SEATTLE – Nicolas Lodeiro’s decisive penalty kick on Tuesday night wasn’t just a potentially pivotal tally in the scheme of his team’s MLS Cup aspirations.
It was also a little slice of history.
The goal was Lodeiro’s fourth of the postseason, breaking a tie with Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, Eddie Johnson and Nelson Valdez to make him the all-time leading goal-scorer in Sounders’ playoff history.
“He’s a tremendous player,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the Sounders’ 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids in the first leg of the Western Conference Championship. “He’s sparked us since he first arrived. He gave belief in the group. I think the underlying tone of belief was always there, we just needed that spark and I think he gets a lot of credit that for that.”
Lodeiro drew a foul in the penalty box on Rapids defender Marc Burch in the 60th minute of Tuesday’s match, which had been deadlocked at 1-1 after Colorado’s Kevin Doyle and Seattle’s Jordan Morris swapped goals within the first 20 minutes.
It was the second milestone moment of the week for the 27-year-old Uruguayan, who was also named the 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year on Monday. He continued his postseason tear that saw him torch FC Dallas for three goals in the Western Conference Semifinals.
“It’s a surprise because I didn’t know that but it makes very happy,” Lodeiro said of the record. “It’s similar to the [Newcomer of the Year] that I won this week. It makes me feel very happy but, more importantly, it motivates me to prove that I’m really here to help the team out.”
Lodeiro’s goal-scoring has been all the more crucial for the Sounders as they navigate their way through the Audi 2016 MLS Cup playoffs without the services of star forward Clint Dempsey, who was shut down for the season in August with an irregular heartbeat.
But his attributes as a playmaker and facilitator are still his preeminent calling card as the Sounders look ahead to the second leg in Colorado on Sunday, something that Morris said pointed to as his teammate’s most impressive quality.
“He’s unbelievable,” Morris said. “For me, what’s so amazing about him is he can pick you out no matter where you are. I just make the runs and he picks me out. Obviously he’s come in clutch with the goals in the playoffs. But he also works so hard defensively, going forward.
“He’s the heartbeat of the team.”