Raul Ruidiaz scored a game-winning golazo in the 67th minute, sending a youth-filled Seattle Sounders side to a stunning 1-0 victory over Austin FC at Q2 Stadium on Thursday evening.
HIGHLIGHTS: Austin FC vs. Seattle Sounders FC | July 22, 2021
Depleted by a rash of injuries and international absences that left them without 10 first-team regulars, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer turned to a lineup filled with youth academy products and four players from USL Championship affiliate Tacoma Defiance who were called in on extreme hardship waivers. Five teenagers were in Seattle's starting XI, marking the first time in MLS history a team has started with five players aged 19 and under. The gamble paid off, as the young Sounders delivered Seattle all three points, aided by a phenomenal winning strike from Ruidiaz after he entered as a second-half substitute.
Austin dominated first-half possession and managed a couple of looks on goal, but none seriously troubled Sounders goalkeeper Spencer Richey. Arguably the best of those came in the 32nd minute off a first-time shot from Cecilio Domínguez via a cross from Kekuta Manneh, but the Paraguayan's effort went just wide.
Seattle, meanwhile, managed to withstand the pressure from the hosts and found two good looks themselves before the halftime whistle. One came off the boot of 16-year-old midfielder Reed Baker-Whiting, who snuck behind the backline and forced Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver into a reaction save. Sounders forward Samuel Adeniran also nearly found the scoresheet in an active first half, getting loose on the break just before the halftime whistle off a through ball from Baker-Whiting, though his shot whistled wide of the far post.
Austin had a golden opportunity in the 52nd minute off a perfect cross from Diego Fagundez that found the head of Alex Ring right in front of goal. The Austin captain couldn't quite convert, putting his snap header right at Richey.
It stayed that way until Ruidiaz stunned the home crowd with a legitimate golazo. The Peruvian striker saw Stuver off his line and ripped home a highlight-reel finish over the Austin backstop from 40 yards out, giving the Sounders an improbable second-half lead.
Austin thought they finally found their leveler on 77 minutes, when Julio Cascante headed home a free kick off the foot of Dominguez that he nodded down past Richey and into the net. But the defender was ruled just offside on Video Review and the goal was waved off, allowing Seattle to precariously maintain their 1-0 lead, which they wound up seeing out as the final.
- 67' – SEA – Raul Ruidiaz | WATCH
- THE BIG PICTURE: It's a pretty incredible result for Seattle, fielding a historically youthful lineup and not only getting a result, but managing a clean sheet and taking all three points. It doesn't seem to matter who Brian Schmetzer is putting out there at the moment, Seattle just keep racking up points, with this latest victory vaulting them back atop the league table at 9W-1L-5D and 32 points from 15 matches. For Austin, it's another three points agonizingly dropped. Josh Wolff's team has to be ruing the missed opportunity against a youth-heavy opponent.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It can't be anything else other than this spectacular strike from Ruidiaz, an instant frontrunner for AT&T Goal of the Week. The Peruvian is now in sole possession of the lead for the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi race with 11 goals on the season, with this latest one arguably his finest work yet in an already distinguished MLS career.
GOAL: Raúl Ruidíaz, Seattle Sounders - 67th minute
- MAN OF THE MATCH: All of Seattle's young faces deserve a shoutout, but we'll give the honors to Reed Baker-Whiting, who looked composed well beyond his 16 years while playing almost the entire match. The kids are indeed alright.
- ATX: Saturday, July 31 vs. Colorado Rapids | 9 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)
- SEA: Sunday, July 25 vs. Sporting Kansas City | 9 pm ET (MLS LIVE on ESPN+)