Two MLS top teams that have been fighting each other for the top spot in Major League Soccer on a regular basis in recent years met again to determine who will be the 2019 MLS Champion. It was hosts Seattle Sounders that won, in an exciting night with many unexpected turns that probably the guys in green didn’t even plan.
Seattle Sounders, 2019 MLS Champions have been appearing in the MLS Audi Cup Final three times in the past four years. And in all three times, they played against no other than, their Canadian rivals in red from north of the border: Toronto FC.
Seattle and Toronto battled each other for the top American soccer honor in 2016 and 2017, where both finals were played in Toronto’s BMO Field. They split the last two titles between them, with Seattle winning in 2016 and Toronto following to win in 2017.
Both teams are considered amongst the strongest MLS teams, with Seattle winning the U.S. Open Cup 4 times, and since joining the MLS in 2009, appeared in the playoffs every year.
Toronto FC joined the MLS in 2007 and won the Canadian Championship 7 times and was runner up 3 times as well. Toronto reached the MLS playoffs 4 times in the past five years, 3 in which it got to the finals.
Both teams have been representing the MLS regularly in the International stages of the Concacaf Champions League.
The road to the final
Toronto FC finished fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and beat D.C. United (5-1) in Round 1, in the Eastern Conference Semi Finals Toronto had beaten NYCFC (2-1), and went on to win the defending MLS champions Atlanta United (2-1) in the Conference Finals. Going to face the Sounders in the finals for the third time in four years.
Seattle Sounders finished in second seed in the West. It won (4-3) over FC Dallas in Round 1, then the Sounders went on to beat Real Salt Lake (2-0) in the Conference Semi-Finals and finished their road to the final with an impressive win over LAFC (3-1) in the Western Conference Finals. As the Sounders were the higher seed, it was their turn to host this year’s final in CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
So everyone expected this to be an even match between two strong sides, and this is pretty much how the first hour of the match went. Until one Seattle goal (their first goal in three MLS Cup Finals) changed everything.
Seattle Sounders 3 – 1 Toronto FC
Toronto FC started with force and for nearly the first hour appeared to be the stronger side on the pitch. The guests in red created several opportunities in the first half, with Jonathan Osorio’s dangerous attempt (11), and Nicolas Benzet’s powerful shot from the left side (35’), both saved by Seattle’s keeper Stefan Frei (11’).
The Seattle Sounders also made some attempts early in the game, Roman Torres had a close call from a corner kick, that went over the bar (21), and Raul Ruidiaz snuck behind Toronto’s defense but was denied by the guests’ keeper Quentin Westberg right before halftime.
Seattle’s Kalvin Leerdam scored the first goal of the night, firing a shot from the right corner of the box that ricochets off Toronto’s defenders and produced an own goal (57’).
This first goal turbo-charged the hosts, and the Sounders started to apply pressure and dominate the pace of the game. Then, Seattle’s Nicolas Lodeiro past a ball to Victor Rodriquez who scored from the center and doubled the Sounders’ (76’).
Ruidiaz added his own powerful kick through the center of the box as well, and scored the third goal for Seattle to seal the deal (90’).
Toronto’s star Jozy Altidore came on as substitute on the 68th minute, and in added time headed in for the visitors a late consolation goal (90+3’). This was the first time Altidore is appearing in these playoffs, after suffering from a hamstring injury.
In the last MLS game of 2019, in front of a record-breaking audience of 69,274 soccer fans, Seattle Sounders have become Major League Soccer Champions for the second time in the club’s history.