Throughout their MLS history, the Seattle Sounders have made a trend of struggling in the early stages of the season before finding their stride in the Summer, much like they did in 2016 en route to winning MLS Cup. That Summer, Nico Lodeiro joined the club and, under then interim coach Brian Schmetzer, helped lead Seattle into playoff positions and ultimately was named the 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year.
Fast forward two years later and the Sounders again find themselves in a hole, trying to continue their streak of making the playoffs every year of their MLS existence.
This time the hole is much deeper and the club has been devastated by injury all year but for possibly the first time this season the lofty expectations seem to be within reach.
The Sounders knocked off their Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 on Saturday thanks to a brace from Lodiero and a confident performance from his teammates. Most excitingly we finally got a chance to see Raul Ruidiaz take the field in Rave Green and while it’s apparent that he is still learning how to play with his teammates he already looks dangerous in front of goal.
Ruidiaz’s debut would have been the biggest talking point this week if not for Lodeiro upstaging him with a masterful performance in midfield. Lodeiro’s passing was precise and incisive, constantly splitting defenders and finding open teammates. After opening the scoring from the penalty spot in the 4th minute of the match, Lodeiro doubled the lead in the 31st with a knuckling ball that completely fooled the Whitecaps’ keeper Stefan Marinovic. With the two-goal lead, Lodeiro seemed to really get into a groove and spent much of the second half terrorising defenders with his ball control and forcing Vancouver to foul him a match-high seven times.
With more time together Lodiero and Ruidiaz have the potential to unlock the Sounders attack as they learn each other’s habits and tendencies. Ruidiaz’s pace will help to stretch opposing defenses and open space for other attackers and should Lodiero continue his form from Saturday he’ll be an integral part of maximizing the danger that Ruidiaz creates.
As Seattle now prepares to head to Avaya Stadium in San Jose to face the cellar dwelling Earthquakes, they’ll also be looking to build upon only their third shutout of the season and first in a winning effort. Now just 10 points out of the playoffs and with games in hand, the Sounders will be desperate to get their first win at Avaya and continue their climb from the bottom of the Western Conference.