SEATTLE – Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders are now frequent MLS Cup foes, with Sunday’s final the third time they'll face off in the showpiece occasion in just four years (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN, TSN, TVAS).
But only one player likely to be involved Sunday will have experienced taking the field for an MLS Cup Final in Seattle. For TFC center back Omar Gonzalez, the memory of being part of the LA Galaxy lineup that faced Real Salt Lake at the neutral CenturyLink Field in 2009 is far from a fond one.
“When I think back to my rookie year, my first final, inexperience comes to mind,” the US men's national team veteran told reporters Thursday. “I remember being subbed off and things like that and then [Galaxy coach] Bruce [Arena] talking to me after the game like, 'You should never come off' and giving me a hard talking to.”
After being replaced in the 89th minute of that final, Gonzalez watched from the sidelines as the Galaxy were upset 5-4 on penalties by RSL.
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Fortunately for Gonzalez, it proved to be a rare disappointment during his seven years in Los Angeles. He'd go on to win three MLS Cup championships from 2011-14.
After three years in Mexico with Pachuca, he joined Toronto in July. And now he stands on the verge of being part of another MLS dynasty with a club going for its second MLS Cup title in three years.
At this juncture, Gonzalez sees plenty of commonalities between that Galaxy team and his current Toronto side.
“I think some of the similarities I see are just two great organizations from the front office all the way down,” he said. “That’s sort of the similarity I’ve seen first thing since I’ve gotten here, [it's] just there’s a good culture around these clubs.
“Obviously the players, very talented,” he continued. “Looking back at my Galaxy years, incredible players that I got to suit up with. And now that I’ve come here, [there are great] players that I got as teammates right now who have done a tremendous job getting to another MLS Cup Final.”
Gonzalez described the decision to move back to MLS with Toronto as a “no-brainer,” given the roster he'd be joining and their recent success.
“I spoke to a lot of people, good soundboards for me, who said that it was a great organization, a well-run club, a bunch of winners here and it’s a place that you would want to be,” he said. “So after taking a look at all those things, I decided to come. It’s been the best decision so far.”
Reflecting on where his first season ended a decade ago, Gonzalez, who declared himself fit after sitting out Toronto’s past three games in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs with a hamstring injury, is determined for things to end differently on Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to playing here again and hopefully winning this time, not like in ’09,” he said.