Seattle defeat Pumas UNAM to win CONCACAF Champions League
The Seattle Sounders defeated Mexico’s Pumas UNAM 5-2 on aggregate to win the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, ending Major League Soccer’s 23-year wait to lift the top club tournament for teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Two goals from Peruvian international Raul Ruidiaz and a late strike from Uruguayan veteran Nicolas Lodeiro sealed a deserved 3-0 second leg victory in front of a tournament record crowd of 68,741 at Seattle’s Lumen Field. Last week’s first leg had ended in a 2-2 draw in Mexico City.
The Sounders’ victory ends 16 years of unbroken dominance by Mexican sides in the regional club tournament.
No MLS club had been crowned champions of CONCACAF since Los Angeles Galaxy lifted the title in 2000.
Ruidiaz struck in the 45th and 80th minutes before Lodeiro lashed in a rebound in the 88th minute to spark wild celebrations amongst Seattle’s passionate supporters.
The title means Seattle will also become the first MLS side to advance to FIFA’s Club World Cup tournament.
“It means everything,” Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei said after the win. “It’s a Wednesday and we’re packing this place with 68,000 people. The passion is so strong in this city. I’m so happy for everybody that we’re able to achieve this for them.
“In the end, it’s all about winning trophies. We want to win trophies, and today’s a big one.”
– Cagey start –
A cagey opening 45 minutes saw Seattle forced to reorganize their defense and midfield after early injuries to left back Nouhou Tolo and midfield playmaker Joao Paulo.
Tolo limped out of the fray after an ugly challenge from Pumas right back Jose Galindo, who earned a yellow card for a wild kick on the Cameroon international’s thigh.
Joao Paulo exited after 25 minutes following a clumsy challenge from Leonel Lopez, forcing Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer to bring on 16-year-old teenager Obed Vargas as a substitute.
Until that moment, neither side had created much in the way of scoring changes, with Ruidiaz failing to trouble Pumas goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera with a 15th minute header and a curling shot four minutes later.
As the half wore on Pumas gradually gained a foothold and created the better chances.
Washington Corozo squandered a golden opportunity in the 32nd minute after a floated through ball from Favio Alvarez caught the Seattle defense napping.
With just goalkeeper Frei to beat, Corozo rushed an attempted lob and blazed over the bar with his first touch.
But on the stroke of half-time Seattle broke the deadlock.
A jinking run from Albert Rusnak carried the Slovakia international into the Pumas penalty area and his firmly hit low cross was met by Xavier Arreaga, who laid off for Ruidiaz.
The Peruvian’s shot took a wicked deflection off Diogo De Oliveira and Talavera could only watch helplessly as the ball rolled into the net.
Seattle soaked up pressure in the second half as Pumas chased an equalizer, and only a fantastic reflex save from Frei denied an equalizer from De Oliveira’s thumping header.
But as Pumas pressed forward, Seattle carved out openings on the counter-attack and 10 minutes from time Ruidiaz grabbed his second.
Jordan Morris burst down the right flank and passed to Lodeiro who laid off for the Peruvian, who drilled his finish past Talavera.
Lodeiro then put the seal on the victory in the 88th minute, thumping home a finish after Morris’s shot rebounded off the woodwork.