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Talking Points: A little late, but worth the wait

Sounders take care of business in Portland.

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

There were some early frustrations, but in the end the Seattle Sounders got the job done.

When the lineups were revealed about an hour before kickoff, you probably could have forgiven Sounders fans for thinking this game would be over just after kickoff. After all, the Sounders put out a team just shy of full strength. Raul Ruidiaz, Gustav Svensson and Xavier Arreaga all returned to the starting lineup, and Joevin Jones was available off the bench, with only leftback Brad Smith out of the players expected to really play down the stretch.

Conversely, the Vancouver Whitecaps appeared to be punting this game, leaving most of their firepower in Fredy Montero and Lucas Cavallini on the bench, presumably wanting to focus on picking up points in their last two games. The Whitecaps then came out with five defenders in the back, content to bunker and nick a goal on the counter, or play the game to a scoreless draw.

It worked in the first half, but then the Sounders’ stars showed up in the second, as a goal and assist from Ruidiaz, and a goal from Nicolas Lodeiro secured the three points for the Sounders and their 12th straight playoff appearance. The Sounders will now look to secure the top seed in the Western Conference, and hope for favorable results elsewhere to get back into the reinstated Supporter’s Shield race.

Ruidíaz romps in return

Before Will Bruin’s last-minute equalizer last week, there was a bit of growing concern about the Sounders’ ability to score without their star forward on the field. If Bruin’s goal calmed some nerves, Ruidiaz’s performance will have fans feeling good about the Sounders’ chances in the playoffs. Displaying his trademark clinical finishing, Ruidiaz calmly slotted home a pinpoint cross from Nouhou to open the scoring for the Sounders in the second half. The goal was initially ruled offside but after a VAR review, the goal was given. Ruidiaz played a key role in the second goal, turning his defender after getting behind the Whitecaps defense, before cutting a pass back that Nicolas Lodeiro one-timed past Evan Bush to end any chance of a Whitecaps comeback.

Nouhou shines, again

While the Sounders have a plethora of other left backs, Nouhou has been the only one available for the past few games. In response, he’s been playing like someone who doesn’t want to give up the starting position. Unlucky not to be in the score sheet in recent weeks with assists due to some poor finishing, Nouhou got his reward on the Ruidiaz goal, with perfectly-hit cross that was finished well by the Peruvian international. Defensively, Nouhou continued his trademark hard-nosed defensive play. He’s still a work in progress offensively, but it’s been a promising few games indeed.

Backline solidifies

The Whitecaps weren’t ever likely to pose much of an offensive threat to the Sounders given the lineup they put out, but this is MLS, and strange things tend to happen in this league, especially on the road. So the Sounders will take all the clean sheets they can. With the return of a confident Arreaga, fresh off two starts versus Uruguay and Argentina, and emergence of Alex Roldan, the Sounders look to be two-deep at every position along the backline. Arreaga appears to be over his early-season yips which saw Shane O’Neill win a chunk of playing time, and was steady on Tuesday in his return to the starting lineup. The Sounders will face much stiffer competition as the playoffs approach, but they can use the next three games to solidify their rotation and prepare for the challenge ahead.

Lodeiro does his thing

It’s sometimes easy to take for granted everything that Nicolas Lodeiro does for the Sounders because he’s been doing it for so long, and doesn’t necessarily put up huge counting stats. He does, however, give his maximum effort all game, every game. And in case you forgot, he has the flair for the spectacular from time to time as well. His one-time shot on a fine pass from Ruidiaz was vintage Lodeiro, following the play from a deeper position and riding a challenge before finishing the play. With the Sounders nearing full-strength, Lodeiro looks primed for another fantastic postseason run.