Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz couldn’t score on a bicycle kick in the 55th minute Wednesday against Real Salt Lake, as he has in training, but most of the other work the team has put in lately is paying off.

Both of Seattle’s goals in the MLS Western Conference semifinal and its defensive tactics were products of tweaks made within the month at the club’s Starfire Sports training facility in Tukwila — including midfielder Gustav Svensson’s header in the 64th minute that helped advance second-seeded Seattle to the conference finals. The Sounders will travel to top-seeded Los Angeles FC on Tuesday, with the playoff match airing at 7 p.m. on ESPN. LAFC beat the L.A. Galaxy 5-3 Thursday night to advance.

“We’ve been working on that for a long time now,” Svensson said of his header. The play came on a corner kick from midfielder Nico Lodeiro, and they said they tried to do the same thing in the Sounders’ playoff opener against FC Dallas on Oct. 19 and missed.

“(Gustav said,) ‘Nico, try going to the near post,’” Lodeiro recalled after Wednesday’s match. “So we tried this during the week. And I know Gustav is very good inside the post so I tried to put the ball to his head so that we would have good luck.”

The score was Svensson’s first of the season and second in MLS postseason play. Players and coaches remarked how the goal opened up the game, the announced crowd of 37,722 at CenturyLink Field bursting with excitement when Lodeiro capped the night with a score in the 81st minute.

Lodeiro, the team captain, has been working on timing with Ruidiaz to create chances. It paid off Wednesday with perfection, Ruidiaz gathering a service from left back Brad Smith, tiptoeing the offside line within RSL’s defense and timing the assist for Lodeiro to aim a left-footed shot at goal.


“We struggled to get the ball in the net,” said Svensson of his team’s 10 shots on target. “I’m more than happy to help.”

This is Seattle’s third trip to the conference finals in the past four seasons. The Sounders played for the MLS Cup twice, winning in 2016.

Logging time

The Sounders had eight players called up for international duty earlier this month. Smith, an Australian, logged the most travel miles in flights to his native country and Taiwan for World Cup qualifier games, but Mercer Island’s Jordan Morris saw the most minutes.

During a 13-day stretch, the U.S. men’s national team forward appeared in four games, including two MLS playoff matches, and totaled 320 minutes. The bulk was the Sounders’ postseason opener against Dallas. Morris appeared in 114 minutes and contributed a hat trick in the 4-3 win.

Morris’ fellow American Cristian Roldan has played 300 minutes the past 13 days in three games while center back Roman Torres logged 259 minutes in three matches, one being a return to his Panamanian national team.

“Like I said, it’s been a long couple of weeks,” Morris said of the playoffs and CONCACAF Nations League games in D.C. and Toronto. “But it will be good with a long week of rest so I’m looking forward to that.”


Seattle was off Thursday and has four training days to prepare for the conference final.

Injury update

Torres is listed as day to day after suffering tightness in his left hamstring Wednesday against RSL. The veteran was substituted out of the match in the 49th minute. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said Torres was given an opportunity to play through the pain and couldn’t.

“As he was going up for a corner kick, he felt it again a little bit tighten up,” Schmetzer said. “We didn’t want to take any chances.”

Say what?

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando had some interesting parting words following his club’s 2-0 playoff loss to Seattle.

“I’ve been playing all year with a torn rotator cuff,” said Rimando, who recorded seven saves. “People thought I was kidding around when I said I have to get a couple surgeries after my career. It is my knee, my shoulder. I am a banged up old guy now.”

Rimando, 40, previously announced he would retire at the end of the season. The Californian played 20 years in goal, winning two MLS Cups and representing the U.S. in the 2014 World Cup.

“I enjoyed it all, even (Wednesday),” he said. “It was surreal to see the Sounders fans appreciate me and clap for me. It is a full circle for me. Starting in L.A. and ended here. I am appreciative of what soccer has given me.”