The Seattle Sounders traveled to face the San Jose Earthquakes in what looked like a potentially catalyzing road win for the first hour or so. The final half-hour, though, proved to be a different story as the Sounders gave up three unanswered goals to lose 4-3 on Saturday. It was their first-ever loss in a game they led by at least two goals.
The Sounders opened the game well, earning a penalty in the 10th minute that Nico Lodeiro finished as you’d expect, then doubling the lead in the 20th on an excellent free kick from Lodeiro that Cristian Roldan headed home.
The two sides exchanged shots over the course of the rest of the half, but the Earthquakes pulled one back just before halftime when Cristian Espinoza finished his own rebound, reacting quicker than any of the Sounders inside the area. That goal, and San Jose’s performance leading up to it, would prove to be ominous foreshadowing.
Just before the hour mark Jordan Morris restored the two-goal lead for the Sounders, finishing off a cross from Lodeiro at close range. But any sense of relief from the goal was short-lived. First Espinoza hit a ball into the area — it could have been a shot, it could have been a cross, it doesn’t matter it was a goal — that seemed to fool Stefan Frei, who got in front of it and took it off his chest but couldn’t wrangle it before it made its way into the net.
Not even a minute later the Earthquakes were celebrating the tying goal. The play started when Jackson Ragen’s pass was picked off. San Jose’s counter flowed through the Sounders defense before Jackson Yueill slotted the ball beyond a still-reeling Frei.
The Sounders made subs and tweaked things, but never really got a hold of the game again. Seattle took three shots in the following half-hour, but none were particularly dangerous. As the game edged into stoppage time, Nouhou made the final and fatal error of the evening for the visitors when he pushed Cade Cowell from behind on a corner, giving the Earthquakes a penalty. With the final meaningful touch of the game, despite three additional minutes of stoppage time being added, Cristian Espinoza converted the penalty to complete his hat trick and give San Jose their first win of 2022.
The Sounders now travel to Mexico City to face Pumas UNAM on Wednesday in the first leg of the CCL final.
5’ — San Jose gets a great look in the box, but the shot is deflected and eventually blocked out for a corner by João Paulo.
11’ — Cristian Roldan hits an excellent switch to a wide-open Raúl Ruidíaz who takes a touch and receives a horrible tackle to win a penalty. Nico Lodeiro finishes down the middle! 1-0
20’ — Nouhou earns a free kick, which Nico Lodeiro warps into the area. Cristian Roldan rises unmarked and heads it home to double the lead! 2-0 Sounders
27’ — A clever short corner routine from the Sounders created chaos for the Earthquakes after a cross to the near post, but Seattle can’t find the third goal after a couple of attempts.
45’ — Jackson Yueill works his way through the Sounders area and finds Cristian Espinoza for a great chance, but Nouhou blocks the shot before clearing it out for a corner.
45’+2 — After a couple of attempts, the Earthquakes pull one back. Nouhou blocks a shot, but no one closes down Espinoza’s shot quickly enough to make an impact. 2-1 Sounders
57’ — Raúl Ruidíaz picks up a ball from JP and finds Nico Lodeiro in space on the left. Lodeiro picks up his head and hits a cross that Jordan Morris finishes from close range! 3-1
64’ — Espinoza sends in a shross that knuckles and goes in off of Stefan Frei to cut the deficit. A minute later San Jose dices through the defense and Yueill levels it. 3-3
94’ — Nouhou pushes a player in the back on a corner, giving the Earthquakes a penalty. Cristian Espinoza beats Frei and earns his team their first win. 3-4
Getting the best out of Lodeiro: There’s an old adage that’s true in all aspects of life, and maybe most true in the world of sports — some recent outliers aside. “Father Time is undefeated” is the saying, and it seems more and more like it’s going to start applying to Nico Lodeiro with every passing year. At 33 he’s got plenty of life ahead of him, but his time at the peak of his physical abilities is waning if it’s not already passed. Beyond his incredible skill and understanding of the game, Lodeiro’s hallmark has been the amount of work that he puts in every game. Against San Jose we may have seen how Lodeiro can still be at his best, and it looks lit it’s by limiting how much he has to do. By putting Albert Rusnák and João Paulo in the midfield behind him, and Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan to either side, Lodeiro doesn’t have to work quite as hard or cover quite as much ground, leaving him more able to deliver the kind of awareness, composure, and service from open play and set pieces that got him two assists and a goal against the Earthquakes.
Brain farts: It’s hardly insightful to say that the seven minutes after Jordan Morris’s goal - and truly the minute or so stretch that contained San Jose’s second and third goals - changed the game. I’ve never claimed to be especially insightful, though. Despite some dangerous stretches from the Earthquakes, the Sounders looked likely to cruise to a significant win with a 3-1 lead an hour into the game and suddenly they found themselves level. half an hour later and the Sounders were behind in stoppage after a penalty on Nouhou. It’s bad enough to lose a game after leading by two on the road to a bad team early in the season, but these are the kinds of mistakes that can and will be disastrous against Pumas in the CCL final. Brian Schmetzer and co. don’t have a ton of time to straighten out whatever’s wrong.
Nouhou giveth and Nouhou taketh away: We have all accepted the devil’s bargain that is loving and supporting Nouhou and a team that he plays on. Nouhou seems like a genuinely delightful person, who is an absolute thrill to see play football. Whether it’s his acrobatic, theatrical and unconventional approach to defending, his marauding forays up and down the touchline, or the sheer impossibility of getting around him when he shepherds the ball out of bounds, the Nouhou Choochoo is mostly a wonderful ride. But that ride has its downsides, too. The physical approach that Nouhou takes to the game makes him incredibly difficult to play against, but it also leads to the late penalty that sunk the Sounders in this one. Sometimes it’s a lack of awareness of a runner, or an over-exuberance as he pursues a play, but with Nouhou as with all things, there can be too much of a good thing. We’ve seen him find more balance in his game as he’s grown with the club, and he was mostly quite good tonight, but that last goal still counts.
Did you see that?!?
Remember the good times.
He said what?!?
Roldan: "We weren’t thinking about the final. We knew they’d have a new coach lift. We understood it would be a difficult game. When we’re up 2-0 or 3-1, just mental lapse and uncharacteristic of us to let this game slip. 1/2— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) April 24, 2022
One stat to tell the tale
12 — San Jose took 12 shots from inside the Sounders 18-yard box, 1 more than Seattle’s total shots.
Man of the match
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