Seattle Sounders continued their good form on Friday night at CenturyLink Field as they put LAFC to the sword with a comfortable victory that sees them top the Western Conference. Nicolas Lodeiro scored two penalty kicks in four first half minutes before Raul Ruidiaz added a late third goal to give the Sounders all three points.
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Above: Seattle players posed with "Justice for Manny Ellis" signs before their win over LAFC
Story of the match
There were chances for both sides in the opening stages of the game, and it was the visitors who had the first effort. Eddie Segura had a header that just flashed wide of Stefan Frei's post after Brian Rodriguez had whipped in the free kick. Soon after, Seattle almost went in front. Jordan Morris' close range header almost caught out Pablo Sisnieiga in the LAFC goal, with marking from set pieces looking slightly suspect to say the least.
LAFC did have the ball in the net on 12 minutes, but after Bradley Wright-Phillips had tucked away Frei's spill from Diego Rossi's effort, the goal was judged to be offside and was chalked off. It wasn't until 25 minutes that the first real bit of action happened, however. Dejan Jakovich was adjudged by the VAR team to have deliberately handled the ball after loud appeals from the Sounders players, and Lodeiro put the Sounders 1-0 up from the spot.
Four minutes later, there was a second penalty given. Latif Blessing was penalised for a contact on Yeimar Gomez when the two attempted to make play a long ball near the six-yard box - and while the first penalty seemed the correct decision, this one seemed unlucky on the part of the away side. Lodeiro stepped up and scored his second penalty of the game to make it 2-0 to the home side - and that's how it was at half time.
The second half saw LAFC have a potential penalty claim of their own, but the referee Joseph Dickerson remained unmoved. João Paulo struck a thunderous effort that Sisniega did well to keep out. Ruidiaz almost put Seattle 3-0 up on 78 minutes, but again the LAFC keeper did well to keep his side in the game.
On 82 minutes though, it was game over. Ruidíaz picked up the ball on the edge of the area after quick, intricate passing that saw a feed from João Paulo that the Peruvian striker deftly touched to himself before unleashing a powerful left-footed finish into the net, sealing the three points. After having few chances throughout the game, the Peruvian showed just how clinical and lethal he can be and why the Sounders are in the position they are after a disappointing MLS is Back Tournament.
Takeaways from the match
Seattle jump up to the top of the Western Conference standings after the win. After being put out by LAFC in MLS is Back Tournament last month, the Sounders have shown great form in the last few weeks and are experiencing somewhat of a resurgence after some worrying performances in the tournament.
They beat an LAFC that was missing Carlos Vela, but shutting this team out is no mean feat. Rossi, Rodríguez and Wright-Phillips can all be match winners on their day and the Sounders' defense was very much up to the challenge Bob Bradley's side posed. Seattle are 6-2-3 with 21 points at the top, and they're 4-1-1 since they returned from the Florida tournament.
One thing to takeaway from a LAFC point of view is the solidity (or lack of) regarding the defense. Having watched LAFC closely during MLS is Back Tournament, it is obvious to see they have real quality going forward and ooze class in their forward line. They are able - in most games, last night notwithstanding - to score goals at will. However, their style of play makes them very open to sides that can counter quickly, and Seattle certainly have that quality.
One only has to look at the way Houston Dynamo scored three goals in one half during their game in July to know LAFC's weakness, and it is something Bradley must work on, as many will be of the opinion that is on borrowed time. LAFC need an experienced central defender that is able to command the back line and add in organisation to it, otherwise LAFC fans will continue to be frustrated watching their team score goals in many games but concede goals for fun.
The attention will be on Nicolas Lodeiro after his dispatched his two penalties to keep up his extraordinary record of never missing a penalty in Major League Soccer. According to Opta stats, the Uruguayan has converted all 14 regular season penalties he's attempted in MLS, which is more than any other player. With a 100 percent record from the spot in league history, the attention is well merited.
João Paulo's performance may not have as many headlines, but his display in midfield was excellent and he almost got the goal he deserved. Much of his play was about breaking up LAFC's attacks and keeping possession, and Seattle will be some force for the rest of the season if he keeps up this form playing in midfield with Cristian Roldan.
Pablo Sisniega may have been beaten three times, but he almost saved the second penalty from Lodeiro and kept his side in the game with a number of crucial saves. It is certainly unorthodox when a team concedes three goals to highlight the performance of their goalkeeper, but without him, the score would have been much more resounding and Bob Bradley will have been grateful for his efforts.
Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam (Miguel Ibarra 88’), Yeimar Gómez Andrade, Xavier Arreaga, Nouhou; Cristian Roldan, João Paulo, Joevin Jones (Alex Roldan 71’), Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris (Shane O’Neill 87’); Raúl Ruidíaz (Will Bruin 90’)
Substitutes not used: Trey Muse, Stefan Cleveland, Handwalla Bwana, Josh Atencio
Los Angeles FC – Pablo Sisniega; Latif Blessing, Dejan Jakovic, Eddie Segura, Diego Palacios; Francisco Ginella (Eduard Atuesta HT), Jose Cifuentes (Danny Mosovski 69’), Mark-Anthony Kaye; Brian Rodriguez (Adrien Perez 69’), Bradley Wright-Phillips (Andy Najar HT), Diego Rossi (Christian Torres 87’)
Substitutes not used: Kenneth Vermeer, Jordan Harvey, Mohamed El-Munir, Bryce Duke