Sounders reach Champions League final, beating NYCFC in semis

Apr 13, 2022, 8:32 PM
Sounders Ruidiaz...
Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz celebrates his goal with defender Nouhou Tolo Wednesday in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
(AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) — The Seattle Sounders reached the CONCACAF Champions League final for the first time, beating New York City FC 4-2 on aggregate in the two-leg semifinal.

The second leg of the semifinal matchup between Major League Soccer teams finished 1-1 on Wednesday night thanks largely to a memorable performance in goal from Seattle’s Stefan Frei.

Sounders 1 (4), NYCFC 1 (2): Summary

Raúl Ruidíaz scored in the first half to give Seattle a needed road goal and a three-goal advantage on aggregate. Santiago Rodríguez scored early in the second half for the reigning MLS Cup champions, but NYCFC was an able to get another shot past Frei.

The Seattle goalkeeper was credited with seven saves, most of them coming in the final 25 minutes as NYCFC desperately pushed for goals.

Seattle will face LigaMX side Pumas in the two-leg final looking to be the first MLS team to win the title under its current format. The Sounders are the fifth MLS team to reach the final under the current format joining Real Salt Lake (2011), CF Montreal (2015), Toronto FC (2018) and LAFC (2020).

The first leg will be played in Mexico City at the end of April with Seattle hosting the second leg in early May.

The Sounders led 3-1 after the first-leg of the semifinal matchup last week in Seattle. Albert Rusnák, Jordan Morris and Nicolás Lodeiro scored for Seattle in the first leg while Thiago Martins scored a key road goal for NYCFC.

But Frei was the star in the second leg for Seattle. Frei made three significant saves in a 10-minute span midway through the second half. He denied Thiago Martins off a header in the 63rd minute. Frei punched Talles Mango’s shot over the bar in the 68th minute and five minutes later made a stunning kick save to deny Mango wide open after a perfect pass from Valentín Castellanos.

NYCFC also had a shot off a corner kick in the 75th minute headed for goal that was saved by the back of Seattle defender Kelyn Rowe.

Seattle did get the road goal it needed in the first half from Ruidíaz in the 28th minute. Ruidíaz had not scored in any competition yet this season for Seattle.

Rodríguez scored in the opening minutes of the second half moments after NYCFC rattled two shots off the post of the Seattle goal.

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