Man on a mission: Nicolas Lodeiro again leading the Seattle Sounders' surge

SEATTLE – Nicolas Lodeiro is playing like a man on a mission.

The Seattle Sounders midfielder and star playmaker put in another virtuoso performance in his team’s 2-1 home victory over FC Dallas on Sunday – a result that moved Seattle’s current unbeaten run to eight straight matches. Lodeiro assisted on teammate Chad Marshall’s opening tally in Sunday’s match and added the game-winning goal in the 63rd minute by cashing home a free kick from distance.

He now has six goals and seven assists on the season, most of which have come during Seattle’s recent surge up the Western Conference table and after he was left off Uruguay’s final roster for the 2018 World Cup. Whether he’s motivated by that omission or simply in the midst of a torrid run of form, Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer isn’t questioning it as his team reaps the benefits.

“I could go out on a limb and say he wants to prove some people wrong,” Schmetzer said after Sunday’s match. “Or you could say that he’s just got so much integrity and character that any team he plays for he wants them to win. I’ll let you guys write that up.

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“But I think Nico has, since he came to us in the middle of ’16, he has displayed that type of integrity to the team, to the game. We’re fortunate to have him.”

Lodeiro’s winner on Sunday was a bizarre highlight, with his bending free kick seeming destined to be cleared by FCD’s backline, only to skip past goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and into the net for an improbable game-deciding tally.

It was a lucky break, perhaps, but one that Lodeiro says is actually the result of a play that the Sounders frequently drill on the training ground.

“We train for this all the time,” Lodeiro said. “We work for it. It’s something that we call a cross goal, which is basically to send it over to the goal with the hope that either Chad or Roman [Torres] or anybody will hit the ball and it will go into the goal. But if they don’t, it will still go into the goal. That’s where this one ended up, so I’m very happy for that.”

While it might be unrealistic to expect Lodeiro to continue producing at this clip for the rest of the season, the 29-year-old said he thinks that there actually much greater heights to be reached for Seattle’s attack as they continue to integrate new Designated Player Raul Ruidiaz, who was held off the scoresheet on Sunday.

“We have to continue to improve,” Lodeiro said. “We’ve been winning games but we’re still not in the playoffs, so we have to continue to improve, we have to continue to win. We can’t stop.

“It is not just me feeling more comfortable,” he added. “It’s about the whole team feeling more comfortable. I feel more comfortable because I play closer with Cristian [Roldan] and that helps me out. Also, Ozzie [Alonso] coming back to his level, the level we all wanted and he’s delivering the type of soccer he always has for us. It’s about all the team getting to that level where everybody can be comfortable.”