SEATTLE – If the newest MLS Cup was a living, conscious being, it would have felt neglected Tuesday.
The trophy had just found a new home with the Sounders after they beat Toronto FC two days earlier, yet it didn’t seem to be the focus of the players and executives.
Despite their momentous victory on Sunday, those guys were already eyeing a new prize – on which would be at least a year away.
As goalkeeper Stefan Frei said after Tuesday’s victory parade: “Let’s get another one!”
Yes, gunning for a third MLS Cup was as much of a talking point Tuesday as celebrating the second one. Fans’ cheers were loud as the players rode a bus down Fourth Avenue in downtown Seattle, but deafening when they mentioned repeating as champs.
A third title in five years, after all, wouldn’t just make the Sounders an MLS dynasty – it would beget the first real sports dynasty the Emerald City has ever had.
So why not get greedy?
This year’s Sounders were hyped as the most talented roster the franchise has fielded, and the postseason results confirmed as much. Seattle scored a 3-1 semifinal victory over LAFC, the winningest regular-season team in MLS history, then beat Toronto FC by the same score in the final.
If the Sounders’ championship in 2016 felt lucky (they had no regulation goals in the final and tallied just three shots), this felt authoritative. And it appears the core of this team will return in its pursuit of title No. 3.
Midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, who turned the team around in 2016, is under contract through 2021. The same is true of forward Raul Ruidiaz, who led the team in goals and scored three of them over Seattle’s final two games.
Homegrown talent Jordan Morris, Washington Husky product Cristian Roldan, and Frei, are all set to return as well.
Some might say the Sounders are already a dynasty (it’s a term open to interpretation) seeing how they have been to three of the past four MLS Cups and had the league’s best regular-season record in 2014. But Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey wasn’t accepting the label so easily.
“I think you’ve got to win at least three to do that,” he said.
Winning three in such a short span would be new territory for a city that has had historically dominant teams, but has never been a town where a prestigious title went through. The 2013 Seahawks won a Super Bowl, returned the next year, and have made the playoffs in six of the past seven seasons – but they weren’t a dynasty. The Storm won WNBA titles in 2004, 2010, and 2018, but aside from Sue Bird at point guard, those early championship teams bore no resemblance to the most recent one. The Huskies’ football national championships are more than 30 years apart, the Sonics claimed just one NBA title, and despite having a record 116 regular-season wins one year, the Mariners have never reached the World Series.
But here the Sounders are in a league filled with parity. Here is Seattle standing atop MLS, which has expanded to 24 teams and will have 26 by next year. Here is a squad that seems to make a second-half push or a huge summer acquisition every season to launch them near the top of the standings. And they don’t seem intent on stopping.
“Now we have two. Next year we want three!” Lodeiro said on a stage in Seattle Center on Tuesday. “Three! Three!”
You have to remember that we’re talking about soccer, where one bad bounce can change a game. The dominant team doesn’t always win, as the 2014 Sounders or 2019 LAFC can attest.
Regardless of the preparation a squad puts in, Lady Luck can still decide a title – but Seattle seems particularly adept at putting itself in the best position.
Lodeiro did add an addendum to his “three!” chant Tuesday. He told fans to enjoy the current title in the meantime, and it seems he will, too.
The Sounders were crowned kings of the MLS when they beat Toronto on Sunday. But if they win another one, they’ll have a full-on throne.
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