In the midst of the Seahawks being damn good and the Mariners being terrible, the Seattle Sounders have won their second MLS Cup in franchise history and their first since 2016. Both games were against Toronto, as Seattle powered to a 3-1 victory at CenturyLink Field on Nov. 10.
After a scoreless first half, defender Kelvin Leerdam put the first points on the board in the 57th minute. Leerdam was picked up by the Sounders in the middle of the 2017 season, having played internationally in the Netherlands since 2008. Coming into the game, the 29-year-old had just six career goals in his time with the franchise. His goal in the MLS Cup was just what the crowd needed to send fans into a frenzy. The crowd made for the largest non-concert event to be held at CenturyLink, and all of them joined to convert that energy from the first goal into momentum the team needed to win.
30-year-old Victor Rodriguez was the next to strike, as the midfielder put the Sounders up 2-0 in the 76th minute. The Barcelona native also joined Seattle in 2017 and has nine career regular season goals with the club. However, the last two years have been littered with injuries that seemed like they could prove fatal to his career. After missing two months in 2018 with a right knee sprain as well as 16 games in 2019 with other nagging injuries, the Spaniard won the 2019 MLS Cup MVP for his work.
The game proceeded to stoppage time as the Sounders maintained a 2-0 lead until forward Raul Ruidiaz sealed the game with a 1-on-1 goal put them up 3-0 with mere minutes to go. Ruidiaz transferred from the Mexican team Morelia to Seattle in 2018 and led the team to a 12-2 victory in games he appeared in that year. His goal was the cherry on top that established Seattle’s dominance in the league.
The first half was well-controlled by Toronto FC, as despite being in enemy territory, they did nothing short of dominating the field. They whipped up a game plan to counter how Seattle beat LAFC and it didn’t seem like the Sounders had any semblance of an answer. The main problem with them was that Toronto’s main goal scorer, Jozy Altidore, missed his fourth straight game with injury.
Their plan to grind out a slow victory took too long, as the decline started with Leerdam’s goal. Outside of the offensive pieces coming together in the second half, a lot of the praise goes to Seattle’s defensive front. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, defenders Roman Torres and Kim Kee-hee, and defensive midfielder Gustav Svensson gave the Sounders’ offense time to make their moves. They owned their space, and were always making plays that just bought more and more time with every successful defense.
The time bought by the defense was enough to continue the pattern in modern soccer. The Sounders have and continue to push the bar and look to be the future of the MLS. Having appeared in three of the last four MLS Cups and winning two of them, it’s clear that the path to MLS Cup victory runs through the Pacific Northwest.