Sounders eliminate LAFC to book third MLS Cup trip in four years

Sounders eliminate LAFC to book third MLS Cup trip in four years

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Sounders eliminate LAFC to book third MLS Cup trip in four years

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The Seattle Sounders are headed to their third MLS Cup final in four years after ending Los Angeles FC’s record-setting season on its own home turf.

Raul Ruidiaz’s two goals and Nicolas Lodeiro’s winner helped lead the Sounders to a 3-1 victory over LAFC, securing Seattle’s place in the MLS Cup final, where the Sounders will meet the winner of Wednesday’s Eastern Conference final between Atlanta United and Toronto FC.

LAFC looked like it would carry the momentum over from last week’s impressive playoff win against the LA Galaxy when Eduard Atuesta opened the scoring at Banc of California Stadium with a beautiful early free kick, but Seattle responded just five minutes later, as Ruidiaz and Lodeiro erased the early deficit with goals just four minutes apart to give the Sounders a lead they never relinquished.

Ruidiaz equalized in the 21st minute when he received a pass from Lodeiro at the top of the penalty arc and pulled off a cat-quick spin dribble to slip past LAFC defender Eddie Segura before finishing past Tyler Miller from 15 yards out.

Lodeiro made the score 2-1 in the 26th minute when he received a pass from Joevin Jones at the top of the penalty arc and took advantage of time and space to slide a low, left-footed shot past Miller.

The Sounders succeeded in limiting LAFC’s chances, with Vela struggling to find space to operate as Cristian Roldan and Gustav Svensson did well to clog passing lanes, with the help of Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones.

While Seattle did well to limit LAFC’s dangerous looks, the Sounders attack did well to sniff out chances, and finished them, with Ruidiaz running onto a Lodeiro pass in the 64th minute, slipping into a gap in front of the LAFC defense before hitting a low shot inside the near post, beating Tyler Miller to make the score 3-1.

LAFC had plenty of possession on the night — finishing with a 69-31 advantage — but failed to generate many chances. In fact, Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei didn’t have to make a save in the final 22 minutes of the match.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was ultimately rewarded for his lineup and tactical decisions, including the decision to start the central defender tandem of Kim Kee-Hee and Xavier Arreaga, leaving Roman Torres on the bench in favor of the quicker options to deal with Carlos Vela working as a false nine.

LAFC coach Bob Bradley called on Adama Diomande in the 53rd minute, bringing him in for Brian Rodriguez, but the shift didn’t pay off the way it did when Diomande scored two goals off the bench against the LA Galaxy.

The Sounders will now await Thursday’s Eastern Conference final to learn their fate. An Atlanta United victory means Seattle will travel to Atlanta for the MLS Cup final on November 10th. A Toronto FC victory in Atlanta would mean Seattle would host the MLS Cup final for the first time, and do so against the same Toronto FC side the Sounders played in the 2016 and 2017 finals.

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