The Seattle Sounders are the Western Conference champions. After finding themselves well outside the playoff hunt in late July, the Sounders have made an improbable run all the way through the Western Conference field. They won today’s match over the Colorado Rapids by 1 -0 score thanks to an increasingly familiar hero.
Jordan Morris Goal Lifts Seattle Sounders to MLS Cup Final
Despite Colorado having the bulk of the chances, Jordan Morris finished off a 56th minute punished a poor clearance by Jared Watts for the only goal of the match. That gave the Sounders an insurmountable 3-1 aggregate lead. Seattle was able to hold on despite constant Rapids pressure to win the match and head to their first MLS Cup Final in franchise history.
Colorado’s Inept Attack
The Rapids were in firm control for the vast majority of the match, but were unable to do anything with it. They held 64% of possession and managed to launch a total of 16 shots towards Stefan Frei’s goal. Of those 16, exactly none of them even tested the Seattle keeper.
It’s clear that team leader Skelshan Gashi was still not 100% after his ugly injury in the previous round against LA Galaxy. The often dangerous forward took five off target shots and passed at a dreadful 68% for the day. None of his passing came even close to the penalty area, nor was he ever a threat to get the ball in there himself.
In fact, Colorado was entirely inept at penetrating the penalty area as a team. Take a look at their heatmap on the day.
It was as if Seattle threw up a wall around their penalty area that prevented Colorado from getting a single touch in a threatening area.
In order to win, Colorado needed a great game out of their attacking players. Jermaine Jones did very well, but nobody else was around to help him out. In addition to Gashi having an off day, Sebastian Le Toux was awful, Kevin Doyle was mostly absent, and neither Michael Azira nor Dillon Powers were able to provide any help from the central midfield.
The subs didn’t fair any better. A fresh Marco Pappa would be expected to come out and be a game changer. He only got one wayward shot off in his 16 minutes of play. Marlon Hairston did have one great play along the touchline towards the end, but was unable to pick anyone out for a scoring chance. He instead lobbed his pass into Frei’s waiting arms. Dominique Badji was merely average for the five minutes he played after replacing Gashi.
Overall, it was a sad afternoon for the Colorado attack when they needed it the most.
Seattle Got Defensive
Seattle came into this match with a plan to stay tight at the back and it worked to perfection. They knew that Colorado has relied on smashing in a lone goal and defending intensely at the back all season long. Instead of allowing the Rapids to sit back and play their style, the Sounders beat them at their own game.
They clogged the penalty area and took advantage of Colorado’s relative lack of talent up front. The Rapids were forced to take long shots with all the Seattle bodies in the penalty area. Indeed, it would have taken another wonder goal like the one that forced extra time against the Galaxy to beat Seattle today.
Their entire back line had a fantastic night, particularly Joevin Jones, who forced plenty of errors out of Le Toux out wide. Roman Torres and Chad Marshall kept the space in front of Stefan Frei clear from invaders all game long. Tyrone Mears made Skelshan Gashi look human along the other flank, often forcing him inside where Ozzie Alonso, Christian Roldan, and the center backs were waiting to clog his shooting and passing lanes.
The goal came out of nowhere. Seattle clearly wasn’t playing for the putaway, but they certainly accepted it when Jordan Morris chipped over Zac MacMath just before the hour mark. A misplay at the back from Colorado allowed Nelson Valdez to intercept a clearance and pick out the young American, who had found his way though the hole in the Colorado defense.
On to MLS Cup
After seven previous seasons of playoff disappointment, the Seattle Sounders are finally moving on to the big game. Their deepest run comes at the most unexpected of time. It did’t come in a season where they won the Supporters Shield or where they had a strong team all season long. It has come when they were dead in the water during the dog days of summer. They were rescued by a new head coach and a foreign star from Uruguay that helped bring the most out of their newest young academy raised rookie of the year, who played hero for them again this afternoon.
The Sounders now await the winner of Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference Final between Toronto FC and Montreal Impact. The Impact carry a 3-2 lead into the fixture and if they hold on to win, Seattle will host the final on Saturday, December 10. If Toronto finishes the comeback, the final will be played at BMO Field.