SEATTLE (AP)For many years, the Seattle Sounders talked of wanting to be the first team from Major League Soccer to be crowned the club champions of CONCACAF, only to stumble along the way to accomplishing their goal.
It was finally achieved Wednesday night, adding another triumph to Seattle’s list of titles in record fashion.
Raul Ruidiaz scored on a deflected shot late in the first half, added a second goal off a perfect counter attack in the 80th minute and the Seattle Sounders beat Pumas 3-0 to win the CONCACAF Champions League title.
The Sounders became the first team from MLS to claim the championship of club teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean since the current format was adopted in 2008. Seattle was the fifth MLS team to reach the final and the first to finish the task.
”These are precious, precious moments. And then when you missed the opportunity a few times, you don’t want to do it too often,” Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. ”So I’m really happy we’re able to take care of this today and write history.
Nicolas Lodeiro added a final punctuation in the 88th minute with his third goal of the final after he scored both Seattle goals on penalty kicks in the first leg last week in Mexico City when the sides played to a 2-2 draw. The title earned Seattle a spot in the FIFA Club World Cup and added to an already filled trophy case that includes U.S. Open Cup titles, a MLS Supporters’ Shield and two MLS Cup titles.
Officially, Seattle won the two-leg final 5-2. But with away goals not a tiebreaker in the final, whoever won the second leg in Seattle outright would be the champion.
”I am very frustrated and I am very proud of our team,” Pumas coach Andres Lillini said. ”We left everything on this field.”
Ruidiaz provided Seattle the lead in the 45th minute. His shot inside the penalty area deflected off Pumas’ forward Diogo and caught goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera moving the wrong direction. It set off a celebration with most of the record crowd of 68,761 cheering wildly enough to give Lumen Field a shake.
It was the largest crowd to ever attend a match in any round of the CCL. And they roared again after the second goal. Precise passes from Alex Roldan to Jordan Morris to Lodeiro and then Ruidiaz left the striker in perfect position to beat Talavera.
”It was a great team goal. We knew those spaces were going to open up a bit when they were pushing,” Morris said.
Lodeiro’s goal just added to the party and the 3-0 win was the largest margin of victory in any CCL final match.
The sides were even at 2-2 after a wild first leg. Pumas took a 2-0 lead thanks to a pair of goals from Juan Dinenno, the top scorer in the tournament. Seattle rallied behind two penalty kick goals from Lodeiro to draw level and simplify the second leg. The second of Lodeiro’s two goals in Mexico City came in the ninth minute of stoppage time.
But Dinenno was mostly quiet in the second leg. His best chance was a free kick midway through the second half that missed the net. Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei made a terrific save on Diogo’s free header in the 65th minute.
Frei was named the overall player of the tournament. Seattle also played short-handed after Nouhou Tolo and Joao Paulo were subbed off with injuries inside the first 30 minutes. Seattle is concerned Paulo tore the ACL in his right knee.
”It’s been a team effort to push us over the line,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. ”Again, I can’t understate it, this is a hard tournament to win.”
Seattle managed to finish where Real Salt Lake (2011), Montreal (2015), Toronto (2018) and LAFC (2020) fell short in the past as MLS teams that reached the final. Real Salt Lake and Montreal both returned home after pulling off draws on the road against LigaMX opponents, only to be defeated on their home turf.
Seattle finished the tournament unbeaten in all eight matches of the knockout stage and went 2-0-2 against LigaMX clubs after beating out Leon in the quarterfinals.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports