That was amazing.
The Seattle Sounders have won the Western Conference final and are moving on to MLS Cup for the first time. They held the Colorado Rapids off, allowing 16 shots, none of which were on frame. Only a few times in this match did Colorado seem likely to score, and shots went wide or passes missed their target. The Sounders defense bent when required, but never broke.
On the other side of the coin, Head Coach Brian Schmetzer sent the Sounders out after halftime to get a goal and bury the Rapids, and they responded. Nelson Valdez continued to pad his playoff stats with a perfect assist. An ailing, banged-up Jordan Morris jabbed it home with another strike, only to be mauled by Zac MacMath’s cleats. That was the Rookie of the Year playing with the determination of a veteran.
Stefan Frei called it “ugly football, but effective football.” We may not remember the play on the field from this match, but the look on Osvaldo Alonso’s face as he prepared to celebrate his first trip to MLS Cup will stay with us for a long time.
72 days before this game, the Sounders were ninth in the West. In 12 days, they take on the champions from the East, and one team will have their first MLS Cup trophy.
Seattle Sounders FC 1 (3) - Colorado Rapids 0 (1)
Sunday, November 27, 2016
Venue: Dick's Sporting Goods Park
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Assistants: Ian Anderson, Corey Parker
Fourth Official: Fotis Bazakos
Weather: Partly cloudy and 49 degrees
SEA - Jordan Morris (Nelson Valdez) 56'
SEA - Román Torres (caution) 14'
COL - Marc Burch (caution) 68'
LINEUPS & STATS
Seattle Sounders FC - Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Román Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso - captain (Oniel Fisher 74'), Cristian Roldan, Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, Andreas Ivanschitz (Alvaro Fernandez 51'); Nelson Valdez (Zach Scott 88')
Substitutes not used: Tyler Miller, Aaron Kovar, Tony Alfaro, Herculez Gomez
Total shots: 5 (Valdez, 2)
Shots on goal: 3 (3 players, 1)
Fouls: 8 (Mears, 2)
Corner-kicks: 2 (Lodeiro, 2)
Colorado Rapids - Zac MacMath; Eric Miller, Jared Watts, Axel Sjoberg, Marc Burch; Micheal Azira (Marco Pappa 74'), Dillon Powers, Jermaine Jones, Sebastien Le Toux (Marlon Hairston 59'), Shkelzen Gashi (Dominique Badji 85'); Kevin Doyle
Substitutes not used: John Berner, Bobby Burling, Caleb Calvert, Mekeil Williams
Total shots: 16 (Gashi, 5)
Shots on goal: 0
Fouls: 12 (4 players, 2)
Corner-kicks: 3 (Gashi, 3)
Saves: 2 (MacMath, 2)
Head Coach Brian Schmetzer – Seattle Sounders FC
On Jordan [Morris]’s performance…
We don’t like to make excuses for stuff. He was feeling a little down because he ate something that didn’t agree with him. The kid is not only strong physically dealing with a disease that he has but he’s also strong mentally. I think that’s what you saw today. He wasn’t doing his best and there were times in the first half where he didn’t look like the Jordan we all know and love. In the one moment that really counted, he was mentally strong enough and he pushed himself physically to score the goal we needed to put us through. So it’s just testament to another character guy that we have within the team that in this particular match made a huge, massive difference.
On his performance today compared to where he was at beginning of the season…
I don’t know if we had too many chances tonight, so I don’t know if he missed one earlier that I just missed and he responded with the goal he scored in the second half. His maturation, his development, his ceiling - which keeps getting higher and higher, I think yes, he’s trending in the right direction. We love having him around because he’s a kid that’s willing to learn, listen, he pays attention, and actually applies what you tell him. I think earlier in the year, up until he had that first goal, there was a stat going around that he hadn’t scored in eight or something like that – those are things that happen with goal scorers. They go in ebbs and flows and the last two games he’s had two. So you guys tell me if he’s in an upward tick or if he’s in a little low.
On Nelson Valdez’s performance in the series...
You bring up Nelson Valdez who’s a massive part of the team. His groin was sore – you saw him holding it throughout the second half. We were 2-1 ahead and they had to come out. Credit to Pablo and the Rapids, they took it to us in the first half. We got out of that first half and were able to try and make some adjustments. I think the first few minutes of the second half we were able to get some balls in their end of the field and I think that helped. Nelson was a big part of that. He was a big part of that throughout the game but you saw his one breakaway, you saw the duels he won – I mean he’s another character guy that made a big impact in the game today.
On the historic nature of this accomplishment especially with the struggles of the season…
My first answer to that is we’re not finished yet. My second answer is that I’m very proud of this franchise. The fans deserve that – they deserve it.
On tactical conversations in the second half…
We had a lot of conversations during the course of the match. You have to talk to your assistants, you have to analyze the game, make judgment decisions on the fly – yes we talked about it. Again to the first question, Jordan is a tough kid and I didn’t want to take him out and so he persevered.
On Cristian Roldan’s performance…
Thank you for that question. I love talking about that kid. In the first half we didn’t play our best soccer and again it was credit to Colorado. Cristian was that one kid who was always able to find that extra gear. He was able to track guys down, and was able to do some of the defensive work as well as collect a few balls and dribble into their half of the field. That pairing of Ozzy [Osvaldo Alonso] and Cristian has been dynamite for us, and again, it’s another stepping stone in his growth.
On if it’s physical as well mental in Roldan’s growth…
For sure. He’s good physically and we talked about [Gonzalo] Pineda giving him insights about being a good pro and how to train and all of those things. Then again, he, like Jordan, is coachable. He listens and then he applies what you tell him. So he has been on a rise like Jordan.
Midfielder Cristian Roldan – Seattle Sounders FC
On coming out of a tough match with a result…
It was a difficult match. Colorado gave us everything they had. Credit to them, they had a game plan. For us, we detained until one – two breakthroughs and that was the game changer. Jordan [Morris] made a good effort – great pass by Nelson [Valdez] and that seriously changed the game.
On Morris being under the weather…
I think the playoffs are a different animal. For him, his mindset was to play 90 minutes and try to make an impact on the game and you see that he did so. For me, he had this mindset going into this game that he was going to play 90 minutes and he did so. He did through injury, adversity, and sickness. Credit to him and he changes the game for us.
On Román [Torres] and Chad [Marshall] behind him….
Incredible. Those guys work their tails off. They’ve created a big partnership for themselves. I think it was very hard for Colorado at the end of the game where they started launching balls forward to our two monsters. It’s very difficult for teams to play that way. Those guys are veteran players and they don’t make very many mistakes.
Forward Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders FC
On how he’s feeling…
Great. It was our goal to get to the final and we did that. We had a great team performance and I think our fans deserve it so it’s really exciting.
On his dad coming out to check on him…
He just came to check everything out but he was pushing on where the guy cleated me. I never yell at my dad but I was kind of yelling at him there. It’s just so weird that it’s my dad out there. But it’s always great to have him around
On the ups and downs of the season and the pressure he had on him…
It’s definitely a roller coaster. It’s funny looking back when everyone thought we were dead in the water and now we’re in the final. This team always believed that we were good enough to make it. I think we proved a lot of people wrong. There’s always that belief in the locker room – do it for us and do it for our fans. We’ve got one more game to go.
On balancing celebrating this moment and knowing the job isn’t done yet…
We have to celebrate it now and maybe enjoy the next few days. The final isn’t until the 10th so we have a few days to celebrate and then we have to get back to work. Once we know who we’ll be playing, we’ll start focusing on them.
On what the trophy means to the club and the city of Seattle…
It’s awesome. Obviously it’s the first time in club history that the team has gotten this far. It’s so exciting and like I said for the fans – they deserve it. We’re doing it for us and we’re doing it for them. We have one more game to get the ultimate goal. We’re all very excited to be where we are.
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei – Seattle Sounders FC
On Jordan [Morris] performance…
Great – it’s exactly what we needed. We knew we weren’t going to get a ton of chances but I was confident that we have a quality on the team where if we had one or two chances we would be able to make one. That’s what he did. He took care of business with that one chance he had. Obviously that put us in a really good position.
I thought we did really well defensively as a team. It wasn’t the prettiest game on our part. With that being said, I think stats-wise, they had a lot of possession, they had a lot of things but they didn’t have too many shots on frame. I don’t remember really having to make a save. For us to come here and play ugly football but effective football – I think the result back home allowed us to do that because they had to come at us, which they tried to do but they weren’t successful at it.
On overcoming this first initial push in the first half…
It’s kind of like Dallas. When we went down there with a great result at home (3-0). We knew we had to weather the storm to begin with. The first 20-30 minutes are important because we don’t want them to start scoring goals and get into a rhythm and the flood gates open. It’s very important to bend and not break. It was a great performance. Like I said, it’s not the prettiest football but it was effective. It worked for us and now we have a little time. Hopefully we can take care of some kinks and bruises and get ready for the big one.
On how much credit Nelson [Valdez] deserves in making it this far…
Everyone deserves all the credit. If you look at Nelson and what he’s done – it’s been a difficult season for him but one thing he never stopped doing was working hard. If not score goals, be an inspiration to his teammates, which he always is because he works his butt off.
Today, he’s going up against a pretty tall center back. He’s challenging for every ball and winning a lot of them or at least making it difficult for them to win it cleanly so we can pick up second balls. He just works his butt off. It’s contagious for the rest of my teammates because you love seeing a teammate putting it all out there and almost putting his body on the line not really caring in order to get success.
On the Sounders FC season from May to now…
It’s been a roller coaster ride for us. Very disappointing start to the season. I think with the amount of work we put in to kind of climb out of that hole it would’ve been even more disappointing if we hadn’t made it to the playoffs. We wouldn’t have been rewarded for that hard work to climb out of the hole. I think we did reward ourselves with getting to the playoffs and now we made team history with winning this trophy for the first time.
Head Coach Pablo Mastroeni – Colorado Rapids
On today’s match...
We executed our plan. We got in positions where I thought we were dangerous. I just thought in the final third, we weren't clean enough. The opportunities were at times hurried, at times we just didn't get the right bounce. Today, the effort and commitment from the guys, the work to retrieve the ball was fantastic. In a game like this, we just needed that final pass or that bit of fortune in the box and tonight we didn't get that.
On Jermaine Jones...
I thought Jermaine had a very good game. I think he was a catalyst to what we did on both sides of the ball. From a defensive perspective he was able to get after [Osvaldo] Alonso and the guys in the midfield there who had a good run of play in the first leg. Today he did a good job of keeping them at bay, winning the ball higher up. He did about everything you would expect a player in that position to do except score.
On the mood in the locker room at half time...
The mood was calm. We did some good stuff in the first half. We put them in some really difficult situations, I think they handled it well. We had a couple of good looks on goal, if those go in, it's a whole different game.
For me, it's about the bigger picture. Where we started the season and where we finished it. Nobody gave the guys in the locker room a chance before the season started this year. Wrote us off from the beginning. I couldn't be more pleased and proud of a group of men that rallied around the belief in themselves and the belief in the group and put forth one of the greatest seasons in the history of this club.
This moment is obviously a difficult one for all of us, but it's these moments in life that allow you to sit back and reflect upon those things that you did well and also those things that you need to continue to improve on.
On how he reconciles the joy of success this season with the disappointment of the loss...
Obviously, there's a grieving period. You lose the game, but what people don’t realize is the amount of work, the sleepless nights, the arguments. You sacrifice a lot. The emotion that goes into that sacrifice and the pain that goes into it; that's what you feel down about. It just vanishes into thin air, it's gone. When the dust settles, I think they'll be proud and they'll be energized to continue on to become a better version of themselves in 2017.
On the chippiness of the match...
It's the playoffs. Football is played with emotion and it's also played with brains. The closer you get to MLS Cup, the more the brains start to subside and the emotion starts to pick up. Games are going to be chippy and not aesthetically pleasing, but you saw our guys leave it all out on the field, heart and stones. That was the one common theme throughout the season.
Forward Kevin Doyle – Colorado Rapids
On the outcome of today’s match…
Definitely disappointed and at the end, it was a massive downer. They got that breakaway goal in the second half and it really sucked the wind out of us.
On what was said at halftime…
We were just trying to do the same again. As we’ve done a lot this season, we tried to get that goal in the second half and they got that breakaway goal which was the worry. They were defending and defending and that breakaway was tough to take. In a week or two, we’ll look back and think this was a great season, but at the moment it doesn’t feel like that.
On anything that could’ve changed after going down…
They had everyone back defending, going down injured and delaying the game which was so difficult for us to get a rhythm. They were very good and very professional once they got that lead and made it difficult for us and we just weren’t able to break them in.
On what this season will mean down the line…
It will take a week or two definitely. Pablo spoke to us after the game and the gist of his words was that we came into preseason and we were written off from the first day basically by everyone. Predicted to finish last in the league, so when we look back in a few weeks it will be hard because we were so close and in such a good opportunity to be at home for the final.
Overall, we’ve done ourselves proud – unbeaten at home in the regular season. We have lots of things to look back and be positive and use that as fuel for next season. Come back again, come back stronger. Make some signings but we’ll have a bulk of the same squad. The expectations will be higher but we will be a lot more confident in ourselves with the team and the group of players.
Defender Jared Watts – Colorado Rapids
On the outcome of today’s match…
We came out and pressed the game from the start. We had them on their heels a little bit, especially in the first half. We dictated the flow of the game but there were just a couple of bad bounces there. We knew they were a dangerous team and that’s what they were looking for, to get it on the counter. They took the chance well, finished it off and we were behind even more from then. It’s tough to swallow right now, but as time settles, we can reflect a little bit more and it will be easier to look back on the season and be proud.
On the play that lead to their goal…
I think a ball got played out wide and a cross came in. I didn’t get a good clearance on the ball and it went back into the middle. It was slipped through and we were out of sorts a bit there. [Jordan] Morris did well chipping it over Zac [MacMath]. It completely changed the game. Credit to them, they’re a good team and got hot at the right time.
On having momentum in the first half…
That’s at the point where you don’t want half time to come, especially when we’re pressing that high and getting shots off. We came out in the second half and it was a bit slower. We weren’t pressing the game as high, they took their chances and their season continues and ours doesn’t.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones – Colorado Rapids
On today’s result…
I would say that from the first minute, we controlled the game and in the first half we had a lot of chances to score a goal. They caught is in the counter and Jordan [Morris] finished nicely. The season is done for us but what I said in the locker room, it will hurt now and it will hurt when we’re watching the final on TV. I think everybody in there can be proud of what we showed this season. Nobody had us on their radar to come far, especially finishing second in the Supporters’ Shield. I think if you look at the whole season, we can be really happy with what we showed.
On the game changing after their goal…
When they scored, they sat back more. They had [Roman] Torres and [Chad] Marshall, two really big and strong guys who played disciplined. You have to respect that and I wish them the best of luck in the final. For us, heads up and keep going. Another season will come and the team is still young and sometimes you learn from losing games.
On first season with the Rapids…
It was a pleasure to play with these guys and the coaching staff. If you look at the team and coaches, they are really young and after the two years of not coming into the playoffs and finishing in last, and to see what can be built with belief and trust in each other. I said it from the beginning – I wanted to come to Colorado and be a part of this group. We proved a lot of people wrong and being a part of the group was special.