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MLS Cup recap: Sounders get the perfect ending

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The Seattle Freaking Sounders did it.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — Win the duels; win the game. It’s a simple mentality that’s led the Sounders to unprecedented success since Brian Schmetzer took over in 2016. It’s also the mentality that won them the 2019 MLS Cup.

For the fourth straight playoff match, the Sounders lost possession, had the lower passing accuracy, and still dominated in every area that really matters. Leading the charge were the team’s stalwart holding midfielders, Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan, who combined for 10 tackles and five interceptions as Seattle out-dueled Toronto 58-40.

Along the way, the team managed to play some of the scintillating footy that GM Garth Lagerwey probably imagined when he signed international-caliber playmakers Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, Victor Rodriguez, Jordan Morris, and Joevin Jones to big contracts over the last four years. Though the team got to the final largely on the strength of their counter, it was the tight passing combinations from their attackers that blew the game open with the Sounders’ first two goals. Not to be left out, one of the Seattle’s stat-stuffing outside backs also got onto the box score as Kelvin Leerdam was credited for a goal when his shot careened off Toronto’s Justin Morrow in the 57th minute.

The Sounders’ did unleash their patented counter in the 90th minute when Raul Ruidiaz chased down Toronto’s Chris Mavinga to get on the end of a Gustav Svensson clearance and score Seattle’s game-sealing third goal. Toronto managed a consolation goal in stoppage time, but it didn’t matter. The Sounders had already outworked, outplayed, and outscored them. In a match that pitted the two best teams of the last five years, the Sounders emerged victorious, completing the promise of MLS supremacy that started on a spring night 10 years ago.

Key moments

  • Jordan Morris showed off his speed in the 9th minute to notch Seattle’s first shot on goal. He took the ball coast-to-coast after winning it deep in Seattle’s half.
  • The Sounders capped off a long spell of possession and chances in Toronto’s end with a 21st minute point-blank Roman Torres shot off a Lodeiro corner. The chance went sailing high.
  • Svensson nearly doubled his goal total for the playoffs in the 32nd minute when he got on the end of one the Sounders’ eight first-half corners. A Toronto defender deflected the shot off-target for yet another corner.
  • Toronto turned all their possession into a great scoring chance in the 36th minute. The opportunity came when Toronto’s press turned Seattle over deep in their own end. Nicolas Benezet took a brilliant shot from a tough angle in the box, but Stefan Frei came up with an equally brilliant save to keep Toronto off the board.
  • Despite playing on the back foot for much of the first half, Seattle generated a third high-quality scoring chance when Ruidiaz nearly scored on the counter attack in the 45th minute.
  • Seattle broke the scoreless deadlock in the 57th minute with a deflected Leerdam shot from inside the box. The Sounders generated the chance with good build-up down the left and an excellent key pass from Ruidiaz to find Leerdam in space near goal.
  • The Sounders doubled their lead in the 76th minute courtesy of a brilliantly placed Rodriguez shot from the top of the box. The key moment of the play came when Svensson made a brilliant tackle to regain possession for Seattle deep in Toronto’s end.
  • Raul Ruidiaz closed the door on Toronto in the 90th minute when he chased down a massive Svensson clearance to get a break away. The Peruvian international managed to out run and body off Toronto’s Chris Mavinga to secure the chance despite Mavinga starting the play with a roughly ten-yard head start.
  • Jozy Altidore scored a consolation goal in the 93rd minute. Whatever.

Talking points:

The Goose was most definitely loose: Not only did Svensson put in the usual dirty work by winning an eye-popping eight tackles and securing three interceptions, he also chipped in with one secondary assist and one primary assist. Both assists were indicative of what the Swedish international brings to the club. The first came from him winning a massive tackle and the second was a no-nonsense clearance that he launched at least 70 yards down field. If duels won was the most important stat of the match, then Svensson was the most important player.

Victor Rodriguez completed his comeback: Despite missing most of the 2019 season due to injury and then being relegated to the bench for the playoffs, Rodriguez was in excellent form from the minute he subbed into the match. The expertly taken goal from the top of the box was nice, but so was his 83% passing that stabilized Seattle’s midfield and helped the home team gain control of tempo. The dominating performance should not only help erase the memory of an up and down season, but also a lackluster 2017 final.

Nico Lodeiro led the team in all phases of the game: With two tackles, one interception, and seven recoveries, the captain put in his usual workmanlike performance. On top of covering massive amounts of ground, he was also the hub of the Sounders attack with a game high five key passes. His one-touch assist to Rodriguez for the team’s second goal was pure class and so was his chipped through ball to release Jones down the left in the build up to the first goal. In short, he was the best captain a captain could be.

He said what?!?

Cristian Roldan was asked if the Sounders can now be called a dynasty, his answer was just about perfect: “We have the talent, we have the coaching staff, we have the fans to set up for success. You can start to talk about it, but the reality is you have to keep winning to call yourself a Dynasty.”

Did you see that?!?!?!

They don’t get much better than trophy lifts in front of 69,000 fans.

One stat to tell the tale.

12 — The Sounders ties the MLS record by winning their 12th straigh home playoff game.

Man of the Match

Poll

Man of the Match

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Nicolas Lodeiro
    (383 votes)
  • 25%
    Victor Rodriguez
    (577 votes)
  • 6%
    Stefan Frei
    (136 votes)
  • 51%
    Gustav Svensson
    (1147 votes)
2243 votes total Vote Now