SEATTLE — The dream of back-to-back MLS Cups is alive and well.
The Seattle Sounders dismantled the Houston Dynamo, winning the second leg 3-0 on Thursday to put the finishing touches on a 5-0 aggregate-goal victory in the Western Conference finals. The goals were supplied by Victor Rodriguez, Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin.
They’ll next face Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 9, with a chance to become repeat champions.
The second leg began with more than one significant advantage for the Sounders. They came into this match winning the two-legged tie 2-0, and they returned a handful of players from injury: Stefan Frei and Rodriguez were back in the starting lineup, and Jordan Morris made the bench in his first appearance in the Sounders’ 18 since September. To pile onto that, the Dynamo were without one of their most dynamic players, Romell Quioto, due to illness. The home side couldn’t really begin with a more significant advantage than this, and anything but progression to their second Cup final would surely be deemed a failure. Luckily for the Sounders, everything came up rave green as their 3-0 result earned a 5-0 aggregate win and a second consecutive trip to Toronto.
Seattle didn’t hold back in the opening minutes, chasing down every ball and flying forward in attack at every opportunity. Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin combined well a couple times early, but the Houston defense managed to stay composed and snuff them out. A killer pass down the left side by Chad Marshall kicked off a very dangerous attack, but the defense again stopped the Sounders from getting in a real chance at goal.
But it didn’t take long for the home side to finally put one in the net and push the tie even further out of reach for Houston. Bruin made a brilliant little pass to split the Houston defense and find Rodriguez. The Spaniard left no doubt and lightly chipped it over the diving Joe Willis to make the score 1-0 on the night and 3-0 on aggregate for Seattle.
Houston had a decent chance that ended up hitting the side netting not long after the goal, but the Sounders continued pushing forward and earned a couple more chances that came close. Things started to settle a bit around the 40th minute, and the Dynamo had their first truly good opportunities on goal. Two powerful shots from Tomas Martinez near the edge of the box tested Frei, but he was equal to both. The half finished with the lone goal, putting Seattle just 45 minutes away from the final.
The Sounders came out flying yet again in the second half, and Dempsey nearly notched a goal that was chalked off after Bruin was flagged offside. But after a few weak Dynamo attacks were kept at bay, Rodriguez found Joevin Jones on the left side in acres of space as he charged towards the box. With little resistance in front of him, Jones rolled the easiest cross across the face of goal to Dempsey, who smashed it into the net to make it 4-0.
Immediately after scoring his goal, Dempsey was substituted off for Jordy Delem, who was involved in an altercation with Martinez not long after coming on. Delem fouled Martinez, who then pushed the Sounders midfielder in the back of the head while he was down. Joevin Jones flew in and pushed the Dynamo player, which caused both teams to shove each other until the referee could break things up. After the dust settled, referee Grajeda signaled for a VAR review. After seeing the tape, Grajeda gave Martinez a red card for violent conduct and Jones a yellow for unsporting conduct.
Once things settled down and actual soccer resumed, the Sounders’ dominance continued. Harry Shipp, who had just come on for Nouhou, put in a brilliant through ball for Bruin, whose lung-busting run let him latch onto the pass and chip it over Willis to make it 3-0.
Houston tried to push in the dying minutes of the match, but the goals and red card took any of the remaining wind out of their collective sails. Their attacks were weak and their midfield lacked the resolve and strength to make anything happen. The 75th minute substitution of Jordan Morris for Jones gave the Sounders renewed energy up top that stretched Houston even more and cemented the result.