The Seattle Sounders got goals from Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro, but their season came to an end at CenturyLink Field on Thursday night, as the Portland Timbers triumphed 4-2 on penalty kicks to advance to the Western Conference Championship.
Thursday’s match was a wild affair after a scoreless first half, with Ruidíaz finding the opener in the 68th minute. The theatrics really took off after Portland’s Sebastián Blanco struck just minutes later, but Ruidíaz bagged an epic tally at the death to send the contest to extra time. Dairon Asprilla and Lodeiro swapped goals in extra time to send the contest to penalties, where the Timbers prevailed in the shootout.
After a 2-1 result in favor of Portland at Providence Park on Sunday, Ruidíaz found the series-leveling goal after Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella came off his line to corral a feed into his penalty box. But Attinella fumbled the ball allowing Ruidíaz to pounce and slot the finish into the open net, giving the Sounders the 1-0 second-leg lead and setting off a raucous scene at CenturyLink Field.
But Blanco got a dramatic leveler just 10 minutes later with a highlight-reel finish from outside the area that beat Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei to the far post, allowing the visitors to snatch their 3-2 aggregate lead right back.
Ruidíaz came through with the late-game theatrics in second-half stoppage time, though, ripping a class finish past Attinella in the third minute of stoppage time, leveling the aggregate at 3-3 and sending the contest into extra time.
Asprilla then netted for Portland in just the second minute of extra time, heading home a pinpoint feed from Diego Valeri. But the Sounders negated that too after they were awarded a handball in the Portland penalty box from referee Jair Marrufo, allowing Lodeiro to level the aggregate at 4-4 from the spot.
Neither side struck in the second half of extra time, sending the contest to penalties, where Asprilla nailed the series-winning penalty past Frei.
PENALTIES GIVETH, PENALTIES TAKETH AWAY
The Sounders have been the beneficiaries of the fickle nature of penalty kick shootouts before, most notably in MLS Cup 2016 against Toronto FC. On Thursday, they were on the short end, thanks to some well-taken pressure kicks from a formidable Portland side. It’s a brutal way to end the season, to be sure, but it’s a part of the sport that every team will have to deal with eventually.
Sounders players look on during penalty kicks / Mike Fiechtner
There’s a reason the Peruvian was brought in as the club’s big-money Designated Player this July: He scores a lot of goals and he scores them in big moments. Thursday’s match was an apt demonstration of that quality, with his finish to send the contest to extra time standing out as particularly world-class. Going into next season, there should be little doubt that Ruidíaz will be one of the most feared strikers in MLS.
THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT
These losses are painful both for the players and the fan base. But if there’s any consolation for the Sounders faithful, it’s that Seattle is set up to get right back to the postseason next year with a core anchored by Ruidíaz and Lodeiro and one of the league’s stingiest defense. They’ll be back. See you in March.
SEA - Raúl Ruidíaz 68'
POR - Sebastián Blanco (Dairon Asprilla) 78'
SEA - Raúl Ruidíaz 90'+3'
POR - Dairon Asprilla (Diego Valeri) 93'
SEA - Nicolás Lodeiro (PK) 97'
POR - Lucas Melano (Scored)
SEA - Raúl Ruidíaz (Scored)
POR - Diego Valeri (Scored)
SEA - Will Bruin (Missed)
POR - Sebastián Blanco (Scored)
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (Saved)
POR - Liam Ridgewell (Saved)
SEA - Handwalla Bwana (Scored)
POR - Dairon Asprilla (Scored)
POR - Andrés Flores (Unsporting Behavior) 41'
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (Unsporting Behavior) 70'
POR - Diego Valeri (Dissent) 96'
SEA - Raúl Ruidíaz (Handball) 114'