Seattle 3, Toronto 1: Sounders are MLS Cup Champions Again

You couldn't have written a better script. For the third time in four years, the championship pitted Toronto FC, the underdog from the East that pulled off upset after upset to win their conference championship, against Seattle Sounders FC, the dominant Western force that has never missed a post-season since 2009 and captured their own upset to reach MLS Cup.

In 2016, Seattle bested Toronto in penalties. In 2017, the Reds beat the Rave Green, handily, 2-0. Both games in the freezing cold of BMO Field in a Canadian December.

2019, however, saw a much larger, much different crowd, across the continent. CenturyLink Field in the Emerald City played host to this year's championship featuring a crowd of 69,274, which set the record for a sporting event at the venue. And while Toronto fans traveled well in excess of a thousand in number, Seattle's masses created one of greatest environments in American sports history.

The match itself stayed deadlocked through the first half, as Toronto gained momentum and confidence in the hostile territory. Stefan Frei came up with another world-class save, something commonplace from the Sounders FC goalkeeper in championship games.

In the 57th minute, Seattle finally found their footing, working the ball into the final third of the field. A cross reached the foot of Kelvin Leerdam on the right side. The Sounders fullback worked the ball back to his left and struck Toronto's Justin Morrow with a shot. The ball redirected past keeper Quentin Westberg and into the back of the net for the first break-through of the match.

Once they scored, Seattle dominated the final 30 minutes. With full control of the tempo and Toronto forced to play into the Sounders' strengths, the Rave Green scored twice more and the seconds ticked down.

Victor Rodriguez, who came back from multiple injuries throughout the year, entered the match in the 61st minute and scored in the 76th on an excellently placed crossing shot from left to right that gave Westberg no chance of saving. Striker Raul Ruidiaz put in his seventh goal of the playoffs in the 90th minute when he out-fought a Toronto defender, chipped the ball past Westberg, and sent CenturyLink into jubilation with a 3-0 lead.

Despite Toronto's star Jozy Altidore scoring in the 93rd minute, no fan in attendance could realistically doubt the already-sealed result. The Sounders completed the hike back to that mountaintop of 2016 as MLS Cup Champions.

Commissioner Don Garber handed midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro the trophy, then with his teammates behind and around him, the Sounders' Captain hoisted the Cup as confetti rained down and fireworks shot off into the November sky. Fans cried tears of joy, celebrating what only one other professional Seattle sports team did before- win a championship at home. The other being the 2004 Seattle Storm.

And the long journey that began with the best 12-match start in team history, included the retirement of the greatest defender in MLS history in Chad Marshall, the loss of forward Will Bruin for the season due to an ACL tear, center-back Roman Torres getting suspended ten games due to violating the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Policy, winning the Cascadia Cup in Portland against the Timbers, and then pulling off one of the greatest upsets in club history beating record-setting Supporters Shield winners LAFC in Los Angeles for the Western Conference Championship... After all of that, the journey concluded with the beautiful brilliance of a championship on home turf.

Now comes the parade and ensuring Seattle Center celebration on Tuesday, roster reconfiguration for next season, new Rave Green jerseys with a second star, and CONCACAF Champions League beginning early next year. The turn-around is tight, but no new task for the organization that has never failed to make the post-season.

For Head Coach Brian Schmetzer, General Manager Garth Lagerwey, Sporting Director Chris Henderson, Owner Adrian Hanuauer, every player, every coach, and everyone connected to the Seattle Sounders, Sunday will likely stand as the greatest day in club history, dating all the way back to the first days of the team in 1974. For fans, the celebrations and haze of jubilation will no doubt continue for the days, weeks, and months to come before the team begins that next journey for a third star in 2020.

But no matter how much time goes by and no matter what happens in 2020 and beyond, this season, and November 10, 2019, will be remembered forever, because the Seattle Sounders are MLS Cup Champions again.

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