Lumen Field has been the sight of many memorable matches of over the years, but the scene on Wednesday was something different, one of the most historic nights in the history of Seattle sports.
The Seattle Sounders are Concacaf Champions League champions following Wednesday’s convincing 3-0 second-leg result over Liga MX outfit Pumas UNAM, delivered by a brace from Raúl Ruidíaz and a late insurance tally from Nicolás Lodeiro. There’s much to process coming off the most significant result in club history, which you could credibly argue is the biggest victory an MLS club has ever recorded.
A sold-out crowd of 68,741 witnessed the occasion, creating the energy that multiple Sounders players credited in their postgame interviews with pushing them to deliver the result. With the dust settled and CCL immortality secure, here are eight unforgettable aspects of the historic achievement.
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Seattle shows up
I’ve been covering this club in various capacities since 2014, and have been to hundreds of games at this point, including most of the other big matches in club history. With that in mind, I feel pretty confident in saying that after Ruidíaz’s 45th-minute opener, that was the loudest I’ve ever heard Lumen Field, which turned into a full-on party after Lodeiro iced it late.
The announced attendance of over 68,000 comfortably broke the previous single-match record for a CCL game, a point of pride for the city and a fan base that has turned Lumen into the fortress that it is. It’s a moment worth appreciating on a grand scale. The Sounders will likely play in more CCL tournaments in the future, but this one will always have the distinction of being not just the first in club history, but the first in league history. It’s eternal bragging rights that, as Cristian Roldan pointed out after the game, can never be taken away.
Early injuries weathered
This team is no stranger to adversity, and the Sounders were dealt one of their biggest curveballs yet in the first half of Wednesday’s match as standout defender Nouhou and 2021 MLS MVP finalist João Paulo each exited with injuries.
Surviving the CCL gauntlet requires depth, and Seattle’s was on full display as two of their most influential contributors were forced from the match. Versatile veteran Kelyn Rowe slotted in at left back for Nouhou, while 16-year-old sensation Obed Vargas took the mantle from JP, with both filling in admirably. It’s hard to overstate how valuable the presence of a player like Rowe is on this roster, with the Federal Way-native capable of filling in virtually everywhere on the field at a high level.
As for Vargas, the only question at this point is just how high his ceiling really is. To be placed into a continental final at 16 years old and not only hold his own, but excel, is frankly mind-boggling for such a young player. With João Paulo’s health uncertain, the kid from Alaska's role could only stand to increase as the focus turns back to the league season.
Greatest Sounder ever?
There’s not much left to say at this point about the exploits of Nicolás Lodeiro. The DP midfielder was sidelined for much of last season with injuries, with his return in 2022 a huge part of the reason the Sounders were able to embark in this run.
Wednesday’s match was Lodeiro at his finest, as the Uruguayan was buzzing all over the field, hounding Pumas players on defense, dishing the assist on Ruidiaz’s second goal and scoring the final one himself with a rebound tally in the 88th minute that sent the Lumen Field crowd into delirium. With two MLS Cups and now a CCL title to his name, Lodeiro has a strong case as the most influential signing in league history considering the stocked trophy case since his arrival. All hail the captain.
Rusnák stands out
When Albert Rusnák signed with Seattle from Real Salt Lake during the off-season, it was widely dubbed the biggest free-agent acquisition an MLS club has made using the relatively new mechanism. The Slovakian, after all, was a DP at RSL (as he remains in Seattle), and a proven elite producer in MLS with multiple double-digit goal and assist seasons to his name.
On a roster as loaded as this, Rusnák has been asked to play a slightly different role, playing deeper than he did in Salt Lake, while being tasked with providing a two-way presence. On Wednesday, the 27-year-old has his best game as a Sounder, factoring in on the sequences that led to all three goals. Rusnák is still relatively new to the team and his understanding of his role and of his teammates should only increase as he gets more comfortable. With a CCL title already delivered though, it’s an acquisition that’s already looking like a major hit.
Jordan Morris said after the game that he got emotional after his late substitution that saw him, Lodeiro and Ruidíaz get subbed off to standing ovations shortly after Lodeiro’s third goal. It’s the crowning milestone to date for the Homegrown standout, who is making his return this season after suffering the second of two devastating ACL injuries last year while on loan in the English Championship with Swansea City.
Morris didn’t get on the scoresheet on Wednesday, but the physical presence and speed he provides create a handful for any defense and it was his shot off the post that set up Lodeiro’s late rebound finish. The Mercer Island, Washington native has done nothing but deliver since ascending through the club’s Academy and signing with his hometown team after playing his college soccer at Stanford. Now, he can add continental champion to that list.
Sweet Stefan Frei
Frei didn’t have to do a whole lot in the match, as the Sounders defense stood strong against a Pumas attack that has multiple dynamic threats. As he’s done his entire Sounders career, though, the legendary backstop came through when he was needed, making a huge reaction save in the 65th minute when the match was still 1-0. An equalizer right there could have changed the match entirely.
With this historic trophy, Frei’s case as one of, if not the, best goalkeepers in MLS history is only strengthened.
Time and time again, Ruidíaz has shown up huge in big games, and Wednesday was no different as the Peruvian lodged a brace that gave Seattle the lead they would never relinquish.
At the point of Ruidíaz’s opener, the match was a tense affair, remaining in a scoreless deadlock despite the Sounders controlling most of the action and generating the better of the chances. But the longer a match like this stays scoreless, the more belief it instills in the opposition. If Pumas could have gotten to halftime with the match still tied, the second half might well have played out much differently. Instead, Ruidíaz’s deflected finish got Seattle into the locker room with a crucial goal.
Even then, though, a one-goal lead in a series that was tied on aggregate coming into the match was a tenuous one. Only after he added his second with a clinical 80th-minute finish off a feed from Lodeiro did the reality truly set in that the Sounders were headed for CCL glory. When the lights were the brightest, the most lethal striker in MLS showed he has that title.
The sibling duo of Cristian and Alex Roldan are two key cogs of the starting XI, with Cristian being one of the best two-way midfielders in the league and Alex developing into a premier right back. The brothers were massive in this CCL run, with Cristian notching five assists and Alex providing an increasingly dynamic presence on both sides of the ball, seemingly by the game.
The two have been playing with each other for most of their lives dating back to their days in Pico Rivera, California and now as pros in Seattle, and it’s starting to show on the field more and more as they put their chemistry on display throughout the tournament. In the aftermath of this accomplishment, spare a thought for the Brothers Roldan and everything they both do to make this team go.
Club World Cup looms
The historic nature of the accomplishment and the bragging rights are one thing. But there’s also the incredible reality that this victory puts the Sounders in the Club World Cup, where they’ll get a chance to play against some of the top teams in the world. It’s the definition of uncharted territory, given that now MLS team has ever participated in the tournament. The details are still to be determined on exactly when and where it’s taking place, but when the day arrives, the Sounders will get to truly make their mark on the global stage.