SEATTLE – With their ticket to a second-straight MLS Cup officially punched, it’s déjà vu for the Seattle Sounders.
Thursday’s 3-0 triumph and 5-0 aggregate victory over the Houston Dynamo in the Western Conference Championship means the Sounders will once again head to BMO Field for the 2017 MLS Cup, where they’ll take on Toronto FC – the same team they topped in penalty kicks a season ago to bag their first-ever championship.
It pits them against an opponent that isn’t just good, they were historically good. TFC are coming off a dominant regular season that saw them run away with the Supporters’ Shield with a league-record 69 points.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer says his team knows all of that. But given how his team has glided through the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, scoring seven goals and conceding none, Schmetzer also said his team has every reason to feel confident they can go to BMO and get another result.
“That was Ozzie [Alonso’s] term last year, that we’re not finished yet,” a champagne-soaked Schmetzer told reporters following Thursday’s romp over Houston. “Defend our Cup, whatever the phrases are, I think the mood in that locker room – it’s a confident team and it’s a team that’s not finished with defending our Cup. That’s basically it. They’re a proud group of guys, they work hard, they work smart.
“[Assistant coaches] Djimi [Traore] and Gonzo [Pineda] had already written up Toronto’s lineup in the coach’s office in there and they were already started to go to work.”
Forward Jordan Morris -- who made his first appearance in over two months on Thursday after straining his hamstring in September -- said his focus is on soaking in his second conference championship in two years, but that he and his teammates are keenly aware of the challenges of replicating the momentous feat they pulled off a season ago.
“I’m just enjoying this moment right now but obviously a rematch of last year, it’s going to be a great game,” Morris said. “They’re a very good team and they’re going to be out for some revenge, for sure. It’ll be a tough game and hopefully we can go there and do what we did last year.”
TFC is certainly a different animal than they were last year. But with a locked in defense that hasn’t conceded a postseason goal in 647 minutes and an attack that is firing on all cylinders, the same could be said for Seattle.
It’s just about keeping those positives vibes going.
“I think it comes down to the players just want it. I think they want another championship,” Schmetzer said. “I know [Clint] Dempsey is super, super motivated. I know Roman [Torres] and Nico [Lodeiro] and Ozzie and all the guys who were here last year, they’re super motivated.
“I think the group is ready to compete for another championship."