Three weeks on from a 3-1 over the 2019 Supporters' Shield winners, on Friday night Seattle sent LAFC home empty-handed yet again, this time by a score of 3-0 thanks to two penalty kicks from Nicolas Lodeiro and a late third goal from Raul Ruidiaz.
While LAFC’s first-ever win was at CenturyLink Field on March 4, 2018, and the LA side went on to win the next two matchups between the Western Conference heavyweights, the tide now looks to have dramatically turned.
"I believe that we kind of have figured out a way how to kind of play against them that seems to be working,“ Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said in his post-match press conference Friday.
Indeed, such was Seattle's recent success in the matchup, including a memorable win at Banc of California Stadium in last year's Western Conference Final, Schmetzer said that he expected his LAFC counterpart Bob Bradley to change his strategy against them on Friday.
"We actually planned or messaged the team for Bob to actually change how he plays because we've had some recent success against him," Schmetzer said. "It turns out that he really didn't change the way he played. I mean maybe he moved a couple things here and there, but his overall way he wants to play didn't change.
"And so that was one of the question marks coming into the game that we were trying to prepare for: Does he approach the game differently? Does he concede some possession? Does he drop off? Was Jordan [Morris] last game such a threat that he might drop his lines back or whatever? But it turned out, he stayed true to who he was and again we came out with a good result, but it was not an easy contest by any stretch of the game. I mean, Bob had his team ready coming out of halftime and they were there until Raul’s goal.”
While LAFC have struggled in recent weeks, the Sounders have been rolling since the regular-season restart, going 4-1-1 and scoring 19 goals to move to top spot in the Western Conference.
Friday night’s win over LAFC was their second shutout since regular season play resumed in August, something that Schmetzer is particularly proud of.
“Look, I get it, they're missing Carlos. I know they're missing Vela. But that is still a dangerous group and to keep LAFC off the scoreboard and keep a clean sheet is something that I was very proud of. That their defending was very, very good — top, front, to back.”
But with 26 goals so far — highest in the entire league — Seattle have proven that their attack can be dangerous as well. Schmetzer and company have multiple attacking options on any given night, but on Friday night it was all about the penalties.
Lodeiro stepped up and converted two penalty kicks for his third and fourth goals of the season, keeping a perfect record from the spot. The Uruguayan has taken 14 penalty kicks and scored 14 times, the most of any MLS player who has a 100% PK record.
Ruidiaz, whose third goal was the icing on the cake in the victory over LAFC, said they’re not going to be satisfied until they lift another cup.
“My personal objective for this year is to continue to work so we can be champions again," he said. "We're not satisfied with what we have obtained before and we want to be able to repeat that experience."