When Nicolás Lodeiro stepped up to the penalty spot in the ninth minute of second-half stoppage time in Leg One of the Concacaf Champions League Final, there was no one else the Seattle Sounders would have rather had in that position. Down a goal in Mexico City against Pumas UNAM in the first of the two biggest matches in club history, having just previously converted a penalty in the 77th minute to halve the deficit, Lodeiro coolly slotted it home.
Lodeiro scored from the spot twice in the 2-2 draw on Wednesday, like he’s done all but just once in 21 attempts with the Sounders.
“You don’t understand how much pressure there was,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “Nico did what he had to do…He’s a great player and he’s got a lot of mental toughness.”
The Sounders captain lives for these types of moments. In 2016 MLS Cup, he rifled a do-or-die penalty in the fifth round to keep Seattle’s title hopes alive. He scored a massive postseason penalty against the Portland Timbers in 2018. And he’s now scored four times from the spot this season, including three in his last three CCL matches.
Concacaf Champions League Final Tickets On Sale Now
The Seattle Sounders are going to the Concacaf Champions League Final for the first time in club history. Come support the team as we take on Liga MX's Pumas UNAM and try to become the first MLS club to win CCL and go to the FIFA Club World Cup!
“I have to be prepared,” said Lodeiro through a translator. “We prepare for this. I have to have peace of mind and confidence that I’m going to be able to deliver. That’s what the team is expecting, and that’s what we are preparing ourselves to do all the time. Having that confidence that we’re going to execute helps us to be successful when taking PKs.”
Lodeiro ceded responsibility from the spot to Fredy Montero and Raúl Ruidíaz, two very fine and more than capable penalty takers, in his absence. But upon his return to full fitness, there was no one else in the stadium who was going to take the ball from Lodeiro on Wednesday evening.
After missing almost all of 2021 with multiple injuries, as well as the early stages of this year, Lodeiro is finally healthy, and the Sounders need every bit of him.
“I’m happy that I can play and do what I like,” said Lodeiro. “I’m happy as well with the confidence and the support that the rest of the team has given me.”
So often, finals come down to the finest of margins. Goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera got a hand on Lodeiro’s first penalty, but it was hit with too much pace and into the side netting where it was next to impossible to stop. Despite the colossal pressure from the 45,000 Pumas fans, Talavera’s mind tricks and antics before each penalty and the match’s score line and magnitude, Lodeiro delivered twice.
Now, the tie heads back to Lumen Field in Seattle next Wednesday (7 p.m. PT; FS1, TUDN, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360 AM | TICKETS) with history on the line. The Sounders will look to become the first Major League Soccer team to win CCL and compete in the FIFA Club World Cup.
The Sounders know, too, that if they’re going to get it done, it’s going to take another clutch performance from the most influential signing in franchise history.
“What I always appreciate about our team is that we never quit,” said Schmetzer. “The culture of the club has always been there…What we will try and do is take what we learned from this game and then apply it to the game in Seattle.
“Anything can happen in a final. Anything can happen in Concacaf.”