In the buildup to MLS Cup, Sounders FC General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey was asked whether hosting the final in Seattle would be a transformational event for the club. He answered in the affirmative but included a critical caveat.
Only if they lift the trophy.
“We have to win this game,” he said last week. “It’s a big swing for historical perception if we win this one or we don’t.”
With the 3-1 victory over Toronto FC on Sunday, the Seattle Sounders became just the sixth franchise to win MLS Cup two or more times, cementing their legacy in the upper echelon of the league.
“We found ways to win [all season],” said midfielder Cristian Roldan. “I think that’s what makes this team so special. We played in many different ways throughout the year and in the postseason. This is another example.
It’s one thing to make three MLS Cup Finals in four years, but only come away with one trophy. But to win two league titles in four seasons, including a thrilling victory in front of 69,274 supporters, immediately elevates the Sounders into the top tier of the MLS hierarchy.
“Most importantly, the players and the fans deserve this,” Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said as he fought back tears. “The players persevered… They never quit. And the fans never stopped believing. So, I’m very, very happy and proud of the city and the fans.”
Hosting MLS Cup in front of a sold-out crowd, against the team you faced in back-to-back finals in 2016 and 2017, was an opportunity. That’s all it was.
But the Sounders capitalized on the glorious opportunity in front of them.
Toronto controlled much of the first half, dictating tempo and pinning Seattle back in their defense third. But it was the Sounders who had the better chances, as Raúl Ruidíaz nearly opened the scoring with a volley on the brink of halftime.
“Today was a day we didn’t play our best game, but we fought and we kept going,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “Screw possession and all those other stats. In the end, we got another star and that’s all that matters.”
Joining MLS with a bang back in 2009, the Seattle Sounders have qualified for the postseason ever year, won four U.S. Open Cups, one Supporters’ Shield and two MLS Cups.
In a true reflection of the club’s culture and winning mentality, the players weren’t completely satisfied in the immediate aftermath of winning a second league championship.
“Obviously winning MLS Cup is nice, but it’s time to put Seattle up there with the great teams,” said Roldan. “We need to do that by winning Supporters’ Shield next year and getting back to the final again.”