For the first time in nearly six months, the Seattle Sounders returned to CenturyLink Field on Sunday. With zero fans in attendance and an evening rain falling after a beautiful August afternoon, an unusual atmosphere filled the building for the rematch against Los Angeles Football Club.
A month earlier, LAFC beat the Sounders 5-1 down at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. That match, however, did not feature key Seattle off-season acquisitions Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Joao Paulo.
Both played key roles Sunday, but star goal-scorers Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris shined brightest under the CenturyLink lights. A long-range, left-footed strike by Ruidiaz in the 12th minute gave Seattle the early lead as Raul marked his 26th goal in 43 appearances with the Sounders. The club is also now 17-3-2 when Ruidiaz scores one goal.
Ruidiaz exited the match at halftime due to a heel contusion, Will Bruin entered, then Morris took over. The Mercer Island native scored in the 48th minute on a breakaway, getting past both the LAFC back line and goalkeeper, then seconds after his celebration ended, scored again, hammering in a Joao Paulo cross to the back post. Seattle's lead grew to 3-0, and while the visitors got one back in the 60th minute, the Rave Green's victorious result was never in real doubt.
With the win, the Sounders gain another three points and close the gap between their second place standing and Sporting Kansas City at the top of the Western Conference, 16 to 14 points, while also holding a game in hand over SKC.
On the injury front, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match that Ruidiaz is "fine". Left back Joevin Jones appeared to suffer an injury around the 70th minute as well, and shortly after, left the field with a trainer. The club also saw the returns of centerback Xavier Arreaga and midfielder Jordy Delem off the bench, both of whom did not see action last week in Portland.
Despite the fact that no fans stood and cheered as the final whistle sounded on Sunday, banners filled the South end of the stadium where Gorilla FC and the Emerald City Supporters always sing.
"We have the best fans in the league," Cristian Roldan said. "We're so spoiled." The Sounders midfielder also noted the meaningfulness of those supporters sections banners, which spelled out, "Black Lives Matter. Anti-Fascist. Anti-Racist. Always Seattle." Schmetzer called the banners, "a very nice touch."
From here, Seattle will now hit the road for a match on Wednesday against Real Salt Lake (6:00 p.m. Pre-Match Show and 6:30 kickoff on Sports Radio 950 KJR). In their last three matches that have counted towards the regular season, the Rave Green have picked up wins of 3-0, 3-0, and 3-1 over LAFC. Check out highlights from Sunday's victory plus KJR's Postgame Show with Kasey Keller, Pete Fewing and Jackson Felts, both below!