It was a day of 3s for Seattle on Sunday.
In their third MLS Cup Final, the Seattle Sounders managed to win their 2nd MLS Cup, beating Toronto FC 3-1 in front of 69 000 fans. After dispatching FC Dallas, Real Salt Lake and LAFC en route to this clash, they were clinical in the final, riding a wave of Toronto dominance before finding 3 second-half goals to win the game.
Despite facing a resilient Toronto team, who had pulled off unlikely away wins against the top two teams in the East, NYCFC and Atlanta, Seattle found a way to get things done at home, and it allowed them to hoist the MLS Cup in front of their home supporters.
As would be expected in a final of this magnitude, with the crowd making lots of noise, both teams started cautiously. A Nicolas Benezet half-chance that forced a save from Seattle goalkeeper Stephen Frei was Toronto’s first attacking moment, while Seattle’s Jordan Morris found himself denied on the other end to open things up for his team.
Jonathan Osorio, who looked lively for Toronto all afternoon, found a good chance after some good interplay, but his toe-poked effort flew straight towards Frei. Seattle soon responded with a glorious chance of their own, as Roman Torres connected with a lovely Nicolas Lodeiro ball off a whipped corner kick, but his volley flew just over the bar.
Both teams continued to go tit for tat in terms of chances into the end of the first half, as Seattle found a way to keep up with Toronto in shots, despite a huge gulf in the possession numbers in TFC’s favour. They traded chances late in the half, as Benezet forced an excellent one-handed save from Frei off a low left-footed drive, before Raul Ruidiaz found himself denied by the legs of Westberg on the other end, after his clever run caught Omar Gonzalez sleeping at the edge of Toronto’s box.
It was a tight first half, as Toronto dominated possession, but they were unable to find much in terms of quality chances. Seattle had decided to sit back, letting the game come to them, and it proved effective as TFC looked unable to unlock the low block employed by Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer.
Schmetzer’s strategy would soon pay off, as Seattle found the opening goal early on after the restart, as they continued to be unfazed by Toronto holding the brunt of the ball. Ruidiaz did excellently to get the ball at the top of the box, before playing in Kevin Leerdam on the right side, and the Dutch full back made no mistake with his strike, hitting it off Toronto defender Justin Morrow and in for the goal.
Woken up by the opener, Seattle continued to hunt for a second, as Toronto started to open up as they started to chase the game. Seattle found a couple of chances, first through Christian Roldan, before Victor Rodriguez just sent a left-footed strike wide.
Rodriguez continued to look lively in his cameo as a substitute, so it was no surprise to see him double Seattle’s lead in the 76th minute. After some nice Seattle play, he found the ball at the top of the box in space, and he sent a low curler in between two Toronto defenders and into the low corner past Westberg to double the score.
Toronto continued to have no answers for Seattle, as despite finding some good chances after the second goal, the Sounders added to their lead in the 89th minute. A long Gustav Svensson long ball found Ruidiaz in stride, and he held off Chris Mavinga strongly, before chipping the ball past Westberg to put an emphatic end to a memorable home performance for the Sounders.
Despite a late push from Toronto, who clawed one back via an excellent Jozy Altidore header, as the big striker latched onto a nice Pozuelo cross, Seattle emerged as victors. In front of their screaming fans, they had a moment that they soon won’t forget, as they were sent into a joyous rupture of emotion when the ref blew his final whistle.
It was a fitting end to an exciting MLS Cup Playoffs, as despite the slow start, the 4 goals scored by both teams was just a continuation of the offensive outbursts shown through the league this postseason. After ditching the old playoff format, which included several 2 legged series leading up to a 1 game final, things were wide open this year, and it made this years playoffs a lot more unpredictable.
For Toronto, it’ll be a week of tough questions ahead, as they now face some complicated contract queries, mostly centred around captain Michael Bradley. While they didn’t lift any silverware this year, falling in both the MLS and Voyageur Cup finals, it was a big bounce back from their rough end to 2018, as they now have some pieces to build around heading into 2020.
On Seattle’s end, they now get to party in the Emerald City, as they embrace being victorious for the 2nd time. After triumphing on the road in 2016, they now get the joy of winning in front of their home fans, and those celebrations should continue on for the next while. After that, it’s onto contract questions, but with most of their core likely sticking around, don’t be surprised if they end up strong contenders once again next season.
For the rest of MLS, a two-and-a half day trade window starts on Monday, as a busy offseason slate wastes no time getting underway. As the Sounders celebrate, there will be a lot for all teams to get done, as they now look to keep up with their counterparts in the Pacific Northwest.
Just don’t expect the Sounders to stop enjoying this moment anytime soon.