The Seattle Sounders have found themselves back in the MLS Cup Final in 2020, marking the fourth appearance in the final in the past five seasons. Now the goal for Brian Schmetzer’s group will be to cap off a crazy year by claiming a second-straight MLS Cup title, months after COVID-19 threatened to end their hopes of reaching that goal.
Seattle comes into Mafpre Stadium on Saturday night as the slight favorites over the Columbus Crew, looking to win a third MLS Cup title in the past five seasons. Despite a slim 1-0 win over FC Dallas and needing three late goals to down Minnesota United 3-2, the Sounders are back and eager to show why they’ve been a mainstay over the past few seasons.
“It’s been a crazy year and I think we were talking as a team and Nico [Lodeiro] told us all lets cap this crazy year off with one more good performance,” Sounders winger Jordan Morris said. “It’s been a tough year for everyone and so I think for us to be here is super special, it’s a bright moment in this year which has been super stressful. We’re going to go out and try and win it all, but we know what a good opponent we have across from us.”
“My strength for this game is to maintain focus and motivation,” said midfielder and captain Nicolas Lodeiro. “It’s not just the 11 who start, but also we have a good group, including the guys coming on in the second half. It’s about incentivizing them to enjoy these moments. We don’t always play these types of games, these types of finals. It’s about keeping the team united regardless of what happens. I always think to help the team to make everybody give their best.”
The Sounders have shown off their depth in the playoffs so far, seeing six different players score goals in their three wins. Not only has the team flexed its muscles offensively, but they’ve been able to show a never-say-die attitude at Lumen Field with no fans in attendance.
In addition, Stefan Frei has excelled in past MLS Cup Finals for the Sounders while players like Cristian Roldan, Joevin Jones, and Nouhou Tolo have all been in this situation before for the club. Despite some hiccups in the regular season against rivals Portland and LAFC, the Sounders have shown up in crunch time.
“When you look at their roster, you look at their talent, look at their locker room, look at their coach, look at [General Manager and President of Soccer] Garth Lagerwey: There’s no coincidence why [the Sounders have] done as well as they’ve done,” said Crew head coach Caleb Porter. “It’s going to be a really exciting game. I told the guys I wouldn’t want it any different. If we’re going to win a championship on our home field, I want to do it against the best team. Certainly, the Seattle Sounders are the best team, hopefully next to us.”
Saturday’s showdown will feature some of the top players from the 2020 MLS season including MLS Best XI selections Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz for Seattle, and Gyasi Zardes, Lucas Zelarayan Jonathan Mensah for Columbus.
The Crew will be without starting midfielders Darlington Nagbe and Pedro Santos, two key players who have each scored these playoffs. Even with players missing for Columbus, the Sounders won’t change too much about the way they prepare for their attempt at a third MLS Cup title in five years.
“Our style of play is not going to alter dramatically for this contest,” Schmetzer said. “We always try and impose our will on our opponents. Sometimes we make slight adjustments because they have a talented player. We’re not going to change who we are. We’re going to sharpen everybody up and give them the right tools, the right messaging and the right videos so they can study their opponent. The team that’s going to make the most plays on Saturday is the team that’s going to win.”