Mark it down: The Seattle Sounders are your 2019 MLS Cup champions.
They had to work for it in a tightly-contested rematch with Toronto FC – their third championship meeting in four years – but the Sounders took the rubber match 3-1 thanks to a 57th-minute winner from unlikely hero Kelvin Leerdam and beautiful insurance goals from Victor Rodriguez and Raul Ruidiaz. Jozy Altidore added a consolation goal for Toronto in stoppage time.
The opening goal came somewhat against the run of play, as Ruidiaz switched the ball right to an isolated Leerdam, who evaded a challenge before firing in a shot that ricocheted off two TFC defenders and into the net. It was Seattle's first goal in their three MLS Cup appearances, and took the air out of a Toronto team that up until that point had looked more dangerous.
The visiting Reds certainly had the better of a back-and-forth first half, enjoying nearly two-thirds of the ball in the opening 45 and creating a number of dangerous opportunities. The first clear chance of the game came in the 11th minute as a quick take from Jonathan Osorio went straight into Stefan Frei's arms. The Seattle goalkeeper’s best moment came in the 36th minute, though, as he got down well to get a firm left hand to Nicolas Benezet’s low shot.
Seattle weren’t without their own looks in the first half, as Roman Torres put a good chance from a corner kick over the bar in the 21st minute. Ruidiaz then had his team's best chance of the half just before the whistle, sneaking in behind Omar Gonzalez only to see his 1v1 effort well-saved by Quentin Westberg.
The home team was clearly buoyed by Leerdam's goal just before the hour mark, which changed the complexion of the game. Even Altidore's introduction as a substitute in the 68th minute – his first playoff minutes since suffering a hamstring injury – wasn't enough to slow down the Sounders.
The home side was able to ice the game and send most of the 69,724 fans in attendance into party mode when Rodriguez buried an exquisite layoff from Nicolas Lodeiro in the 76th minute, while Ruidiaz added the third with a sublime chip of Westberg in the 90th minute, with Toronto pushing hard for a way back into the game.
- 57' – SEA – Kelvin Leerdam | WATCH
- 76' – SEA – Victor Rodriguez | WATCH
- 90' – SEA – Raul Ruidiaz | WATCH
- 90+3' – TOR – Jozy Altidore | WATCH
$40,000 was contributed to the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund.
- THE BIG PICTURE: By and large, they've done it the hard way, but the results are impossible to argue with. Seattle are MLS champions for the second time in four years, a result – along with a host of U.S. Open Cup success – puts them firmly in the conversation as one of the best MLS teams of the 2010s. It's also a second MLS Cup win for Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer; many made the case before the game that his role in Seattle's success has not been talked about enough, but this result will surely cement his place in the MLS coaching pantheon. It's a bitter pill to swallow for TFC, whose fans will argue they were the better team for the first hour of the game, but credit is still due for a strong run that saw them knock off the top two seeds in their conference, in no small part to an excellent coaching job from Greg Vanney.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Leerdam's goal had an element (or two) of good fortune to it, but when your team hasn't scored in 267 minutes of MLS Cup play, you'll take it by hook or by crook. The goal was a gut punch to what had been, to that point, a superior Toronto team, and they were unable to muster a response.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: The unsung hero on the day – as he has been for much of his time in Rave Green – was Gustav Svensson, who shined in the second half. His two assists spoke to his offensive contributions but it was his composed play on both sides of the ball that earns him this honor.