The Seattle Sounders won the Concacaf Champions League on Wednesday, defeating Mexico’s Pumas UNAM 5-2 on aggregate, ending Major League Soccer’s 23-year wait to win the top club event for teams from North America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
In front of a tournament record crowd of 68,741 at Seattle’s Lumen Field, two goals from Peruvian international Raul Ruidiaz and a late strike from Uruguayan veteran Nicolas Lodeiro clinched a deserved 3-0 second leg triumph. The first match in Mexico City ended in a 2-2 tie last week.
The Sounders’ triumph puts a stop to Mexican clubs’ 16-year reign of terror in the regional club tournament. Since the Los Angeles Galaxy won the Concacaf Cup in 2000, no MLS club has won the competition.
Ruidiaz scored in the 45th and 80th minutes, respectively, before Lodeiro scored on a rebound in the 88th minute, setting off loud celebrations among Seattle’s fans. Seattle will also become the first MLS team to qualify for Fifa’s Club World Cup tournament.
After injuries to left-back Nouhou Tolo and midfield midfielder Joao Paulo in the first 45 minutes, Seattle was forced to reconfigure their defense and midfield. After a brutal assault from Pumas right defender Jose Galindo, who received a yellow card for a rash kick on the Cameroon international’s thigh, Tolo limped out of the game.
Following a clumsy challenge from Leonel Lopez, Joao Paulo was forced to leave after 25 minutes, forcing Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer to bring on 16-year-old kid Obed Vargas as a substitute.
Ruidiaz had failed to trouble Pumas goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera with a 15th-minute header and a curving shot four minutes later, but neither team had created much in the way of scoring chances until that point.
As the first half progressed, Pumas gradually gained a foothold and created more chances. In the 32nd minute, Washington Corozo missed a wonderful opportunity after a floating through pass from Favio Alvarez caught the Seattle defense off guard.
With his first touch, Corozo rushed an attempted lob and blazed over the bar with his first touch, with only goalkeeper Stefan Frei to beat. Albert Rusnak’s jinking run carried him into the Pumas penalty area, where his strongly hit low cross was met by Xavier Arreaga, who laid off for Ruidiaz.
At home, Pumas pressed Seattle in the second half, and only a stunning reaction stop from Sounders goalkeeper Frei prevented an equalizer from De Oliveira’s thundering header. Talavera could only watch helplessly as the Peruvian’s strike took a nasty deflection off Diogo De Oliveira and slid into the net.
However, while the Pumas pressed forward, Seattle created counter-attacking opportunities, and Ruidiaz scored his second goal 10 minutes later. Jordan Morris broke down the right side of the field and passed to Lodeiro, who took off for the Peruvian. After Morris’s shot rebounded off the post, Lodeiro sealed the victory in the 88th minute with a thundering finish.