The Seattle Sounders are heading to MLS Cup for the third time in four years, as a dynamic performance from Raul Ruidiaz powered a 3-1 win over No. 1-seed LAFC at Banc of California Stadium in the Western Conference Final. It was only the second home loss suffered by LAFC in 2019.
Seattle scored three unanswered goals after LAFC opened a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute via midfielder Eduard Atuesta. After Carlos Vela was fouled near the top of the 18-yard box, the Colombian curled a right-footed free kick past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
But then the Sounders’ resurgence began, starting in the 22nd minute via Ruidiaz. Drifting off the back shoulder of LAFC center back Eddie Segura, the Peruvian striker took advantage of a fortuitous bounce and fired a quick strike inside the near post.
After equalizing, Seattle quickly made it 2-1 in the 26th minute via Nicolas Lodeiro, who scored in his second straight game in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. As Ruidiaz started a counterattack, a wide move found the Uruguayan maestro 20 yards out, and he laced home a precise finish past goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
LAFC chased, but the Sounders tacked on another to take a 3-1 lead in the 64th minute via Ruidiaz. A poor clearance from LAFC found Lodeiro out wide, who slipped a ball centrally for the Peruvian. Ruidiaz then found his brace, again rifling home inside the post.
LAFC, who accumulated more points than any team in MLS history (72 points) during the regular season, were dealt a blow when midfielder Latif Blessing was forced off through injury. In came Mark-Anthony Kaye, who made his first 2019 postseason appearance after picking up a hamstring strain on international duty with Canada.
The Black and Gold also had a handful of penalty kick appeals in both halves, but head referee Jair Marrufo didn’t point to the spot.
- 17' – LAFC – Eduard Atuesta | WATCH
- 22' – SEA – Raul Ruidiaz | WATCH
- 26' – SEA – Nicolas Lodeiro | WATCH
- 64' – SEA – Raul Ruidiaz | WATCH
$8,000 was contributed to the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund.
- THE BIG PICTURE: How will LAFC’s incredible 2019 campaign be remembered? Some highlights were finishing as Supporters’ Shield winners and barnstorming through the regular season (record 72 points, plus-48 goal differential), but the final step remained elusive. Full credit goes to Seattle, though, as their game plan was executed to near-perfection and there’s the chance to bring another MLS Cup to the Emerald City. They won in 2016, which was head coach Brian Schmetzer’s first year in charge.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: There are many to choose from, but the second Raul Ruidiaz goal stands out due to its emotional impact on the match. It provided Seattle with a 3-1 lead in the 64th minute, making a difficult recovery even tougher for LAFC.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz both put in masterclass performances, but the nod has to go to the Peruvian striker. He had a brace, put in the dirty work defensively and nearly had a hat trick. That’s how Designated Players earn their paycheck.
- LAFC: End of season
- SEA: Nov. 10 vs. TBD (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada) | Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, MLS Cup