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Sounders become first MLS team to win modern GA Cup

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Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez wins Golden Boot and provides title-winning assist in extra-time win over Valencia.

In a match where it looked many times like they would lose, the Seattle Sounders Academy had just enough grit, just enough luck, and in the end, just enough skill to beat La Liga’s Valencia CF 1-0 to become the first MLS side to take the Generation Adidas Cup Champions division title. It is an improvement over their Premier division title from last year and the Sounders Academy now has a credible claim as a world-class program.

In the final, the Sounders gave as well as they got, finally hammering home the winner when Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez’s cross found Ray Serrano for an open header in extra time.

The Sounders almost got an early goal when Danny Leyva slalomed past a couple Valencia players in the box but his pullback was blocked. It was a good sign for the Sounders because they needed him to be better than he was against West Ham. After the quick opening flurry from the Sounders, Valencia settled in to a lengthy, but not threatening, spell of possession.

Early on it became clear that Valencia was going to do everything they could to keep Ocampo-Chavez from latching onto the ball behind their backline. They kept a highline but also played their goalie, Vicent Gil Bellés, as a nominal sweeper keeper.

Valencia came close to scoring around the 12’ when Conrad Lee had trouble dealing with, first a cross, and then a corner as he struggled to fight the setting sun. He just about cleared the first over the bar but the corner was allowed to bounce in and through the box. The Sounders were lucky no one from Valencia could get to the ball.

The Sounders almost got their opening goal in 19’ when Serrano dribbled into the box and attempted to chip Belles. The shot hit the cross bar and bounced straight to Ocampo-Chavez who headed the ball into the net. Unfortunately he was ruled offside when the shot was taken and the goal was waived off.

The pattern of the game became pretty set late in the first half. Valencia would possess the ball to try to work it down the wings and pump in crosses. The Sounders sat back and chose their moments to press to force a Valencia turnover and get out on the break. Both sides were very successful doing what they wanted but neither could put the finishing touch on the ball.

As the half reached its final moments Valencia took more and more control of the match and the Sounders backline became stretched; it looked to be only a matter of time before the they conceded. The stoppage time was mercifully short though and they got into half with the score level at zeros.

The second half started much the same way the first ended, with Valencia putting the Sounders under a lot of pressure. After again weathering the storm, the Sounders were able to start stringing some passes together to escape their own half. They were able to start their counter-press which allowed them to keep Valencia out of the attacking third and give the backline a bit of a reprieve.

Neither side was able to threaten in the box early in the second so in 48’ minute both sides made changes. Alex Villanueva came in for the Sounders and they switched to having two inverted wingers. Valencia brought in Jesús Díaz Lecumberri, who scored the lone goal in the sides’ previous meeting in the group stage.

Then in the 54’ the game exploded with a chance for each team. First Valencia found an open man in the box with a cross. Lee came out but was beaten by the Valencia player and it looked like Valencia had scored. Fortunately, for the Sounders it struck the post; Valencia got the rebound but swiped at it and sent the chance wide.

Then the Sounders sent a long ball over the top for Ocampo-Chavez and Valencia’s sweeper keeper strategy almost came back to bite them. The ball was too long but Ocampo-Chavez pressed Gil Belles, who had come out of his box, and stole the ball. This left Ocampo-Chavez with an open net but he lost a bit of composure for the first time in the tournament and sent the ball wide.

Valencia continued to go at the Sounders though and in 60’ the Sounders got lucky again when Valencia beat Lee from inside the box but again hit the post.

It looked as if it was only a matter of time before Valencia would score but, in regulation’s last 10 minutes they lost their heads a bit and twice hit a Sounders player in the head. There was a case to made for both that they should have been red cards, but ultimately it gave the Sounders a respite from the constant Valencia pressure.

In extra time the many minutes both sides had on their legs became obvious. Both sides struggled to hit simple passes and most of extra time were played outside the 18-yard-boxes.

As the second half of extra time wore down the Sounders looked happy to send the game to penalties. Then, with less than a minute to go, the Sounders pushed the ball up into the box for the first time in extra time. After a missed clearance by Valencia the ball found its way out to Ocampo-Chavez on the right side. He stayed calm and sent a lofted cross into the box. Waiting for it was the smallest player on the pitch — Ray Serrano. He jumped as high as he could and was able to stretch just enough to send the ball back across goal to beat Gil Belles.

The net rippled and the Sounders won the GA Cup. On their path to this historic victory the Sounders beat Academies from Brasileirão (Flamengo), MLS (Montéal Impact), Primera División (River Plate), the Premier League (West Ham United) and now — avenging their only loss in the tournament — La Liga (Valencia). They did so behind a stout defense, led by Lee, that allowed only one goal over six games and their in-form, and now GA Cup Golden Boot winning, striker, Ocampo-Chavez, who scored six goals and provided the assist that won the title game. This is a momentous achievement for the organization and yet another eye-catching accomplishment from this special group of players who already won the USSDA championship. The future is bright, and it is joyous, for the Seattle Sounders.

Valencia Starting Lineup: GK : #1 Vicent Gil Bellés; Defenders: #12 Joséda Menargues Manzanares, #5 Brais Val Alonso, #4 Iván Muñoz Pereñíguez, #3 Jesús Vives Martinez; Midfielders: #16 Sergio Perez Martinez, #8 Pedro Alemañ Serna, #6 Carles Aliberch Pallares, #11 José Pastor Alemañ; Forwards: #19 Andrés García Moreno.

Sounders Starting Lineup: GK #23 Conrad Lee. Defenders: #31 Bryson Hankins, #40 Josh Atencio, #37 Elias Katsaros, #44 Sota Kitahara; Midfielders: #35 Danny Robles, #34 Danny Leyva, #33 Christopher Hegardt; Forwards: #39 Ethan Dobbelaere, #28 Alfanso Ocampo-Chavez, #21 Ray Serrano.