Cristian Roldan scored in the 89th minute to lift the Sounders to a 4-3 win against Los Angeles.
Sounders FC left back Brad Smith talks constantly about staying ready.
Sunday was a demonstration. The Australian substituted into a pivotal matchup against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the 81st minute. By the 89th minute, he was racing down the flank to send a cross to midfielder Cristian Roldan. The latter knocked the ball into the goal, giving the Sounders a 4-3 victory before 46,673 spectators at CenturyLink Field.
“Brad’s a competitor,” Roldan said. “He wants to be playing. He wants to start every game. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the call today but he came in with a great attitude. He was willing to be on the bench and then came on and was a runner. The way he plays is magnificent, especially late in the game where we need guys to really go forward. Brad was crucial for this victory.”
Smith’s last start was a July 27 victory in Houston when he was substituted out of the game in the 31st minute with a groin injury. He missed the following four matches and appeared as a substitute for 24 minutes in the Sounders’ Cascadia Cup victory in Portland on Aug. 23.
As the minutes ticked off the clock Sunday, it appeared doubtful Smith would enter the game. The shift came after the Sounders built a 2-1 lead but couldn’t stop an onslaught of goals in the final 27 minutes of the match.
Smith was utilized for his quick pace and powerful left leg. He beat Galaxy defender Julian Araujo to collect a pass from Sounders forward Jordan Morris. Smith then hustled to get the cross to Roldan for the winner. The score was Roldan’s sixth of the season.
The outcome catapults Seattle (13-8-7) to second in MLS Western Conference standings. Los Angeles (13-12-3) drops to the seventh seed, if the playoffs were to begin Monday.
“There’s stuff to work on, like when we’re up 2-0 to not let them back in the game, especially at home,” Morris said. “We do have a never-quit attitude and that’s what this team is good at. … we just keep pushing.”
The shootout started with a goal from Uriel Antuna in the 75th minute when Seattle failed to clear the ball in the box. Morris seemed to erase the blip with his own score in the 77th minute, breaking away from Galaxy defenders to take L.A. keeper David Bingham one-on-one in front of the goal to score.
But Seattle allowed a goal in the 81st minute from Galaxy defender Jorgen Skjelvik to be what many thought was the match’s final equalizer. It was a redeeming play for Skjelvik, whose own goal in the game between the clubs in Los Angeles on Aug. 17 was the reason for a 2-2 draw.
Then Smith was substituted into the game.
“Sometimes teams need a little spark of energy off the bench and he provided it,” Sounder coach Brian Schmetzer said.
It was tiny errors that made the difference in the scores Sunday.
In the opening half, L.A. defender Giancarlo Gonzalez cleared a cross from Saad Abdul-Salaam directly to a racing Sounders midfielder Nico Lodeiro. The Uruguayan caught a glimpse of teammate Raul Ruidiaz signaling behind the Galaxy defense, increasing his speed to send an assist.
Ruidiaz, unmarked, easily booted the ball into the goal behind Bingham in first-half stoppage time. The score was Ruidiaz’s 11th goal of the season and Lodeiro’s 12th assist.
Moments before the play, it appeared Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic would have the textbook score off a small error. The ball deflected off Lodiero’s back foot to L.A. and found its way to Ibrahimovic, who only needed to power it past Sounders keeper Stefan Frei on the run. But the latter quickly smothered the attempt for a save in the 45th minute.
L.A. dominated possession of the ball in the opening half at 60.8% and had four shots on goal. After two of his on-target attempts, Ibrahimovic pouted, even taking a seat on the field in disappointment of Frei’s save.
Ibrahimovic was able to get his score in the 66th minute. He was covered by Gustav Svensson on a corner kick but used his 6-foot-5 frame to head the ball into the net, his 23rd goal of the season.
The opening half was Seattle’s best defensive showing. Abdul-Salaam played Ibrahimovic and Cristian Pavon well from the wing early on while Xavier Arreaga and Jordy Delem broke up plays as Schmetzer stressed the team needed to do in order to win.
The aggressive defending did cause one injury to Delem in the opening half. He collided with Arreaga as both attempted headers to clear a ball. Arreaga was able to get up immediately while Delem was substituted out of the match for Emanuel Cecchini and is under concussion protocol.
The frenzied finish resulting in three goals is a concern. It’s the fourth time in Seattle’s past six matches it conceded three goals.
“There were some nervy moments,” Schmetzer said. “But they find ways to persevere.”