SEATTLE (AP) – For Nicolas Loderio, going two straight games without a goal or an assist amounted to a drought. He snapped out of it in a big way on Sunday night.
Lodeiro scored twice and Nelson Valdez added a goal — all in an 8-minute span early in the second half — to help the Seattle Sounders roll past FC Dallas 3-0 in the first leg of the MLS Western Conference semifinals.
Dallas, winner of the Supporters Shield with the best regular season record, now must score at least three times when the teams play the second leg in Texas next Sunday to keep its season alive.
Since joining the Sounders in late July, the 27-year-old Loderio, a Uruguayan international midfielder, factored into the scoring in eight straight games. His last goal came on Oct. 16 — in a 2-1 loss at Dallas — but he was kept off the board in last Sunday’s 2-1 victory against Real Salt Lake that clinched a playoff spot, and Thursday’s 1-0 knockout-round win against Sporting Kansas City.
“To me, it’s not only to score the goals,” Lodeiro said. “More than anything, it’s the assists, to support the attack, the defense, and be in the midfield.
“But of course, I’m pleased when I can score the goals.”
Valdez, whose 88th-minute goal beat Sporting Kansas City, put Seattle on the board in the 50th minute. Joevin Jones crossed a target ball from the left side into the penalty area. Valdez ran to the top of the 6-yard box, went up and over Dallas defender Maynor Figueroa and headed it into the back left corner.
“I just want to be thankful to the coach and the team for their trust in me — and the only way I could answer that trust was to score more goals and to continue to play the way I played tonight,” said Valdez, who was inserted into the starting lineup by interim head coach Brian Schmetzer.
Lodeiro made it 2-0 at the outset of the 55th minute, running onto Jordan Morris’ short crossing pass and blasting it into the back right corner from 6 yards in front.
Just three minutes later, Lodeiro took a through ball from Jones, streaked down the left side, and, from the top left corner of the 6, fired to the far corner.
“It was a typical first-leg game in a two-leg series — two teams feeling each other out in the first half,” Schmetzer said. “In the second half, our team made the necessary adjustments, but then they also made the necessary plays. When you’re trying to win an MLS cup, you have to make plays. Valdez, Loderio, Morris, Jones — they make plays.”
Just as important for both teams heading into the second leg was goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s shutout — his second straight clean sheet in the playoffs and ninth of the season. That denied Dallas a crucial away goal if the series should happen to come down to that tiebreaker next Sunday.
This is the third straight year the Sounders and Dallas have met in the semifinals. Seattle prevailed in 2014; Dallas won last year on penalty kicks at home in the second leg.
“The first 20 minutes of the second half, we allowed them to get space, and they scored those goals,” Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “Obviously, we’re disappointed. But at the same time, we have to keep the optimism.
“We overcame a difficult result last year when we left this field,” he added. “This team has shown during the year that we can overcome difficult situations.”
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