For the second consecutive year, the Seattle Sounders and LAFC squared off in the MLS Cup playoffs. And for the second consecutive year, Los Angeles' season ended with a 3-1 loss to the men in Rave Green.
Missing the league's top goal-scorer this season in Diego Rossi plus three other starters (Brian Rodriguez, Diego Palacios, and Jose Cifuentes), LAFC failed in all areas on Tuesday. The club saw the return of 2019 MLS MVP Carlos Vela, who missed most of the year with an MCL sprain, but couldn't support the Mexican star with consistent passing.
The visitors from the city of angels captured one goal in the 77th minute when Edward Atuesta tapped in a Vela cross, but the story of Tuesday's playoff opener lands with another exceptional playoff performance by the Sounders.
In the 18th minute, Cristian Roldan won a duel in the midfield and headed a ball down to the running Raul Ruidiaz. The Seattle forward galloped into the final third, then sent a long cross into Jordan Morris at the back post. Instead of shooting it himself, the Mercer Island native dished a pass backwards to a hustling Nicolas Lodeiro, who curled home the opener.
Seconds later, left back Nouhou inadvertently tripped Vela in the box, setting up LAFC's star with a penalty kick. Usually perfect at the spot, Vela hit one of the worst of his career, a ball that lazily sailed into the waiting arms of Stefan Frei.
As the match stood 1-0 at halftime, Los Angeles only had three shots and 216 passes, compared to Seattle's 308.
In the second half, the Sounders saw three shots ricochet off the goal's posts and crossbar plus Morris miss a wide open shot. Thankfully, none of the wasted chances hurt the Rave Green, as Ruidiaz fired in a goal off a Lodeiro corner in the 66th minute before Morris put the game on ice in the 80th when Ruidiaz found him running alone in the middle of the park.
LAFC saw one more final chance when Mark Anthony Kaye headed in a late cross, but referee Kevin Stott accurately used video replay to see the Los Angeles midfielder started in an offside position. Bob Bradley couldn't have been feeling good.
You could even say Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer felt bet- Oh, you know the end of that sentence.
In terms of lineup decisions, Schmetzer started Alex Roldan, who played all 90 minutes at right back, because Kelvin Leerdam's recent hamstring injury forced the Dutch defender to be a late scratch. Midfielder Gustav Svensson was not medically cleared to play, forcing a Cristian Roldan and Joao Paulo partnership in the midfield with Joevin Jones at right wing. And with Xavier Arreaga returning from International Duty with Ecuador, Shane O'Neill started at centerback.
Brad Smith, Roman Torres, and Jordy Delem all made appearances on Tuesday off the bench as well.
With the victory, Seattle moves on to the Western Conference Semifinals where the Rave Green will host FC Dallas next Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Lumen Field. The winner of that match will play the winner of Kansas City and Minnesota on the other side of the West bracket. Tune in to 950 KJR's Pre-Match Show next Tuesday at 6:00.
But before we can look ahead to Tuesday, enjoy more of the win over LAFC with highlights below, plus KJR's Postgame Show with Jackson Felts, Danny Jackson, and Kasey Keller, who called the victory on Tuesday.