COMMERCE CITY, Colo.—As recently as mid-July, the prospect of that elusive first MLS Cup appearance seemed like a pipe dream for the Seattle Sounders.
Now, it's reality.
Rookie forward Jordan Morris netted a back-breaking tally in the 56th minute of the second leg of Seattle's Western Conference Championship against the Colorado Rapids, giving the Sounders a 1-0 victory – and a 3-1 aggregate triumph – at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Sunday.
The result is the historic accomplishment of the franchise's first conference title, a milestone that Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan described as especially sweet given the roller coaster of a season his team has endured – whether it was the 6-12-2 start, which led to the departure of iconic head coach Sigi Schmid, or the loss of star forward Clint Dempsey, who was lost for the season in September with an irregular heartbeat.
"This is awesome," Roldan said. "It's a first for our city, a first for our team. We did everything possible to get here through the [ups and downs]. We had a lot of lows this year. We were last place in July. Now we're in the final."
The mood in Seattle's postgame locker room was expectedly jubilant. But there was also the prevailing sentiment that there is unfinished business that lies ahead in the MLS Cup final, in which the Sounders take on either Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact.
At his postgame press conference, a visibly emotional head coach Brian Schmetzer touched on exactly that.
"I'll take Ozzie [Alonso's] words: We're not finished yet," Schmetzer said. "The second part of that is that I'm very proud of this franchise. The fans deserve that. They deserve it."
Even so, Schmetzer acknowledged the historical context; he has been affiliated with the club since his days as a player in the 1980s.
"The significance of this is that's it's now. We are creating these moments now," Schmetzer said. "The moment that we've created for the 200-plus [traveling] fans that drove or flew all the way here to Colorado over a holiday weekend, the 40,000-plus fans we have every [weekend] at every home match, it's very significant. It's significant to the fans that were watching us in Memorial Stadium back in the '70s.
"It's another chapter. But, again, we're not finished yet. But we have to make sure all of this culminates with something really big. Really great. A really special moment that people will talk about for many years."