The Sounders are MLS Cup champions for the second time in franchise history, defeating Toronto FC, 3-1, in front of a raucous 69,274 fans at CenturyLink Field. Here’s how it happened.
The Sounders said a MLS Cup win at home could establish the team as one of the league’s greatest. Seattle did its part, beginning with its first goal in championship-game history when defender Kelvin Leerdam scored in the 57th minute off a service from Raul Ruidiaz.
Ruidiaz, who led the team during the regular season in scoring, capped the game with a goal in the 90th minute. It was Ruidiaz’s first title game.
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer reinserted veteran center back Roman Torres into the starting lineup over MLS newcomer Xavier Arreaga. Torres injured his hamstring during Seattle’s conference semifinal win against Real Salt Lake and played as a substitute in the Western Conference championship win against Los Angeles FC.
Torres was critical for the Sounders defensively as Toronto dominated possession of the ball at 65.1% in the opening half. The Reds had the Rave Green pinned in their final third of the field, only missing their finishes because of the way Torres worked his way around the box to deflect the attempts.
Sunday was another example of Torres overcoming a rocky season to play an important role in a championship match. For the Sounders’ inaugural Cup in 2016, Torres had the winning penalty kick after making nine appearances, eight starts, during the regular season.
Torres began this season on the bench. He broke into the starting lineup when Chad Marshall, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, retired in May due to a knee injury. But Torres missed 10-games beginning in August because of a MLS-imposed suspension for violating its substance abuse policy.
“What happened is lamentable,” said Ruidiaz in a recent interview with Pulso Sports Network and translated from Spanish. Ruidiaz and Torres have become close friends since Ruidiaz signed with Seattle in June 2018.
“Roman was coming from playing very well,” Ruidiaz continued. “He never dropped his guard, always pushed forward, working in the manner he works at, he began to get a rhythm getting consecutive games as a starter, began to give the defense security and then something like this happens to him. The truth is Roman has all our support and we are with him. That has just been a stone in his way and (he came) back even stronger.”
Bars around Pioneer Square were packed 30 minutes after opening as fans for MLS Cup began to fill the area at 8 a.m. — which was four hours before kickoff.
MLS opened up standing room only tickets Sunday morning and filled a record 69,274 into CenturyLink. It was the largest crowd to view a soccer match in the state of Washington, but not the largest for a MLS Cup Final.
A league-record 73,019 fans watched the Atlanta United defeat the Portland Timbers for the 2018 MLS Cup at the United’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium. When added with Sunday’s total at CenturyLink Field, the 142,293 fans is more than those that attended the previous five championship games combined (137,026).
The Emerald City Supporters went all out for the event with a stadium-wide tifo (organized banner) that depicted players on one graphic and had the rest of the seating sections checker boarded in green and blue with the words “Seattle Sounders” spelled out across the lower bowl.
The Sounders were second in MLS regular-season attendance at 37,722, which is regarded as a sell out for the club’s soccer configuration in the NFL stadium.