The Seattle Sounders sealed their place in the Leagues Cup final after a 1-0 win over Liga MX side Santos Laguna at Lumen Field on Tuesday, thanks to star striker Raul Ruidiaz‘s stoppage-time winner.
Ruidiaz’s strike sparked wild celebrations and set the Sounders up with a showdown against either Club Leon or Pumas UNAM in Las Vegas on Sept. 22.
Santos Laguna had chances of their own, with Diego Valdes hitting the post on 67 minutes, in a pulsating clash between MLS and Liga MX.
“That was an entertaining soccer game for me,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match. “I know I was a little nervous on the bench and it was fast, but that first 45 minutes, it was like 15 minutes because the game was so fast. So credit to Guillermo [Almada], he has a tremendous team.
“I think every single person in this organization should be happy with what was in my eyes a really great result against a very well-coached, well-organized team in Santos Laguna.”
Ruidiaz met Leo Chu‘s pass three minutes into stoppage time and struck at the second attempt after his first effort was saved by Santos Laguna goalkeeper Gibran Lajud. It was the second goal of the tournament for the Peruvian, who netted in the club’s 3-0 win over Tigres UANL in the quarterfinals.
Ruidiaz now has 58 goals across all competitions since signing with Seattle in 2018 — ahead of Clint Dempsey in the club’s all-time scorers’ list and only behind teammate Fredy Montero‘s 67.
“I think it’s mentality,” Ruidiaz’s teammate Cristian Roldan said at his postgame press conference. “You can see him become different when it’s a big moment, when we’re playing a Mexican side or when he has ties on the other team, there’s a little bit extra that he gives. You saw it in the LAFC game in 2019, I could see it in the All-Star game. You see it in moments like today.
“He was dangerous all game. It was unfortunate that he didn’t score another one in the first half but at the end of the day he’s a goal-scorer and he’ll find his way to score a goal.”
Schmetzer added: “This is our moment, it’s not Liga MX against MLS. You guys can write that story. What I’m writing is we are in another final, this organization, this club’s in another final. There are hundreds of storylines for this game: Fredy Montero started with us in 2009, he’s back and playing an important role for our success. How good is Raul Ruidiaz? There’s an easy storyline for you, that’s a layup for you.”