Nicolas Lodeiro scored his first Sounders goal and added another assist as Seattle defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

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Nicolas Lodeiro scored his first Sounders goal and added another assist as Seattle defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

These are my first impressions:

– Lodeiro is a sensation.

Real Salt Lake kept Seattle’s newest Designated Player signing in check for all of 24 minutes. RSL limited his time on the ball during the opening stretch of the game, clogging up passing lanes.

And yet before the game even reached halftime, Lodeiro had already netted his first Sounders goal and notched his third assist in as many MLS appearances.

With the Uruguayan playmaker at the heart of the action, Seattle again looked like a team transformed.

Lodeiro’s goal was a sweet first-time strike of Andreas Ivanschitz’s well-placed centering pass. It forced RSL to open up just when it looked as if the visitors had settled in.

His assist was even more emblematic of his influence on this attack.

Clint Dempsey’s through ball up the left side stretched the opposing defense, and the veteran forward was also credited with an assist for his trouble. Lodeiro gathered the ball on the sideline, head already up, and both he and Jordan Morris spotted the open pocket of space near the near post.

Morris made an anticipatory run, Lodeiro put his pass on a dime and the Sounders (temporarily) assumed full control of the game.

– Stefan Frei’s miscue set up an unnecessarily nervous finish.

Seattle was cruising toward its second-consecutive win in the 62nd minute, when Frei inexplicably dropped an attempted throw at Yura Movsisyan’s feet.

The RSL substitute did well to keep the play alive, dribbling around Frei before picking out Joao Plata in the middle of the penalty box for a finish into an empty net.

There were questions of offside – with Frei out of the picture, there was just a single defender between Plata and the goal – but the mistake was self-inflicted.

From that point on, nerves that had been absent for much of the afternoon rose to the surface.

Dempsey could have settled them with 10 minutes to go, but he blasted the penalty kick earned by Cristian Roldan’s strong run into the box off of the bottom side of the bar.

The Sounders were forced to hold on for dear life late.

– The playoff spots are suddenly within reach.

With Sunday’s result, Seattle (8-12-3) pulled within five points of sixth-place Portland for the Western Conference’s final playoff qualifying spot. That gap seems even narrower with a cursory glance at the next portion of the schedule.

The Cascadia rivals face off twice in the coming weeks, next weekend at CenturyLink and the following Sunday at Providence Park in Portland. Should the Sounders expand upon an unbeaten streak that now stands at three, they could suddenly find themselves in a very promising position ahead of the stretch run of the season.

As if Sounders-Timbers games didn’t come with enough built-in drama, those matchups could very well decide the West’s final postseason berth when all is said and done.