The Seattle Sounders compiled a remarkable first half, starting with an early Cristian Roldan goal and punctuating it with a stoppage-time Joao Paolo stunner, en route to a 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids at Lumen Field on Sunday night.

With the win, the Sounders vaulted back into the Western Conference's top spot and ended the Rapids' 12-match unbeaten streak – confidently settling a top-four battle in the overall league table.

Seattle scored just about as early as a team can, with Roldan taking an end-line pass from Will Bruin with less than 90 seconds off the clock, and rifling it through Clint Irwin's hands and in. Then, in the 22nd minute, the Sounders doubled their lead with an incredible team goal, starting with Bruin releasing Roldan down the right flank with a leading ball. Roldan then sent it to Joao Paulo, who laid it off for a hard-charging Jimmy Medranda, who went just inside the near post with a rocket that Irwin couldn't stop.

The Rapids had some incredible chances to get back into it shortly after the second Seattle goal, but a combination of good defending and good luck allowed Stefan Frei to keep his clean sheet going.

In the 27th minute, Mark-Anthony Kaye sent a ball toward goal after enticing Frei to come out from his usual position, but Xavier Arreaga vacuumed that up. Kaye again had a chance in front of goal in the 30th minute but struck his shot just over the crossbar. Then, in the 34th minute, Michael Barrios had a 1-v-1 with Frei, yet hesitated just long enough for Arreaga to swoop in and block his shot to bail his goalkeeper out.

Then, Joao Paulo made a Herculean individual effort during first-half stoppage time, getting the ball in his own half, moving past midfield, and working past several Rapids defenders to finish on his own. In a halftime interview with the Sounders' broadcast crew, just seconds after the goal, head coach Brian Schmetzer declared the Brazilian's effort the AT&T Goal of the Year because it showcased his determination.

It looked like Medranda had his second goal of the night less than three minutes after the restart, but Video Review revealed a foul by Fredy Montero en route to a beautiful score being erased from existence.

Then, in the 61st minute, the referee crew put its stamp more indelibly on the match, sending off halftime sub Lucas Esteves for a foul that prompted plenty of debate.

It continued to not be the Rapids' night, as it appeared that Diego Rubio had pulled one back around the 75-minute mark, but it was called back for offside in the buildup. Then, in the 90th minute, the visitors had yet another golden opportunity in front of goal, but couldn't get the final ball they needed, and Frei earned a clean sheet in the end.

Goals

  • 2' – SEA – Cristian Roldan | WATCH
  • 22' – SEA – Jimmy Medranda | WATCH
  • 45'+1' – SEA – Joao Paolo | WATCH

Three Things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: While both teams appear en route to the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, they’re on different trajectories now. It looks like Seattle and SKC will be dueling for the West’s top spot, following this little bit of separation the Sounders created. This is the Rapids’ first loss since July 24 – also a 3-0 blanking, that one coming against their RSL rivals – but they displayed some vulnerability. Both teams are among the eight playing next weekend, with most of MLS on pause for the October international break.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Each goal was an important plot point, as was the red card, but Medranda's strike showed the Sounders’ cohesiveness at its best.
  • MAN OF THE MATCH: Joao Paolo did all the usual Joao Paolo defensive things that make him the Sounders’ midfield star. As a welcome bonus, he also rampaged for a goal that earned his coach’s praise and deserves your attention.

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