Sounders beat NYCFC in 1st leg of Champions League semis

SEATL – Albert Rusnák and Jordan Morris scored in the first half, Nicolás Lodeiro scored a penalty in the middle of the second half, and the Seattle Sounders beat New York City FC 3-1 Wednesday night in the first game of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals.

In a two-game streak with total goals, the Sounders took a pleasant advantage, but Seattle also allowed a key goal from NYCFC’s Tiago Andrade in the first half that could serve as a tie-break in next week’s Red Bull rematch Arena in Harrison, NJ

“I don’t think there was a player who didn’t have a great performance. And that’s what is needed in games like this,” Rusnák said. “We played against a good team and we managed to win with two goals. So we’re halfway there.”

Rusnák’s goal was scored in the 16th minute and was his first since signing a contract with Seattle in the off-season. Moris increased the lead to 2-1 later in the first half, and Lodeira’s penalty in the 68th minute followed a video review showing Thiago Martins fouling Raúl Ruidíaz in the penalty area.

“They’re deadly when they get opportunities like that,” NYCFC coach Ronny Delia said. “But we scored a goal away and that was important.”

The match between Seattle and NYCFC, the current MLS Cup champions, is the first time the two MLS teams have clashed in the Champions League semi-finals. The winner will meet either Pumas or Cruz Azul of LigaMX in the final of two games at home and at home. Pumas leads 2-1 after the first game played on Tuesday night in Mexico City.

Four MLS teams have previously reached the Champions League final since the current format was adopted in 2008 – Real Salt Lake (2011), CF Montreal (2015), Toronto FC (2018) and LAFC (2020) – but none came out of the title. Seattle will have the advantage of joining the four MLS teams that are going to the return match next week.

“They got a goal away, so it helps them a little bit in a chess match,” said Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer. “But we won’t be afraid to go back to Red Bull Arena and try to win.”

The Sounders have for years expressed a desire to be the first MLS team to win the Champions League, and their impressive performances in the knockout phase this season have solidified that belief. Seattle have beaten their opponents 12-2 this season through five CCL games.

Rusnak’s first goal for Seattle was scored by a combination of Cristiano Roldan and Morris. Roldan also assisted Morris’ goal in the 35th minute, pulling the pass from the end line back to the penalty spot where Morris ended up in the top corner next to NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Despite Seattle’s convincing win, Andrade’s goal was important to the NYCFC as a 2-0 rematch would send the MLS champions through that goal break. It was the first NYCFC Champions League semi-final match to never reach the quarterfinals before.

NYCFC also played without prominent midfielder Massi Moralez due to a rib injury.

“We’re going home. We have to win 2-0. We’ve done that many times before,” Delia said.

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