It's only fitting that the man who sent the Seattle Sounders forward into the MLS Playoffs with the precious No. 2 seed is the same man who fought through as much adversity as the rest of the club did in 2019. It's even more fitting that #29 scored in the 29th minute.
Centerback Roman Torres, who was suspended 10 matches for violating the MLS Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Policy this summer, started for the first since since July 27 on Sunday against Minnesota United, playing the entire game, scoring, shutting down numerous attacks and showing everyone his level of importance to the club and their back line.
Torres scored on a cross from Joevin Jones, starting in place of the injured Victor Rodriguez, then Seattle locked down defensively, keeping their third clean sheet in the last four games, and second consecutive after a 1-0 win in San Jose last week.
“We are very, very happy to have him at this franchise, not just because of today’s goal, because look, life’s not easy sometimes, you know to be a pro, you think it’s all easy, it’s not. We had some challenges, we’ve overcome them, he’s overcome them, you know the whole suspension thing. I’m just so proud that he was able to continue to keep himself in shape and continue to keep believing in himself, because the players all believe in Román, I believe in Román, and he was a big part of this game tonight," Head Coach Brian Schmetzer said.
Torres expressed his happiness after the match as well, smiling from ear to ear in the Sounders locker room as fans exited CenturyLink Field with similar smiles, knowing the road ahead to getting back to the mountaintop of 2016: MLS Cup.
The playoff road begins on Saturday, October 19 (time TBA) against a No. 7 seed FC Dallas squad that beat Sporting Kansas City 6-0 on Sunday's MLS Decision Day, where every match kicked off at the same time. Dallas traveled to Seattle for match just over two weeks ago, which ended 0-0. That mid-week match saw multiple backups starting for the Sounders, a case that will surely not repeat itself in two weeks when Dallas returns to CenturyLink.
If Seattle wins that match, the Rave Green will then host the winner between No. 3 seed Real Salt Lake and the No. 6 Portland Timbers, who face off in Utah, likely on October 19 as well.
In the new single-elimination MLS playoff structure, home matches are precious. A draw against Minnesota on Sunday would have given Seattle the No. 3 seed, and in danger of traveling to Minnesota for a second round match. Now the Sounders could host two matches with the potential of a Western Conference Championship game at home if Minnesota or the Los Angeles Galaxy upset the Supporters Shield winners, LAFC.
In a season with so many twists and turns, from Chad Marshall retiring to Will Bruin suffering an ACL tear to Torres' suspension, the Sounders regular season has left the team in a friendly position and clear road ahead to reach the goal of MLS Cup.
In addition to Seattle's win, New York City FC beating Philadelphia on Sunday means that if either New York City or LAFC win MLS Cup this year, the Sounders would earn a berth in the 2020 CONCACAF Champions League, thanks in part to Atlanta United winning the 2019 U.S. Open Cup. Seattle could gain entry into next year's tournament if they win MLS Cup as well.
Check out highlights from Sunday's win over Minnesota below, plus KJR's Postgame Show with Jackson Felts and Danny Jackson and interviews after the game with various players as well as Brian Schmetzer.