GA Cup: Seattle Sounders become first MLS team to win Champions Division

FRISCO, Texas — The Seattle Sounders made history at the Generation adidas Cup on Saturday night, beating Valencia 1-0 in the Champions Division title game. They are the first MLS team to win the division under the current format.

After scoring six goals in the Sounders' first five games, Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez chased down a loose ball on the wing and found Ray Serrano with a cross to give the Sounders the lead late in the second half of extra time. It was Serrano's second goal of the tournament and Ocampo-Chavez's first assist.

"I saw Alfonso taking a touch out wide. Me and him have been playing with each other for years and we know each other’s movements, I yelled for it, he played me in and luckily I scored," Serrano told MLSsoccer.com after the match, holding the trophy he helped win. "It was a good chance for me because I saw [some space] between me and the center back. He was tall, but I got up there and won the header."

Both Serrano and Ocampo-Chavez are members of the Sounders' USL Championship side, the Tacoma Defiance.

Previous winners of the Champions Division include a couple of the most highly-regarded academies in the world: Flamengo (2018) and River Plate (2015-17). Seattle beat Flamengo 1-0 during the group stage, helping to ensure their place in the knockout round, and followed it up with a win against River Plate in the quarterfinals.

As expected, the first half of the final was a tight affair with chances at a premium for both sides. The Sounders would come closest to opening the scoring in the first 35 minutes as midfielder Daniel Robles struck the crossbar in the 20th minute after a scrum in the box. Alfonso Ocampo-Chavez was there to head in the rebound, but was denied by the linesman’s flag, as the prolific striker was judged offside.

The second half saw things completely open up as both Valencia and Seattle pushed forward with everything on the line. In the 54th minute, Valencia forward Ferran Giner thought he had given his side the lead, chasing down a cross and sending in an awkward, bouncing shot that beat Sounders goalkeeper Conrad Lee, only to carom off the post. 

Just a minute later, the action flipped to the other side of the pitch as Ocampo-Chavez chased down a long cross from Bryson Hankins, flicking the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper. With the goal at his mercy, Ocampo-Chavez, who had a relatively quiet game to that point after scoring the game-winner in all four of Seattle’s GA Cup wins, fired wide to keep the score level.

Valencia would again find the post in the 59th minute through substitute Francisco Perez Martinez, the last big chance of the match as the Champions Division Final finished goalless after 70 minutes of regular time, before heading to ten minutes of extratime, where Seattle would find their winner.

The Sounders and Valencia arrived in Saturday’s final with a combined 8-1-1 record throughout the tournament, with the only loss coming in Valencia’s 1-0 defeat of Seattle in the tournament’s first match, so it was tough to argue the two best teams wouldn't be facing off for the highly-coveted trophy.

"We suffered the first game and it hurt but we talked about identity and what we were here to do and achieve," coach Ryan Faithfull told MLSsoccer.com after the match. "We set some big goals for ourselves and we achieved all of them so we’re thrilled for that. I’m really proud of all the boys and all the staff and everyone back home as well. This team wasn’t just put together overnight, there are years and years of preparation put into the team from all the coaches at the Sounders, everyone deserves this."

The title is the Sounders' second at GA Cup as a club, as they won the Premier Division last year with many of the same players that took the trophy on Saturday night.

"It’s crazy because being on this team last year, we were the first Sounders team to win the Premier Division and then the first Sounders team to make it through the [U.S. Soccer Development Academy] Playoffs and now the first MLS team to win the Champions Division, it’s really unreal," center back Josh Atencio told MLSsoccer.com. "Beating teams like Valencia, Flamengo and River Plate who are superpowers in the world and for them to come to our home and us [to] represent and be the first MLS team to win against those sides, it’s crazy.”

Atencio, another member of the Defiance, put in a man-of-the-match performance at center back against Valencia. During the Sounders' run to the Premier Division title in 2018, Atencio played mostly as a defensive midfielder.

Ocampo-Chavez finished the tournament tied atop the Champions Division Golden Boot leaderboard with River Plate's Daniel Lucero. First-team member Danny Leyva won the Golden Ball, an award reserved for the best player in the Champions Division. The central midfielder was a constant presence in all aspects of the game for Faithfull's team throughout the tournament.

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