The Seattle Sounders become the first MLS club to win the CONCACAF Champions League


SEATTLE – It turns out this was indeed the year for Major League Soccer.

The run of MLS teams wondering when or if they could win a CONCACAF Champions League title finally came to an end on Wednesday at Lumen Field, where the Seattle Sounders defeated Mexican club Pumas UNAM 3-0 and in the evening 5-2 defeated combined.

The ever-reliable Raul Ruidiaz scored the opener just before half-time with a deflected ball:

Then, in the 80th minute, he sent the crowd into a frenzy with the dagger, completing a beautiful build-up as chants of “Raul” filled the night:

Nico Lodeiro, who struck twice from the penalty spot in Mexico City last week to salvage the first-leg equalizer, added the third goal just before injury time.

The Champions League, like its European counterpart, pits the top clubs in each league across the continent in a tournament every winter and spring.

Since the inception of the CONCACAF Champions League in its current form in 2008, Real Salt Lake, Montreal, Toronto FC and LAFC have all reached the final but lagged behind Liga MX. If any MLS team would do it, it would of course be the Sounders.

Since entering the league in 2009, they have had a great run, winning two MLS Cups, a Supporters’ Shield and four US Open Cups. This side are no strangers at the moment and that was evident on Wednesday as they dictated play for the full 90 minutes, although star players Nouhou and Joao Paulo both retired early through injury.

The Sounders now qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup, which features champions from all seven FIFA confederations from around the world. The tournament is usually held in December, although this year’s event has yet to be announced as the men’s World Cup is scheduled for November and December in Qatar.

Unlike when Mexican teams dominated the MLS, Seattle didn’t want to let that happen on their pitch, especially in front of a announced record crowd of 68,741, the largest in CONCACAF Champions League history. The great home atmosphere is a big reason the Sounders are so dangerous. They have now surpassed the 60,000 fan mark nine times, winning eight of those competitions while drawing the other.

That was the cutest. Whether goalkeeper Stefan Frei with great saves or new signing Albert Rusnak, who stepped forward all over the field, everyone contributed to the win. Even 16-year-old Obed Vargas, who was unexpectedly pushed into the game half an hour after Paulo’s injury.

Depth – which has frequently broken MLS teams in this competition – was tested for Seattle, but head coach Brian Schmetzer successfully navigated.

The fans’ tifo before the game read “Kings of Cascadia. Rulers of MLS. NEXT: CONCACAF.”

You were right. This was the year.

Raul Ruidiaz (9) celebrates after scoring his second goal with teammates Nico Lodeiro (left) and Albert Rusnak as Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the CONCACAF Champions League. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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