NYCFC are defeated by Seattle in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals

SEATTLE – Albert Rusnák and Jordan Morris scored first-half goals, Nicolás Lodeiro converted a penalty midway through the second half and Seattle Sounders beat New York City FC 3-1 in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals on Wednesday night.

In the two-game streak of total goals, the Sounders held a comfortable advantage, but Seattle also allowed an important first-half street goal for NYCFC’s Thiago Andrade that could serve as a tiebreaker in next week’s second leg at the Red Bull Arena Harrison, New jersey

“I don’t think there was a player who didn’t put in a great performance. And that’s what you need in this kind of games,” said Rusnák. “We played against a good team and managed to win by two goals. So we’re halfway there.”

Rusnák’s goal came in the 16th minute and was his first since signing with Seattle in the offseason. Morris made it 2-1 later in the first half and Lodeiro’s penalty in the 68th minute came after a video review showed Raúl Ruidíaz being fouled in the penalty area by Thiago Martins.

“They are deadly when they get opportunities like this,” said NYCFC coach Ronny Delia. “But we scored our away goal and that was important.”

Valentin Castellanos is blocked by Seattle's goaltender during NYCFC's first leg loss.
Valentin Castellanos is blocked by Seattle’s goaltender during NYCFC’s first leg loss.

The encounter between Seattle and NYCFC, reigning champions of the MLS Cup, marks the first time two MLS teams have met in the semi-finals of the Champions League. The winner will face either Pumas or LigaMX’s Cruz Azul in the two-game home-and-home final. Pumas lead 2-1 after Tuesday night’s first leg in Mexico City.

Since the current format’s inception in 2008, four MLS teams have reached the Champions League final – Real Salt Lake (2011), CF Montreal (2015), Toronto FC (2018) and LAFC (2020) – but none has made it title. Seattle will have the advantage of joining the foursome of MLS teams heading into the second leg next week.

“They scored an away goal, which helps them a bit in chess,” said Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer. “But we won’t be afraid to come back to the Red Bull Arena and try to win.”

The Sounders have for years expressed their desire to be the first MLS team to win the Champions League and their impressive performances in the knockout stages this season have reinforced that belief. Seattle has beaten its opponents 12-2 in five CCL games this season.

Rusnák’s first goal for Seattle was set up by the combination of Cristian Roldan and Morris. Roldan also assisted Morris’ goal in the 35th minute, drawing the pass from the end line back to the penalty spot, where Morris fired past NYCFC goalie Sean Johnson into the top corner.

Despite Seattle’s convincing win, Andrade’s goal was important for NYCFC as a 2-0 win in the second leg would see the MLS champions progress on the away goals tiebreak. It was NYCFC’s first semi-final game in the Champions League, having never advanced beyond the quarter-finals before.

NYCFC also played without standout midfielder Maxi Moralez due to a rib injury.

“We are coming home. We have to win 2-0. We’ve done that many times,” Delia said. NYCFC are defeated by Seattle in the first leg of the Champions League semifinals


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