The Seattle Sounders entered Tuesday’s quarterfinals match against Liga MX’s Tigres in a bit of a slump by their lofty standards. They started the season on an MLS-record 13-match unbeaten run, but they’ve gone just 1-3-1 in five contests since.
Seattle emphatically bossed the reigning Concacaf Champions League winners to the tune of a 3-0 win and earned a statement win for both themselves and Major League Soccer.
“We represent I think the best team in MLS,” said captain Nicolás Lodeiro. “When you're playing, you need to play like a final because we represent a big club, big fans. And tonight, we played like it was a final.”
Lodeiro has missed much of the season due to injury, but he made a substitute appearance in the 65th minute. Just five minutes later, he produced a worldie from 30 yards out that is a Goal of the Tournament contender and showcased just how much class the Uruguayan playmaker is bringing back to the squad.
“For me to get the quality and the minutes [from Lodeiro] tonight was a double bonus,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “I’m a pretty tempered guy, but inside, when I saw Nico score, I was so happy for Nico.”
The Sounders were all over Tigres from the opening whistle and put in one of their most complete performances of 2021. Schmetzer complimented his coaching staff’s scouting of Tigres coupled with wanting his players to impose their will on their opponent. The result was a major momentum builder heading into a massive rivalry road match at the Portland Timbers in a return to MLS play on Sunday (5:30 p.m. PT; FS1, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM).
“When you play a team of this magnitude like Tigres, a victory like this certainly brings back confidence,” said Lodeiro. “We needed this very much.”
Schmetzer opted to reframe Lodeiro’s sentiments.
“I always believe that we have a confident team,” said Schmetzer. “Results did not go our way, so I don’t need the narrative to be that the team lost confidence. Yeah, we took one point out of nine. We saw that. But it’s not that the team lacked confidence, maybe the team wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Maybe we weren’t just playing up to our potential for a variety of reasons.”
On Tuesday, Seattle certainly looked like the team that was dominating matches in the first few months of the season. Many key pieces have returned or are returning to the lineup from injuries and international duty, plus the club bolstered its depth and attacking prowess with the recent signings of precocious Brazilian attacker Léo Chú and seasoned French veteran Nicolas Benezet.
The Sounders will need all hands on deck especially through the end of August. They have a three-match road swing at Portland, FC Dallas and Columbus Crew SC before finishing out the month with a home match against the Timbers. A win, and a convincing one against one of the best teams in the Western Hemisphere at that, will go a long way toward a successful back half of the MLS season and into the playoffs.
“I didn’t have to say anything before the game,” said Schmetzer. “We are blessed to have great players. This club has always spent money on the players who fit the culture of the club. We’re a humble club. We try to achieve great things, and we always try to win. That is part of our decision to put a strong lineup out tonight…It’s important for us to showcase the players that we have.”