With CCL championship in hand, the Sounders join realm of world soccer elites

The Sounders came up with drafts of the story, and their fans, nearly 70,000, flocked to make them do it.

In the frenzy of preparations for Wednesday night’s showdown at Lumen Field, no one attempted to downplay the importance of this CONCACAF Champions League final. The Sounders had won two MLS Cups, four US Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield since 2009, but they viewed this showdown against Pumas UNAM, Seattle’s sixth playoff under coach Brian Schmetzer, as the ultimate test. And the one with the most profound and far-reaching potential gain – “immortality” in the words of general manager Garth Lagerwey and a “massive (expletive) deal for the club” in Schmetzer’s curious assessment.

And then the Sounders went out and grabbed it, beating the Cougars 3-0 in a tough game to culminate in what will be seen as the greatest achievement in club and certainly MLS history got to. In doing so, they left no doubt that the balance of power in CONCACAF, which had been weighted decisively in favor of the Mexican teams for decades, had fundamentally changed.

While the Sounders’ two MLS Cups were indeed epic in their own unique way, this title pushes the boundaries of mere league glory with a 5-2 aggregate score in the two legs. By becoming the first MLS team to win the CCL title, breaking the streak of Liga MX teams who have won every year since 2008 – and also a string of four finals defeats by MLS – they brought MLS prestige a massive hit on the international stage. And they parted ways with their MLS brothers with a win that suddenly propels the Sounders into the realm of the world’s elite.

That might sound like an exaggeration — and certainly the Sounders delivered the “hype” bit with pre-game promo videos of two Seattle sports icons, Marshawn Lynch and Ken Griffey Jr. — but consider the spoils of this win. The Sounders now automatically participate in the FIFA Club World Cup, which brings together the continental champions from associations from around the world – Asia, Africa, South America, Oceania and Europe as well as CONCACAF, which stands for the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football.

In other words, Seattle will be among the best and brightest in world football. For example, Europe is represented by either Liverpool or Real Madrid, kings of football no matter who rises. For the Sounders to dip into that pool is a huge step for MLS in gaining the global respect it has sought from the very beginning.

For the Sounders, on the other hand, it stamps them as a target team in MLS, which would later pay dividends in player recruitment, and gives them a trophy they’ve eluded in six previous forays into the tournament. And now they can probably compete with the sporting upper class at the Club World Cup in early 2023.

But that’s something for the future. The moment the crowd of 68,741 – the largest ever for a CONCACAF Champions League game at any point – did their best to mimic a Beast Quake roar, it was time for celebration.

“The connection to fans and players is the spirit of this club,” said Schmetzer when the party on the pitch was finally over.

After knotting 2-2 with Pumas in Mexico City in the first period of the final, the Sounders dominated the second period of the game despite losing two key players, Nouhou and Joao Paulo, to injuries in the first 25 minutes. Raul Ruidiaz brought the scorer in the 45th minuteth minute with a goal that had the press box shaking from the resulting noise, then added another goal in the 80th minute that was as beautiful as any precise (and selfless) passing game you’ll ever see, first from Jordan Morris and then Nico Lodeiro. And Lodeiro finished the goal in the 88th minuteth minute, ripped off his jersey to unofficially begin the dizzying celebration portion of the night.

But not before Schmetzer eliminated Ruidiaz, Lodeiro and Morris three minutes into stoppage time to give them a well-deserved ovation in a stylish gesture that will not go unnoticed by the team members. He also added team elders Will Bruin and Fredy Montero to give them a taste of this historic game from the court.

As the clock ticked down, the Sounders team exploded in a ballet of jumps and hugs punctuated by a deluge of confetti, a victory celebration not seen here since the 2019 MLS Cup was secured over Toronto.

That was euphoric, but that was the next level. Schmetzer hesitated and hesitated when asked where that win and title sits in the annals of great Sounders moments.

“I said in some press matter give me six months,” he said. “I’ll probably stick with it. At the moment. i live in the moment And I’m just so proud of this group of players, all of them. Because tonight it wasn’t just the boys who scored the goals. And it’s not just the Yeimars and Stefs (Goalie Stefan Frei), these guys, it’s all young people who come out. The boys from the academy all get a taste of what this club is about.

“I’m just super, super proud of the team’s performance in this tournament. Under some adversity; It’s not an easy tournament to win. A lot of people asked me about the subtle pressure of coming here to perform in front of a big audience. I think they passed that test. You passed with flying colors.”

Schmetzer addressed the crowd after the game and told them her role in energizing the team was “fucking awesome”. Speaking to the media later, he changed the adjectives to “spectacular” and “amazing.”

“You heard it when the teams went out tonight. You felt the energy in the building. The players felt it.”

As the last few seconds passed, the energy had grown exponentially. And for a good reason. Because this victory was a huge tour de force for the Sounders, for Seattle and for North American football.

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