Seattle (AFP) – The trio of Nicolas Ludero, Raul Ruydiaz and Jordan Morris were dominant during the regular season in the MLS, and were recognized among the top 11 players in the league.
When the MLS Cup playoffs finally kicked off for the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday night, that trio was even better.
Laudero scored early in the first half, Ruidiaz added a second goal midway through the second half, Maurice introduced the captain as reigning champions Saunders beat depleted Los Angeles FC 3-1 in the opening round of the MLS playoffs.
“For me, playing with guys like Nico and Raul is really special,” Morris said. “They make the game easy. We praise each other really well.”
Seattle’s version of the “Big Three” had roles in each of the three goals, sending the Saunders to the semi-finals of the Western Conference next week against FC Dallas.
Laudero scored in the 18th minute from the passes by Ruidas and Morris to give the hosts an early advantage. Roedias finally finished off one of Seattle’s many chances with his eighth goal in the playoff game in the 66th minute, as he hit a right-footed ball from a corner kick.
Edward Atuista scored in the 77th minute to lift LAFC 2-1, but Seattle regained their lead by two goals moments later when Ruydias found Morris in a quick response. Morris missed a wide open goal earlier in the first half, one of several missed opportunities Seattle missed in the early stages of the second half to build a pillow.
Ruidiaz had six assists in the playoff to score eight goals.
“They got paid,” said Seattle coach Brian Schmitzer. “But what I like most is the fact that this game is never going to be easy. We knew (LAFC Coach) Bob (Bradley) would prepare his team. … it is just a testament to the qualities we possess in our team, which were able to overcome a difficult opponent. “
The standout showdown in the first round of the MLS Cup qualifiers was in terms of its billing in the rematch of last year’s Western Conference Final that the Saunders won in Los Angeles. And Sabron was leading again.
LAFC needed to be nearly perfect at the start of qualifying. The LAFC was without Golden Boot winner Diego Rossi, Brian Rodriguez, Diego Palacios and Jose Civuentes after the four tested positive for COVID-19 while performing their international duty in South America.
“I didn’t think we’d started well tonight,” Bradley said. “We were second only to a lot of the ball.”
Rossi’s absence was most notable after he led the league with 14 goals in the regular season and was the catalyst for LAFC’s offensive attack. Without a Russian, LAFC needed Carlos Vela to be another scientist.
It was a good villa. He helped score Atuista’s goal, and almost scored again, but Mark Anthony Kay’s goal in the 88th minute nullified offside with a video review.
But Villa’s lasting memory would be a bad first-half penalty that easily saved Seattle goalkeeper Stephan Fry.
Villa hit the penalty kick just two minutes after Ludero’s opening goal, taking advantage of his experience in catching Nuho Tolo by arriving and making a mistake in the penalty area. But Villa’s attempt to attack the ball was an unforgettable weak effort that caused Frei to slip just one step to his left and make a clean hold without much effort.
Bradley said, “He’s a competitor and several nights passed for us, and I know he was disappointed with this opportunity in the first half, which is normal for him.”
This was Frei’s first penalty kick in penalties since April 2016.
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