Tag Archives: MLS Cup

Seattle Sounders Win Second MLS Cup‬, This Time At Home

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

It was dark. Pitch black, even. As I rubbed my eyes to check the time, my clock showed 5:58 AM. I turned my head to see if my husband was awake, but his side of the bed was empty. As I slowly sat up and peered out the window into the darkness, I saw him in the driveway loading up our SUV with tailgate provisions. Clearly, he was even more anxious than I was.

The enormity of the day was not lost on us, as I know it weighed heavily on the minds of many Sounders fans and the people of Seattle. In the week leading up to the city hosting MLS Cup, there was a buzz around Seattle unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

Even before the giant replica MLS Cup Trophy began popping up around downtown landmarks, the Sounders were all anyone was talking about. Between the insane ticket sales, the pre-game Macklemore concert and the fact that this was shaping up to be the biggest championship game in Seattle history, the buildup was massive.

Seattle Sounders c-owner, Macklemore. Photo Credit: Jill Peck

I drove in to the city around 9 AM, with my almost-3-year-old son in the backseat. We met up with my husband, who arrived hours earlier to tailgate with family, friends, and several hundred fellow Sounders fans. After some cold brew coffee, doughnut holes, and sporadic Sounders chants, we made our way to the ‘March to the Match.’ It was my son’s first time.

Scenes at Occidental Park before the match. Photo credit: Q13 Fox

The scenes were insane. People packed every inch of Occidental Park and it’s surrounding blocks. My husband was at the first ‘March to the Match’ over a decade ago and expressed to me his utter disbelief and joy that this many people would be walking through blue smoke, singing in unison and cheering together.

As we funneled in to the stadium, it was amazing to see it so full, even before kickoff. A typical Sounders game hosts anywhere between 35-42,000 fans. On this day, the stadium would fill to 69,274 people, a stadium record for any sporting event (take that, Seahawks). The Emerald City Supporters put on a show with their tifo as well, pulling off a full stadium tifo to perfection.

Full Stadium tifo. Photo Credit: Seattle Sounders FC.

As the teams approached midfield and the scarves were raised around the stadium, I looked over to my husband, who was holding our son tightly. While clapping along with those around him, my son yelled, “let’s go boys!” As he had heard his dad yell at kickoff before every game his entire life. I smiled to my husband, so thankful for the moment.

The first half proved to be one of great defensive efforts for the Sounders, which was not what the historical crowd had anticipated or hoped for. The Sounders often looked flat and could not create any offensive threats through anyone other than Raul Ruidiaz. Roman Torres, Kim Kee-Hee, and Stefan Frei were called upon to make several defensive saves. The teams went to halftime tied 0-0.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

As the teams came back on to the field, the crowd energy in the stadium became an overwhelming 12th man of support. The Sounders were attacking, creating chances, and bringing the game to Toronto… and the crowd was louder than ever before. In the 57th minute, Kelvin Leerdam’s shot on goal deflected off Toronto defender Justin Morrow and slid in to the back of the net. The stadium erupted to the point of seismic activity. Fire shot from the goalposts and my sweet son said to me, “mama, the Sounders won MLS Cup!” I smiled and said “not yet, bud.”

Victor Rodiguez, the Sounders super sub of playoffs thus far, subbed in at the 61st minute and completely opened up the game. The Sounders turned on the jets and showed no signs of slowing down. Even when Jozy Altidore was brought on in the 68th minute, it was Seattle who dominated possession, shots on goal, corner kicks, and duels.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

As an incredibly nervous and superstitious fan, a 1-0 lead was not incredibly comforting to me. Even with the increase in quality play, I was anxiously watching the clock tick down. But in the 76th minute, the game’s eventual MVP, Victor Rodriguez, slotted home a long range effort to give Seattle a 2-0 lead with less than 15 minutes to go. It was in that moment, even with the most dangerous lead in soccer, that I knew we were going to win.

Photo Credit: Jill Peck

And in the 90th minute, Raul Ruidiaz made sure of that victory with a chip over Toronto goalkeeper, Quintin Westburg. While Jozy Altidore would pull one back in the 93rd minute, the whistle blew moments later and sealed Seattle’s victory 3-1.

The Sounders were officially two-time MLS Cup Champions, but this time winning on their own turf. I couldn’t help but cry as the fireworks exploded around the stadium. I hugged my husband and son so tightly in that moment, knowing it was possibly a once in a lifetime experience for us to have together.

Hometown boys Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris. Photo Credit: Jill Peck

While the Sounders haven’t been the flashiest name in MLS, with the likes of Atlanta and LAFC taking up many of the headlines this season, they proved with this win that they are a team that should be respected. The accomplishments they’ve been able to make in just 10 seasons are simply unmatched across the league.

This MLS Cup championship trophy will go into Seattle’s already stacked cabinet of four US Open Cups, a Supporter’s Shield, and their first MLS Cup trophy from only 3 seasons ago. They also are the only team across the last 10 seasons to make the playoffs EVERY year. And with clutch tactician Brian Schmetzer at the helm and General Manager Garth Lagerway pulling strings, they show no signs of slowing down.

When my family finally got home after staying in the stadium for nearly 45 minutes and celebrating all around Seattle for hours after the game ended, all three of us were emotionally and physically drained. As we put my son to bed and went to close the door, he stopped us and said, “hey mama, hey dada, the Sounders won MLS Cup.” I gave my husband’s hand a squeeze as I responded, “they sure did bud.”

The emotional comedown from this day was intense for me. It took me several days just to put in words what happened and what that win meant to me. And I don’t think I’ll ever have words for what this win meant to this city. Instead, I’ll let Brian Schmetzer attempt to say it for me:

All images:  @jillmpeck on Instagram

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLS Cup Final: Staff Picks

Official NY Red Bulls Reporter

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

We are less than a week away from the MLS Cup Final between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC. Both teams are going for their second league championship, with the Sounders having won in 2016 and Toronto in 2017. Following a new format of single elimination playoffs, the Cup final will be played Sunday, November 10th at CenturyLink Field.

Several members of the MLSFemale staff offered their thoughts on who will lift the trophy at the end of the night. The results are… slightly skewed.


Seattle Sounders

Ashley, Official Sounders Reporter: Because Seattle invented MLS Cup…The team overcame so many injuries this season and not to mention players leaving and retiring. They busted their butts to get to this final and this city deserves to host a championship.

Keira, Official NYCFC Reporter: Sounders because they are a huge reason we have a cool soccer culture in the US. Great teams find ways to win the big games and that’s what Seattle does. Dig deep and find ways to win.

Bridget, Official MNUFC Reporter: I have to go with the Sounders. They have multiple players who peak in high pressure matches and yet nothing about their game plan leans on just these players. It’s a slightly different edge than Toronto.

Eve, Official Montreal Impact Reporter:  If I put my Toronto bias aside, I would say I feel like Seattle have the edge because they have finally been a consistently strong unit over the whole of the season, unlike in their two previous Cup runs.

Aya, Atlanta United Video Correspondent: Seattle because Toronto beat us.

Dayna, Co-founder of MLSFemale: Totally unbiased opinion — I think Seattle will win it. Home field advantage is real in Seattle.

Abigail, Seattle Contributor and USWNT Correspondent: Seattle of course! This team knows how to show up in big moments. Lodiero, Ruidiaz, and Frei are all big game players. This team is built for playoffs especially at home

Sylvana, Official NY Red Bulls Reporter and MLSFemale Social Media Manager: Definitely Seattle. They are a cohesive unit and have been able to execute a game plan. And they were able to put aside the mighty LAFC! They definitely seem to have the advantage going in.

Sarah, Official D.C. United Reporter and MLSFemale Editor-in-Chief: Seattle capitalizes on home field advantage to win the Cup and wow the home crowd, but Nick DeLeon scores some absolute stunners that turn the match into a nail biter.

Toronto FC

Liz, Co-founder of MLSFemale: I’m Canadian and BMO Field was the first MLS match I ever attended which helped put me on the path to co-creating MLSFemale.

Jess, Official Rapids Reporter: This isn’t a final I’m looking forward to because it’s very much more of the same. I would have loved to have seen an LAFC/Atlanta matchup instead. Normally I go with the conference my team plays in, but this time I see Toronto as the lesser of two evils.

Araceli, Official LAFC and Sporting KC Reporter: Toronto FC. It’s a difficult choice since both teams have a long history with each other in the MLS Cup Final. I think Stefan Frei and Quentin Westberg are strong keepers and could keep both sides in the game well into extra time. But I’m rooting for The Reds mostly because Seattle knocked out LAFC.

Kickoff is set for 3pm EST on ABC. MLSFemale will live-tweet the final. Follow along @MLSFemale.

Featured image: MLS Soccer

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @WhiteZinWench

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The Rubber Match Preview: Seattle Hosts Toronto for Tie-Break MLS Cup

Official Seattle Sounders Reporter

By Ashley Savage // @savage_hart

December 10th, 2016. I sat on my couch in a Seattle suburb balancing a bowl of popcorn on my belly. It was my due date for my first baby boy, Sawyer, and I was beyond ready to meet him. Due dates are hardly ever accurate though, especially with first pregnancies.

Nevertheless, I sat there that day especially hopeful to be in labor soon, but not for at least another 10 or 15 minutes. The Seattle Sounders had just played 120 long, grueling minutes in their first MLS Cup appearance in club history and were now heading to a penalty shoot out. My blood pressure was through the roof.

But the rest is MLS history. Seattle would win the shootout 5-4 and Sawyer wouldn’t be born for six more days. We welcomed him into a world were the Seattle Sounders were reigning MLS Cup Champions. To this day, I’m still not sure which was the greater joy for my husband.

Photo Credit: Ashley Savage

MLS Cup 2017 was not as kind to the Sounders, as Toronto swiftly defeated them. The postseason of 2018 was not much better, as the Sounders were eliminated by their biggest rivals, the Portland Timbers, who went on to lose the MLS Cup final to Atlanta United.

In the span of those two seasons, my son attended nearly every home Sounders match. He smiled brightly every time the Sounders scored a goal and fire shot from the goalposts. At two, he held his hand over his heart for every national anthem and would mumble sounds that somewhat emulated the lyrics. These games brought him so much joy, just as he brought joy to our family.

The 2019 season for the Seattle Sounders was one that I would not describe as joyful. There were so many injuries. Brad Smith, Kelvin Leerdam, Victor Rodriguez, Raul Ruidiaz, Gustav Svensson, Jordan Morris, Nicolas Lodeiro, Roman Torres, Kim Ki Hee, Will Bruin and Joevin Jones all spent significant time out injured. Chad Marshall was forced in to retirement prior to mid-season. The team dropped more points at home than any of their previous ten seasons.

Photo Credit: Seattle Sounders FC

But there were also many moments of magic. Jordan Morris put together his best season in MLS and was rewarded with the MLS Comeback Player of the Year award. Stefan Frei was an absolute force in the net game after game. And when it mattered most, the team grabbed enough points to finish second in the Western Conference and haven’t looked back since.

Photo Credit: Seattle Sounders FC

Raul Ruidiaz has scored three goals and three assists in his playoff appearances this season. Nicolas Lodeiro has two goals and four assists in three post season appearances.

While the Sounders were not dominant in their opening playoff victory against FC Dallas, the team posted a shutout in the next round against Real Salt Lake. Then, they did the unthinkable by traveling to Banc of California Stadium and put on a clinic to near perfection on how to beat the greatest regular season team in MLS history, LAFC.

Now, thanks to a lightening bolt strike from Nick DeLeon that defeated Atlanta in the Eastern Conference Final, Toronto FC are heading to Seattle for the MLS Cup Rubber Match. For impartial fans, this story-line is probably getting old. But for me and my family and the city of Seattle, this is the most anticipated day we could possibly imagine.

The city of Seattle hasn’t hosted many championships. During the 1978 and 1979 seasons the Seattle Supersonics hosted several finals games and the Seattle Storm have hosted in the 2004, 2010, and 2018 seasons when they won their respective titles.

For a metropolitan area of nearly 3.89 million people, hosting this championship means everything. Possibly to no one more than head coach Brian Schmetzer, who was born in Seattle, played for the Sounders USL side and has taken the team to three MLS Cups in his four seasons as head coach. For this city, for this team, and for this writer, this game means everything.

The game will kickoff at 12:08 PM PST on Sunday November 10th at CenturyLink Field and will broadcast on ABC. Tickets for the match sold out in minutes and it’s estimated that nearly 71,000 fans will be in attendance.

One of those fans will be my son, Sawyer, who is now almost three years old and insists on wearing his Nightfall Jordan Morris jersey to every single match. While he was a few days late to witness the Sounders first MLS Cup, here’s hoping he gets to see the Rave Green hoist the trophy in person this Sunday.

Featured image: Seattle Sounders FC

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @savage_hart

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Investing in Greatness: Atlanta United Wins the 2018 MLS Cup

Atlanta United Wins the MLS Cup 2-0 Over the Portland Timbers, Tata Martino Leaves MLS on Top, and a Perspective on the Future of American Soccer.

Sarah Kallassy - DC United/mlsfemale
Official MLSFemale Contributor

By Sarah Kallassy // @SarahKallassy

On Saturday Atlanta’s skies were grey and a chilly rain persistently pelted the city causing anyone in the streets to look for cover. It was not a beautiful day for a soccer match, but for Atlanta United and Portland Timbers supporters, the weather couldn’t dampen their enthusiasm.

Sarah Kallassy - MLS Cup/mlsfemale
Image: Sarah Kallassy

The Timbers Army began their MLS Cup day by planting trees at the Morningside Nature Preserve before their afternoon tailgate. Atlanta United supporters’ groups, such as Resurgence, gathered in the Gulch, pushing their way under an overpass to avoid the rain while they waited to enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

73,019 fans. A record-breaking number, attended the 2018 MLS Cup, rocking the multi-use Mercedes-Benz Stadium with soccer fervor.

Sarah Kallassy - MLS Cup/mlsfemale
Image: Sarah Kallassy

Before the match even began, the excitement inside the stadium was palpable and very, very, loud. It was definitely Atlanta United’s house, the crowd awash with black, red, and gold, broken only by the small contingent of the Timbers Army clad in forest green.

Tifo flags bearing Atlanta’s logo and statements such as, ‘bless your heart,’ waved amidst the ‘fireflies’ that lit the stands and conjured the image of a summer night in the heart of Georgia.

As the match began, the Portland Timbers hoped to recreate the magic of their 2015 MLS Cup victory over the Columbus Crew, while Atlanta United’s young team looked for a perfect end to their electrifying second season in MLS. The home team did not disappoint.

Early on in the match, it was clear that playing at home gave Atlanta a clear edge over the Timbers. Feeding off the energy coursing through their stadium, Atlanta continually denied Portland possession and chances on goal, keeping the pressure on during the first half.

Josef Martinez, the Venezuelan Striker who was named the 2018 MLS MVP, scored his 35th goal of the season in the 38th minute, putting Atlanta United ahead 1-0 right before halftime. Predictably, the fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium went wild. Martinez’s performance during the match would lead him to be named MLS Cup MVP by the end of the night.

Portland made several attempts on goal throughout the game; however, Atlanta United goalie Brad Guzan kept the sheet clean. In the 42nd minute, a particularly dangerous shot by Timber’s striker Jeremy Ebobisse looked like it would see the back of Atlanta United’s net and tie the match before halftime. Atlanta’s fans seemed to hold their collective breath as the ball soared toward Guzan. Not to be bested, Guzan made the difficult save, and the Timbers Army, cloistered on the 300 level of the stadium would have to continue to hope that Portland would make it on the board.

The Portland Timbers emerged from the locker room for the second half with a renewed sense of urgency. They began to place more pressure on Atlanta, but it would be for naught. In the 53rd minute, Franco Escobar made a second goal for Atlanta United, giving the team a comfortable lead, 2-0 over Portland.

Sebastian Blanco, Diego Valeri, Alvas Powell, and Dairon Asprilla all tried to fire shots at Atlanta’s Guzan in the second half but were unable to send the ball into the net. Diego Chara of the Timbers and Chris McCann of Atlanta United were both issued yellow cards toward the end of the second half, but neither Atlanta nor Portland scored again.

Sarah Kallassy - MLS Cup/mlsfemale
Image: Sarah Kallassy

As the five minutes of stoppage time that referee Alan Kelly had added to the second half came to an end, the sense of anticipation and excitement in the stadium grew. When the clock hit 95 minutes, Atlanta, the city that hadn’t claimed a sports championship in over 20 years, had won the MLS Cup.

In the post-game press conference, Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese was predictably solemn, he said that both teams had put up, “a good fight.” He expressed his frustration with the officiating of the game and stressed that “for this final, for a final so important… I expected more. And I think, sometimes the little things are very important.” Savarese stressed that he did not wish to detract from the great performance of Atlanta United with his statement.

Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, Atlanta United head coach, was of course jubilant. Doused in champagne after the traditional toast in the locker room, he stated that, “the club never modified their plan,” that was established in 2016 when he came on board as head coach. Martino said that “the most satisfying thing was to be able to fulfill all the plans the club presented to me at the beginning. I think we’ve got the best training facilities in the league, we’ve got the best team in the league… they give the coaching staff absolutely everything they need to be successful, and that’s what makes it the most satisfying.”

Sarah Kallassy - MLS Cup/mlsfemale
Image: Sarah Kallassy

While some may say that the stars aligned this season for Atlanta’s win, it seems rather that they positioned their own stars, aligning them through careful investment in the team, the facilities, and the staff. Both the Portland Timbers and Atlanta United played terrific soccer in the MLS Cup and their supporters should be proud, but Atlanta United proved a point on Saturday night about the future of American soccer; we will get out of it what we put in.

Featured image of Resurgence SG: Grant Russell

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @SarahKallassy

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MLS Cup – Toronto FC vs Seattle Sounders

Jennifer Denton - Seattle Sounders/mlsfemale
Official Sounders Reporter

By Jennifer Denton // @darkwynds

Here we are, the eve of the MLS Cup for 2017.  This year has been full of ups and downs.  Through it all, the Seattle Sounders have become stronger than they were last year.  It hasn’t been without injury and issues, but the team has risen above and made it to the promised land.

Last year was so special because it was our first.  I think this year can be even more special because we have the chance to repeat as the MLS champions.  Through the playoffs, the Sounders have defeated both the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Houston Dynamo, both in convincing fashion.

Again, the Sounders find themselves facing Toronto FC at BMO Field on what proves to be a very cold day.  Hundreds of supporters are making their way to Toronto.  There is a banner going that has the names of people who could not make this trip.  We are a family.  We will be in the stadium, in pubs, in bars, and in our homes, all over the world cheering our boys to victory.  This is our cup, and we will defend it.

This game will not be like last year.  Both teams have improved.  Both are stronger, faster but just as hungry as they were last year.  TFC still has the bitter taste of last year’s loss, during penalty kicks, in their mouths.  Seattle wants to cement our dynasty.  Seattle has added a number of players who have made a huge difference in the team’s play.

Both teams have injuries issues, with the Sounders being slightly worse.  At this time, Jozy Altidore is questionable with an ankle injury suffered late in the second leg of the Columbus Crew game.  Seattle will be missing Brad Evans and Ozzie Alonso.

Ozzie being out of the game hurts.  He is our captain and the heart.  Seattle will have Roman Torres back from suspension.  Jordan Morris is also at 100% and should feature.  No one is suspended for this game, and no one is on international duty.

Projected Lineups from mlssoccer.com

Seattle Sounders

(4-2-3-1, left to right)
GK: Stefan Frei – Nouhou, Chad Marshall, Roman Torres, Kelvin Leerdam – Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan – Joevin Jones, Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro – Will Bruin

Toronto FC

(3-5-2, left to right)
GK: Alex Bono – Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta – Justin Morrow, Marky Delgado, Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Steven Beitashour – Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore

Referees

Referee: Allen Chapman
Assistant Referees: Adam Wienckowski, Jeremy Hanson

4th Official: Kevin Stott

5th Official: Jason White

Video Assistant Referee (VAR): Dave Gantar

Game is December 9th at 1pm PT / 4pm ET on ESPN

#DEFENDOURCUP

Featured image courtesy: @SoundersFC

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @darkwynds

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