SEATTLE — After three straight without a win, the Seattle Sounders were in need of a feel-good performance. They got that and a bit more in Tuesday’s Leagues Cup match at Lumen Field, beating defending Concacaf Champions League winners Tigres UANL 3-0 to advance to the tournament’s semifinals.
It wasn’t just the scoreline that looked good, it was how they achieved it. The Sounders were the better team almost whistle to whistle, going into halftime with a 1-0 lead, withstanding some Tigres pressure to start the second half and then putting it away with a pair of goals in the 64th and 70th minutes.
Although the Sounders’ lineup was undeniably closer to full strength than Tigres, the Mexicans put out a formidable group. Among their starters were players with Champions League experience, Liga MX veterans and attackers with eight-digit valuations. It was also a team that was only a few months removed from a trip to the Club World Cup finals.
The Sounders never looked remotely out of their depth. When Raúl Ruidíaz scored a panenka in the 23rd minute past Miguel Ortega, it allowed the Sounders to go into halftime with a well-deserved lead.
The second-half had far more intensity with Tigres seemingly realizing that they were in for a game. The Sounders handled it well, though, and then added a second goal through Fredy Montero. Nicolas Lodeiro then put the game away with a 30-yard shot in the 70th minute.
The Sounders will now await the winner of Orlando City-Santos Laguna, who they’ll play on Sept. 14-15. The winner will then advance to the Leagues Cup finals in Las Vegas on Sept. 22.
23’ — Raúl Ruidíaz converts from the penalty spot, placing a panenka past the Tigres goalkeeper after Cristian Roldan drew the foul at the edge of the penalty area. It was Ruidíaz’s 54th goal as a Sounder, but his first that came outside of MLS play. Sounders 1, Tigres 0
50’ — Montero puts Cristian Roldan into space in the right channel. Roldan cuts it back to Ruidiaz about 16 yards out, but his challenged shot sails high.
59’ — Shane O’Neill clears a ball that looks like it may have been bound for goal to keep the lead.
63’ — Alex Roldan puts in a low cross that the goalkeeper spills but Cristian Roldan can’t quite get there in time.
64’ — Fredy Montero finishes off a corner kick from João Paulo that was flicked on by Cristian Roldan. It’s Montero’s 65th goal in all competitions for the Sounders. Sounders 2, Tigres 0
65’ — Nicolas Lodeiro enters the game.
70’ — Lodeiro wastes little time in scoring his first goal of 2021, taking the ball from near midfield and scoring from nearly 30 yards out. 3 Sounders, Tigres 0
75’ — Ruidíaz has a good look at a diving header off a Kelyn Rowe pass, but it’s saved.
87’ — Tigres got one of their best looks of the game when Diego Reyes put a header from a corner off the post.
Welcome back Nico: There was no more important development from Tuesday’s win than Lodeiro’s performance. It wasn’t just that he scored an absolute golazo, it was that he logged 25 minutes, took a couple tackles and looked very much like his old self. It hardly seems like a coincidence that the last time the Sounders scored three goals in a game was when Lodeiro last played at least 20 minutes. If he can build on this, watch out.
Taking it serious: While Peter Vermes opted to go with a very second-choice lineup in the night’s other Leagues Cup game, Schmetzer chose what is pretty much his first-choice squad with veterans at every spot. Despite facing one of the hemisphere’s monster teams, the Sounders never looked remotely out of place and dominated large stretches of this game. Silly as this tournament may be, this was as close to a statement win as one could make and the Sounders seem very interested in trying to win the whole damn thing, even if it means they’ll be playing two games a week through the end of the season.
Something to build on: The Sounders haven’t necessarily been playing poorly, but results have not been going their way over the past few weeks. A win like this definitely has the potential to change that, but they need to follow it up with a quality performance for that to be truly meaningful. As seriously as the Sounders may take this tournament, they know that the real prize is MLS Cup, and in order to put themselves in as good a position as possible, they need to start collecting points in league play again. That starts on Sunday against the Timbers.
He said what?!?
“We want to win every game, every trophy, that’s what makes us successful.” - Brian Schmetzer
Did you see that?!?
Take a bow Nico.
One stat to the tell the tale
6 — In two home games against Tigres, the Sounders have scored a total of six goals.
Man of the match
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