Sounders Advance to CCL Final

by Michael Martinez
Captain Nico celebrates a Sounders win

The Sounders have done it! For the first time in club history, the Sounders advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League final after a 1-1 draw last Wednesday against NYCFC. The Sounders withstood heavy pressure from NYCFC in the second half to advance to the final against Pumas UNAM.

Seattle is looking to become the first MLS team ever to win the tournament after the previous four sides from the MLS failed in the final. The top-tier Mexican soccer league, a club from Liga MX, has won the last 16 CONCACAF Champions League finals.

The Sounders have been dominant in this year’s tournament, scoring 13 goals and allowing just three goals in six fixtures.

Lineups:

Seattle Sounders: 4-2-3-1

New York City FC: 4-2-3-1

Match Report

The Sounders took the lead through yet another beautifully worked team goal that included a gorgeous diagonal ball from Jackson Ragen to Nouhou and a great cross into the box from Nouhou that Raúl Ruidíaz knocked home.

NYCFC tied the game, bringing the aggregate deficit back to two early in the second half. Seattle had an excellent opportunity to close the door minutes later as Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan got out on the counter. Still, when Roldan found Morris with a great look inside the area, his shot was right at the one defender standing on the goal line.

NYCFC continued to push for more goals to get back into the series, but try as they might, they weren’t going to beat Stefan Frei. As New York racked up 25 shots, Frei recorded seven saves, with more than a few stops coming spectacularly. With Frei making his best brick wall impression and the rest of the squad doing their best to limit the danger of the shots that New York got off, Seattle held off the Pigeons for the better part of an hour and secured their place in the finals.

After that, they will face UNAMs on the road before hosting them in the second leg for a chance to lift another trophy at Lumen Field. Finally, the dates are confirmed, with the first leg on April 27th in Mexico and the second leg at home on May 4th. Tickets for the home leg sold out within an hour!

Key moments

1’ — Taty Castellanos slams into Xavier Arreaga as the Sounder wins a header to draw a yellow.

28’ — Sounders goal! Raúl Ruidíaz opens the scoring with a first-time finish after an excellent pass from Nouhou. 1-0 (4-1) Sounders

44’ — Nico Lodeiro wins the ball outside NYCFC’s area and finds Ruidíaz inside the box. Ruidíaz takes a touch to create space, which leads to nothing.

51’ — New York pulls one back. After hitting the post twice, Alex Roldan gets beat coming into the box, allowing a cutback and a finish through traffic. 1-1 (4-2)

60’ — Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan play a fantastic sequence down the field, and Roldan finds Morris for a great chance, but the shot hits a body on the goal line.

63’ — Another good chance for NYCFC, but Stefan Frei stands his ground and blocks the shot before the ball goes out for a goal kick.

73’ — Stefan Frei! Talles Magno with another great look on a New York counter, but Frei drops and blocks the shot from point-blank range!

88’ — Another close one for NYCFC, but Frei dives across the goal and paws the ball away, then Kelyn Rowe draws a foul to stop the danger.

Post Match Thoughts

Sounders celebrate Ruidiaz's goal in CCL

Image via Seattle Sounders FC Twitter

STEFAN FREI. ENOUGH SAID. Everyone outside the Greater Seattle Metro area has criminally underappreciated and underrated Stefan Frei. He’s been one of, if not the best goalkeeper in MLS for years. He passes the eye test, too, frequently making highlight-reel saves and repeatedly ruining MLS attackers’ lives.

He rightfully won the MLS Cup Final MVP in 2016 but has little love for Goalkeeper of the Year. After missing time to injury in 2021, there were questions about how he’d do in his return. Tonight’s performance was no indication that Stefan Frei’s decline was exaggerated. However, this could finally get the glory that he deserves.

There have been plenty of complaints about the Sounders’ slow start or poor record to begin the MLS season. But fans have every reason to be okay with that because the Sounders are cruising through the Champions League. While they’ve gone 2-2-1 with a goal differential of 0 in MLS play, Seattle has yet to lose a game in CCL play, outscoring their opponents 13-3 while going 3-0-3.

Despite that, they’ve done it while rotating players in and out of the lineup. This is a team built for great things, for making history. As they advance to the CCL Finals, they’ll get to do it at home in front of their fans.

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