SEATTLE – Nicolas Lodeiro fever has officially arrived in Seattle.
If the Uruguayan's first three games in a Seattle Sounders uniform are any indication of things to come, it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Who knows? It might even make it all the way to the playoffs.
Lodeiro was magnificent once again for the Sounders on Sunday against Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field on Sunday, scoring his first career MLS goal and bagging his third assist in three games, setting up Jordan Morris' game-winning header, to send Seattle to a 2-1 victory.
“He’s going to get hype because he’s a Designated Player and he’s come in and turned things around,” Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters. “It’s a team sport and he’s had very good games. He’s a very talented soccer player and he makes everybody else around him better. The whole team kind of rises up with him, so that could be his biggest contribution.
“I think the attention that he’s getting is deserved.”
Lodeiro opened his MLS scoring account with a highlight-reel curling strike in the 24th minute off a feed from Andreas Ivanschitz then celebrated by pulling off one of his cleats and miming a phone call, a move that he explained to reporters after the game.
“The call is something I had with my father,” he said. “I played in Uruguay in Montevideo and he wasn’t always able to come to my games. A phone call was all we really had to connect us and really talk about the results on the field.”
Lodeiro added an assist in the 37th minute when he found Jordan Morris with a pinpoint cross at the near post to give the hosts a 2-0 first-half lead. The Sounders endured a few hiccups, including a goalkeeping gaffe by Stefan Frei that allowed RSL to cut the lead to 2-1 and a missed penalty kick by usually-automatic forward Clint Dempsey, but RSL couldn't find the equalizer.
With the victory, the Sounders pulled within five points of the Portland Timbers for the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot. The Cascadia Cup rivals will meet at CenturyLink Field next Sunday (9:30 pm ET; FS1 in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada).
“Obviously a massive one against a rival,” Sounders captain Brad Evans said. “[Portland] are within shooting distance for us points-wise and we still have two games in hand on them. It’s difficult not to get wrapped up in that stuff, but now we’ve got 11 games left and we’ve got to pick up results.”