Liga MX’s stranglehold on the CONCACAF Champions League came to an end on Wednesday night thanks to Seattle Sounders, with a trio of USMNT and USYNT players – Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Obed Vargas – all on the field in the historic win.
Seattle Sounders 3 – 0 UNAM Pumas (agg. 5-2)
Following the 2-2 draw in the first leg in Mexico last week, the Sounders found themselves in a familiar position as fellow MLSers Real Salt Lake in 2011 and Montreal Impact four years later, needing to take a victory to claim the crown.
However, unlike their league rivals, Sounders got the job done, in glorious fashion, to sweep to the first-ever title for MLS since the current format was adopted in the 2008-09 edition.
USMNT regulars Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan both started and essentially played the full game, while 16 year-old USMNT U-20 player Obed Vargas entered the game just before the half-hour mark when central midfielder Joao Paolo was forced out with an injury.
Morris had the most direct impact on the game before subbing out in injury time, being heavily involved in two of Seattle’s three goals, and otherwise attempting two shots, completing 14 of 22 passes from his position on the left wing, setting up an early chance for Raúl Ruidíaz, and winning six of ten duels against opposing players.
Roldan played from whistle to whistle on the right, setting up a pair of chances in the first half, forcing the UNAM keeper into two saves, winning nine of 11 duels, and completing two-thirds of his 33 pass attempts.
U-20 player Vargas did well to hold down the central midfield alongside Albert Rusnak, completing 83% of his 29 passing attempts, making six clearances and four recoveries to help keep their visitors off the board and with constant trouble building momentum towards goal.
The lone American on the UNAM roster, Sebastian Saucedo, was not in uniform for the game.
The hosts had the better of chances in the first half, with Morris’s low shot from the right in the 14th minute forcing action from Alfredo Talavera, and Ruidíaz’s follow-up header seconds later also testing the UNAM keeper.
Seattle keeper Stefan Frei was not without work to do, blocking a point-blank shot from Juan Dinenno late in the first half, an action which became all the more important when his team scored what would end up being the winner shortly after.
Just before the 45-minute mark, Rusnak penetrated into the UNAM area on the left and shifted the ball to central defender Xavier Arreaga, who was posted up near the penalty spot. Arreaga tapped it back towards Ruidíaz at the edge of the area, whose shot took a deflection off a defender before rolling in past Talavara for the 1-0 halftime lead.
Seattle kept the game tight following the break, with Frei only having to pull out the heroics on one occasion to block Diogo’s 64th-minute header. However, they took advantage of UNAM’s increasing desperation to score another two late goals to put the game away.
The first came in the 80th minute when Morris streaked up the right flank to the edge of the area, squared the ball to Nicolás Lodeiro at the edge for a short tap-over to Ruidíaz, who one-timed his shot past the confused keeper, just inside the left upright for the two-goal advantage.
With two minutes left in regulation, they added a third for the night, after Morris’s shot from the right side bounced off the far upright, only to see a wide-open Lodeiro put it way from six-yards to add the final exclamation point.
The result ends Mexico’s monopoly on the competition’s title for at least one year, and adds another blow to a dismal few months that saw the country’s national team lose two major tournaments to the USA as well as take only one solitary point against their neighbors in World Cup qualifying, while finishing runners-up to Canada.