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Sounders' journey to CCL Final the culmination of a historic run of success

CCL Hype Historic Run Cover Lodeiro

The Seattle Sounders have a rich history of success, from their infancy in the 1970s through the club’s present iteration in Major League Soccer. MLS Cups, U.S. Open Cups, Supporters’ Shield: the list is well-documented.

But the Sounders are on the precipice of entering rarified air, just one series away from doing something no Major League Soccer team has ever done. When Seattle takes on Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM in the Concacaf Champions League Final starting on April 27 in Mexico City (7:30 p.m. PT) before coming home to Lumen Field for Leg Two on May 4 (7 p.m. PT | TICKETS), the Sounders have a chance to establish regional dominance and forever stake their claim as the first MLS club to taste CCL glory.

This run is not lightning in a bottle. General Manager & President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey has been building toward this since he took over in 2015, and his long-term vision is on the verge of coming to fruition. This would be the final frontier for a club that since 2016 has reached a new dimension and upped the lofty bar it had already established.

The core of this group, from the front office down to the players on the pitch, is on a historic run, one that will long be remembered as a turning point in this club.

Concacaf Champions League Final Tickets On Sale Now

Concacaf Champions League Final Tickets On Sale Now

The Seattle Sounders are going to the Concacaf Champions League Final for the first time in club history. Come support the team as we take on Liga MX's Pumas UNAM and try to become the first MLS club to win CCL and go to the FIFA Club World Cup!

The 2016 Core

Nicolás Lodeiro is arguably the most influential player in Sounders history. The Uruguayan playmaker’s arrival in the Pacific Northwest raised the ceiling for what this club could accomplish. From his MLS Newcomer of the Year award in 2016 to crucial do-or-die penalty in the 2016 MLS Cup Final, he was the missing piece on a squad that year that had been yearning for one. And he didn’t stop there. Lodeiro has recorded 33 goals and 60 assists in the MLS regular season and another eight goals and 10 assists in the postseason. He has led the Sounders to six finals in seven years since his arrival, including lifting the 2019 MLS Cup trophy as captain.

Lodeiro leads three other players who have been there with him since the beginning. Stefan Frei, Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris have their hands all over this as well. Frei was the 2016 MLS Cup MVP and is routinely one of the best goalkeepers in the league, with his performance in the second leg of the CCL Semifinals against New York City FC a prime example. Roldan has played his way into the United States Men’s National Team and is on pace to shatter the Sounders’ all-time appearance record. Morris has evolved his game from out-and-out No. 9 to one of the most devastating wingers in North America. He has been so significant that since he turned pro in 2016, the only two MLS Cup Finals the Sounders haven’t played in were the two seasons he missed with ACL injuries.

Year-over-year consistency is vital in sustaining success, and this quartet remaining intact through routine roster shuffling has made all the difference. Since 2016, this group has been to four MLS Cup Finals -- winning two -- as well as a Leagues Cup Final. And come next week, they may pull off their greatest achievement yet with the CCL Final and a trip to the FIFA Club World Cup on the line.

New Additions

Lodeiro, Frei, Roldan and Morris aren’t the only players on this roster who have helped drive the Sounders to multiple finals. There have been many integral parts since 2016 that have contributed to this ongoing success. Will Bruin and Nouhou joined in 2017 and have been key cogs on the team sheet. Bruin has 25 goals and 13 assists in the regular season and another three goals and two assists in the postseason. Nouhou, meanwhile, has blossomed into one of the best 1-v-1 defenders in the league.

Raúl Ruidíaz’s arrival sent the Sounders into a different stratosphere in 2018, again raising the already high bar. The Peruvian forward has set MLS on fire to the tune of 50 goals and nine assists in the regular season and is the best playoff striker in league history with nine goals and six assists in just 11 matches. He also capped the Sounders’ 2019 MLS Cup Final win at home with a last-minute goal to start the celebrations early.

João Paulo arrived in 2020 and is one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. Yeimar came that same year and is coming off an MLS Bext XI season like João Paulo. Alex Roldan went from a rotational midfielder into a marauding right fullback and has played his way onto the international stage, even captaining El Salvador in FIFA World Cup Qualifying.

The combination of veterans, all of whom have played in at least one MLS Cup Final and the Leagues Cup Final, combined with the budding Academy system (Obed Vargas, Josh Atencio, Danny Levya, etc.), has established a floor for the Sounders that is higher than most other teams’ ceilings.

Lagerwey and Schmetzer

The players on the field ultimately determine results, but they don’t get there without the work done behind the scenes. Lagerwey is among the league's elite of front office staff, and his acumen to run a system that finds the best players while finagling the complex MLS roster mechanism is how the Sounders’ core and supporting cast came to be.

It’s no coincidence, either, that this run of six finals in seven years has occurred since Brian Schmetzer took over as head coach in summer 2016. He gets the best out of every player on the roster, from the top DP’s to the last man on the bench, and his management in knockout situations is one to envy. Lagerwey has given Schmetzer plenty to work with, and Schmetzer has delivered with that talent each and every season in charge.

Winning the Concacaf Champions League was Lagerwey’s vision when he took over, and seven years later everything is in place for this group to cap its historic run and stake its place in the Major League Soccer record books.



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