Nicolas Lodeiro scores twice, Sounders beat Rapids
SEATTLE (AP) — Will Bruin is just glad to be back in the MLS playoffs. This time, he’s going with a team that has never missed them.
Nicolas Loderio scored two goals, Bruin had his third in the past two games and the Seattle Sounders beat the Colorado Rapids 3-0 on Sunday in the regular-season finale to take the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference.
The defending MLS Cup champion Sounders (14-9-11) avoided this week’s knockout round.
Bruin joined the Seattle last December after spending his first six seasons in the league with Houston. The Dynamo missed out on the postseason in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
But the Sounders have made it all nine years of their existence. The other established teams in the league have missed at least one postseason during that stretch.
“That’s exactly why I came here,” Bruin said. “For me personally, it feels good to get back in. I think it’s clicking pretty well right now. Everybody knows their roles and knows where they need to be. . The goals will take care of themselves.”
Bruin’s ninth-minute goal put Seattle on the board and gave him 11 for the season.
Lodeiro sent a penalty kick past goalkeeper Tim Howard in the 64th minute, then scored again in the third minute of stoppage time. He finished the regular season with seven goals.
“When we finished the first 45 (minutes), we talked in the dressing room and said, ’OK, keep going forward,” Lodeiro said. “We wanted to play with more consistency and wait for our moment. That penalty was a big moment. They lost a man (to a red card), and we got control of the game.”
Both teams finished with 10 men, each losing a player to a straight red after video reviews by referee Christopher Penso.
Seattle’s Clint Dempsey was sent off in the 24th minute. With Rapids defender Mike da Fonte tight on him in the Colorado penalty area, Dempsey swung around with his right arm, and da Fonte fell to the ground holding his face.
Penso halted play, went to the video review area, and within half a minute came back across the field toward Dempsey and pulled out the red card. Dempsey will be suspended for Seattle’s first playoff game.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was reserving judgment.
“I’ll watch the tape, I’ll sit down with Clint and figure out his version, and we will proceed,” he said. “I’m not allowing one play to derail what we can accomplish. That won’t happen.”
In the 61st minute, Colorado’s Axel Sjoberg took down Bruin inside the 6-yard box. Penso called the PK, went to the video screen and came back with a red for Sjoberg.
Colorado, which made last year’s Western Conference finals, ended the season at 9-16-6. The Rapids had a chance to tie it in the 53rd minute after Seattle’s Harry Shipp was whistled for a hand ball. But Dominique Badji slammed the ensuing penalty kick off the left post. That helped Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei preserve his league-leading 13th shutout.
“Certainly in the last seven or eight games, they’ve given absolutely everything,” Rapids interim coach Steve Cooke said of his players. “That speaks to the character of the people, especially the senior players.”
The Sounders tied with Portland atop the Western Conference with 53 points apiece. But the Timbers (15-11-8), who scored a 2-1 win at home against Vancouver on Sunday, gained the No. 1 seed by virtue of having one more win than Seattle.
Schmetzer was fine with that.
“The mood in (the locker room) right now is we’re going to enjoy this moment,” he said. “There wasn’t any moment where the players went, ‘Whew, I’m glad that’s over.’ They’re already looking forward to the next game.”