After languishing near the bottom of the Western Conference for nearly 2/3 of the MLS regular season, the Seattle Sounders have clinched a berth in the MLS Cup Final following their 3-1 aggregate victory over the Colorado Rapids in the conference final. It’s a remarkable revival fueled by then-interim coach Brian Schmetzer and midseason signing Nicolas Lodeiro.
The Sounders will host MLS Cup if the Montreal Impact defeat Toronto FC, while they will travel to BMO Field if TFC win. The final is December 10th at 8:00et on Fox and Unimas.
Here are some of my thoughts on the Seattle-Colorado second leg:
- Both teams sent out attacking lineups
The Rapids — playing at home down on aggregate 2-1 — could advance with a 1-0 win. If the Sounders were to score one goal, they would need two goals to send it to extra time and three to win. They, like Seattle, put out a starting XI that signified their attacking intent.
The visitors put Nicolas Lodeiro in center attacking midfield — rather than on the wing, as they had in previous games — with two attacking options (Andreas Ivanschitz and Jordan Morris) on either side of him. Colorado, meanwhile, stuck with Jermaine Jones in the No. 10 role despite starting No. 6 Sam Cronin’s yellow-card suspension, playing without a true defensive midfielder.
Both of these lineups seemed ambitious and attack-oriented, but the actual game played out much differently. It was a dull affair from minute one, as neither team was able to produce much of anything on goal. The Rapids didn’t hit the target once and the Sounders put just three shots on goal, one of which was Morris’s goal and the other was from beyond midfield.
It was a classic Rapids home game, minus the result.
- A gutsy performance from Jordan Morris
It was reported by ESPN before this game that the Sounders’ Morris had spent the previous 48 hours on bed-rest with an illness. He started and played 90 minutes, though, despite the altitude and the sickness that reportedly has hampered him over the past couple of days.
In addition to this, he came up hobbling multiple times during the game after collisions with defenders, most notably on his goal in the 56th minute, when he collided with on-rushing goalkeeper Zac MacMath. When the final whistle blew, he looked absolutely exhausted, limping over to the bench with a weary look on his face.
Morris put in a tough performance, and the Rookie of the Year will lead the Sounders into the MLS Cup final thanks in large part to his huge goal.
- Rapids couldn’t find the final touch
Both clubs wanted to attack, but it was the Rapids who were able to get forward and create opportunities on goal. They played narrow, as they usually do, and they played high, centered around the actions of Jones. Seattle, pressed and counter-pressed more than they expected, struggled with their deep distribution to Lodeiro and other attackers.
That is why the Sounders waited until the 50th minute for a real shot attempt. Meanwhile, fueled by their energetic-yet-organized approach, the Rapids buzzed around the field, firing off countless shots at Stefan Frei.
The problem was, not a single one of them actually tested Frei. Not one of their 16 shots. That’s unprecedented.
Colorado’s 16 shots without putting one on target are the most by any team ever in an @MLS game (regular season or playoffs).
— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) November 27, 2016
If you don’t put a shot on goal, you’re not going to score one. And so the Rapids lost 1-0.