On the 29th and 30th of October, the MLS table resumed with the conference finals. The Eastern-Conference Final on Wednesday between Atlanta and Toronto reminded parts of Tuesday’s Western-Conference Final between LAFC and Seattle.
In both games, the home team, which was considered the favorite, rushed to take an early lead in the game. But then the visiting team found its way back and eventually won.
LAFC 1 – 3 Seattle Sounders
On Tuesday, Seattle Sounders FC traveled to LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium for the Western-Conference Championship.
Hosts LAFC broke many records this season with their 21-4-9. They had a record of 72 points and finished with a stunning 48-goal difference. They also won the Supporters Shield, and of course, there’s Carlos Vela being the MLS top scorer. Besides, they defeated their neighbors LA Galaxy in the derby in the Conference’s semifinal.
Visitors Seattle Sounders were 2016 MLS Champions and Runners-Up in 2018. They also won one Supporters’ Shield, four US Open Cups, and three Western-Conference Finals.
LAFC took an early lead when Eduard Atueste curled a free-kick past Sounders’ defense and goalkeeper Stefan Frei (17’).
Sounders’ Raul Ruidiaz equalized with a shot from the 18-yard line (22’), and minutes later Nicolas Lodeiro scored for Seattle again (26’).
With an assist from Lodeiro, Rudiaz scored the insurance for the visitors Seattle Sounders, again from around the 18 yards (64’).
Atlanta United FC 1 – 2 Toronto FC
This is the third season for hosts Atlanta United to play in the MLS, and the team has been in the playoffs for all three seasons since joining the league, including winning the MLS Cup Championships last year.
Visitors Toronto FC got to the MLS Playoff Finals in three of the last four years and won the MLS Cup Championships in 2017.
Julian Gressel put Atlanta to an early lead by tapping from inside the box a cross from Pity Martinez (4’).
Minutes later, guests’ Michael Bradley fouled Pity Martinez in Toronto’s box and a penalty was given to Atlanta. However, visitors’ keeper Quentin Westberg denied the hosts from another goal by blocking Joseph Martinez’s spot-kick (8’).
Shortly after, Nicolas Benezet equaled for Toronto with a curled ball from outside the 18 into the right corner of Atlanta’s goal (14’).
Most of the game after the first exciting fifteen minutes seemed gridlocked, until late in the second half when Toronto’s substitute Nick DeLeon scored the winner with a forceful shot from the 18 yard-line (78’).
This will be the third time in the last four years of Seattle Sounders clashing with Toronto FC for the MLS Cup. These two have been splitting the MLS top spot between them, in finals that were played back then in Toronto’s BMO Field.
Seattle Sounders became the MLS Champions in 2016, and Toronto FC won the finals and became the league Champions a year later in 2017.
The current year’s faceoff will take place on Seattle’s home turf, and it’s the first time for the Sounders’ to play and host an MLS Cup Final.
Both teams have been consistently raising the bar and setting high standards of professional soccer for other teams in the MLS to follow. The Seattle Sounders have been several-time winners of the US Open Cup and Toronto FC of the Canadian Championship. Also, both represent the MLS internationally in the Concacaf Champions League.
Looking at the all-time history between the two, Seattle seems to be the stronger side. Out of the fourteen games they had between them in the MLS Regular Season, the Sounders won nine. And out of their eight away games against Seattle, Toronto only won two.
Still, if there’s something we had learned from these 2019 playoffs until now, is that the home-side advantage, higher seed or being a favorite doesn’t guarantee a win. So we will all have to count the hours and days until the Final.
Toronto FC will head to Sounders’ CenturyLink Field on Sunday, November 10th for the last MLS schedule game for 2019 – the MLS Audi Cup Finals.