The Seattle Sounders treated the home crowd of 45,000 to a dominant performance over the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the Western Conference Final, winning 3-0 on the night and 5-0 on aggregate to clinch their second consecutive Western Conference Championship. Houston came into the match knowing they would need at least two goals to advance but failed to find the back of the net against a Sounders defense that hasn’t given up a goal in their past six matches. With a two goal lead coming into the match Seattle could have sat back to play a very defensive match but instead attacked all match long leaving no doubt that they were the best in the West. Sounders had started the game as clear favorites to progress according to the Sports Betting at Betdaq 2018 after winning the first leg in Houston 2-0.
Much of the Sounders’ dominance in their attack came from precise and creative passing in the final third as Seattle continuously found pockets of space between defenders and created a number of chances because of it. When on a counter-attack Seattle had multiple attackers in dangerous positions and constantly moved the ball to open teammates, stretching the Houston defense.
The opening goal came in the 22nd minute for the Sounders with Victor Rodriguez and Will Bruin working a give and go to get Rodriguez a one-on-one chance with the goalkeeper that he calmly slotted far post. The flick through the defence from Bruin was perfectly executed but was just one of a series of passes that broke down the Dynamo defense. Houston was left flat footed by the ball movement and could only watch as the ball hit the back of the net.
“The last few weeks [head coach Brian Schmetzer]has been saying ‘In the final third try things. It’s okay if you lose the ball in the final third as long as you have some immediate pressure and try to win it back’ and I think we’ve been doing that in training and it translates into the game,” said Bruin. “You don’t think about it you just try things and I think it worked out for us tonight.”
Three minutes later Houston would find a seam in the Seattle defense as Vicente Sanchez split Gustav Svensson and Nouhou for a chance versus Stefan Frei but took his touch too wide and was forced to take a shot from a near impossible angle that hit the outside of the net.
Needing three goals in the second half to advance, Houston struggled to get looks at goal and as they continued to push, Seattle countered beautifully to double the lead in the 57th minute.
Winning possession in the center of the pitch, Rodriguez found Joevin Jones making an unmarked run up the left side of the field as Clint Dempsey made a run to the front of the goal. Jones then slipped a perfect pass to the feet of Dempsey for a tap in and a commanding four goal aggregate lead.
Facing a massive deficit, the Dynamo’s frustration began to boil over culminating in the ejection of Tomas Martinez in the 66th minute. Substitute Jordy Delem looked to make a leaping header for a 50/50 ball and ended up going over the top of Martinez before falling on top of him as they both hit the ground. Martinez seemed to take offense to the play and pushed Delem’s head into the turf as he got up. Jones rushed to the defense of Delem, pushing Martinez before both teams rushed towards the confrontation. Head referee Hilario Grajeda went to video review and decided to issue a red card to Martinez for the push to the head of Delem and a yellow to Jones for the retaliation.
With the man advantage Seattle took control of the match, adding a third, demoralizing goal in the 73rd minute from former Dynamo Will Bruin. The Sounders started in their own end but with just two passes were able to find the back of the net. Harry Shipp received a pass from Lodeiro and with his second touch made a perfect outside-of-the-foot pass to Bruin in stride and ahead of the Houston defense. Bruin calmly chipped keeper Joe Willis and sent the home crowd into euphoric celebration knowing another trip to MLS Cup was in their future.
Said Bruin, “Harry and I made eye contact and he had a great pass with the outside of his foot curling into my run and I wanted to reward him by finishing it off and luckily that’s what happened”
The final whistle blew as the home crowd erupted, most staying to watch as the Western Conference trophy was presented to injured captain Osvaldo Alonso. The team then took the cup to the Emerald City Supporters section where nearly every member of the team took a turn lifting the trophy to the adoring fans.
“Outside of the three goals, the best part of my evening was when Ozzie took the trophy up to the fans and those fans stayed and they cheered every single player that raised the cup,” said Schmetzer after the match. “The relationship between the fans and the players is what makes this club so special.”
Seattle now travels to Toronto to face the 2017 Supporters’ Shield winners Toronto FC in a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup. The rematch is scheduled for 1 PM Pacific time and will be broadcast on ESPN.
Seattle: Frei; Leerdam, Svensson, Marshall, Nouhou (Shipp 68’); Roldan, Lodeiro; Rodriguez, Dempsey (Delem 59’), Jones; Bruin
Houston: Willis; Remick, Machado, Leonardo, Beasley; Alexander (Garcia HT), Sanchez (Torres 62’), Cabezas; Martinez, Manotas, Alex (Clark 78’)
Seattle: Rodriguez 22’ (Bruin), Dempsey 57’ (Jones, Rodriguez), Bruin 77’ (Shipp)
Seattle: Nouhou 36’ (Caution), Jones 67’ (Caution),
Houston: Alexander 29’ (Caution), Garcia 60’ (Caution), Martinez 66’ (Ejection), Torres 80’ (Caution)