Goals from Kelvin Leerdam, Victor Rodriguez and Raul Ruidiaz handed the Seattle Sounders a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final.
Playing in front of the second-largest crowd for an MLS Cup final at their CenturyLink Field home, the Sounders withstood a nervy first 45 minutes before upping the intensity on their opponents in the second half.
Leerdam scored Seattle’s first goal of this season back in March and opened the scoring (57) when what looked to be a cross deflected off the shin of Toronto’s Justin Morrow and past goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
<a href="https://cloud-static.storage.googleapis.com/production/widgets/mk2/js/common/generator.min.js">https://cloud-static.storage.googleapis.com/production/widgets/mk2/js/common/generator.min.js</a><p>It was Seattle's first goal in a final in 267 minutes after being held scoreless in each of the two finals played in Toronto. For Morrow, it was another forgettable moment in a final after he missed during the sixth round of the penalty shootout in the 2016 final with his shot clanging off the crossbar.
Leerdam’s goal settled Seattle into their stride.
Rodriguez’s goal (76) started with Gustav Svensson’s pass to Nicolas Lodeiro that fell perfectly for Rodriguez to fire past Westberg, who could not get his hand on the shot.
Ruidiaz provided one more moment to celebrate (90) for the 69,274 in attendance, beating Chris Mavinga to a clearance and scoring his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Jozy Altidore, who had not played in more than a month and came on as a substitute midway through the second half, pulled one back for Toronto in the third minute of stoppage time (90+3).
Seattle became the sixth franchise in league history with multiple titles. The Sounders joined Houston, Sporting Kansas City and San Jose with two titles.
The clash of styles
<img src="https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/384x216/skysports-mls-mls-cup_4833269.jpg?20191111082450 380w, https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/768x432/skysports-mls-mls-cup_4833269.jpg?20191111082450 760w, https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/1600x900/skysports-mls-mls-cup_4833269.jpg?20191111082450 1024w, https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/2048x1152/skysports-mls-mls-cup_4833269.jpg?20191111082450 2048w" alt="Seattle" /> Image: Seattle had too much for Toronto to handle with their counter-attacking style <p>So often in this game - and throughout the second half of the MLS season - Seattle could be found defending with 10 and 11 players behind the ball, all within 15 or 20 yards of their own penalty area. That was the case once again on Sunday, as all four of Ruidiaz, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones are always ready to track back when Brad Smith and Kelvin Leerdam bomb forward.
They’re far from a bunkering side, though, as the full-backs are as much attackers as they are defenders. Few teams in MLS counter-attack with the pace and precision of Seattle, regardless of who wins the ball, regardless of where they win it. Toronto want as much of the ball as they can have – they do a fantastic job of controlling the game’s pace with their own possession – and they opened the game with plenty of possession, but every time Seattle won the ball, they were off to the races in the blink of an eye.
The Reds realised they couldn’t fend off counter after counter for 90 minutes, causing them to drop considerably deeper after 15 minutes. This meant it was almost all Seattle, as far as the chances went, for the ensuing 15 minutes.
Having dropped too deep, Toronto let the midfield-three of Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Marco Delgado set the line of confrontation in the middle third. Seattle had no answer for this – at least not in the first half – and TFC looked in complete control, without truly threatening Stefan Frei in Seattle’s goal, until Ruidiaz found himself with the game’s first real scoring chance in the 45th minute. Quentin Westberg was quick off his line to deny the Peruvian’s one-on-one look.
Rodriguez’s moment of magic
<img src="https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/384x216/skysports-victor-rodriguez_4833264.jpg?20191111082128 380w, https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/768x432/skysports-victor-rodriguez_4833264.jpg?20191111082128 760w, https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/1600x900/skysports-victor-rodriguez_4833264.jpg?20191111082128 1024w, https://e0.365dm.com/19/11/2048x1152/skysports-victor-rodriguez_4833264.jpg?20191111082128 2048w" alt="Victor Rodriguez" /> Image: Victor Rodriguez produced a magical moment <p>"It doesn't matter how they scored, only that they scored."
While technically correct, those who tuned in and persisted through the 90 minutes deserved something better than the Leerdam ricochet-goal/Morrow own-goal winner that they got.
Fortunately, Rodriguez had a moment of magic up his sleeve after coming on just after the hour mark. Smith made way for the Spaniard, a savvy tactical change by Brian Schmetzer to play with greater width down the right side through Morris and tuck Rodriguez on the left inside and underneath Ruidiaz.
After finding little joy down either side in the opening 60 minutes, Schmetzer’s change opened Toronto up to constant goal threats before Rodriguez made it 2-0. Sure, Toronto facing a deficit changed their gameplan considerably and forced them to live dangerously, but Seattle remained steadfast in soaking up pressure and hitting on the counter.