It was an impressive collective effort from Brian Schmetzer's men, but one name rose above all others over the two-legged final as Nicolas Lodeiro led the way to the title with two goals in Mexico and one more at home.
“Nico Lodeiro, man, is the greatest Sounder of all time,” said Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey on Extratime after the game. “Set in stone. Hands down.”
It's difficult to argue with the statement, looking at what the Sounders have accomplished since the Uruguayan midfielder arrived in 2016 from Boca Juniors as a Designated Player. With Lodeiro leading the team, the Sounders have made the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs every season (now 13 straight), winning MLS Cup twice and being the runner-up twice.
After securing the title no MLS club has won before in the current format of the Concacaf Champions League, the claim that Lodeiro is the best signing in league history has only strengthened.
“He’s going to be up there for sure,” said head coach Brian Schmetzer after the game. “In the NFL they have the franchise players. I call Nico a franchise player.”
For Lodeiro, his performance over the two legs of the final against Pumas represented vindication. The 33-year-old came into the 2022 season dealing with injuries and his presence on the pitch wasn’t felt until only recently.
“I never gave up,” said Lodeiro. “I prepared for this, and it truly is a relief. I dedicate this win to my family, my wife and my two children. They had patience with me and supported me.”
After winning two titles domestically under Schmetzer, the Sounders made a conscious effort to focus on their Champions League run, including placing the start of the MLS season as a lower priority, a move Lodeiro got fully behind.
“We won in MLS and we compete every year there, but we were missing this title,” he explained. “It’s something we were working on and it means a lot to get it. It’s the icing on the cake.”
Lodeiro, along with Raul Ruidiaz, who scored twice on Wednesday, and Jordan Morris, was substituted in the dying moments of the match when the game was fully out of reach for the opposition. The three players were greeted by a thundering standing ovation from the record-breaking crowd of 68,741 at Lumen Field.
“It’s an enormous happiness. We deserve this title,” said Lodeiro. “This city, this club, this league, they all deserved a continental title, and we got it. We deserved it more than anyone.”
For Schmetzer, it was the perfect way to wrap up their historic run in the competition.
“I hugged all my players when they came off the field,” he said. “But look, I was just happy that the game kind of unfolded to give me an opportunity to give those three players their due.”