A force blew in from Brazil in the form of Nico Lodeiro.
The midfielder was in South America to compete with his Uruguayan national team in the Copa America. When it lost a quarterfinal matchup last week, Lodeiro returned to the Sounders and dominated their road matchup against Columbus on Saturday, scoring both goals in an eventual 2-1 win.
Lodeiro’s effort helped snap an eight-match road streak without a win for the Sounders (9-5-5) and get through a tough three-game week with two victories.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve won away,” said Lodeiro via audio provided by MLS of the March 16 road win in Chicago. “For our confidence, this is very important. This is the second part of the (season) and we need points away and at home.”
Considering Lodeiro’s talent as a designated player, Seattle was for once taking advantage of a hampered team instead of being the ones bullied. Columbus had four players out due to injuries and four serving national-team duty.
Seattle still has striker Raul Ruidiaz (Peru), midfielder Cristian Roldan (U.S.) and forward Jordan Morris (U.S.) playing with their national teams. But Lodeiro’s return to the center midfield was what the Sounders needed to anchor another inexperienced lineup.
Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez received the nod at forward, an MLS debut for the 17-year-old, while Danny Leyva, a 16-year-old midfielder, made the second start of his MLS career.
“It’s not easy,” Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam said via audio provided by MLS. “You need to adjust as quickly as possible because everybody is different. You just go with the flow of the game. … You just try to fight.”
Columbus midfielder Pedro Santos scored the Crew’s goal off a penalty kick in the 14th minute. Leyva was called for a foul to set up the play that on televised replays didn’t appear to show contact, but it wasn’t reviewed via VAR.
It’s the second time in a week Leyva has been involved in a questionable goal. In a home win against Vancouver, his first MLS goal was disallowed after a review because of an injury to the goalkeeper that kept him out of the box.
Seattle appeared upset with each other after Santos’ goal for the remainder of the opening half.
“They tried to tire us out mentally and we couldn’t find any spaces in between their defense and midfield,” Leerdam said. “It was tough. And it was tough for us because you loose so much energy. There was frustration with each other and things like that.”
Lodeiro had the equalizer for the Sounders in the 56th minute. He suffered a rough tackle by Columbus midfielder David Guzman in the box, drawing a penalty kick. Lodeiro whipped the left-footed shot to the bottom right corner of the net.
His go-ahead score was also on a set piece. Sounders defender Saad Abdul-Salaam provided the throw-in that Columbus defender Alex Crognale initially won, but his header deflection floated right to Lodeiro. The captain easily headed it into the far post for a 2-1 lead in stoppage time.
Saturday’s goals were Lodeiro’s third and fourth of the season.
“I never imagined the ball was coming for me because I’m a small guy,” said the 5-foot-7 Lodeiro via audio provided by MLS. “In the second half, we changed our mentality and we changed our focus. We know if we play like a team and we fight the last 15 minutes, we could win.”
Columbus (5-13-2) has lost 12 of its past 14 matches.
Lodeiro’s start was his first for the Rave Green since May. The Sounders were also missing midfielder/left back Joevin Jones, who traveled home to be present for the birth of his first child in Trinidad. He played a full 90 minutes in the road loss to New York City FC on Wednesday.
Seattle expects to be at full strength for its matchup against Atlanta on July 14 at CenturyLink Field. Ruidiaz and Peru vie for the Copa America title Sunday against Brazil while the U.S., including Roldan and Morris, plays Mexico for the Gold Cup championship that night.
“I’m tired, there’s pain everywhere,” Lodeiro said via audio provided by MLS. “But I feel happy because we won and the team deserved the three points.”