Football Features

Seattle Sounders 3-1 Toronto FC: “Mr Play-offs” Ruidiaz strikes again in MLS Cup win

By CJ Smith


Published: 22:22, 10 November 2019

Seattle Sounders are 2019 MLS Cup champions after beating Toronto FC 3-1 at CenturyLink Field on Sunday.

This was the third time in four years that these two sides had battled it out for Major League Soccer’s biggest prize and this time it was the Sounders who came away victorious after goals from Kelvin Leerdam, Victor Rodriguez and Raul Ruidiaz.

Jozy Altidore came off the bench to pull one back late on for Toronto but by then, the damage had already been done and the Sounders weren’t to be denied.

Here are the big winners and losers from the 2019 MLS Cup final.

Winner: Brian Schmetzer

With two MLS Cup titles under his belt, surely this is the time where Brian Schmetzer is going to be taken seriously and get the credit he deserves as a superb tactician.

The 57-year-old has the Sounders playing some scintillating counter-attacking football and although their 2019 regular season wasn’t quite ‘vintage’, they’ve always looked a threat.

In the play-offs, they managed to dig in and beat FC Dallas 4-3 in what was one of the most entertaining games you’ll ever see, then went to Real Salt Lake and won a tight and technical affair thanks to Schmezter’s supreme tactical acumen.

Then came LAFC. The Supporters’ Shield winners and apparent “best-ever team in MLS history”. Once again, Schmetzer got it absolutely spot on, crucifying Bob Bradley’s side on the break and pulling off one of the biggest shocks we’ve seen in recent play-off history to beat the Black and Gold 3-1 in Los Angeles.

Ironically, Sunday’s performance to beat Toronto was arguably their worst of the 2019 play-offs but, again, Schmetzer’s men had enough in the tank and always had that menace about them. It’s no coincidence that it was a Schmetzer substitution, Rodriguez, who grabbed the clinching second goal.

Loser: Justin Morrow

This is Justin Morrow’s sixth year with Toronto, in which time he’s experienced all the highs of their 2017 MLS Cup win, and all the lows of their 2016 defeat. Sunday’s match will definitely take its place alongside the latter after he deflected a wayward Leerdam shot beyond the wrong-footed Quentin Westberg and into the net.

You can’t lay any blame on the USA international – the likes of Nicolas Benezet and Chris Mavinga should have stood their ground and done far better – but it’s a horror moment in a huge final for a player that really has given everything for this club over the years.

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Winner: Victor Rodriguez

Schmetzer’s decision to bring Rodriguez on in the 61st minute having just taken the lead was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser at the time but it didn’t take long for the Spaniard to prove his manager right, and how.

Just 15 minutes after entering the pitch, Rodriguez took the ball in the half-space before driving inside onto his right foot and curling a beautiful shot around Omar Gonzalez and beyond Westberg to all but secure MLS Cup for the Sounders.

Rodriguez has had to make do with a bit-part role this season and that’s actually his first goal since June, but what a time to get it. He won’t care one bit about his regular-season stats now after writing his name into Sounders folklore.

Winner: Raul Ruidiaz

Ruidiaz has been inspirational for the Sounders during this play-off run but on the day of MLS Cup itself, he looked a little off the pace in front of goal. The Peruvian was still his usual combative self and was doing a decent job in linking up with his fellow attackers but, for some reason, he just couldn’t find his eye in front of goal.

But if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Ruidiaz and this Sounders team as a whole, it’s that you just cannot switch off for a single second.

A routine long ball looked to have been dealt with by Mavinga but the Toronto centre-back made a real mess of it and allowed Ruidiaz to race in on goal. The 29-year-old eyed up Westberg one-on-one and after failing to truly test the goalkeeper throughout the rest of the match, made no mistake in firing home to make it 3-0. After not scoring since September, Ruidiaz managed four goals and three assists in Seattle’s four post-season games. Mr Play-offs!

Loser: Chris Mavinga

Had Toronto not been chasing the game, Mavinga likely wouldn’t have been on the pitch after struggling with a knock to the shin sustained in a challenge on Kim Kee-hee. Such was Greg Vanney’s plight, though, he just couldn’t afford to use one of his substitutions on a defender.

This came back to haunt the Canadian side massively, though, as Mavinga made an absolute mess of a simple long ball down the middle, allowing Ruidiaz to pounce and make it 3-0, snuffing out whatever hope Toronto had of forcing a comeback.

It’s hard to blame Mavinga given that he was soldiering on for his team, nor can you criticise Vanney for wanting to use his bench to inspire some attacking change, but therein lies the beauty of hindsight.

Winner: Michael Bradley

Toronto were unable to lift MLS Cup on Sunday but that certainly wasn’t for the want of trying on Michael Bradley’s behalf.

The 32-year-old has come in for some real stick among USMNT circles in recent years and, yes, maybe he is starting to head over the hill and leave the peak of his career behind.

On Sunday, though, he was outstanding. Bradley ended the match with three tackles, five clearances and two interceptions and did a fantastic job of shielding his defence against that Sounders counter-attack, while he had 80 touches of the ball and made 54 successful passes. Even with all that defensive work to do, Bradley never shied away from taking on possession to get Toronto playing.

It will be a painful few days for Bradley but he can, at least, take solace in another big performance in a massive game for Toronto. It’s just a shame his teammates weren’t able to match those high standards.

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