Sounders midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, he of dashed World Cup dreams, seemed appropriately fatigued and somewhat downcast even after possibly saving the Sounders’ season.
It was his rocket-launching left foot that evened the score in the second half only minutes after the home side had once again fallen behind. Lodeiro’s goal, coming as quickly as it did, prevented the usual doubts and dismay from setting in and eventually was followed by a Magnus Wolff Eikrem game-winner in Saturday night’s 2-1 victory over D.C. United.
“Obviously, I would have preferred — my peers, my colleagues would have preferred — for me to be in the World Cup,’’ Lodeiro, who arrived back here Thursday from Uruguay, said through an interpreter. “But what happened, happened. Now, I have to compose myself and recover and be here with my team.’’
Somebody asked Lodeiro how it felt scoring his 57th-minute equalizer with a blast from the top of the 18-yard box. He replied “Happy!’’ in English, while displaying the saddest-looking face possible.
He quickly explained, through the interpreter, once again: “Happy overall. It’s hard to forget what happened to me. I’m sad. But the important part for me is that the team won.’’
Important indeed, as the noticeable swaths of empty seats among the announced — but in no way actual — crowd of 39,465 fans on a rainy night at CenturyLink Field signaled that perhaps the team’s scoreless ways are now cutting into its bottom line. Losing to a team as beatable as D.C. has been all year would have been unfathomable for the Sounders, now 3-7-2 overall and needing to move up the standings before July transfer help arrives.
But losing is what the Sounders again appeared destined for after the visitors, dormant for much of the first half, stunned the crowd in the 53rd minute when Darren Mattocks slotted home a loose ball in the goalmouth. The Sounders last year had also fallen behind here against D.C. by a 3-0 second-half score only to rally for four late goals and a historic comeback victory.
But this season hasn’t gone at all like last year for a Sounders team blanked in eight of its first 11 games. They’d run their scoreless stretch at home to a franchise-record 237 minutes when a long Kelvin Leerdam throw-in bounded off a defender and rolled straight to an onrushing Lodeiro atop the box.
Lodeiro’s ensuing low blast beat goalkeeper David Oustad to his left, relieving the Sounders from their nightmare scenario before it ever really unfolded.
“It was massive,’’ a visibly relieved Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said afterward.
Schmetzer had Lodeiro, midfielders Victor Rodriguez and Harry Shipp and forward Will Bruin on the field together for the first time since last year. Rodriguez’s play seemed to help as much as Lodeiro’s and the team looked dangerous throughout the first half — with Clint Dempsey getting as many chances the first 22 minutes as he had the past month.
“I’ll have to look at the tape and see exactly how we gave up that goal,’’ Schmetzer said. “But it certainly was deflating. And for the team to respond the way it did is certainly testament to not only Nico’s brilliant left foot, but also his commitment to try and help the team progress.”
Lodeiro started in a defensive midfield spot and touched the ball 105 times, which was 32 more than the next-highest total by Cristian Roldan. Lodeiro also made a team-high 84 passes and completed 93 percent of them.
The Sounders are close to announcing they’ve signed two-time Liga MX scoring champion Raul Ruidiaz, which will undoubtedly help them start putting balls in the net come late July. But they need their current roster, bolstered now by Lodeiro, Rodriguez and others, to start doing more in order for any July additions to matter this season.
Indeed, even the team’s first victory in a month was tempered by Leerdam leaving with a right leg strain in the 69th minute. He’s doubtful for Wednesday’s road game against the New York Red Bulls.
The guy that subbed on for Leerdam, struggling midfielder Wolff Eikrem, put things away in the 83rd minute by heading home a Roldan cross. It was the first Major League Soccer goal for Wolff Eikrem, a highly regarded signing from Norway.
Wolff Eikrem agreed the win “was massive for us’’ and that Loderio’s quick response to the D.C. goal provided a needed boost.
“It just shows you what we are made of,’’ he said. “Some teams probably would have continued struggling even more and they (D.C.) would have won the game. But we came back and now we just have to keep going because it’s just one game and we need many more wins.’’