SEATTLE (AP) — Nicolas Lodeiro figures he’s just getting started.
The Seattle Sounders hope he’s right.
Lodeiro scored his first MLS goal, then assisted on Jordan Morris’ team-leading eighth in Seattle’s 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Sunday.
“I’m very happy. I hope it’s the first of many,” Lodeiro said through an interpreter. “But the most important thing is the win today.”
The Sounders (8-12-3) have won two straight and are 2-0-1 since parting ways with former coach Sigi Schmid on July 26. Lodeiro has factored into four of their last five goals, with two assists last week in a 3-1 victory at Orlando City.
“He has come and turned things around, but the whole team has had a hand in that, not just one person,” Seattle interim head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “He’s a very talented soccer player, and he makes everyone else around him better. But the whole team kind of rises up with him — that might be his biggest contribution, aside from a goal and an assist tonight.”
Lodeiro, the Uruguayan national midfielder signed by Seattle as a Designated Player on July 27, tallied in the 24th minute. Clint Dempsey lofted the ball toward the left wing side. Andreas Ivanschitz took it into penalty area, crossed it toward the middle, and Lodeiro drilled it high into the left side of the net.
In the 37th minute, Dempsey deked around a defender and sent a ball toward the left side, where Lodeiro caught up with it and floated a cross into the box. Morris ran onto a header that went in off the hands of goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“It’s awesome playing with two players like that,” Morris said about Dempsey and Lodeiro. “You make a run, and you know you’re going to get the ball.”
Coupled with Portland’s 2-0 loss at D.C. United on Saturday night, the Sounders are five points below the Timbers for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The two rivals meet next Sunday in Seattle.
“I’m not sure If it’s one certain thing,” Schmetzer said of about team’s play through the last three weekends. “But I do believe it’s their group mentality that makes them play the way they’re playing now.”
RSL’s Joao Plata scored on an uncontested 8-yard shot in the 62nd minute after goalkeeper Stefan Frei bobbled the ball at the top of the box while preparing to kick it downfield. Salt Lake’s Yura Movsisyan gained control, and while Frei and the Seattle defenders scrambled, he found Plata running into the area.
Coach Jeff Cassar said Real needed more of that kind of thing, as Salt Lake (10-8-7) has won just twice in its last 10 games.
“I don’t think we changed the point of attack nearly enough as we wanted to,” Cassar said. “Every time we did, we were able to do more of the things we wanted to. You can come up with the best game plans and be tactically sound. But you turn the ball over as cheaply as we did in the first half, nothing’s going to work. Seattle’s got a lot of dangerous players in their attack, and they make you defend. We didn’t win the battle of making them defend as much as we wanted to.”
Dempsey, coming off of a hat trick last week at Orlando City, had a chance to clinch the game with a penalty kick in the 82nd minute. But his shot banged off the underside of the crossbar and bounced away from the goalmouth.