Big games require big moments from big players. And in Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over LAFC, the Seattle Sounders got just that.
Nicolás Lodeiro had a goal and an assist, Raúl Ruidíaz had a goal and two assists and Jordan Morris had a goal and an assist. All three players were recently selected to the 2020 MLS Best XI and earned every bit of that recognition to send the Sounders to the Western Conference Semifinals.
“The Big Three did their jobs tonight, they earned their paychecks,” said Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “But I think what I’m most impressed with is that we knew this game was never going to be easy… It’s up to the players on that day to make plays, and tonight our guys made plays. That’s the bottom line.”
When Lodeiro opened the scoring in the first half, he was set up by a beautiful layoff pass from Morris, who himself was on the receiving end of a brilliant cross from Ruidíaz. When Morris iced the match with Seattle’s third goal in the 80th minute, it all started from Lodeiro picking out an open Ruidíaz in space for the Peruvian to spring Morris on a perfectly weighted through ball.
When a team’s three most lethal attacking options are clicking like this and playing with such an innate understanding of both the game and each other, it’s nearly impossible to stop. Ruidíaz, in particular, lives for the spotlight. He now has eight goals and six assists in just seven career MLS postseason matches. He’s tied with Lodeiro for the club’s all-time lead in playoff tallies.
“Playing with Raúl is special,” said Morris. “He is one of the best finishers, if not the best finisher, I’ve ever played with. He just needs one chance, and he buries it. He gives you that confidence that even in tough games, we’re going to score a goal.”
Added Schmetzer: “[Ruidíaz] makes it look so easy. Guys like that earn every cent because in these big moments, in these big games — playoff games, conference finals, MLS Cups — guys like Raúl are going to the be the guys who win you those games.”
Lodeiro spoke of the rapport between himself, Ruidíaz and Morris, and how their chemistry off the field manifests itself onto the pitch. Knowing teammates’ movements and tendencies often means setting them up for success, which the Sounders reaped the benefits of in abundance on Tuesday.
“We are very good friends outside of the field,” Lodeiro said. “They’re very good people. I’m very happy about the level they’ve been able to achieve, which is great for them and for the team.”
Schmetzer was quick to heap praise on the rest of the squad for their efforts on Tuesday as well, but he knows that Lodeiro, Ruidíaz and Morris will need to continue to set the pace and tempo as the postseason advances. Seattle turns its attention next to FC Dallas, who the Sounders will host at Lumen Field on Tuesday, Dec. 1 (6:30 p.m. PT; FS1).
“These guys in that locker room are all winners,” said Schmetzer. “That again is what makes me so proud of this club, that those guys all get it. They all understand, it’s built into their DNA, it’s built into their culture.”