The Seattle Sounders hosted the San Jose Earthquakes on MLS Decision Day with nothing on the line except for the Heritage Cup, some offseason vibes and possibly a job or two. In an oddly fitting ending to a season in which it seemed like the Sounders couldn’t buy a draw for most of the season, this one ended 2-2. Twice Seattle took a lead, and twice the Earthquakes equalized.
Nico Lodeiro gave Seattle a very early lead, knocking the ball home 27 seconds into the game, and providing a bit of hope that maybe this game would be different from so many frustrating Sounders games this season. Unfortunately, that hope was short-lived. The Earthquakes equalized in the 4th minute when Cristian Espinoza rifled a shot at Stefan Cleveland from the corner of the box. Cleveland got two fists to the shot to keep it out, but his parry went off of Nouhou’s arm and right to Jeremy Ebobisse all alone at the penalty spot. He finished with ease into a practically empty net.
Both sides continued to create chances through the rest of the first half, but it was once again Nico Lodeiro finding the back of the net early in the second half. This time Lodeiro volleyed home an attempted clearance from a corner kick, a goal worth the price of entry. It seemed like Seattle might come away with a consolation victory, but Earthquakes substitute Cade Cowell had other intentions. Cowell took Alex Roldan for a bit of a ride as he cut in from Seattle’s left and ran along the top of the box before wending his shot around the diving Stefan Cleveland and into the far side netting to even the score at 2 goals a side. That’s how things ended in a hard-fought but ultimately meaningless season finale. The Earthquakes took home the Heritage Cup for only the second time in seven years, a small consolation for finishing last in the West.
The Sounders, many of them at least, will now get plenty of rest ahead of what is sure to be a busy 2023, while a handful will head to Qatar to join their national teams at the Men’s World Cup.
1’ — The Sounders are on the board EARLY! Nico Lodeiro puts away his shot after a ball into the box from Alex Roldan is deflected to him 27 seconds into the game! 1-0 Sounders
4’ — San Jose have a quick response, as Jeremy Ebobisse smashes home the rebound from Stefan Cleveland’s parry. 1-1
21’ — After Fredy Montero works some magic to keep the ball inside San Jose’s area, Albert Rusnák fires a shot through traffic and off the post.
28’ — Montero smashes a shot that Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski is able to get his body in front of before a defender clears the danger.
32’ — Josh Atencio drives towards the end line and sends a looping cross that finds Cristian Roldan on the far side of goal, but Roldan’s volley is well off the mark.
49’ — Lodeiro again! Rusnák’s corner is headed away from goal where Lodeiro volleys it from the top of the box to beat Marcinkowski and retake the lead! 2-1
75’ — Cade Cowell levels the score for the Earthquakes, cutting in from the left side and beating Cleveland with a shot to the far side netting. 2-2
Well, what do we have here? There were two players in this lineup who seemed to potentially have been chosen with an eye towards roster planning for 2023: Stefan Cleveland in goal and Josh Atencio in midfield. This was Atencio’s sixth consecutive start, with the previous five starts coming alongside Danny Leyva. Realistically, that’s not the situation in which we’re most likely to see Atencio in the future, so it’s important to see how he does playing alongside Albert Rusnák. Cleveland, who got the start in place an injured Stefan Frei, could potentially be in the shop window.
One day only: Nico Lodeiro’s 7 goals and 11 assists in league play for 2022 isn’t a long way off from the kind of production we’ve come to expect from the talismanic midfielder, but it’s not for nothing that prior to this game he had only scored once from open play and four of those assists were secondary. Lodeiro has shown his class and quality in flashes this season — particularly during the CCL run where he had five goals and 2 assists, and had only 3 games without a goal or an assist as he played every game — but we didn’t really get sustained runs of him at his best in MLS. Today, though, was different. Clearly frustrated by how the season ended, Lodeiro made sure to remind us all exactly what he’s capable of. Both goals were magnificent, the kind of thing we’ve just not seen much of this year. Who knows how much longer we’ll get with Nico Lodeiro, but we’ll always have today.
(Off)season of change: It’s going to be a while before we get to watch our Seattle Sounders again. In some ways that’s a bit of a blessing: this season has been difficult, containing arguably the most glorious high of the club’s history, and also some miserable lows. Garth Lagerwey has indicated that the club will need to take a hard look at what caused the collapse that saw the Sounders miss the MLS playoffs for the first time after becoming the first-ever MLS club to lift the CCL trophy. It seems clear that the organization erred too much on the side of continuity and solidity in the roster to start the season as they pushed for that trophy, and it worked out, but had very obvious consequences. The team’s two highest-paid players, Raúl Ruidíaz and Lodeiro, are both in their 30s and have missed significant chunks of time in recent years to injury. Plenty of other players had drop-offs in form or failed to live up to expectations. Could this winter see a transformation, one that produces a new and improved Seattle Sounders? Only time will tell.
Did you see that?!?
A little bit of beauty from Nico Lodeiro.
He said what?!?
‘I’ve already started some self reflection. I’ve been a players coach and there are times where that got taken advantage of.’ - Schmetzer— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) October 9, 2022
One stat to tell the tale
5 — This was the Sounders’ 5th draw of the season, tying for the second-fewest in a season in the team’s MLS history.
Man of the match
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