MLS final a result of underdogs coming through
The MLS Cup final is now set and we’re sure if we were to gather all the filled-out brackets, not many would have predicted this final. But after LAFC, New York City FC, and Atlanta United were all eliminated by one of our two finalists, there are no more clear favourites left to win the cup.
Instead, the final will be a familiar one, one we’ve seen in three of the last four years. Toronto FC will take on the Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on November 10 (TVA Sports, TSN), to determine the 2019 MLS Cup champion.
It may seem fitting that these teams both get another whack at each other after a year-long hiatus. After all, both have managed to best each other once in a final, so it’s only fitting for there to be a conclusion to the tale. Here’s how this final came to be.
Seattle upsets the “best team in league history™”
After New York City FC was unceremoniously ousted by Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it’s safe to say that we have our second upset of the 2019 MLS Cup playoffs in the books: the Seattle Sounders FC, against 6 to 1 odds, went to Banc of California Stadium as a serious underdog, yet emerged victorious at night’s end, booking its ticket to its third MLS Cup final in four years.
And honestly, without Raul Ruidiaz in the line-up, it may not have been possible. Other than scoring twice, including the third in the second half, and starting the play that led to Nicolas Lodeiro’s game-winning goal, the Peruvian was electric against LAFC, taking three of his team’s five shots on target.
On LAFC’s end, who would’ve thought that a lack of finishing would be their downfall? It’s not like they didn’t control play, finishing the night with 69% of possession, but Seattle proved that it can remain solid defensively, often getting the entire team into their own defensive third to congest space in front of the box.
Toronto edges out defending champions
Every game has a turning point, and this one took place in the 10th minute. After the hosts opened the scoring in the fourth minute by picking apart Toronto’s defense, a penalty called in favour of Atlanta in the 10th minute had us all saying the same thing: this one’s over quickly. With the defending champions riding a two-goal advantage at home, there’s no way they could lose this game.
But then, Josef Martinez fluffed his penalty and Quentin Westberg made the save from the spot. Four minutes later, Nicolas Benezet brought things level. And all of a sudden, we had ourselves a game.
It was a somewhat similar game to the one played out West: Atlanta dominated play most of the time, finished the night with 60% of possession, and tried 19 shots on goal to Toronto’s four, although just five made it on target. If Toronto proved one thing, it’s that it can be resilient, and it had to be defensively to keep Frank de Boer’s men off the scoresheet.
In the end, it was going to take something special to make the difference, and that something special came in the 78th minute.