This Moment

Seattle Sounders celebrate, but still "one more to go" in MLS Cup Final

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Brian Schmetzer is not much of an emotional guy.

By all accounts, the 54-year-old head coach of the Seattle Sounders is as even-keeled as they come. When he discusses his team’s performances postgame, it’s often hard to tell whether the Sounders won or lost. His thoughts are measured, his words precise, his tone mostly static.

But after the Sounders defeated the Colorado Rapids on Sunday in the Western Conference Championship to advance to their first-ever MLS Cup Final, the former NASL Sounder and Seattle native couldn’t shake what it means to him.

“I’m very proud of this franchise,” Schmetzer said while choking up and fighting back tears. “The fans deserve that. They deserve it.”

.@brianschmetzer: "I’m very proud of this franchise. The fans deserve that – they deserve it."

— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) November 28, 2016

Schmetzer took over as interim head coach in late July and led the Sounders from near the bottom of the Western Conference to its apex in one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Major League Soccer history. He was rewarded with the full-time head coaching gig a few weeks ago and has now led his team to unmapped territory.

How they did it was even more impressive.

Seattle needed a win on Decision Day to even guarantee a spot in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. Then they took down Sporting Kansas City in the 88th minute, dismantled Supporters’ Shield winners FC Dallas and then ultimately tallied three goals on the best defensive team in the league in the Colorado Rapids.

“It’s been a rollercoaster season,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei, whose shutout on Sunday sent the Rapids to their only home loss in 19 matches this season. “It’s really nice to be able to reward ourselves for the hard work we’ve put in to dig ourselves out of that big hole.”

Said midfielder Cristian Roldan: “We did everything possible to get here through the lows and [highs]. We had a lot of lows this year.”

Like Schmetzer, the accomplishment means a little extra for forward Jordan Morris, who was raised in Seattle and who signed as a Homegrown Player earlier this year. The 2016 MLS Rookie of the Year scored the game-winning goal in the 56th minute on Sunday, his second of the series, and ultimately sunk any chance of a Colorado comeback.

“When I started playing, it’s the dream to go to the final,” said Morris. “So to represent this club, to represent this city, playing in my hometown, it’s unbelievable. It gives me chills.”

The Sounders understand the magnitude of this moment. The significance of finally getting over the Western Conference Championship hump is one that isn’t lost on players and coaches alike.

But the message that Schmetzer has implemented since he took over, the mindset the players have wholeheartedly bought into, is that their work isn’t done. Seattle still has a bigger prize in sight.

“To make our hardships count, we need to win something and not just make the playoffs,” said Frei. “For us to get a trophy today and make Sounders history is amazing, but with that being said, we’re really enjoying it right now, but the model has been we’re not finished yet.

“We have one more to go.”



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