SEATTLE -- The Seattle Sounders won’t consider Saturday’s 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy as one of their better victories of the year, but it was certainly the most important. With the result, courtesy of two late Marco Pappa goals off the bench, Seattle became the first team to win the U.S. Open Cup and MLS Supporters’ Shield since the Chicago Fire did it in 2003.
The win capped Seattle’s fifth trophy -- all the other four were Open Cups -- in its six Major League Soccer seasons. On the way to winning its first Supporters’ Shield, Seattle also had to takecare of a trend that held the team back in previous seasons.
Of all the teams in MLS, the Galaxy had the least amount of reasons to be scared of playing in the CenturyLink Field cauldron. LA had won four times here since Seattle joined the league, including a 3-0 win in July to start a streak toward the top of the league table. The Galaxy had only lost twice since that match on July 28, eventually tying Seattle on points and amassing the league’s best goal difference by a wide margin.
For the last month of the regular season, the home-and-away matches to close out the schedule loomed as the decisive moments after a 34-match season. The Sounders had the advantage with a comeback draw 2-2 last week after going down 2-0.
Pappa was an important catalyst in that match also, with Seattle’s goals coming just moments after his 66th-minute substitution. Head coach Sigi Schmid kept him off the field to begin with again on Saturday, and Pappa wanted his coach to feel his presence late in the game once more.
“I’m the kind of player [that] always like to play,” Pappa told reporters after the match. “I have to respect the coach’s decisions, and at the end of the day when I come from the bench, I want to do my best to show my character and show that I want to play."
After a conservative first 75 minutes in which Seattle didn’t manage a shot toward Jaime Penedo’s goal, Pappa had an effort blocked within a minute of coming off the bench. His second shot ended up in the back of the net, and he finished with all four of the Sounders’ shots in the game.
“Scoring is always very important, very nice, especially on your field and in a match this important, but the most important thing was to win and that the team is happy,” Pappa said in his native Spanish. “Bigger things are coming.”
The Sounders unequivocally enjoyed the victory and lifting a trophy as a typical Seattle drizzle rained down on the artificial turf. Several said it might be a bigger reward than winning the playoffs because of the consistency it requires, but they also made sure to mention their focus hasn’t died. “[The playoffs] are five games where you have to maintain your concentration to leave as the champion,” Pappa said.
No champagne could be found anywhere in the stadium on Saturday, even as Sounders players and coaches addressed the crowd via microphone after the final whistle to thank them for their support. The locker room was also dry, and Schmid diverted conversation toward the coming playoff matches as often as possible in his post-game comments.
“Certainly, LA is a formidable opponent, and LA is a team that has done well in the MLS Cup," Schmid said. "I’m sure our paths will cross again before we get through with this.”
Seattle sometimes lacked that concentration the last three years, with big losses against the other top Western Conference teams in LA and Real Salt Lake, marring otherwise impressive regular seasons and knocking the Sounders out of the playoffs.
Now, despite a slight dip in form toward the end of this year, Schmid said his team finally has the consistency that should give them confidence and other teams pause heading into the playoffs.
“It doesn’t matter if you get your points early or you get your points late,” he said. “All that matters is the total points you have at the end of the day."
No team has ever won all three major trophies, but the Sounders are an MLS Cup away from becoming the first team to the treble.
“Our mantra this season was we were going to try and be greedy,” he said. “We’ve got one more thing to be the ultimate greedy people.”