Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris celebrate vs. LAFC - 2020 playoffs
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Sounders FC big three of Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, Raul Ruidiaz "earned their paychecks" in win over LAFC

Brian Schmetzer was downright giddy when addressing the media after the Seattle Sounders defeated LAFC 3-1 in Round One of the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Tuesday night.

It was maybe too early to properly rank where this professional performance against a difficult, albeit shorthanded, LAFC team was in the annuals of Sounders postseason wins.

But it was a very good win. And Brian Schmetzer was very happy.

“This was not an easy game. You saw Philly and Toronto lose. This is MLS, I mean this is like 2020, it's crazy. And so yes I'm in a good mood tonight. The team performed well,” he said. “The team performed up to their level against a quality opponent. Now you've got a [regular] season ending win against San Jose, you’ve got a first playoff game win against a tough opponent, and we're starting to build some momentum. I can feel the team building some momentum. And that's what makes me happy.”

Jordan Morris, who played a starring role in this victory, pointed to last year’s Conference Final victory by the same scoreline as perhaps a more complete performance.

“It’s tough to rate because there were more important wins, but in terms of a performance it was great,” Morris said. "Defensively maybe we were a little bit better even last year when we played LAFC. I think that would have maybe been a more complete performance. I think we let them have a few chances tonight, as a team defensively I think we gave up a few too many chances.”

Highlights: Seattle Sounders FC 3, LAFC 1

And while Schmetzer was quick to point out the team aspect of soccer and of the victory, “the big three” of Morris, Nico Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz were special against LAFC, each playing a role in all of the Sounders goals.

“You look at the goals and the first goal was unbelievable — Raul, Jordan Nico,” Schmetzer said. "The second one, corner kick, that’s just Raul doing what he does. He's an assassin in the box. The transition goal — Nico, Raul, Jordan. Yes, “the big three” did their jobs tonight, they earned their paychecks.”

Ruidiaz continued his ridiculous playoff form with a goal and two assists. That’s now eight goals and six assists in seven postseason matches.

“Raul has scored goals, but the importance of the goals, his ability to be a creator," Schmetzer said. "Look, he swings the ball across to Jordan and Jordan lays the ball off to Nico. That’s such a good soccer movement. His goal … that’s just instinct. Raul knows where the ball is gonna go already. He just senses where it's gonna go. He takes a positive touch, strikes in the goal. He makes it look so easy. Guys like that earn every cent, because in these big moments, in these big games, playoff games. Conference Finals, MLS Cups, all that sort of stuff, guys like Raul are going to be the guys that win you those games.”

Lodeiro credits the camaraderie the “big three" have, especially off the field, for their raised level Tuesday.

“I'm especially very happy about Raul and Jordan and the way that they are playing today,” the Sounders captain said through a translator. “We’re very good friends outside the field, they’re both very good people. I’m very happy about the level they have been able to achieve at this particular time, which is actually great for them and for the team.”

Added Morris: “For me, playing with guys like like Nico and Raul is really special. They make the game easy. I think we're complementing each other really well. We all have different strengths that I think we can bring to the team that I think go together well but this is 100% a team and a team performance and everyone played so well today so I'm just happy for the whole team.”

In a Round One that had epic penalty-kick shootouts, late equalizers and major upsets, the Sounders did what the Sounders do in the postseason.

“It’s just a testament to the qualities that we have on our squad, that were able to be a tricky opponent when some other top seeds couldn't this evening,” Schmetzer said. “And, kudos to those three, but they'd be the first three to tell you that they couldn't do with the people behind him.”

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