SEATTLE — Seattle Sounders FC ran riot Thursday night. As a result, the Sounders get their shot at MLS history.
The Sounders will play for their second straight MLS Cup following a definitive 3-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship on Thursday at CenturyLink Field. Seattle won 5-0 on aggregate after winning the first leg 2-0 on Nov. 21 in Houston.
Three teams have won back-to-back MLS titles since the league began play in 1996. Seattle can now make it four. The Sounders face Toronto FC for the championship on Dec. 9 at BMO Field in Toronto in a rematch of last year’s final, which Seattle won on penalty kicks for the first title in franchise history.
“We had a motivated group,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said about repeating as Western Conference champions. “We had a veteran group. We had a team that during that long streak was able to manufacture points to get us into second, which was key. Then the two playoff series against two talented teams, I think what it comes down to is they want it. These players want another championship.”
Victor Rodriguez, Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin scored the goals for second-seeded Seattle, which further established its superiority over fourth-seeded Houston with its second comprehensive victory over the Dynamo in nine days.
“The energy in the building from the opening whistle was good,” Schmetzer said. “Houston came to play, and we were ready to play, so it was a good soccer game in the first 45 minutes. It was a great showcase for the Seattle Sounders.”
Seattle came out with one-touch passing full of flicks and flair, indicating the Sounders weren’t content to sit on their 2-0 lead from the first leg. Seattle looked dangerous every time it broke on the attack, and the Sounders cashed in at the 22-minute mark. Rodriguez fed Bruin at the top of the penalty box and continued to move diagonally. Bruin, on his second touch, slipped a pass through the defense and into the path of Rodriguez, who was free on goal. Rodriguez finished unerringly over onrushing Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis to make it 1-0.
That left Houston with a Herculean task to go through to the final, but the Dynamo had a couple chances late in the first half to make things interesting. However, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei twice came up big, making diving stops to deny Tomas Martinez to keep it 1-0 going into the second half.
If there were any doubts about whether the game would turn in the second half, the Sounders squelched those thoughts in the 57th minute. Once again Seattle broke forward, with Rodriguez finding Joevin Jones in space on the left. Jones slid a first-time pass across the box and into the path of Dempsey crashing at the far post, and Dempsey slid to redirect the ball into the goal and make it 2-0.
Houston’s frustrations boiled over in the 66th minute as Tomas Martinez, following a video review, was red carded for pushing Jordy Delem’s face into the turf. Seven minutes later Seattle put the final gloss on the game when substitute Harry Shipp played a perfect through ball for Bruin, who dinked the ball over Willis to make it 3-0.
Seattle played without key central defender Roman Torres. The Panamanian international was suspended because of yellow-card accumulation. With Torres out, Gustav Svensson slotted into defense from central midfield. … Seattle also had forward Jordan Morris available for the first time since Sept. 10. Morris, who has been dealing with a hamstring, was on the Sounders bench and came on for the final 15 minutes. … Houston was down two players because of suspension — key attacking force Alberth Elis also missed out through yellow-card accumulation, while Jalil Anibaba was out after being red carded in the first leg.