sounders controlling the first 15 minutes, LAFC struck first. Carlos Vela drew a foul about 25 yards with a nice spin move around Gustav Svensson. But the MLS-record holder deferred to Eduard Atuesta, who struck his free kick perfectly over the wall to beat Stefan Frei.
- Rather than hang their heads, the Sounders went right back on the attack and found the equalizer about five minutes later. Jordan Morris picked off an errant pass deep in LAFC territory and pushed ahead to Nicolas Lodeiro who found Raúl Ruidíaz near the top of the penalty area. His first touch took him past the defender and he hit his shot perfectly from the top of the penalty area to beat Tyler Miller and equalize.
- Just a few minutes later, the Sounders surged ahead on another transition goal. This time it was Gustav Svnesson picking up a loose ball from deep in the Sounders end and pushing ahead to Ruidíaz. A few touches later, Joevin Jones found Lodeiro about 25 yards out. Lodeiro’s low shot beat Miller to the near post for the 2-1 lead.
- LAFC controlled the first 20 minutes of the second half, but it was the Sounders who scored next. Lodeiro picked off a poor pass deep in the LAFC end and in a virtual carbon-copy of their first goal, found Ruidíaz at the edge of the penalty area. His first touch set him up perfectly for a well-struck shot that beat Miller to the near post.
- The Sounders had at least two golden opportunities to extend their league even more late in the match. Brad Smith was able to get behind the LAFC defense and could have squared the ball to Nouhou for what would have likely been a tap-in, but couldn’t complete the pass. A few minutes later, Nouhou pounced on a loose ball and was in on goal but his shot was saved.
Big players, bigger performances: Talk all you want about the tactical set-up, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s that in knockout games you need your best players to be at the top of their games to have a chance. Enter Ruidiaz and Lodeiro. The Sounders’ two biggest stars seem to have these kinds of performances in these types of games with alarming regularity. Ruidiaz now has six goals in five career playoff games and he’s got three assists as well. Lodeiro, meanwhile, has seven goals and six assists in 15 career playoff games.
Destroying something beautiful: Credit to LAFC, they put together an amazing season. Chances are, when historians look through regular-seasons, this one will stand the test of time as one of the best ever. But they simply can’t be considered the best team of all time after this. The Sounders played this almost perfectly, taking their chances early, clogging the middle and generally making life very difficult for a team that is used to having its way. This is both the beauty and the shame of MLS, that a whole season of dominance can be ruined by one bad game. But everyone knows the rules coming in and the Sounders deserve credit for doing a better job of figuring it out than just about anyone else.
Not great, Bob: Bob Bradley might be the greatest soccer mind the United States has ever produced. He deserves credit for assembling the machine that was LAFC. But he also got out-coached by Brian Schmetzer in the biggest game of the year. His best player, Carlos Vela, had just one shot and shockingly never got matched up with Brad Smith for an extended period. LAFC generated a season-low .69 xG. That’s not all Bradley’s fault, obviously, but he’s surely going to be asking himself some big questions.
Did you see that?!?
Hats off to this guy.
He said what?!?
“I’ll let Bobby Warshaw tell me how we did it.” - Brian Schmetzer with the cold-blooded sign-off
One stat to tell the tale
5-0 — The Sounders have now advanced from all three Western Conference finals they’ve competed in under Brian Schmetzer and actually won all five matches they’ve played during those three finals. That includes two matchups against higher seeds and three road games.
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