Sounders originals Osvaldo Alonso, Zach Scott and Brad Evans huddled around a silver trophy they’d long sought.
The visiting locker room at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park was raucous in the aftermath of Seattle’s series win over Colorado in the MLS Western Conference finals on Sunday afternoon – Champagne, Heineken and Budweiser were the alcoholic beverages of choice.
The club’s three longest-serving players found time for a quick photo op in the training room. Alonso started Sunday’s match, Scott came off the bench and Evans was a late scratch with an ankle strain. Those distinctions didn’t seem to matter as they reminisced over one of the few pieces of silverware that had managed to elude them for this long.
“We talked about how many cups we’ve won with the team,” Alonso said, ticking off four U.S. Open Cups, one Supporters’ Shield and now the Western Conference championship.
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Scott has been with the club since the USL days, his tenure dating all the way back to 2002. Evans was somewhat unhappily plucked from Columbus in the 2008 expansion draft, and Alonso signed before their inaugural MLS season in 2009.
“We’ve been here from the beginning,” Alonso said. “Now, we’ve finally accomplished this goal.”
Somebody asked whether they counted Desert Diamond Cups -- given annually to the champion of the preseason exhibition tournament held in Tucson, Ariz. -- and Alonso just laughed.
“Any cup, we count,” Alonso said. “We’ve got six, and we need one more.”
Alonso was substituted out of Sunday’s match in the 74th minute with a slight sprain in his left knee, Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer confirmed, but it’s too early to consider his status in doubt for MLS Cup.
“A little sore, but we’ve got time,” Alonso said.
Just as the two-and-a-half-week break between the conference semis and finals allowed rookie forward Jordan Morris to recover from his hamstring injury in time for the Colorado series, so should the bye weekend before the Dec. 10 title game give Alonso ample time to rest up.
Ball bouncing well
What’s the difference between this Sounders squad and the seven previous editions that all fell short of this point? In the words of Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, sometimes the bounces just go your way.
“To get into the MLS Cup final, you have to be lucky, honestly,” Frei said. “You have to get some confidence at the right moment, hope your teammates are healthy -- those are all variables that are difficult to align. You need them to come into play at just the right time, and for us this year, that’s happened.”
▪ Colorado fired off 16 shots to Seattle’s five but put none of them on target. The Sounders registered seven blocked shots, defenders throwing their bodies in the way like hockey defensemen.
▪ Schmetzer was quick to shift focus to the one hurdle still left to conquer. Either Toronto or Montreal will book their own ticket to MLS Cup in the second-and-decisive leg of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.
“It is another chapter, but again, we’re not finished yet,” Schmetzer said. “We have to make sure that all of this culminates with something really big, really great, a special moment that we’ll talk about for many years.”