The Seattle Sounders beat NYCFC 3-1 at Lumen Field as they hosted the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals on Wednesday night. The match lived up to the hype, as two of the best teams in MLS squared off for a spot in the finals and played an open and expansive game that Seattle greatly enjoyed. The Sounders got big contributions from their most important players, as well as from their highest-paid ones. Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris ran rampant on the wings at times, João Paulo bossed the midfield and will likely appear in the nightmares of every NYCFC player, and all three Designated Players got involved in the goals in one way or another.
Albert Rusnák got the party started, finishing off an incredible team play that saw every player but Nico Lodeiro touch the ball. NYCFC leveled the score not long after, thanks to some sloppy work by the backline that gave Thiago Andrade an open look at goal, but the Sounders retook the advantage even quicker. Morris ran onto a cutback from Cristian Roldan and smashed the ball into the net with the fury of 10,000 USMNT fanboys, giving Morris a goal and an assist on the night, and earning Roldan his 8th assist of the season in all competitions. In the second half, Lodeiro added to the lead with a penalty, won by Raúl Ruidíaz, to take a significant advantage into the return leg. That second leg will take place on Wednesday, April 13 at 6 PM PT at Red Bull Arena.
10’ — Jackson Ragen hits a line-breaking ball that finds Jordan Morris on the hop. Morris gets a shot off, but it’s put out for a corner as Sean Johnson gets a hand to it.
16’ — Goal Sounders! Kelyn Rowe switches the ball, Alex Roldan gets a clever touch to Cristian, and Jordan Morris sets it for Albert Rusnák arriving late to finish! 1-0 Sounders
27’ — NYCFC level the score as Kelyn Rowe and Xavier Arreaga get pulled to the far post to defend a cross, but the ball is headed back across for an open finish for Thiago Andrade. 1-1
34’ — Jordan Morris reclaims the lead! Nico Lodeiro sees a good Cristian Roldan run on a throw in, and Roldan cuts it back for Morris to run onto and hammer it home! 2-1
37’ — Raúl Ruidíaz gets a great look to double the lead, getting on the end of an excellent cross from Alex Roldan, but the header is right at the GK.
50’ — Taty Castellanos makes the Seattle defense look silly with some outstanding movement, getting on the end of a cross in front of Arreaga, but his shot is just wide.
60’ — NYCFC sends in a dangerous cross that bounces in front of Castellanos, but Frei dives across and grabs ahold of it to prevent any danger from a rebound.
64’ — Cristian Roldan just misses on a goal of his own as Ruidíaz picks him out with a cross, but the leaping attempt from Roldan goes over the bar.
67’ — After Raúl Ruidíaz gets a kick through his legs from behind, Nico Lodeiro steps up to take the penalty. Lodeiro sends Sean Johnson the wrong way and doubles the lead! 3-1
75’ — NYCFC get another good chance off of recycled possession following a free kick, but the eventual shot is saved by a diving Frei after it weaves through traffic.
The road to Qatar: Morris and Cristian Roldan both got called up for the final games of qualifying as the USMNT punched their ticket to the World Cup this fall. Both players are seen as bubble players, needing to impress in league play and any opportunities they may get in Concacaf Nations League to earn a spot on the final roster for Qatar. Both players have been making strong cases for themselves this season, particularly since returning from international duty. Against NYCFC, in one of the most important games in the club’s history, Morris and Roldan took their games up another notch. If they can play anywhere near this level over the remainder of the season, they’ll be hard for Gregg Berhalter to ignore.
To possess or not to possess: For the second consecutive game, Seattle won the possession battle — and it was a battle, as NYCFC looked intent on trying to hold the ball in the hopes of limiting the danger the Sounders could present — and looked fantastic in the process. They were all over New York, creating even more danger than the three goals that they scored, and showcasing some positively beautiful passing play along the way. Notably, these two games have coincided with Brian Schmetzer being able to start all three of Lodeiro, João Paulo, and Rusnák in midfield. While all three players are more than capable of playing in transition, they seem to be at their best when they get to play with the ball. Right now it may be a bit of a luxury, but the team being able to shift and adjust the general approach to games depending on who’s available and what the game needs, and to absolutely dominate while doing so, is the kind of flexibility that is required if the Sounders are going to accomplish the lofty goals set for them. First up: reach the CCL finals.
Health and wellness check: While Yeimar is still working his way back, the overall health of the squad is in much better shape than it was a week or two ago. Lodeiro and Ruidíaz are both fit enough that they started and played more than 80 minutes in this one, Morris is looking more and more like the game-breaking player he’s capable of being, and even Jimmy Medranda made an appearance. Medranda replaced Morris for the final few minutes of the game, marking his first appearance since October. João Paulo did sub off in this one, and had ice bags on his hamstrings after the game, but that appeared to be more a matter of fatigue than injury, and he’ll have a week to rest before the second leg.
Did you see that?!?
WHAT A TEAM GOAL— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) April 7, 2022
Albert Rusnák gives us the 1-0 lead!
A thing of beauty, from start to finish.
He said what?!?
‘We aren’t getting ahead of ourselves but we’d love to be that first MLS team to win CCL.’- Morris— Jeremiah Oshan (@JeremiahOshan) April 7, 2022
One stat to tell the tale
1 — The goal that NYCFC scored tonight was the first goal the Sounders have conceded at home in CCL play this season, outscoring opponents 11-1 in three games.
Man of the match
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