Seattle Sounders FC are a club of trophies. On Sunday, they will compete for another.
Once again, the Rave Green demonstrated their maturity and wisdom beyond their years. They didn’t hit full gear, but they managed the game. They made life difficult for a talented Inter Miami team with organized, smart and thoughtful play, buying time until a 37th-minute Miami red card provided an opening.
From there, the Sounders took over. Christopher Aquino scored the winner from the spot to cap what felt increasingly inevitable.
Antonio Herrera and Alexander Hall, once again, caused problems. Angel Martinez and Stuart Hawkins, once again, looked like 35-year-old Italian center backs.
It feels fitting that the Sounders won a GA Cup game on the same night that Danny Leyva and Josh Atencio, who played in the GA Cup final only three years ago, and Obed Vargas, who is still eligible for this GA Cup, all started for the Sounders first team game against Inter Miami at Lumen Field.
The cycle continues. Academy. First Team. Academy.
The Sounders will, once again, play for a trophy on Sunday.
Tigres 4, River Plate 2
In the other semifinal, continental giants met for a chance to face the Sounders in Sunday’s final. Both teams entered with a defensive reputation, and both teams shed the rep quickly.
Tigres scored early… only to be matched by a quick response from River Plate… only to be upped again by Tigres. All three goals came from similar floated crosses into the wind and clever finishes near the back post.
River Plate, three-time GA Cup champions, made Tigres work for it. But the Tigres front three — Diego Sanchez, Isac Galvan and Isias Galvan — were too good in transition.
It’s fitting that, two weeks before the Sounders play Liga MX competition for the Concacaf Champions League title, it will be an MLS vs. Liga MX matchup in the U-17 final at Generation adidas Cup.
Portland Timbers 2, Valencia 0
When asked at halftime how he felt about his team playing in the final of the 2022 U-15 Generation adidas Cup in FC Dallas' Toyota Stadium, Portland Timbers coach Fernando Pessoa kept it simple: “It’s beautiful.”
He didn’t know the full extent yet.
The Timbers battled through the first half. Valencia pushed them to the brink, carrying the play through the segment. Portland needed big saves from goalkeeper Keenan VanPelt and timely clearances from center backs Eli White and Max Schimke to stay alive. And they learned throughout the tournament that as long as they’re standing, they have a chance: Four comeback performances through seven matches, including an injury-time equalizer in the semifinal to advance.
The second half looked like a different game. Portland matched the La Liga giants across the field. They started to retain possession and press. Substitute Augie Hoelscher added a composure into midfield that lifted the group; Max Eisenberg inserted an energy that put Valencia’s defenders under constant stress. And then the moment came, first from a burst of energy:
Then the dagger from a pass that would make Diego Valeri blush:
Porto, Manchester United and Valencia are all international giants who fell to the Portland Timbers.
They demonstrated a resilience that would enthrall the Timbers Army, a craft that replicates the club legends, a unity worthy of a celebration.
For it, they are the 2022 Generation adidas Cup U15 Champions.
A beautiful ending to a beautiful occasion.