Sound up! Seattle once again the class of MLS after taking down Toronto FC
More than anything, soccer is a game of moments. You can speak about ebbs and flows or performances. You can analyse statistics and data. You can talk about formations and tactics all you want. But, when games are decided and trophies are awarded, it comes down to moments, and, at the end of the day, it's the moments that are remembered.
There were moments during Sunday's MLS Cup finale where CenturyLink Field experienced literal earthquakes. There were moments where the stadium was shaken by the Seattle crowd. There were moments of frustration, of anger, of despair.
The Seattle Sounders weren't always the best team on the field on Sunday afternoon. In fact, one could argue that Toronto FC had done more than enough to leave Seattle with an MLS Cup in hand. But in the moments where memories are made, in those situations that determine legacies that extend far beyond a grey afternoon in Seattle, the Sounders stepped up to the challenge.
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Sunday's MLS Cup finale ended as a 3-1 Sounders triumph, the club's second victory in four years. They sealed their place in MLS history, making yet another mark in rave green. During the club's 11-year history, the Sounders have made a habit of producing something memorable, but Sunday's confetti-draped celebration on the CenturyLink Field will go down as the sweetest moment in this club's history.
Despite the result, despite the fireworks and trophy celebration, the Sounders weren't at their best on Sunday afternoon. By and large, Toronto FC dominated the opening half, playing as if they were once again the hosts of this MLS Cup rivalry. The Canadian side bossed possession throughout the opening 45, taking advantage of a Sounders team that looked a step off the pace.
Despite the 70,000 fans inside CenturyLink Field urging the Sounders on, it was Toronto that played like a team that simply wanted it more.
While the Sounders' inability to get out of first gear played a part, it was TFC's midfield that was the main cause for the first-half disparity. Michael Bradley, playing with a contract extension directly tied to Sunday's result, came out of the gates hot, pinging passes on one end, while making some massive tackles on the other. His midfielder partners, Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio, dominated their Sounder counterparts.
It wasn't a tactical switch that changed that fact. There was no overarching response from the Sounders. Instead, they found their lead through a little bit of luck and a whole lot of Toronto FC misfortune.
After a slightly brighter start to the second half, the Sounders broke through against the run of play through a fortuitous bounce. Kelvin Leerdam did the leg work, firing a shot towards Toronto FC's goal only to see the ball carom off Morrow and into the back of the net. It wasn't a deserved breakthrough and it wasn't one that many could see coming, but the Sounders won't care in the slightest.
If their opener was workmanlike, the Sounders' clinching goal was the exact opposite. In fact, it was rather beautiful. A driven pass, a perfect lay-off and, to culminate it all, a magnificent curled finish from the foot of Victor Rodriguez. A late Raul Ruidiaz goal, then, was simply one more chance to celebrate, to embrace euphoria and what this club had achieved. MLS Cup was theirs again.
They say you always remember your first, and moments like Stefan Frei's save and Roman Torres' penalty in 2016 will always be monumental in Sounders' history. While that Sounders team was able to grind out a result despite not firing a shot on target, this team won it all in a different way.
On a night that, at times, felt eerily similar to the two prior clashes, the Sounders wrote a new chapter in a new way as Sunday's 3-1 triumph was the exact opposite of their 2016 MLS Cup. That was one type of win, but this was something entirely different. But, even with a trophy in hand, that won't matter too much.
What will matter is how this team and this franchise will now be viewed. Their postseason streak, 11 consecutive appearances since entering MLS in 2009, is staggering. Their MLS Cup run, two in four years with another appearance in between, puts them in rare company.
MLS isn't built for consistency. In a league of salary caps, TAM, GAM, Designated Players, draft picks, international slots and, ultimately, parity, it's virtually impossible to find success year after year. The best clubs hit blips and stumble, even if they ultimately rise again.
In a league designed to throw curveballs at even the best of clubs, the Sounders' consistency is unmatched and this decade-plus run has been something special.
The Sounders' have made a habit of creating these special moments, and they almost certainly aren't finished yet.