On Tuesday night, the Seattle Sounders defeated LAFC, a side that had been dubbed the greatest team in MLS history, 3-1 at Banc of California Stadium.
With the win, the Rave Green secured passage to MLS Cup for the third time in four years, illustrating the club’s remarkable commitment to consistent excellence.
“I’m so happy for those fans that are out there,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said after the match. “I’m tremendously proud of that group of players and it is fantastic. I’m so happy for this club and for the people that are involved in the club.”
The Sounders advanced to the league’s championship match by not only containing the most prolific attack in MLS history, but by outclassing their opponent in every phase of play. LAFC’s high-octane offense, which scored 85 goals during the regular season, was restricted to just four shots on target and zero goals from open play.
Seattle’s 3-1 victory is even more impressive considering the team found itself down a goal in the 17th minute, despite largely controlling the opening quarter of an hour of the match.
“We never put our head down,” said winger Jordan Morris. “We’ve been creating chances all year, and we were confident we were going to get some more.”
Under the postseason’s new single-elimination structure, you need your players to produce when called upon in critical moments. Striker Raúl Ruidíaz and midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro, who combined for two goals and five assists in wins over FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake, put Seattle 2-1 up within nine minutes of conceding the opener.
With LAFC chasing an equalizer in the second half, the pair combined once again in the 64th minute as Ruidíaz completed his brace.
“He was very, very good,” Schmetzer said of his striker. “Worth every cent we paid for him.”
Added Morris: “You’ve got to have your big players step up in big games, and [Ruidíaz and Lodeiro] definitely do that. It was a team effort. I thought that was one of the best defensive performances we’ve played in a really long time.”
As Morris noted, Seattle’s composed, confident victory on the road was a testament to the work of every player on the pitch.
Midfielders Gustav Svensson and Cristian Roldan shielded the back line with aplomb, while center backs Kim Kee-hee and Xavier Arreaga put in their best performances of the season. The outside backs repeatedly broke LAFC’s counter-press, while Morris and Joevin Jones sparked Seattle’s dangerous chances in transition.
“I know the quality that we have on this squad,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “We haven’t been able to show it consistently [this year], but if you take a game against this team for granted, you’re in for a rough night.”
LAFC boasted one of the most well-rounded, dynamic attacks MLS has ever seen. But the Sounders did their homework and perfected their tactics, clogging up the middle and enticing the Black & Gold to attack down the wide channels before double-teaming their wingers.
“I’m very happy because we deserved this,” said Lodeiro. “The team played like warriors.”
The Seattle Sounders are built for the postseason. Between the undeniable talent the permeates through the entire roster and the team’s desire to fight for each other, they’ve overcome the odds to return to MLS Cup.
No matter who they face on November 10, this team will be ready.