Rapid goals are becoming a trend for the Sounders FC.
The club accounted for three in 12 minutes of the second half in route to defeating the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 3-1 on Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
“This was a very unique match,” said Sounders midfielder Nico Lodeiro as translated from Spanish during a video conference call with media. “We had many opportunities in the first half and once you don’t score, one can get a little bit nervous. But we were more aggressive and more intense in the second half … and things got easier.”
The Sounders outshot Vancouver 22-3 in the match. But it wasn’t until Sounders midfielder Joao Paulo’s goal in the 46th minute that the scoring was unleashed.
A deflection rolled in Joao Paulo’s direction and, without a defender in view, he was able to set up the attempt with a little run to send a powerful, right-footed shot to the back post.
In the 53rd minute, Whitecaps defender Erik Godoy had an own goal after Whitecaps keeper Bryan Meredith blocked Raul Ruidiaz’s attempt just outside the 6-yard box.
Ruidiaz pushed the lead to 3-0 with a score off a header in the 58th minute.
“JP’s goal opened things up,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media. “He makes it look easy. … His first touch is so perfect for him to set himself up to strike the ball cleanly in that moment. It’s such a simple goal but that’s the thing that young players are lacking. That is what young players have to strive for.”
Controversy surrounded Vancouver’s goal in the 65th minute. On replays, Vancouver forward Lucas Cavallini appeared to push into Sounders center back Yeimar Gomez Andrade inches outside the penalty box.
Referee Timothy Ford showed Andrade a red card. After consulting VAR, Ford rescinded the red and showed a yellow card but did not agree with the campaigning Sounders that the infraction happened outside the box. In an email exchange, Ford explained the foul was Andrade tripping Cavallini inside the penalty box and denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
Whitecaps forward Fredy Montero took the penalty kick, easily getting Sounders keeper Stefan Frei to misjudge the direction of the ball for the score.
“In my opinion, it wasn’t a penalty,” Lodeiro said. “But we have to accept the final decision. It’s OK, sometimes that’s good for us, sometimes bad. We were lucky because we were winning 3-0. Maybe in other games it would be more complicated.”
The opening half featured more fouls than scoring opportunities for both sides. The Sounders’ strongest looks at goal were in the 26th minute when Vancouver midfielder Janio Bikel was called for a foul against Lodeiro. The latter took the free kick, sending a service into Ruidiaz who flicked a header inches wide of goal.
In first-half stoppage time, Ruidiaz and Lodeiro each sent powerful shots right at Meredith. The former Sounders backup cradled Ruidiaz’s attempt and tipped Lodeiro’s away from the net to send the clubs into the break scoreless.
Frei was challenged once, getting an early save in the opening half. His club had possession of the ball 66% of the half.
The Sounders (8-3-3) played under a slow-moving fog. In their last match at CenturyLink Field, the club played in a haze due to smoke from wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.
Vancouver (5-10-0) last played its Cascadia rival in July as part of group play during the MLS is Back tournament. The Sounders won 3-0 at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which is southwest of Orlando, Florida.
Ruidiaz returned to the starting lineup after serving a one-game suspension for violent conduct in the loss against Portland in September. Ruidiaz (Peru), Gustav Svensson (Sweden) and Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) were called up by their respective national teams and will miss the Sounders’ next five matches.
The Sounders played a second matchup without Joevin Jones. The midfielder sprained his ankle against Portland.
“We’ve got a lot of games coming up and to miss three key players is going to be difficult,” Sounders left back Brad Smith said during a video conference call with media. A starter for the Sounders’ 2019 MLS Cup win, Smith was reacquired along with defender Roman Torres in September to help fill the void.
“It will be a good test for us over this next period,” Smith continued. “We have the players to do it, and we’ve just got to go out there and perform.”