Defending MLS champion Seattle shuts out Houston 3-0 to win on aggregate 5-0. The Sounders travel to Toronto on Dec. 9 in a rematch of last year’s title match.

Share story

In a champagne-soaked locker room, Sounders forward Will Bruin described the mindset behind some of the on-field creativity just flashed by his squad.

His Sounders had dismantled the Houston Dynamo, 3-0, to clinch the Western Conference championship with a dazzling display of passing and finishing Thursday night. Led by a pair of goals and an assist from Bruin these past two games, they’d turned this into one of the most lopsided conference finals in recent memory.

The dagger to Houston’s hopes had come in just the 23rd minute, when a terrific Bruin flick to send Victor Rodriguez in alone for the game’s first goal had put the Dynamo too far behind on aggregate to have any realistic shot. Now, heading to Toronto for a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup final, having dispatched the Dynamo by a combined 5-0 two-leg tally, Bruin and company sure look and sound like a squad peaking at the right time.


Sounders FC @ Toronto

Dec. 9, 1 p.m., ESPN

[ Stone | Sounders proving last year’s title run was no fluke » ]

“If you would have asked me to do stuff like that all year, I would have said ‘No way, I’m still trying to incorporate myself into the team and into the locker room,’ ’’ onetime Dynamo striker Bruin said of his set-up of Rodriguez, which lifted the CenturyLink Field crowd of 45,298 from their seats. “But now, everybody’s been good and you know you can try things in the final third and nobody’s going to get mad.’’

And everybody knows where the guy taking their passes is going to be.

It’s no secret this defending champion took an awfully long time this season to allow its multi-talented offensive pieces to mesh. But lost amid all the talk of the Sounders now having registered six consecutive shutouts and an MLS record streak for playoff minutes without allowing a goal is the fact this attack looks pretty darned good.

Whether it was Clint Dempsey adding some 57th-minute insurance on a perfect goal-mouth feed from Joevin Jones, or Bruin racing for a Harry Shipp ball, going in alone and beating goalkeeper Joe Willis in the 72nd minute, this was pretty to watch. It mirrored the pinpoint passing and execution on goals by Bruin and Gustav Svensson in the opener, suggesting this team is finally clicking on all fronts.

“Every team goes through that,’’ Bruin said of the early season struggles. “But I think we’ve finally figured it out. I think the locker room’s great, and that translates onto the field with good chemistry and good success.’’

When the final whistle blew, a celebratory roar erupted from the crowd, streamers flew from the stands and the Sounders hoisted the conference title trophy to strains of Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration’’ belting from the public-address system.

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer was emotional as he watched it. His team had just achieved what only three prior Seattle sports franchises – the 2013-14 Seahawks, the 1978-79 SuperSonics and the 1919-20 hockey Metropolitans – had done by reaching consecutive finals.

No Seattle team has won both times. Schmetzer is just 90 minutes from that happening, though he’ll face a mammoth Toronto FC squad at BMO Field that just tore through the league in a record-setting season.

Kind of like Schmetzer’s team just did the past six regular-season and playoff games – outscoring opponents 14-0. This is clearly a different team, with new faces, from the one that lost 1-0 to Toronto at home last May, let alone the squads that matched up in last year’s final.

“They came in and did what they did all season long,’’ Schmetzer said of Toronto. “They made it difficult to play. I think at that point in time, teams had already figured us out a bit. They were all sitting back and we were kind of a one-sided group.’’

Not anymore.

Schmetzer had spent all week warning his team it couldn’t take a minute off in this game. And it didn’t.

“The energy in the building from the opening whistle was good,’’ he said. “Houston came ready to play. And we came ready to play.’’

But the Sounders were better. Houston’s one really good scoring chance was thwarted in the 42nd minute by a diving Stefan Frei, and it was all over from there.

“We’re sharing the scoring,’’ Frei said. “We have numerous guys that are scoring up top right now. I think we’re finding ourselves in the better part of our streak than we did last year.’’

A year ago, of course, the Sounders didn’t have an injured Dempsey. Now, he’s back, savoring a shot at his first MLS Cup title as an on-field competitor.

“It’s always great to be playing in the big games,’’ he said. “That’s what you dream about as a kid. For me, if I’m not making an impact, that’s when you’ve got to hang them up. So, it feels great to be able to make an impact.’’

Right now, the entire team is making one. And despite the enormous rematch challenge that awaits, the Sounders know they’ve got the horses to make it more than a fair fight.


22′ Goal: Victor Rodriguez; Assist: Will Bruin

57′ Goal: Clint Dempsey; Assist: Rodriguez, Joevin Jones

73′ Goal: Will Bruin; Assist: Rodriguez