Nico Lodeiro laughed at the question.
Do you study goalkeepers to prepare for penalty kicks?
The Sounders midfielder hasn’t missed in MLS regular-season play, so the seven-year veteran must have a mental vault of keeper tendencies to reference.
“No, I study my brain, and focus on my legs and feet,” Lodeiro said. “When I take the penalty kicks with my teammates in training, I always focus on my confidence and try to have the same on the field in a game. When I take the goal, I feel confident. I know maybe the keeper can save the ball, but when you shoot with confidence, you have more chances to score.”
That confidence was on display Tuesday against FC Dallas keeper Maarten Paes. Lodeiro rushed into a low, left-footed shot, and Paes lunged the wrong direction to concede the goal in the 39th minute.
The Uruguayan midfielder is now 18-for-18 from the spot in MLS regular-season play. More important, it proved to be the game-winner in a 1-0 result at Lumen Field.
The win pushed the Sounders (10-11-2) above the playoff line into sixth place in the Western Conference. Dallas (9-7-8) remains ahead of the Sounders at fourth place despite the loss.
“I’m very impressed,” said Lodeiro, who in 2020 set the league record of most of any player with a 100 percent record, then 14-for-14. “Now, I don’t want to miss.”
Sounders forward Jordan Morris drew the foul to set up Lodeiro’s score. Morris jumped to connect with an aerial pass from midfielder Cristian Roldan in the box and Paes left his line to grab the ball. The players crashed to the turf, both needing attention, but the foul was clear for referee Allen Chapman.
“It was a hit; it didn’t feel great,” Morris said. “I’m glad I could help the team and Nico, obviously, buried the PK. So, I’m a little sore, of course, but that’s part of the game.”
Minutes earlier, Morris appeared to have another scoring opportunity in the box. His run was flagged for being offside in the 34th minute. Otherwise, the Sounders weren’t that threatening in the opening half.
Dallas, which hasn’t won in Seattle since 2011 (a span of 16 matches), seemed content to let the Sounders miscommunicate on passes and didn’t pressure the home side too much. Midfielder Brandon Servania had Dallas’ clearest chance to get on the board first with a left-footed shot from distance in the 29th minute that was saved.
FCD is also in the middle of a congested schedule. Star striker Jesus Ferreira and midfielder Paul Arriola subbed on early in the second half. Ferreira scored in Dallas’ 2-0 win against Seattle in May.
“We’ve done that to opponents where you’re in the middle of a three-game week and you play with a back line of five and you try to take the crowd out of the game,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of the visitors’ tactics. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Our attacking movements were perhaps more difficult because our opponent was in a deeper block.
“They pressed in some moments, so credit to them for not sitting all the way back. But it was challenging.”
Seattle had chances to increase the lead in the second half. The most thrilling was a tie between defender Nouhou’s breakaway dribble that was finally muffled in the keepers’ box in the 86th minute and a possible header for striker Raul Ruidiaz off a feed from teammate Albert Rusnak in the 69th minute.
The Peruvian rejuvenated the announced crowd of 32,207 when he subbed on for forward Fredy Montero in the 65th minute. Ruidiaz has been limited to nine MLS matches this season due to hamstring injuries in both legs.
“There were some moments there,” Schmetzer said of the chances created after the break. “I know Nouhou wants to score, but Raul was open. We’ll watch things on film and see where we can do better to make it 2-0, even though 2-0 doesn’t actually guarantee you a victory.”
Sounders keeper Stefan Frei also received praise from the crowd when he prevented an equalizer in the 86th minute and in second-half stoppage time. It’s Frei’s fourth clean sheet of the season.
The short turnaround from Friday’s loss in Los Angeles called for two lineup changes Tuesday. Montero started up top in place of Will Bruin and Leo Chu started at right winger in place of Jimmy Medranda. It was Chu’s seventh start of the season.
Seattle has another congested week as they travel to play a Saturday matinee match against Atlanta United FC. The Five Stripes are 12th in Eastern Conference standings.
“The performance probably wasn’t up to our standard,” Rusnak said of his team, which lost five of their previous seven games. “At this point in the season and with the good amount of losses in the last few games that we’ve played, it was all about winning, getting three points, moving up in the table and we did that.”