Back to Back Champs? Sounders Compete for MLS Cup

Gaby Thomas, Sports Writer

Last year was a roller coaster of a season for Seattle’s major league soccer team. The beginning of their season looked grim, as a string of losses seemed to put them out of playoff contention. But after a switch in coaching staff mid-July and a few growing pains later, the Sounders came storming back, cleaning up their record and eventually making it to the Western Conference Finals. They took down the Colorado Rapids, earning their first ever spot in the MLS Cup Final to face off against Toronto FC. The Sounders struggled through a scoreless game, but finally took home the MLS Cup title in penalty kicks for the first time since joining the league in 2009.

A year later, and with the the second-best record this season in the Western Conference behind only the Portland Timbers, the Sounders find themselves back in the MLS Cup final to once again take on Toronto FC. Unlike the scramble the team underwent in 2016, the Sounders have had cleaner path to the playoffs, currently flashing a 14-11-9 win-draw-loss record, forfeiting fewer early season defeats as opposed to their previous season.

Their strength early on landed them a spot in the Western Conference Semifinals, where they faced off in two games against the Vancouver Whitecaps. After the first game ended in a scoreless draw, the Sounders came back to defeat the Whitecaps in a 2-0 shutout. The Sounders continued to keep their net clear, charging into the MLS Cup Finals after defeating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 and 3-0 in the first and second legs of the Western Conference Finals.  

The prospect of clenching the MLS Cup weighs heavy on both teams, as they find themselves back in the same whirlwind of excitement that occurred a year prior. Both teams have their fare share of injuries tainting their rosters, while also feeling the pressures of making history. Toronto FC’s win would earn them the domestic treble of the Supporters’ Shield, Canadian Championship/US Open Cup and MLS Cup, making them the first MLS team to do as such in U.S. soccer history. The Sounders, who narrowly escaped with a victory last year, have the chance to win a second consecutive title, joining only the ranks of DC United, Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy in achievement of this feat.

While Toronto is the favored team to win this year, Seattle has updated their roster from last year with the return of U.S. soccer legend Clint Dempsey from injury and the addition of former Dynamo forward Will Bruin. Toronto also fronts a strong roster, including three players—forward Sebastian Giovinco, midfielder Victor Vasquez and defender Justin Morrow—who were named to the MLS Best XI team. The 2017 MLS Cup Final will play out on December 9 at 4:00 p.m., with Toronto FC hosting the Sounders at BMO Field in their home city of Toronto. With all the excitement that a rematch entails and the prospects that the MLS title holds, the game is shaping up to be an action-packed face off between these two powerhouse teams.