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Sounders defeat Toronto FC at a raucous CenturyLink Field for second MLS Cup title

Jayda Evans, The Seattle Times on

Published in Soccer

SEATTLE -- In the calm of Sunday morning, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer took time to gather his thoughts.

The magnitude of the day was never lost on the Nathan Hale High School graduate. Schmetzer grew up within the Sounders organization, first as a player and then coach as it evolved through various minor leagues, becoming an MLS franchise in 2009. Sunday was Schmetzer and the Sounders' third MLS Cup final in the past four years. Remarkably, but the same could be said about their opponent, Toronto FC, which split the 2016 and 2017 championships with Seattle.

Respect had to be paid. Schmetzer did so by scribbling some notes on a sheet of paper for a postmatch speech should his team lose. But it was the flip side that took the spotlight.

Revering his opponent, Schmetzer also contrived a way to defeat the Reds, his players struggling, yet eventually executing the plan to win the Cup with a 3-1 victory before 69,274 fans at CenturyLink Field.

"The players and the fans deserve this," Schmetzer said in his postgame news conference as he tried to fight back tears.

The match played out much like the Sounders' season. There was a euphoric start as a historic crowd energized the team from the moment the players first stepped out on the turf for warmups. Then there was a grimy opening half in which the defense had to pull the Sounders through pressure from Toronto's better offensive attack.

 

The emotions broke in the second half. Seattle defender Kelvin Leerdam, after a pass from forward Raul Ruidiaz, rifled a shot that deflected off Justin Morrow's knee for a Toronto own goal in the 57th minute. Schmetzer made his first substitution in the 60th minute, putting another offensive attacker, midfielder Victor Rodriguez, in the match for left back Brad Smith.

Rodriguez, who played just 17 regular-season matches due to a hamstring injury and concussion, gave the Sounders some cushion with a goal in the 76th minute. Ruidiaz sent the stadium into a frenzy with the third score in the 90th minute.

Reds forward Jozy Altidore scored in stoppage time, as Schmetzer thought the star player might do at some point when visualizing the match Sunday morning. Those thoughts just didn't matter, thanks to his players.

"Our team, our club, we don't operate in the realm of fear," Schmetzer said in his prepared winning statement. He's the fifth MLS coach to win multiple league championships.

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