NYCFC vs. Sounders, recap: going to the ship

The Seattle Sounders reach the finals! A 1-1 draw away with New York City FC at the Red Bull Arena booked the trip after a 3-1 home win in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinals, giving Seattle a 4-2 aggregate series win. The Sounders took the lead through another beautifully crafted team goal, including a beautiful cross ball from Jackson Ragen to Nouhou and a great cross from Nouhou inside the box that Raúl Ruidíaz fired home.

NYCFC leveled the game, bringing the aggregate deficit back to two early in the second half. Seattle had a great opportunity to close the door just minutes later when Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan went on the break, but when Roldan found Morris with a great look inside the box his shot found just the one defender who was on the goal standing line.

NYCFC continued to push for more goals to get back in the series, but try as they might, they just couldn’t beat Stefan Frei. Frei recorded 7 saves as New York amassed 25 shots, making more than a few of those stops in spectacular fashion. While Frei delivered his best brick wall impression and the rest of the squad did their best to limit the threat of New York’s shots, Seattle held off the Pigeons for the better part of an hour and secured their place in the finals. Despite being shown a few yellows, the Sounders also managed to avoid being goaded to yellows which would result in the players missing the opening game of the finals, where they face UNAM Pumas on the road before defeating them in the Return leg received for a chance to lift another trophy at Lumen Field. The dates for these games are yet to be determined.

1′ – Things start hot and contentious as Taty Castellanos slams Xavier Arreaga while the Sounder wins a header to draw yellow.

23′ — Castellanos narrowly misses the best look of the half for NYCFC after João Paulo pulled back a pass from Jackson Ragen to let him through, but he’s picked up.

28′ — Sonar Gate! Raúl Ruidíaz opens the top scorer with a first finish after an excellent pass from Nouhou after a great diagonal from Jackson Ragen. 1-0 (4-1) sounder

44′ — Nico Lodeiro regains the ball from just outside the NYCFC penalty area and finds Ruidíaz in the penalty area. Ruidíaz takes a touch to create space but his shot is saved.

51′ — New York pulls you back. After hitting the post twice, Alex Roldan is slapped coming into the box, allowing for a cutback and a finish through traffic. 1-1 (4-2)

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

63′ — Another good chance for NYCFC but Stefan Frei holds his own and blocks the shot before the ball goes wide for a goal kick.

68′ — Talles Magno flips Nouhou and gets a shot wide but Frei spreads out and shoots him over the goal.

73′ — Stephen Free! Talles Magno with another great look at a New York counterattack but Frei drops and blocks the shot from close range!

88′ — Close again for NYCFC but Frei leaps over the goal and whistles the ball away then Kelyn Rowe pulls a foul to stop the danger.

CCL fever: For any complaints anyone might have about the Sounders’ slow start or poor record early in the MLS season, they absolutely burn the Champions League. While they went 2-2-1 with a goal difference of 0 in the MLS game – although it’s worth noting that both losses came in their first two games – Seattle has yet to lose a game in the CCL game and their opponents have too Beaten 13 points. 3 while it goes 3-0-3. They’ve done it while pulling players in and out of the lineup for a variety of reasons and seeing great performances from everyone in the squad. This is a team created to do great things, to make history, and now that they are advancing to the CCL Finals, they have an opportunity to do just that. To make it even sweeter, if the Sounders should become the first MLS team to win the CCL, they can do it at home in front of their own fans, you and me.

Stefan Frei is still elite: Stefan Frei was criminally underrated and underrated by nearly everyone outside the Seattle area. He’s been one of the best goalies in MLS for years by just about every metric you can use to judge goalies. He also passes the eye test, frequently saving the highlights and frequently ruining the lives of MLS attackers. He’s like that commercial with Dikembe Mutombo just appearing out of nowhere to shatter the hopes of strikers big and small. He legitimately won the 2016 MLS Cup Finals as MVP, but has received little support when it comes to Goalkeeper of the Year picks. After missing 2021 through injury, there were understandably questions about how he would fare on his return, but if tonight’s performance was any indication, worries about Stefan Frei’s demise were grossly overdone. This could be the year that Frei finally gets the fame he deserves.

Giving and getting Concacaf-ed: The Sounders weren’t exactly the best team on the field that game. It still wasn’t the 80-90 percent control that Ronny Deila claimed his side achieved in the first leg, but NYCFC definitely seemed to have the better game in that game. It does not matter. NYCFC not only had to be better, they had to come down from a two-goal deficit (and for a short time, a three-goal deficit), and they had to force the Sounders to make mistakes to get there. They tried to irritate Seattle and get them to make these mistakes, tried to make it to the finals with “Concacaf,” but they chose the wrong path. The Sounders were up for physicality, could throw in a little bit of themselves, and while they didn’t take NYCFC snide, they also refused to lose their heads. Instead, the Sounders responded to any attempt to kick, grab, or generally goad Seattle by reveling in their throw-ins, carefully examining goal-kick and set-piece options, and taking every opportunity to stretch a cramp or wait for it to be checked to become injury upon serious contact. Hers was the way of the leaf; theirs was the way to victory.

That goal was good to the last drop.

57 – The Sounders won 57 duels against NYCFC’s 46.

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