TORONTO – Consider the regular season of the Seattle Sounders, the new MLS Cup champions:
• It started with them being pegged as one of the favorites to win MLS Cup, having added Jordan Morris to an already excellent team. But then Obafemi Martins got a gigantic offer from China right before the season and, all of a sudden, Seattle were without their best player.
• The Sounders still should have been OK, but they weren’t. In fact, they were downright dreadful. So dreadful that they had to fire the only manager they’d ever had, Sigi Schmid, in July because they were one of the worst teams in the league.
• With Brian Schmetzer taking over as interim manager, the Sounders looked like an afterthought, even with the addition of Nicolas Lodeiro and the return of Roman Torres from injury.
• Clint Dempsey was ruled out for the season in August with a heart condition.
Lodeiro turned into the best player in MLS and the Sounders went 12-3-4 after firing Schmid to make it to the final.
Basically, the Sounders had no business making MLS Cup. And yet there they were, into Saturday’s match. But they were on the road, playing an excellent Toronto FC team and, frankly, were dreadful in the final. They became the first team in the history of the league’s title match to fail to register a shot on goal.
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So in the most unlikely of seasons, one in which they were favored then left for dead, then fired their coach midseason, then ran through the playoff despite having just the seventh best record in MLS, of course they managed to win despite not taking a single shot on goal.
Who cares if the 120 minutes before it were awful and they did nothing that would indicate they were a championship team? For most of the season, the Sounders didn’t look like a playoff team, let alone a championship one.
And yet there the Sounders were, standing atop the podium and lifting the MLS Cup in Toronto on Saturday.
As bizarre as the whole season was, and that they won the title, it kind of fits with the history of the club. After all, they were an expansion team hoping to draw 20,000 fans in 2009 and immediately had the demand for 40,000 fans every game. They changed the way the league operated, and certainly how expansion teams operated. But more than that — they won.
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The reason Schmid was the team’s only manager until July was he got results. In the team’s first seven years, they won four U.S. Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. They were contenders for MLS Cup every year. They were arguably the second-best team (after the LA Galaxy) in the seven-year span. They should have won an MLS Cup in that time. They were downright good and, for lack of a better term, deserved it.
But they didn’t win an MLS Cup. It didn’t matter how good they were, what they deserved or anything else. They were the biggest club in the league and they didn’t have the league’s ultimate prize.
So now, in almost undoubtedly the worst season in the club’s history, they go out and win MLS Cup. They do it without Martins, after firing Schmid midseason, having been left for dead, after Dempsey was sidelined and without registering a single shot on goal in the final.