Seattle Sounders

5 biggest takeaways from Seattle Sounders’ MLS Cup win


Seattle Sounders FC won MLS Cup on Sunday afternoon, outlasting Toronto FC in a 3-1 win that saw the game break open in the second half. Every goal came after the 57th minute, as what started as a cagey affair soon turned into a thrilling, up-and-down match.

Let’s get to five things we learned from the game.

1. Seattle was deep, and depth is often the difference maker

For the first 55 minutes of MLS Cup, the two teams played each other basically to a stalemate. Toronto had more of the ball, but didn’t seem willing to throw too many men forward, and attack after attack fizzled out.

Seattle needed something to switch things up. First, they got a somewhat lucky deflection goal from right back Kevin Leerdam. (See what happens when you commit numbers forward?)

What blew the game open, however, was the introduction of Victor Rodriguez. Rodriguez came in during the 61st minute for Brad Smith (who didn’t have his best game) and broke it open with a phenomenal goal that doubled Seattle’s lead.

Rodriguez has struggled with injuries all season, but the fact that Seattle can turn to a Barcelona-trained attacker with years of La Liga experience off the bench shows how deep this squad is. The Sounders don’t have a Zlatan or a Rooney. They have a bunch of very good players, and that’s why they’re so successful.

2. Brian Schmetzer should be getting more attention than he is

Well the other reason that Seattle is so successful is that the team has a hell of a coach. Brian Schmetzer coached the Seattle Sounders back before they were in MLS, then served as an assistant for Sigi Schmid when the team entered the top flight of American soccer. He got the interim job when the late Schmid stepped down, and promptly won MLS Cup. He’s now been in three finals in four years, winning two of them.

Schmetzer doesn’t command the attention of other coaches in this league, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that, on resume alone, he might be the best.

The final was an example of his brilliance. The team was organized, defended well, but took their chances as the game moved forward. They shut down Toronto’s most potent attacker, Alejandro Pozuelo, and then relied on the pace of Jordan Morris and Ruidiaz going forward to wreak havoc when Toronto started to chase the game.

3. Toronto needed to force the issue in the first half, and it didn’t

Toronto FC couldn’t get a full 90 minutes from Jozy Altidore, though he did come in as a substitute and grab a late, headed consolation goal.

Without Altidore, Toronto only had one real target man in the attacking third — Pozuelo. With Seattle keyed in on him and tackling hard to keep him uncomfortable, Toronto needed other players to stress the issue and take chances. That … didn’t really happen.

When Auro pushed up from right back for Toronto, he was giving Brad Smith fits on that wing, and I assumed Toronto would start getting him to bomb forward and get men in the box. With the speed of Seattle’s Jordan Morris on that left wing, however, Auro was hesitant to commit too much.

That’s probably the right call, but Toronto had total control of the game for about twenty minutes at the end of the first half, and mustered one or two shots that didn’t really trouble Sounders keeper Stefan Frei. I know finals are cagey, but there were chances for Auro, Michael Bradley, or Marky Delgado to take chances and get in the box. They didn’t.

4. That crowd was an all-timer

Holy smokes, 70,000 people at CenturyLink Field was special. That final had real atmosphere, which is all MLS can ask for.

While the TV numbers will undoubtedly be disappointing for the league, and I thought there was an odd lack of marketing around the final, MLS’ move to a single-elimination format for the playoffs has made the tournament more exciting. Diehards may grumble that it leaves more up to chance, but this tournament has always been ridiculous, and might as well lean into it.

5. Ruidiaz is special

While watching this match, I couldn’t help but keep focusing on Ruidiaz, Sounders’ diminutive striker who, at 5-foot-7, still manages to physically dominate just about anyone who comes at him. He may not be the brand that Zlatan is, but Ruidiaz is a breathtaking player, all piss and vinegar and energy. Watching him occupy the Toronto defenders was incredible to watch.

And what a final goal:



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