Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas was bouncing for the Final of the Leagues Cup, with Seattle Sounders representing MLS and Club León flying the Liga MX flag. Los Verdiblancos entered the match with just one loss in their last nine matches across all competitions, and in fifth place in Liga MX. Their path to the Leagues Cup final had seen them throttle Sporting Kansas City, 6-1 in the quarterfinals, before beating ten-man Pumas last week in the semifinals.
Sounders, for their part, entered the match just a point off the top of MLS’ Western Conference, behind Sporting Kansas City and with a game in hand. To reach the final of the Leagues Cup, they had first shackled one of Liga MX’s best attacks, Tigres in the quarterfinals, winning 3-0. In the semifinals, playing against Santos Laguna last week, a stoppage winner from Raul Rauldíaz saw them clinch a place in the final with a 1-0 victory.
Sounders sat back to start the match, as León controlled possession, probing and looking for an opening against the MLS side. Seattle would have the first chance of the match, though, as Fredy Montero had a scuffed shot from a free kick, which was easily gathered by Rodolfo Coto in the León goal (8’). From there, Seattle became more comfortable in the match, controlling the ball and hoping to stretch León with their wide play, and Fredy Montero came close with a free kick into the side netting (20’).
The match was a physical battle throughout, as four yellow cards were handed out in the first half hour, but neither team was able to make much from their free kicks. Alex Roldan had a speculative effort from range (36’), and then Jean Meneses headed wide for León in added time (45 +1 ‘) but the match would remain scoreless until the interval.
The second half would change that, and quickly. Cristian Roldán would give the MLS side the lead, after Jimmy Medranda cut inside, firing home at the near post (48’). The goal would give Brian Schmetzer’s side the intiative, as Raul Ruidíaz would hit the post on the counter, after being played in by Cristian Roldan (56’). León wouldn’t wait long to reply, though, with Ángel Mena scoring at the back post, bundling home a low cross from Elías Hernández (61’).
León’s equalizer energized the match, as both sides tried to play on the front foot, looking to push for a winner before the match headed to penalties. A raft of changes from both managers did little to give either team the advantage, though, even as Sounders looked to lose their nerve as the final whistle approached. Those nerves told ten minutes from time as Shane O’Neill brought down Ángel Mena in the area, and the forward coolly converted for his and his team’s second (80’).
Five minutes from time, Emanuel Gigliotti sealed the result after an error from Stefan Frei. El Puma pounced and doubled León’s lead (85’). But despite being two goals down, Sounders continued to battle, as substitute Will Bruin scored in added time following a mistake from Rodolfo Cota (90 + 2’). Brian Schmetzer’s team continued to push for an equalizer and nearly had it through Raúl Ruidíaz, but his shot from the edge of the area flashed just wide. (90 + 4’).
After an all-action final fifteen minutes, Club León had won the 2021 Leagues Cup, 3-2, in a match that provided plenty of thrills. In a hard-fought battle, Seattle were worthy opponents for Los Verdiblancos and anyone who watched this match won’t soon forget it. Congratulations to Club León, and be sure to join us next year as the battle between Liga MX and MLS continues!
Leagues Cup Final
Club León 3-2 Seattle Sounders
Club León: Ángel Mena 61’, 80’, Emanuel Gigliotti
Seattle Sounders: Cristian Roldan 48’, Will Bruin 90 + 2’
Club León: Colombatto 23’, Montes 90 + 3’
Seattle Sounders: Arreaga 10’, João 15’, Ruidíaz 27’, C. Roldan 82’
Club León: Cota; Mosquera (Ramírez 59’), Barreiro, Tesillo, O. Rodríguez; I. Rodríguez, Colombatto; Mena, Fernández (Montes 71’), Meneses (Hernández 60’); Dávila (Gilgliotti 60’)
Substitutes: Gigliotti, Hernández, Montez, Burón, Ramírez, Vázquez, González, Ormeño, Ambríz, Zamudio, Villa, Rangel
Manager: Ariel Holan
Seattle Sounders: Frei; Yeimar, Arreaga, O’Neill (Benezet 83’); A. Roldan, João, Rowe (Atencio 83’), Medranda (68’); C. Roldan, Montero (Bruin 78’); Ruidíaz
Substitutes: Cissoko, Benezet, Bruin, Smith, Richey, Cleveland, Tolo, Atencio, Leyva, Dobbelaere, Chú, Baker-Whiting
Manager: Brian Schmetzer