Sounders players kick a ball around during a practice session on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. (Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Sounders players kick a ball around during a practice session on Friday in Columbus, Ohio. (Barbara J. Perenic/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Sounders seeking 3rd title in 5 years facing Crew in MLS Cup

Columbus will be without two key starters in Saturday’s match due to positive COVID-19 tests.

  • By TIM BOOTH AP Sports Writer
  • Friday, December 11, 2020 6:32pm
  • SportsSounders

By Tim Booth / Associated Press

Having played in three of the previous four MLS Cup finals, the Seattle Sounders know what to expect on this stage.

The difference this time around? The opponent won’t be wearing red.

“Well, we’re not playing Toronto for one,” Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “That is a bit strange.”

The Sounders will attempt to win their third title in the past five seasons on Saturday night when they face the Columbus Crew in Ohio. An unpredictable season that began in late February will end with two of the most consistent teams through all the chaos playing for the title.

Along the way, Seattle and Columbus navigated a three-month league stoppage, a tournament in Florida, the restart of games in home markets and finally the playoffs.

It’s been a season defined by the COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes and hardships caused by the virus. Even the final match of the year will be impacted by COVID-19 as Columbus will play without starting midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos after both tested positive this week.

Columbus coach Caleb Porter said he learned during the middle of practice Thursday that the Crew would be down both players.

“I just feel for them,” Porter said. “Obviously, they’re healthy, so that’s first and foremost the most important thing. But I just feel for them on a personal level, a human level that they can’t be a part of an MLS Cup that they so deserve to be a part of. A big reason we’re here in this position is those two guys.”

Seattle is trying to become the league’s first repeat champion since the LA Galaxy in 2011-12. Seattle had the chance to repeat three years ago in Toronto but fell short against a superior side. Still, Seattle is the first team since D.C. United in the infancy of MLS to reach four finals in five seasons at a time when there are more teams and more talent than at any point in the league’s 25 seasons.

In a league built for parity, Seattle has deftly maneuvered its way to becoming an elite team. And while there’s been some significant luck and good fortune along the way, even entertaining the idea of being called a dynasty only comes through capitalizing on those opportunities.

“The players don’t think about it too much. It’s not something we’ve talked about a ton. Our whole focus is not what we’ve done in the past, but what we are going to do this week because none of that matters,” Seattle’s Jordan Morris said. “It’s all about stepping out on the field and trying to win this game, and then after the game you can discuss that.”

It’s been 12 years since the Crew won the only MLS title in the club’s history. They nearly claimed the title in 2015, only to watch Porter raise the championship trophy as the coach of the Portland Timbers.

Considering that just a couple of years ago the Crew seemed destined to leave Columbus, playing for the title now in Porter’s second year in charge is a remarkable turnaround.

“One thing I always praise Caleb about is the psychology aspect of the game, having the right mentality,” Crew forward Gyasi Zardes said. “We set goals early on in the beginning of this year and we’ve looked to achieve them and accomplish them, and as crazy as this year has been, he’s kept us focused and just really kept us honest as far as trying to achieve those goals.”

While it seems ages ago, Seattle and Columbus faced off once this season. The sides met March 7 in the final weekend of league play prior to the league’s pandemic-induced shutdown. At the time, Seattle was the epicenter of the virus outbreak in the United States, but the match went on as scheduled and finished in a 1-1 draw.

“It’s been a strange year. I’m excited to finally be able to relax at some point,” Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “But it sure would make it nicer to be able to do so with a trophy under our belt.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Jackson’s Yanina Sherwood pitches during the game against Glacier Peak on Thursday, April 28, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Prep softball preview: 5 things to watch this season

A look at the top local storylines to keep an eye on this high school softball season.

Archbishop Murphy’s Sean Balen (7) kicks the ball during a boys soccer match between Archbishop Murphy and Edmonds-Woodway at Edmonds-Wooday High School in Edmonds, Washington on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. Edmonds-Woodway won, 4-1. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
GALLERY: E-W boys soccer downs Murphy, stays unbeaten

The Warriors storm to a 4-1 win and claim their fifth straight victory in league play.

Washington’s Jayden White, an Everett High School alum, broke his own school record in the weight throw at the Husky Classic on Feb. 12, 2022, in Seattle. (Red Box Pictures)
Community roundup: Roe, White earn All-America nods again

Plus, Jackson alum Justin Limberg places at the D-III men’s swimming nationals, two Silvertips are named all-stars and much more.

Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodriguez signs autographs before playing the Detroit Tigers in a baseball game, Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
It’s Julio Rodriguez’s world, we are just living in it

Everyone wants a piece of the Mariners’ — and baseball’s — newest superstar.

Prep roundup for Tuesday, March 28

Prep roundup for Tuesday, March 28: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for March 20-26

The Athlete of the Week nominees for March 20-26. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais pauses in the dugout prior to a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Sunday, March 5, 2023, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Mariners finalize 26-man roster before opening day

Seattle will go with no left-handers in the bullpen to open the season.

Prep roundup for Monday, March 27

Prep roundup for Monday, March 27: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner (45) waves to fans after an overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks during in an NFL football game Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Bobby Wagner returning to Seahawks on 1-year deal

The former Seattle star is reportedly heading back to the Pacific Northwest.

Most Read