Seattle will play for an MLS championship for the first time after defeating Colorado in the Western Conference finals Sunday.
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Sounders rookie Jordan Morris scored the game-winning goal in the 56th minute as Seattle defeated the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference finals 1-0 on the day and 3-1 on aggregate on Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Seattle will play for a league championship for the first time in its modern era on Dec. 10. If Montreal tops Toronto in the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday, CenturyLink Field will even host it.
– This, of all Sounders teams, was the one that finally did it.
To put in perspective just how much turmoil has been baked into this season, Obafemi Martins was on Seattle’s roster for the better part of training camp and expected to again be a key contributor.
The Sounders lost their most productive player to China just weeks before the campaign kicked off. It parted ways with Sigi Schmid, the only MLS coach the club has ever known, with a 10-point gap separating Seattle from the playoff spots. Just when it finally got rolling, Clint Dempsey was lost for the year with an irregular heartbeat.
All that, and here they were, lifting the Western Conference trophy that had eluded them for so long as the MLS Cup berth it commemorated.
– Jordan Morris put in a warrior’s performance.
Morris didn’t look right during the first half of Sunday’s match, and there was a reason for that. The reigning MLS Rookie of the Year was dealing with a stomach bug during the team’s travel day yesterday, according to a club spokesman, and he certainly looked the worse for the wear.
Morris had his hands on his hips during stoppages in play, sucking wind deep into his chest. He lacked his usual energy off the ball, walking instead of keeping his head up and looking for runs in behind the Colorado defense.
Even the relief of his breakthrough was short-lived. After netting what might be the biggest goal in the Sounders’ long history, Morris stayed down grabbing his right leg.
The rookie hobbled off, limping badly. After getting his leg wrapped up, Morris was able to continue, but his movement was still labored.
The Mercer Island native, somehow, made it all the way to the final whistle, soldiering through a performance that’ll resonate for quite some time in his hometown.
– The Sounders were lucky to have survived a first half the Rapids dominated.
Colorado came out in a high press, chasing the ball and harrying opponents all the way back toward the edge of Seattle’s box. The Sounders looked flustered by the persistent ball pressure from the start.
The Rapids had more than 60 percent of the possession in the first half and took 11 shots to Seattle’s one. Yet the goal they craved – and that would have given them the edge in the series – did not materialize. The Sounders, somehow, survived until halftime, where they could take a collective breath and hit the reset button.
– This was less a soccer game than a test of will.
One of the alcohol vendors down on the Dick’s Sporting Goods Park concourse offered a Sunday special: Make your cocktail a double for a handful of extra dollars. They knew what kind of afternoon this was shaping up to be.
Leg 2 wasn’t pretty, numbers packed behind the ball while both teams waited for the other to blink. But goodness, as drama goes, Sunday’s match was something else.
Eyes barely dared leave the field, fearing they’d miss the pivotal moment that would decide an MLS Cup berth. Colorado was the more ambitious in seeking out the goal that would send it through. Seattle mostly just hung on for dear life.
The moment Sounders fans have long envisioned finally came, out of the blue, in the 56th minute. Valdez picked out Morris with a perfectly placed flick, and the rookie finished inside the far post.
There were bouts of occasional nervousness between then and the final whistle, but as soon as that shot left Morris’ foot, Seattle was MLS Cup bound.