The second leg of the MLS Western Conference finals looks likely to be very close after a tightly contested opening match on Tuesday. Colorado Rapids jumped out to a fast start, scoring an early away goal, but the Seattle Sounders engineered a comeback to grab a 2-1 win.
A fantastic 13th-minute goal by the Rapids stunned the crowd at CenturyLink Field into silence, with Kevin Doyle providing the finish. His shot was deflected, helping his cause, but there's no taking away from the buildup. Check out Shkelzen Gashi's impeccable dummy.
Seattle drew level just six minutes later, with MLS Rookie of the Year Jordan Morris applying the finish. But much like in Colorado's goal, the finish was perhaps the least impressive part. Cristian Roldan won't be credited with an assist on the box score, but he deserves one after his run and shot off the post to set up the goal. Morris was just in the right place at the right time to redirect the rebound.
While Zac MacMath struggled on that goal, he started to look much more worthy of filling in for the injured Tim Howard as the game went on. He had to make tough saves on shots by Nicolas Lodeiro and Nelson Valdez, and did well to guide his team into halftime tied at 1-1.
But Seattle would eventually find a winning goal through Lodeiro, the man who turned their season around and hauled them into the playoffs. He fooled Rapids left-back Marc Burch with a clever turn and got tripped, winning a penalty. Lodeiro stepped up to take the spot kick himself and scored, sending the Sounders to Colorado with a lead.
Seattle Sounders: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Torres, Mears, Alonso, Friberg (Evans 69'), Roldan, Morris (Ivanschitz 78'), Valdez, Lodeiro
Goals: Morris (19'), Lodeiro (penalty 61')
Colorado Rapids: MacMath; Burch, Sjoberg, Watts, Miller, Jones, Cronin, Gashi (Azira 78'), Doyle, Le Toux, Badji (Hairston 70')
Goals: Doyle (13')
Cristian Roldan is one of MLS's most underrated players ...
In addition to his great run and shot off the post that set up Jordan Morris's goal, Roldan also completed 88 percent of his passes, including 23 in the final third. Most of those were forward, attacking passes. Two of them led directly to shots. And perhaps most importantly, he had no bad giveaways in dangerous positions. The 21-year-old American is making a case to get into new USMNT manager Bruce Arena's plans.
... but Nicolas Lodeiro might be its best, period.
Lodeiro's goal from the penalty spot — which he drew by himself — gave him four in the postseason so far. He also led his team in shots, completed passes in the Colorado half, and successful crosses. He was everywhere, all the time, doing a bit of everything. This might have been the weakest of his playoff performances, and yet he was clearly the best player on the pitch for either team and made the go-ahead goal all by himself. He'll enter next season as the MVP favorite no matter what happens in the second leg in Colorado.
The Rapids are in good shape heading home.
They'll be disappointed by the cheap manner in which they gave these two goals away — Zac MacMath should have done better on the first goal, and Marc Burch's foul for the penalty was a needless one — but they're doing better than they were last round. They lost 1-0 away to the LA Galaxy, but were able to come through at home. In this tie, they have an away goal, so they'll like their chances in the second leg.