Late goal prevents all-Liga MX final in Leagues Cup

Liga MX Leagues Cup Seatttle-Santos

Santos goalie Gibran Lajud denied Raúl Ruidiaz here in the first half but was unable to come up with the big save in crunch time. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Two-time Liga MX scoring champ Raúl Ruidiaz knocked home a rebound of his own shot in minute 90+3 to give the host Seattle Sounders a 1-0 victory over Santos Laguna in the Leagues Cup semifinal. The MLS Western Conference leaders will take on the winner of the León-Pumas contest in the Final on Sept. 22.

Ruidiaz got behind the Guerreros defense when Emanuel Orrantia unwisely tried to pull an offside trap near midfield. The Peruvian striker outraced Orrantia into the box and after his first shot was blocked by goalie Gibran Lajud he cooly slotted home for the lone goal of the match.

The match at Lumen Field in Seattle was a fast-paced affair with the Sounders enjoying the better of it in the first half, breaking down the Santos defense with a swift transition game that saw them buzzing around the visitor’s box.

Santos, one of the most aggressive defensive teams in Liga MX, was too often surprised by Seattle’s heavy pressure which forced a plethora of errant passes and turnovers in the first half.

The Liga MX club settled down in the second half, generating opportunities in the final third but never managing to test Stefan Frei between the pipes.

In minute 65, Diego Valdés beat Frei with a free kick from about 25 meters, but the ball clanged off the right post and trickled out of harm’s way.

Just as the game appeared headed for a penalty shoot-out, Seattle withstood a lengthy Santos possession and turned upfield. Joao Paulo cleared the zone with a short pass to Leo Chu and chu quickly released Ruidiaz down the left channel and he was off to the races.

The win was the second straight against a Liga MX opponent for the Sounders in the Leagues Cup. Seattle dispatched the visiting Tigres 3-0 in the quarterfinals.

Familiar to Liga MX fans

Ruidiaz played with Monarcas Morelia for four seasons from 2016-2018, winning back-to-back Liga MX scoring titles (Apertura 2016 and Clausura 2017), while also winning the 2016-2017 Liga MX MVP award.

The Peruvian international ingratiated himself to Morelia fans in the Clausura 2017 season when he scored in the 91st-minute against Monterrey in the season finale. The goal saved the Monarcas from relegation, qualified them for the playoffs and earned Ruidiaz the scoring title.