The Seattle Sounders are heading to the MLS Cup final for the third time in four years after claiming an unexpected 3-1 victory over LAFC in the Western Conference final.
Seattle will now play the winner of the Eastern Conference final on Wednesday night, which is being played between Atlanta United and Toronto FC.
Seattle Scores Three Unanswered to Advance
Early in Tuesday’s conference final, it looked like LAFC’s dream season would continue. Eduard Atuesta scored on a free kick from about 25 yards out in the 17th minute to give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
But it didn’t take long for Seattle to not only strike back, but to take the lead for good. Raul Ruidiaz got the Sounders even just five minutes later, and it would be only another four minutes before Nicolas Lodeiro gave Seattle a 2-1 lead off a breakaway.
Ruidiaz gave the Sounders a two-goal advantage in the 64th minute to earn his brace, as he deftly placed a ball just inside the left post to beat Tyler Miller for a second time.
“We came out and went down a goal and came back and scored three in their home,” Sounders manager Brian Schmetzer told ESPN after the match. “So you guys tell me if my team deserves some credit.”
The loss provided a shocking end to the season for LAFC. Los Angeles had set a record in the regular season by collecting 72 points in the regular season, scoring 85 goals in the 34-game campaign. Carlos Vela scored 34 goals during the season, and had two in the previous round of the playoffs as well, but was held quiet in the conference final.
In other words, LAFC was the clear and overwhelming favorite to win an MLS Cup title to go along with their Supporters’ Shield, which is awarded to the club with the best regular season record. But the unforgiving single-elimination format in the MLS playoffs means that even the best teams can’t afford a single slip, and Los Angeles found that out the hard way.
Los Angeles manager Bob Bradley acknowledged that the result would take away from the season, even in a sport where in most countries, the regular season title is all that matters.
“They scored three goals,” Bradley said afterwards. “They got the chances better than us and they win. That’s the only thing I can say.”
Atlanta, Toronto Battle for Eastern Crown
Seattle knows it will have a chance to win its second MLS Cup final in four years, but they don’t yet know if they’ll get a home game. If Atlanta wins the Eastern Conference final, they will play host for the MLS Cup; however, Seattle would get a home match instead if Toronto goes through. Atlanta is a -135 favorite in the conference final, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
Seattle is likely to be a favorite in the final, regardless of who they play. The Sounders are a -125 pick to win the MLS Cup, with Atlanta (+145) a close second choice and Toronto (+500) a relative dark horse.