Throughout their six years of MLS existence, the Seattle Sounders have had no shortage of big moments. Their first-ever game, any of their five U.S. Open Cup finals, even some of those Cascadia Cup matches or playoff games. Those all make the list. But for my money, playing for the Supporters' Shield in front of nearly 60,000 fans when it's winner-take-all and a national TV audience? It was bigger than all the rest.
And while the Sounders didn't play their best-ever game -- not by any stretch -- they still rose to the occasion. Their defense was stellar, their offense was opportunistic and they never seemed to succumb to any of the pressure that was supposedly "all on them."
Here are some the key takeaways from the Sounders' first-ever MLS trophy.
Zach Scott is fine, so let's stop worrying about him
Much has been made over the Sounders' need to upgrade at center back. I've said it. You've said. National pundits have said it. In quiet dark rooms when no one is recording anything, I guarantee the Sounders front office has said it. Zach Scott is not the kind of player who's supposed to play a key role on a championship defense.
But the Sounders have now won two trophies with him back there and there's no reason they can't win a third.
No, Scott isn't flashy, he's not going to wow you, and it always seems like he's about to commit a tackle that will get him red-carded. He is what he is, though, and that's been more than enough so far.
And what Scott is is a solid defender, who can win headers all day, isn't afraid to go into a hard tackle and is an entirely predictable partner for Chad Marshall. For a player who relies on positioning as much as Marshall, that predictability is huge. Against the Galaxy, Scott was never not where he was supposed to be and the Galaxy only had a couple good looks all game. The Sounders can probably upgrade over the offseason, but we should stop worrying about that position for the playoffs.
Marco Pappa is a difference maker
We all had high expectations for Marco Pappa when the Sounders took him through the Allocation Order and during preseason he was absolutely fantastic. But it didn't take long to figure out why Fire fans had mixed feelings about losing him or why he never got off the bench in Holland: He tended to hold onto the ball too long, was prone to ill-advised passes and wasn't very good about tracking back on defense.
The player we saw down the stretch, though, was very different. Pappa's passes were crisp and clean, he moved into space, he even defended. And he did all this while keeping his creative side.
His second goal was a perfect example of the kind of player he's become.
That Sigi Schmid chose to bring Pappa off the bench in these games was not entirely surprising -- Neagle and Evans are probably better two-way players -- but Pappa was always going to play a significant role in these games. That he ended up completely changing both games shows just how deep this team is and he is a major reason the Sounders have these two trophies under their belts.
Obafemi Martins is the league MVP
The idea that any two games can be the deciding factor in a year-long award like the MLS MVP is a bit ridiculous on its face. But considering the stakes for this two-game set, as well as how close Robbie Keane and Obafemi Martins were in the race, it kinda made sense here.
If this was how voters really were making their choice, you have to say Obafemi Martins is the favorite. Not only did he lead the Sounders to the best record in MLS this season, but he picked up three assists in these two games, none of which were remotely cheap. Meanwhile, Keane had just one shot in the first game and didn't even bother to suit up for the finale.
Martins finishes the season with 17 goals and 13 assists, not quite as impressive as Keane's 19 and 14, but that's still an awful lot. In the entire history of MLS, there are only 11 players to combine for 30 goals and assists in one season and Martins is one of just three players to do it since Diego Serna pulled it off in 2001.
That Martins was so good down the stretch -- he had nine goals and seven assists over the Sounders' final 12 -- really cinches it for me. Martins was a difference-maker whenever he took the field and often only needed a couple dangerous touches to make a difference, as was the case on Saturday. That he's apparently poised to receive a contract extension only seems fair, as it's hard to imagine where the Sounders would be without him.