SEATTLE, WA – It took a last minute goal by Raúl Ruidíaz, but the Sounders were able to squeak by Santos Laguna in the semifinals of the Leagues Cup on Tuesday. With the win Seattle punched their ticket to the cup final at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas next Wednesday.
High Press Problems
Santos’ game plan for the match was clear and obvious from kickoff and that was playing a high press. In the first half it might have been questionable if that plan truly was working or not as the Sounders continued to have good attacking opportunities. The half stats also showed a fairly even match with the possession battle barely going to Santos with 51%.
The second half is where the visitors seemed to start to show the upper hand. Their press started to suffocate the Rave Green and outside of a few quality counters, the bulk of the second half was played in Santos’ attacking third. This led to them getting a few great looks via set pieces, but luckily for Seattle the post and a veteran keeper kept it leveled.
Due to the format of the tournament, if the match was tied at the end of stoppage time then we would go straight to penalties to decide the winner. This meant that Schmetzer had to make some big decisions as the match went into the final minutes with that in mind. The first batch of subs included Benezet and Medranda coming on in the 67th.
The next set was where the strategy and tide really turned. Leo Chú made his Sounders debut in the 82nd and was clearly brought on for his energy and play making ability. Just a few moments later Will Bruin also came onto the pitch and that was likely due to the looming threat of PKs. At the end of the day, Bruin was not the one who had to step up.
What a Debut
Now, it could easily be pointed out that Leo Chú looked very nervous when he stepped out there and that his first couple of touches were not crisp. What can’t be argued is the way he helped decide the match outcome. In stoppage time Frei punched away a shot by Santos and that led to a quick counter and the ball at the foot of Chú. He quickly delivered a perfectly guided pass to Ruidíaz who split two defenders at the back line and had the pace to break away from them. His initial shot was blocked but on the follow he was able to net the game winner.
Saved all the fun for the very end!
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) September 15, 2021
Viva Las Vegas
With the final whistle, the Sounders officially punched their ticket for Las Vegas next Wednesday at Allegiant Stadium. Their opponent is currently TBD as they need to await the result of the Pumas and León match later today. Where as León is one of the top teams in Liga MX, Pumas sits in the basement of the table and have had a season to forget to this point. Coach Schmetzer said the team isn’t pulling for one outcome or the other, instead stating that the team will be prepared regardless of the opponent.
Before the fun in Vegas can begin the Sounders have some MLS business to attend too as they have a matchup with Real Salt Lake on Saturday. Real (8-6-9, 30pts) is currently sitting in the 7th and final playoff spot in the western conference. The game is slated for a 6:30 PM kickoff in Utah.
Bonus: Postgame on the Pitch
Russell is the Content Director for the Eli Network. He studied broadcast journalism at Eastern Oregon and North Dakota State University. Mostly covers soccer and basketball in the Seattle area and is the current play-by-play voice for Seattle Redhawks basketball. You can follow him @brussbrwn.