Sounders return to MLS Cup with rout
SEATTLE — Victor Rodriguez scored on a nifty give-and-go with Will Bruin in the 22nd minute, Clint Dempsey added his third goal of the playoffs early in the second half, and the Seattle Sounders advanced to the MLS Cup final with a 3-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Thursday night.
The defending champion Sounders advanced 5-0 on aggregate after their convincing two-goal win in Houston last week. Bruin added his second goal of the series in the 73rd minute as the Sounders advanced to face Toronto in the final and get the opportunity to become the first repeat MLS Cup champions since the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011-12 — and on the same field Seattle won its first title a year ago. The Sounders and Toronto played to a 0-0 draw in the 2016 final before Seattle won on penalty kicks.
The Sounders took any nerves out of the second-leg with Houston early. Rather than packing in on defense, Seattle pushed forward and aggressively tried to get that third goal. It came on a four-pass series, with Bruin's right-footed flick the key. It found Rodriguez unmarked on a diagonal run into the penalty area, and his right-footed shot beat Joe Willis to give Seattle the early advantage.
Rodriguez's goal gave the 45,298 at CenturyLink Field a collective exhale as Houston would have needed to score three goals to advance. That number became four when Dempsey finished a deft cross from Joevin Jones in the 52nd minute, and if that didn't put the match out of reach, Bruin added his goal in the 72nd minute to complete the rout.
While Seattle's goal scoring deserved recognition, its defense continued to be stellar. The Sounders have yet to allow a goal in the playoffs and haven't been scored upon since a 2-0 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 1. Seattle finished off the Dynamo without defender Roman Torres, who was out due to yellow card accumulation.
Houston played the final 24 minutes with 10 men after Tomas Martinez was sent off for shoving the head of Seattle's Jordy Delem as he was lying on the field following a foul. It was the second red card in the two-game series for Houston.
TORONTO 1, COLUMBUS 0: At Toronto, Jozy Altidore scored in the 60th minute and Toronto FC advanced to the MLS Cup final for the second straight year.
After a scoreless tie in Game 1 last week in Ohio, Columbus needed a win or draw with goals to advance. But Altidore, limping on a bum ankle, came through for Toronto before a sellout crowd of 30,392 on a crisp night at BMO Field.
The goal started with Alex Bono's goal kick that found Sebastian Giovinco deep in Columbus territory. The diminutive Italian held off several defenders and backheeled the ball to Altidore, who stabbed it to Victor Vazquez. The Spanish midfielder paused and then dinked a pass to Altidore for a right-footed shot past Zack Steffen.
It was Toronto's first goal in 258 minutes.