Despite an excellent effort from Minnesota United, it was the Seattle Sounders who showed once again why they’ve been the dominant group within the West for the previous few years with a fourth journey to MLS Cup in the last 5 years.
Here are three takeaways from the epic Western Conference Final.
The Sounders way
It’s not luck, it’s not a coincidence and it’s not just a type of thing that happens. The Sounders’ unimaginable comeback against Minnesota United was the result of one thing that’s so deeply established within the club’s DNA — we’re the Sounders and profitable is an expectation at this club.
That mentality was ingrained in me as a younger rookie throughout the club’s growth 12 months in 2009 and each participant who has performed for the club since would have gone by means of the identical indoctrination. You don’t simply win three consecutive US Open Cups in your first three years as an MLS club and also you don’t simply make the playoffs each single 12 months of your existence if there isn’t a deep-rooted drive for profitable from the possession all the way down to the gamers. You don’t simply rating three objectives in 18 minutes to save lots of your season if there isn’t one thing highly effective deeply entrenched within the club’s DNA that calls for profitable video games and trophies because the naked minimal.
We are able to speak about Brian Schmetzer’s subs and the truth that two of them scored, and whereas that was clearly essential, this win wasn’t simply the results of issues that occurred on this one game — it was the results of a club who entered MLS in 2009 and determined they’d set the bar as excessive as attainable from Day One, after which spend each following day making an attempt to lift it some extra.
How the West was won
Let’s have a look at how the 2020 model of the Sounders were able to flip this game around. We should give a full credit score to the Loons who got here to play and took their alternatives nicely. They have been nicely set up and confirmed their current type wasn’t an anomaly, however, they’re new regular. They’re the harmful attacking group, led by the brilliance of Emanuel Reynoso, that we’ve got come to see within the playoffs. If they’re able to add a defensive reinforcement or two, this won’t be their final Convention Final look.
I’ve spoken recently about the Sounders power in-depth and that’s what made the distinction right here. Due to how sensible Raul Ruidiaz is, all of us fall into the lure of forgetting Will Bruin is a confirmed 10-goal-a-year scorer in MLS. On most teams, he would get a critical look as a starter as a result of the guarantees your objectives, but his misfortune in Seattle is he’s behind a participant who may very well be the club’s best-ever striker.
Still, having the ability to convey on Bruin, along with a vastly experienced Swedish international in Gustav Svensson — who has World Cup expertise — is a luxury not many teams have. That power in depth confirmed itself in the final round when Shane O’Neill, who got here into the season because the third-choice middle back, scored the winner, and it continued to pay dividends when Svensson scored the winning purpose to ship Sounders followers all around the world right into a frenzy.
I additionally give credit score to Schmetzer for making the choice to convey on a forward for a midfielder when he did. Even at 2-0 down, a number of coaches could be worried about the potential for going for it an excessive amount of and shedding 3-0. I like coaches who’re ready to lose three or four-nil by chasing the game if it means they have got a chance to pull off a miracle 3-2 win just like the Sounders did. This game was won because of depth — Plan A wasn’t working, but the Sounders, greater than most teams, have the ability to go very deep on the bench and call up two confirmed MLS players to help flip this game round.
The game within the game at MLS Cup 2020
Seeing two coaches I know so nicely go head to head will not solely be exciting for me, it’ll even be fascinating because, at their core, they are very related coaches. Each place an enormous emphasis on ways. They spend hours envisioning scenarios of their minds, transferring magnets throughout the ways board, writing up new patterns to work on with their gamers, and watching the film to try to spot a weak point within the opponent that won’t be apparent to the informal viewer.
I’ve talked ways with each over the years — throughout one breakfast with Caleb Porter, he spent 30 minutes transferring sugar packets, cutlery, and a bottle of honey to show me how he planned to play out of them back. So initially, these of us who love the tactical side of football will be in for an actual treat on Saturday.
I’m not going to make any prediction on which way this may go as a result of it’s a final, it’s two formidable teams, and there’s simply no way of realizing the way it’ll play out. Though the result will be anybody’s guess, there is no query in my thoughts about the kind of game we are going to see. Neither team might be too cautious or too reckless.
There might be no parking the bus and no all-out attack from minute one. What we will see is nice spells of possession for each side, and methodical approaches in attack as they struggle to attract the opponent out of place by means of slick passing in the final third.
The Crew may have a giant problem making an attempt to contain Nico Lodeiro. Neither Darlington Nagbe nor Artur is greatest suited to chasing him around and trying to lock him down. It can need to be a team effort and a case of, whoever is closest to Lodeiro must grow to be the first marker within the second. On the flip facet, I don’t suppose the Sounders have an obvious reply for Nagbe both.
Initially, it doesn’t matter how a lot you press or pressure him, he can get out of strain in tight areas higher than anybody I’ve ever seen, and once he does that, he has an excellent chance of tempo as he drives into the attacking half. His capability to do a little bit of every part will make it hard for Seattle to get the ball off him, which implies we can count on to see a lot of Lucas Zelarayan on the ball as nicely as a result of that’s who Nagbe loves to mix with and look for.
Can the Sounders make Nagbe focus on defending a lot that he can’t affect possession like usual or will he pressure Joao Paulo and Cristian Roldan back towards their own goal, thus limiting their reference to Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and Ruidiaz? Porter and Schmetzer will spend almost every waking hour making an attempt to answer these questions of their minds lengthy earlier than they lay their cards out for us all to see this weekend.
This isn’t my story to inform, but I do know there’s real mutual respect between the 2 that was cast throughout the time spent collectively on a coaching course one offseason, however that doesn’t imply they won’t want to outdo each other as soon as the brilliant lights come on. I believe whichever coach is able to simplify their strategy and doesn’t try to change too much because it’s a final, would be the one that gives their team a slight edge at kick-off.
There might be key battles all over the pitch — Morris vs Harrison Afful, Ruidiaz vs Jonathan Mensah, Gyasi Zardes vs Yeimar Gomez, and Pedro Santos vs Alex Roldan or Kelvin Leerdam. More than ever, whichever group wins an extra of their one-v-one duels will best place themselves to lift the trophy. Finals can generally fail to ship because nerves get in the way, but I actually really feel we might be seeing an excellent game with these two teams.
Both coaches are winners, each wants to win by playing an attractive model of football, and each respects the other too much to not attempt to and think of each attainable tactical benefit in order to achieve an edge. It’s that final level, their obsession with getting the ways and game plan proper, that almost ensures we see an aesthetically pleasing game.