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Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro are making a bid for best MLS duo

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When the two Designated Players both start at home, the Sounders are 17-2-2.

MLS: MLS Cup Conference Finals-Seattle Sounders FC at Los Angeles FC Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

By now, it’s almost common knowledge how Nicolás Lodeiro’s signing effectively set the Seattle Sounders’ course from 2016 onward. Lodeiro led the Sounders from the bottom of the Western Conference standings all the way to franchise’s first MLS Cup title in his first half season, and helped take them to the championship game the following year.

Even when he was at his best, however, there was a sense that the Sounders were still missing a piece who could fully unlock his potential.

That came midseason in 2018 when the Sounders completed the transfer of Raúl Ruidíaz.

Almost immediately, the Sounders went from a very good team to one that is among the MLS elite. In the 45 games they’ve both started during the regular season and playoffs, the Sounders are 25-4-6 and have averaged more than 2.0 goals per game, with Lodeiro and Ruidíaz each contributing nearly 1.0 goals+assists per 90 minutes. In the playoffs, those two have led the Sounders to a 4-1-0 record and combined for nine goals and seven assists.

“Those guys are awesome,” Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey told reporters at training this week. “They’ve been awesome all playoffs. We need those guys, we need your biggest players to show up in big games, you need them to want the big moments and those guys do.

“They’ve understood what a one-off game means and they’ve been willing to put it on the line and been willing to say ‘I want to win this more than you do.’ It’s a massive part of who they are and a massive part of who we are as a team.”

Where Lodeiro and Ruidíaz have really stood out — and helped lift the Sounders — is at home. The Sounders are 17-2-2 and have outscored opponents 52-23 in matches both players start at CenturyLink Field. Lodeiro has eight goals and 15 assists, while Ruidíaz has 15 goals and four assists in those 21 matches.

Their play also seems to have had a knock-on effect on those around them, perhaps most obviously illustrated by Jordan Morris. Although Ruidíaz’s signing forced Morris to move from forward to winger, he’s thrived in that position. When Ruidíaz and Lodeiro are on the field with him, Morris is averaging .98 goals and assists per 90 minutes. That’s nearly double his rate of production this season (.52) when those two aren’t playing, and far better than his production in 2016-17 (.39).

In the 17 matches all three of those players started, the Sounders averaged better than 2.4 goals per game and are 14-1-2.

All three are expected to start on Sunday.