Sounders defeat Mexico side in Leagues Cup debut

The Sounders scored an enormous win in their Leagues Cup debut Tuesday evening, breaking a five-match winless skid with a decisive 3-0 victory over Mexican side Tigres UANL.

The League Cup is an eight-team knockout tournament featuring four sides from MLS and four from Liga MX, the top professional league in Mexico.

This year’s iteration marks Seattle’s first time in the tourney — the Rave Green had previously faced Liga MX teams in the CONCACAF Champions League and had a 4-8-2 record against those clubs.

But the team is looking healthy — Cristian Roldan, Nicolás Lodeiro, Alex Roldan and Will Bruin all made appearances in this match, and the attack looked potent, though the offense was paced early by a couple of stalwarts.

“We are blessed to have great players,” head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “This club has always spent money on the players who fit the culture of the club. We’re a humble club, we work, we try to achieve great things, and we always try to win.”

The Sounders struck just 20 minutes into the match as Cristian Roldan was fouled in the penalty area resulting in a penalty kick. Raúl Ruidíaz converted his well-known Panenka kick, lofting a shot into the upper right corner as the keeper dove in the wrong direction to give his team a 1-0 lead.

“I just do what I practice,” Ruidíaz said. “It’s not a tease. It’s just what I practice, and it resulted in a beautiful goal.”

Roldan was in the middle of the Sounders two second-half scores as well. In the 64th minute, he headed down João Paulo’s corner kick and put it right on the foot of Fredy Montero, who tucked the ball behind him and into the net to double Seattle’s advantage.

Six minutes later, Roldan found Lodeiro, who had just come on as a substitute, and the gifted midfielder launched a beautiful shot from 35 yards out that ended up in the perfect place, beyond the reach of the Tigres UANL keeper to extend the lead to 3-0.

It was Lodeiro’s first goal for the Sounders since November of last year as he has missed significant time this season due to an injury.

“Physically I feel good, I feel very good,” Lodeiro said. “But I know I need more games.”

The win should certainly boost the spirits of a side that has managed just one point in its last three domestic matches. They will hit the road to take on Portland, Dallas and Columbus in their next three games. They have fallen one point behind Sporting Kansas City for the lead in the MLS Western Division.

“This victory, I hope, will bring more confidence for the team,” Lodeiro said.

2021 Leagues Cup quarterfinals

Seattle Sounders 3, Tigres UANL 0

First half — Seattle, Raúl Ruidíaz (penalty kick), 23rd.

Second half — Seattle, Fredy Montero (Cristian Roldan, João Paulo), 64th; Seattle, Nicolás Lodeiro (Cristian Roldan), 70th.