In a rematch from 2019’s MLS Western Conference Final the Seattle Sounders put up an identical 3-1 scoreline as they sent LAFC back home with nothing but hurt feelings. It wasn’t easy — an embarrassing penalty from Carlos Vela let off some pressure immediately following the opener, and it set the tone for some other near misses — but Seattle never looked to be in much danger of giving up their lead after the PK. The real fun came in the second half when Seattle and LAFC scored a total of three goals in under 15 minutes, with Seattle ultimately coming out on top.
The Sounders will continue their title defense next Tuesday when they face FC Dallas at home. In all likelihood, coach Brian Schmetzer will roll with the same lineup that took home the win against LAFC in that game. For some it may come as a surprise that that would mean Alex Roldan could hold on to his starting spot. His recent performances have provided ever reason to believe that he’ll be ready for the lights of national TV once again when that game kicks off on FS1 at 6:30 PM.
18’ — Ruidíaz finds Morris inside the box with an early cross. Morris steps on the ball and plays it to Lodeiro at the top of the box, who finishes first time to beat Sisniega at the near post. 1-0
20’ — Nouhou gives up a penalty, tripping Vela inside the box as he lunges for the ball. Vela hits his shot down the middle and into Frei’s awaiting arms.
38’ — A lovely cross from Cristian Roldan begets an even better cross from Alex Roldan, setting up Ruidíaz for a chance inside the box but his shot goes high and wide.
54’ — Nouhou does all the work to set Morris up perfectly for the second goal of the night, but Morris’ shot from the center of the box is wide right.
59’ — Yet another great ball from the younger Roldan nearly leads to a goal, but it’s just beyond Ruidíaz and Morris’ shot is deflected and strikes the crossbar.
61’ — Seattle immediately get another chance with Morris finding Lodeiro for a look once again, but Lodeiro’s bending shot across goal goes off the outside of the far post.
66’ — After a corner from Lodeiro makes its way through the box, Ruidíaz pivots nearly 180 degrees to shape his body and hits a beautiful half-volley that Sisniega can do nothing about except to pick it out of the net. 2-0
77’ — Vela hits a great cross that beats the entire defense, sailing just over Gómez Andrade’s head, and it’s met by Atuesta who slots it home. 2-1
80’ — Ruidiaz receives a ball from Lodeiro on the defense’s back shoulder, then plays it into space for Morris who calmly puts his shot into the far side of the goal to restore the two-goal lead. 3-1
88’ — Kaye appears to have picked up a goal to close the gap, but after video review he is ruled to have been in an offside position.
Nico Lodeiro, huh? Lodeiro was everywhere, involved in just about everything good that happened for Seattle against LAFC. The commentators remarked that there were practically two Lodeiros on the field, and that may have never been more apt than on the opening goal. Lodeiro took a cross out of the air with his chest and flicked it along to Roldan, two passes later Lodeiro was running into the box ready for the assist from Morris. The goal itself was a beauty, but the tireless work rate was truly special.
The maturation of Alex Roldan. Within Sounders circles there’s been plenty of discussion about the growth of Alex Roldan over the course of this year. Since being cut and coming back as a trialist he’s committed to a position switch, improved in just about every aspect of his game, and maybe most importantly increased his confidence. In the past there were glimpses of what he had to offer — clean, quality passing, a good cross, decent work rate — but now he’s doing Cruyff turns, routinely hitting beautiful crosses, and putting in shifts as a shut-down right back. At the very least, he’s made it much harder for Schmetzer to keep picking Kelvin Leerdam to start going forward.
Big players for big moments. As was the case when these two teams met in the playoffs in 2019, the real difference was which side’s stars played like stars. Carlos Vela gave it the old college try, earning a penalty and picking up an assist on LAFC’s lone goal, but he also wasted his penalty and failed to take hold of the game. On the opposite side, Seattle’s stars shined brightly as João Paulo dictated tempo on both sides of the ball and all of Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Raúl Ruidiaz picked up both goals and assists. Cristian Roldan was his usual, tenacious self, and Yeimar Gómez Andrade showed his ability to dominate physically and make every one around him more dangerous with his passing.
Did you see that?!?
You just knew that Ruidiaz wasn't going to let Lodeiro keep the playoff goal lead. That's No. 8 in 7 games. pic.twitter.com/JCAKTFW5Z6— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 25, 2020
Ruidíaz’s body control and movement is more akin to an elite martial artist, a gymnast, a dancer on this goal, and it’s a thing of beauty.
He said what?!?
"Tonight was a big game for the club and (Alex Roldan) performed over and above my expectations. That's how I feel. He's a tremendous young player, lives in the shadow of his brother and tonight I don't think you'd say that. He's a very good capable RB in MLS." - Schmetzer— Sounder At Heart (@sounderatheart) November 25, 2020
One stat to tell the tale
12 — Not only did the Sounders set a MLS record with their 13th straight home playoff win, but even more impressively they’ve now qualified for 12 straight Western Conference semifinals. No other team who made last year’s conference finals made it this year.
Man of the match
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