Nearly every emotion felt during 2020 was expressed during the Sounders FC match against San Jose on Sunday.
The final was joy for Seattle as the club used crafty second-half goals to defeat the Quakes 4-1 at CenturyLink Field. The Rave Green close Major League Soccer’s regular season as the No. 2 seed headed into the postseason after Sporting Kansas City defeated Real Salt Lake in a snowstorm in Utah to win the Western Conference top spot.
Seattle will play Los Angeles FC in the opening round at CenturyLink.
“We need to ride this wave,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said during a video conference call with media. “I felt we could’ve been cleaner with giving up so many fouls because LAFC is a dangerous team on set pieces. …So, ride that wave in the sense that we had some opportunities and we put them away (but) we have to be clinical in front of goal in the playoffs. You don’t get those opportunities very often, so you have to take advantage of that.”
Nico Lodeiro opened the scoring for the Sounders on Sunday off a free kick in the 52nd minute. Lodeiro sent the ball in but teammates Roldan and Jordan Morris couldn’t collect the service to convert a shot at goal.
No worries. Lodeiro chased after his own assist and beamed a left-footed shot past San Jose keeper James Marcinkowski.
“In reality, all goals are very important,” Lodeiro said as translated from Spanish during a video conference call with media. He’s scored seven goals this season. “But I felt we needed to open up the game and the goal was going to allow us to do that. To basically get the team to shake off the first-half performance. And the second goal came right after that one, quickly.”
Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz followed up with a powerful shot just outside the penalty box. He received the assist from Roldan, making the score Ruidiaz’s 12th of the season.
Ruidiaz ended up two goals shy of tying LAFC forward Diego Rossi for the Golden Boot award as the league’s leading scorer. Rossi finished with 14 goals.
“(What) always amazes me about Raul is just some of the things he does and when he does them rather than the total goal count,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said during a video conference call with media.
After a San Jose score in the 57th minute, the Sounders could’ve faded and allowed the Quakes to scratch out a draw.
Instead, Lodeiro set up Morris for a goal in the 74th minute. It was Lodeiro’s 10th assist of the season and Morris’ 10th goal this year.
San Jose defender Marcos Lopez had an own goal in the 80th minute to close out the scoring. The Quakes (8-9-6) enter the postseason as the No. 8 seed and play SKC in the opening round.
“The four goals was just what we needed,” Schmetzer said. “Having the team put on a good performance and building a little bit of momentum into the playoffs, we accomplished that. … I was very happy that the big players were able to contribute to the score line and we had a decent performance defensively.”
Seattle (11-5-6) entered the 2019 postseason as the No. 2 seed, defeating Los Angeles FC in California for the Western Conference championship and hosting the MLS Cup at CenturyLink. The Sounders defeated Toronto for the championship.
Sunday was the fourth meeting between San Jose and Seattle. The Sounders defeated San Jose 7-1 at home in September. The other matchups – one during the MLS is Back tournament in July – were goalless draws.
The postseason begins Nov. 20 due to a FIFA international break. Ruidiaz (Peru), center back Xavier Arreaga (Ecuador) and midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden) were called up to play for their national team this upcoming week.
Arreaga and Svensson will have to quarantine for nine days upon return, which means they’ll likely miss the playoff opener. Ruidiaz, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 11, won’t have to quarantine because he’s a “recovered person.”
Schmetzer made a few starting lineup changes and didn’t have left back Brad Smith available for selection as hoped due to an adductor strain. Svensson was out with a bruised right hip and center back Shane O’Neill is under concussion protocol.
The Sounders still fielded a lineup familiar with their roles and each other. Arreaga played alongside Yeimar Gomez Andrade with Nouhou and Kelvin Leerdam flanking. Leerdam was well rested after not playing against the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday.
Schmetzer also had an opportunity to play trade pick-up Jimmy Medranda. The former Nashville SC midfielder entered in the 82nd minute for Joevin Jones.
“We feel really happy that we got the win,” Lodeiro said. “We also feel a little bit tired. This has been a difficult season where we’ve had multiple games in a very close time frame, so we feel tired. Now, we’re able to rest a couple of days. All of the (fatigue) goes away and we need to focus. It’s the last stretch.”
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