On a cloudy evening at Lumen Field in Seattle, the Sounders were set to play host to Santos Laguna in the first of two Leagues Cup semifinals. The hosts entered the match in sparkling form, having won five of six matches in all competitions, including a 3-0 victory over Tigres in the quarterfinals of the Leagues Cup. Top of the Western Conference with a game in hand, Brian Schmetzer’s side have been firing on all cylinders this season and were ready to take on one of Liga MX’s best sides.
The visitors, Santos Laguna, had lost their most recent match, to Club Tijuana on Friday, but that marked just their first defeat of the season. Los Guerreros, who had reached the semifinals by beating Orlando City 1-0 last month, came into this encounter with a reputation for defensive solidity under coach Guillermo Almada, having used a tight defense to reach the Liguilla final of the Guard1anes Clausura 2021 in May. Hoping to continue to keep things tight at the back, the visitors were ready for what proved to a be hard-fought encounter.
The match started tentatively, with Santos keeping possession deep in their own half before Seattle had the first chance of the match through Raúl Ruidíaz, which was well-saved by Santos’ Gibrán Lajud (5’). The first half continued to be lively, with both teams snapping into challenges but failing to generate much in the way of real chances. Things would remain that way until Seattle sprung into action on the counter, with Lajud sprinting off his line to take the ball off Ruidíaz’s feet (18’).
Cristian Roldán would call the visitors’ goalkeeper into action again just minutes later, as he tipped a shot from the Seattle winger behind for a corner (21’). Seattle kept up the pressure well, as Santos struggled to get out of their half. It eventually came to a head with Fredy Montero having a spectacular bicycle kick fly just over (37’). Ruidíaz remained dangerous and nearly got on the end of a Cristian Roldán cross (42’) but despite a few more speculative efforts from Santos, the match remained deadlocked at the half.
The second half was also cautious at the outset, albeit played with more urgency. Seattle had a fine chance through Kellyn Rowe, as he picked out Fredy Montero at the back post only for the Colombian to fire over from close range (58’). Santos would reply a few minutes later with a wicked free kick from Diego Valdés, whose free kick crashed off the post (65’). After Seattle made a couple changes, Valdés would float in another free kick, cleared for a corner (72’) as the visitors gained the upper hand.
Players from both teams found themselves in the book, but their battling approach ultimately proved fruitless, as there were few presentable chances in the match’s final ten minutes. Seemingly heading to penalties, the match looked to drift away as Ruidíaz scuffed a shot late on, but Lajud watched it drift wide. The Peruvian would have his revenge, though, as he found the net in the match’s dying seconds, scoring the match’s only goal and leaping over the barrier to celebrate with fans (90+3’).
Seattle’s win was well-deserved, and they’ve guaranteed MLS a place in the final, which is set for Wednesday, September 22. The Sounders will face the winner of Wednesday night’s match between Club León and Pumas, scheduled to kick off at 11 ET. Tickets for both are available \here.**
Leagues Cup Semifinal
Seattle Sounders 1-0 Santos Laguna
Seattle Sounders: Ruidíaz (90 + 3’)
Seattle Sounders: Montero 39’, Arreaga 71’, Ruidíaz (90 + 4’)
Santos Laguna: Gorriarán 74’
Seattle Sounders: Frei; A. Roldán (Bruin 89’), Yeimar, Arreaga, O’Neill, Smith (Medranda 67’); João, Rowe (Chu 82’); C. Roldán, Ruidíaz, Montero (Benezet 67’)
Substitutes: Cleveland, Richey, Cissoko, Medranda, Atencio, Leyva, Benezet, Chu, Bruin
Manager: Brian Schmetzer
Santos Laguna: Lajud; Orrantia, Torres, Dorria, Campos; Gorriaran, Prieto (Cervantes 81’); Otero, Valdes, Lozano (Ocejo 82’); Da Cruz
Substitutes: Díaz, H. Rodríguez, Isijara, Ibargüen, Jeraldino, Cervantes, Garcia, Ávila, Govea, Ocejo, J. Rodríguez, Games
Manager: Guillermo Almada
Photo: USA Today