The Seattle Sounders advanced to a second straight MLS Cup final against Toronto FC on Thursday night with a 3-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo, winning the Western Conference title on a 5-0 aggregate score.
Víctor Rodríguez scored in the first half off a nifty pass from Will Bruin, and Clint Dempsey put the tie away with a second-half finish. Bruin added another off a fine feed from Harry Shipp after Houston’s Tomás Martínez had been sent off (harshly) for violent conduct using Video Review. The Sounders extended their MLS-record playoff shutout streak to 647 minutes and will return to the site of their title triumph with plenty of momentum.
Here are three thoughts on the game, and the Dec. 9 championship rematch:
Seattle never gave Houston hope
In control after a 2-0 away win in Houston, the Sounders never gave the Dynamo an opening in this game to believe it could mount a comeback. Facing his old team, Bruin was terrific for the second straight game, playing the set-up role on the opening goal and finishing himself for the third. Joevin Jones was effective again, this time in a left midfield role, getting forward regularly and providing a perfect assist to Dempsey.
Meanwhile, Dempsey came to play and continued his solid playoff form, boosting a consistent Seattle effort and showing that he wants to have a big role in winning an MLS title. That is something he didn’t have the opportunity to provide a year ago when he was out with a heart ailment.
Introducing SPORTS ILLUSTRATED TV, your new home for classic sports movies, award-winning documentaries and original sports programming such as Planet Futbol TV, SI TV’s weekly soccer show. Start your seven-day free trial now on Amazon Channels.
The Sounders are getting healthier at the right time
Jordan Morris made his long-awaited return to the field in the second half, which should give Seattle fans some additional hope in the final. Also, goalkeeper Stefan Frei came back to play—and performed well—after missing the first leg against Houston with an ailment. Seattle, boosted by a number of acquisitions, has developed exemplary depth, which has made its absences less debilitating, but it still helps to be close to full strength, especially when going up against one of the best teams MLS has ever seen.
After serving a yellow-card suspension on Thursday, Román Torres will be set to return for the final, and he and Chad Marshall have been a tremendous central defense pairing when both have been healthy. One big question will be whether Osvaldo Alonso will get healthy enough in time to make a return.
This Toronto-Seattle final has to be better than last year’s
It would be hard to be much worse than the 2016 final, in which Seattle prevailed on penalties after a 0-0 game in which the Sounders had zero shots on goal. Yes, it will be cold again in Toronto, and yes, Seattle will probably play in a slightly defensive posture on the road, but these teams are the best in MLS, featuring rosters laden with talent, and it would be hard to imagine a game in which scoring chances wouldn’t be created by both sides.
We have entered the Toronto-Seattle Era in MLS, and these are two teams deserving of meeting each other in the final for the second straight time. If Toronto wins, it will stake a claim to being the best team in the history of MLS and will become the first to win an MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield, domestic cup (U.S. Open Cup or Canadian Championship) treble. But if Seattle wins, it will raise the MLS Cup trophy for the second straight time, becoming just the fourth team to accomplish that feat.