To say that the Seattle Sounders missed captain Nicolás Lodeiro while he was away with the Uruguayan national team at the 2019 Copa América is a massive understatement.
The team rattled off a 1-4-0 record across all competitions while its midfield maestro was in Brazil representing La Celeste. In his first game back, Lodeiro left it all out on the pitch, willing his team to victory over the Columbus Crew with a second-half brace and a fantastic all-around performance as the team won its first away match since March 16.
“I’m tired, I have pain everywhere,” Lodeiro quipped in his post-match interview. “But I am happy because we won, and the team deserved three points.”
Lodeiro’s second-half masterclass was a continuation of his excellent form at Copa América, where he tallied one goal, one primary assist and two secondary assists from three starts as Uruguay finished atop Group C.
Although Uruguay was eliminated from the prestigious South American tournament in disappointing fashion — they fell to Raúl Ruidíaz and Peru in a penalty kick shootout in the quarterfinal — Lodeiro’s Sounders teammates are thrilled to have him back in the field.
“He was very good, very good,” said defender Kelvin Leerdam. “It’s not easy to be away for so long and to come back and have a big impact like that. Everybody knows Nico. He’s a smart player. He does what he does. Today it was two goals, maybe the next game it’s five assists.”
Between his ability to dictate tempo and leadership on the pitch, it’s difficult to precisely quantify Lodeiro’s influence on matches. His two-goal performance — he now has four goals and eight assists from 15 MLS appearances — was a fitting reward for the player who spurred the Sounders’ second-half comeback.
But according to Lodeiro, the most important thing was for the Sounders to pick up a win on the road, as the three points will supply the team much-needed momentum heading into the homestretch.
“It was long a time since we won away,” said Lodeiro. “For us, for our confidence, this is very important because in the second part of the year, we need to get points away from home. For our confidence, our win away is very important.”
Beyond the stat sheet, Lodeiro’s presence on the pitch and sheer will to win had a discernible impact on the players around him. It helped everyone in Rave Green fight even harder for the win, with different players contributing to the result in their own way.
“Nico got the two goals,” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “But what I would say to all of you is that there was a lot of leadership on that field being provided by each and every one of the Sounders who were out there.”
The Sounders return to action next weekend with a home match against defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United on July 14 (12:55 p.m. PT; ESPN, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM; TICKETS).