Sounders reach Champions League final, beating NYCFC in semi-final

HARRISON, NJ (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 semi-final home and away.

The second leg of the semi-final between the Major League Soccer teams ended 1-1 on Wednesday night thanks in large part to a memorable performance in goal from Seattle’s Stefan Frei.

Raúl Ruidíaz scored in the first half to give Seattle a needed road goal and a three-goal advantage overall. Santiago Rodríguez scored early in the second half for the defending MLS Cup champions, but NYCFC managed 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 tried to score goals.

Seattle will face LigaMX’s Pumas in the home-and-away final, expected to be the first MLS team to win the title in 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 in late April and Seattle will host the second leg in early May.

The Sounders led 3-1 after the first leg of the semi-final 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 of the return game for Seattle. Frei made three important saves in 10 minutes midway through the second half. He denied Thiago Martins a header in the 63rd minute. Frei hit Talles Mango’s shot over the bar in the 68th minute and five minutes later delivered a superb kick to prevent Mango from opening wide after a perfect pass from Valentín Castellanos.

NYCFC also fired a 75th-minute corner kick that was headed in the goal that was saved by Seattle defender Kelyn Rowe fullback.

Seattle got the first-half road goal it needed from Ruidíaz in the 28th minute. Ruidíaz had yet to score in any competition this season for Seattle.

Rodríguez scored in the opening minutes of the second half after NYCFC fired two shots from Seattle’s goal post.

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