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Major League Soccer

Seattle Sounders Continue Amazing Turnaround

The Sounders defeated the Colorado Rapids to advance to MLS Cup, where it will face either Toronto or Montreal. Here are a few key thoughts on the club's remarkable reversal of fortune. 
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
November 28, 2016
1:15 AM

THE GAME ITSELF was pretty ugly—choppy and chippy and not much skill on display—but in the end Seattle clearly deserved to go through and could very well host the final should the Montreal Impact hold on to its advantage over Toronto FC.

Don Garber will never admit it publicly but having the Sounders in the final is great news for the league. If Toronto can pull through, it would be a dream final, pitting the most popular team in the United States and the most popular team in Canada against each other. If Montreal prevails, the environment in CenturyLink Field will no doubt set a new standard for MLS Cup. 

Morris continues tremendous rookie run

On Friday, Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris was sick to his stomach and his status for this game was uncertain. He was clearly not himself during the early stages of Sunday's match. Still he made a bit of magic, scoring a very nice goal—with his right foot, of course—in the 56th minute to put the series away.

Morris scored two of Seattle's three goals this series and has been a top performer throughout the season. He now has 14 goals in 2016, including the playoffs.

According to Seattle head coach Brian Schmetzer, it is a testament to Morris' mental strength that he can raise his game at important moments.

"He's not only strong physically, he's also strong mentally," Schmetzer said. "He wasn't feeling his best and there were times in the first half he didn't look like the Jordan we all know and love, but in the one moment that it really counted he was mentally strong enough to score the goal we needed to push us through."

One thing that the league has lacked in recent years is top young goal scorers. Cyle Larin was very good last year, certainly, but Morris has provided the league with an enormous boost because of his U.S. national team visibility and because he plays for one of MLS' marquee franchises.

Morris came into the league with a lot of pressure and a lot of hype. Living up to expectations was always going to be difficult but he has clearly done just that. Impressive.

Poor finishing doomed Colorado

In the first half Colorado controlled the tempo of the game and had nearly all of the opportunities. But despite 11 first-half chances and 16 overall in the game, none of its shots were on frame. It was a dreadful display of attacking soccer as Colorado let Seattle hang around and eventually paid the price for doing so.

But this was Colorado all season long. Yes, it had more success than anyone expected but it was mostly through defense and goalkeeping. The team would pick off goals here and there while playing compact in the back. In the playoffs, where all teams have momentum in the later rounds, that style of play becomes more difficult and Colorado’s margin for error was small. When its offense was off, a loss was bound to happen.

"We had a couple of good looks on goal," Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni said. "Those go in and it's a whole different game. I thought we were in control of the game, we did everything we set out to do and to get beat on a strange play, that's football."

While true, Mastroeni doesn’t recognize that its lone goal in the series, whcih came early in the first leg, was also off a strange play. Colorado’s offense didn't have enough to make it to MLS Cup, and it will be fascinating to see what the franchise does in the offseason.

Jermaine Jones on the move?

The German-American midfielder was a key reason why Colorado was successful this season. While the U.S. international was suspended at the start of 2016 and also missed time following the Gold Cup due to injury, he was still incredibly valuable. His one-year contract has now expired, however, and there is a good chance he might not return.

“People know that I came to this league as a [DP] and this is where I want to go back to,” Jones said. “I’m a free agent now. I will sit back and see what comes. I’m not scared to go back to Europe or scared to go to Mexico or somewhere.”

Jones made $650,000 this year but it is unclear what Colorado will offer, if anything, or what Jones will demand.

It seems likely that the U.S. men's national team will soon be entering a post-Jones era. Will Colorado follow suit?

Patience was the key for Seattle

Dating back to 2015, Seattle has made a lot of moves that did not pay off immediately.

Nelson Valdez signed for Seattle last August and did not immediately pay dividends. But he scored a playoff goal in the series win over Dallas this year and provided the game-winning assist on Sunday.

Panama’s Roman Torres also signed midway through last year and the central defender only played 315 minutes in 2015. This year he was only used sparingly—until down the stretch, when he raised his game. He was a central contributor in the series win over Colorado.

You could argue that Seattle also showed patience with Morris and Cristian Roldan, who became integral parts of the club as the season wore on. The Sounders received a lot of criticism but staying with Brian Schmetzer and bringing in Nicolas Lodeiro proved to be the ultimate catalyst that made all the other previous moves pay off. 

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