So much has been made of Seattle Sounders FC’s big three during the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, with Nico Lodeiro serving as the playmaking pulse, the perfect complement to Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz.
In the Sounders' remarkable comeback against Minnesota United in the Western Conference Final, the Uruguayan string-puller tied Carlos Ruiz’s Audi MLS Cup Playoffs record by extending a points streak to eight postseason matches with an assist on Gustav Svensson’s stoppage-time winner.
But the Sounders great was unable to replicate that form in Saturday's MLS Cup as Seattle were swept aside 3-0 by the Columbus Crew.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer later revealed in his postmatch press conference that Lodeiro picked up a knock that limited his effectiveness in the biggest game of the year..
“Nico had a strained calf which prevented him from being his normal self,” Schmetzer said. “I think the Crew did a good job of sitting with their two holding midfielders and denying space. In the first half, [Joao Paulo] and Cristian [Roldan] were too deep.
“One of them needed to be there to draw one of their midfielders. I think it was a combination of Columbus doing what they did — Gyasi Zardes, I gotta give it to him, he puts a lot of pressure on opponents defensively — and our inability to play how we wanted to play caused Nico to not have as many touches as he should have.”
Roldan also credited Columbus’ aggression in midfield for causing the Sounders to be out of sorts.
“I felt like they did a really good job of their center mid pressing up against myself and Joao and making it really difficult to turn,” Roldan said. “We needed to do a better job of being more composed and finding the weak-side 10, which would have been [Joevin Jones] or Nico. I tried to calm it down, I went in deep for the ball and we weren’t able to do so because of the second balls, even when we played direct.”