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Sounders vs. Pumas, recap: CONCACAF Champions

The Seattle Sounders routed Pumas, 3-0, at home to claim the CCL title.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — The biggest game in Seattle Sounders history started off a little nervy, it’s fair to say. Although the Sounders ultimately beat Pumas UNAM 3-0 in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League — 5-2 on aggregate — and looked pretty comfortable doing it, the opening half provided more than enough reason to worry. Seattle created chances early, but lost Nouhou in the 11th minute and João Paulo in the 29th to injuries. Both sides pushed, but at each turn Stefan Frei and his defense stood up to the challenge and kept Pumas out.

Then in the final minute of first-half regulation time Raúl Ruidíaz did what we all knew he would: he hammered a ball in the area that beat the goalkeeper after a deflection. Lumen Field exploded, and while we didn’t know it then, nothing was ever the same again.

Pumas really only had one good look in the second half, which drew an excellent save from Frei. The final 45 minutes were effectively all Sounders, and the payoff came in the final 10 minutes. Ruidíaz doubled his tally on an excellent team goal in the 80th minute, finishing off a sequence that included a ball from Alex Roldan that released Jordan Morris down the wing. Morris drove at the penalty area before playing a drop pass to the top of the box for Nico Lodeiro, who found Ruidíaz running into the box on the weak side and the no. 9 left no doubt with his finish.

Eight minutes later it was Lodeiro hammering the ball home, finishing the rebound off the post following a great play by Morris to create space and get a good shot off from the right side. That settled any questions about a possible Pumas comeback as the Sounders took their final steps into eternity. Our Seattle Sounders, Concacaf Champions.

Key moments

15’ — Nico Lodeiro plays a clever ball for Jordan Morris to run onto in the box. His shot is blocked, but he recovers it and sends in a cross that Raúl Ruidíaz heads at the goalkeeper.

19’ — Ruidíaz gets another look, this time creating just enough space to get a blind shot off on the turn, but it’s again easily handled by the GK.

28’ — Juan Dinenno gets a good look in the Sounders area after a failed attempt at a scorpion kick clearance from Yeimar, but Yeimar is able to block the shot and clear it.

42’ — The Sounders create a half-chance after Jordan gets the ball in the box and plays it back to Cristian Roldan, who cuts the ball back for Lodeiro, but the sliding shot is just wide.

43’ — Dinenno appears to get a great chance that Stefan Frei tips over the bar, but it’s called back for a foul.

45’ — SOUNDERS GOAL! Seattle open the scoring after a dribble into the box by Albert Rusnák and a pass to Xavier Arreaga, who lays it off to Ruidíaz for the deflected finish. 1-0

52’ — After Ruidíaz is brought down, the Sounders run a little trick play on the free kick and get a header in the box, but the contact’s not great and it’s up and over the bar.

65’ — Pumas gets another good look, but Frei makes an excellent sprawling reaction save. The ball bounces around, but play is eventually stopped for a Sounders free kick.

69’ — Alex Roldan makes a nice cut inside in the Pumas area after the Sounders win the ball back, creating space to get an arcing shot off that is tipped over the bar.

80’ — Ruidíaz again! This time Jordan Morris gets released in behind down the right side, then drops a pass to Lodeiro who finds Ruidíaz on the weak side to put it away. 2-0

88’ — Lodeiro adds a third! Jordan Morris hits an excellent shot from a tight angle on the right that the goalkeeper parrys off the far post. Lodeiro cleans up the rebound to ice the game. 3-0

Quick thoughts

The difference that depth makes: I’m sure you’re aware that up to this point the biggest difference between MLS clubs and Liga MX ones in a competition like CCL has been the depth that the Mexican clubs can utilize. Without the same salary constraints, they’re able to spread more money around beyond the top 13 or 14 roster spots, the point at which MLS quality has tended to drop off. In this game, the Sounders started as ideal of an XI as you can imagine, but lost two key players to injury in the first half. With the departures of Nouhou and João Paulo, in stepped Kelyn Rowe and Obed Vargas to play 79 and 61 minutes respectively. Neither were perfect, but they played important roles as the Sounders brought more than Pumas could handle on their way to history.

Albert Rusnák, charmed I’m sure: Albert Rusnák has been good for the Sounders, but hasn’t exactly jumped off the screen in the way that some might have expected of a Designated Player who put up double-digit goals and assists in 2021. Moving him back a line to play in Seattle’s double-pivot has meant that he’s farther from goal, likely contributing to any perception that he’s underperformed, but against Pumas he shined. Especially when JP had to leave the match with an injury — he was on the sidelines on crutches after halftime — Rusnák stepped up to lighten the burden on Obed Vargas and showed all of the qualities that made the Sounders feel that he was a player they needed to bring on board. He was active defensively, winning 3 of 4 tackles and 7 of 11 duels, picking up 9 recoveries and 2 interceptions, while adding 2 key passes and completing 34 of his 40 passes. He’s a star, and he’s only just beginning to shine.

History made: We did it! Every one of us, we are all a part of this. Plenty has been written on this site by myself and others about what this game could mean, what the opportunity to make history by becoming the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League truly represented. Immortality, a place in the eternal record for having done what no other team from the league had ever done. It’s a big moment for the league as a whole, but this moment is ours. MLS didn’t win this game, the Seattle F-ing Sounders did, and they’re the ones who will live forever in the halls of history. Years of dedicated, persistent, hard work to build this club up to this moment has paid off. The tower that this organization has built has reached up and pierced the heavens, and from that high point a Rave Green flag flies. Never forget this moment. I won’t. The team won’t. We all did this, and now we get to bask in it.

Did you see that?!?

Not the winner, nor the icing on the cake, but this beauty of a goal was the moment it all became really real.

He said what?!?

One stat to tell the tale

3 — The Sounders 3 goals in this game meant that Seattle scored at least 3 goals in all four of their home CCL matches.


Poll

Man of the match

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Raúl Ruidíaz
    (850 votes)
  • 32%
    Albert Rusnák
    (598 votes)
  • 19%
    Nico Lodeiro
    (364 votes)
  • 1%
    Xavier Arreaga
    (35 votes)
1847 votes total Vote Now

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