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Sounders to raise their first MLS Cup flag at home opener

The Seattle Sounders will raise their first MLS Cup flag before Sunday’s home opener with the New York Red Bulls at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders claimed the title with a win over Toronto FC in the 2016 championship game.

The Sounders (0-1-1) finished the 2016 season by winning nine of their last 11 MLS home games. They kept six clean sheets on that run.

Will Bruin’s late equalizer last week against Montreal snapped a streak of 17 straight regular season appearances without a goal. Bruin has 51 MLS regular-season goals in 180 regular season appearances.

“The team did a great job last year of winning the MLS Cup — it’s what the city deserved with the support that they’ve had over the years,” Clint Dempsey said.

“It was great for the team to be able to bring them that championship. We’re looking forward to this season and trying to repeat that and hopefully I can play more of a part in it.”

Dempsey’s season ended in August because of an irregular heartbeat.

New York (2-0) is one of four teams and the only one in the Eastern Conference, that has won its first two matches. It is the third time the club has won two consecutive out of the gate. New York has never started the season with three-straight wins.

New York also enters the match on an 18-game unbeaten streak in the MLS regular season, dating to July of 2016. The MLS record is 19 games, shared by Columbus and FC Dallas. Columbus’ streak also spanned two seasons.

“We were in such a good run last season, if we can build on that,” Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. “But we have a long way to go to be the team we want to be.

“It’s about creating clarity. That’s one of the best things about having a group that’s been together a long time, they know their roles.”

The Red Bulls won their home opener last week by beating the Colorado Rapids, 1-0. The game-winner was a Colorado own-goal right before the end of the first half, when Sal Zizzo’s cross into the path of Danny Royer was knocked in by a defender.

Seattle will be without its most physical defender, Roman Torres, who is suspended because of violent conduct. Torres appeared to kick out at Montreal’s Ambroise Oyongo after the two collided at the top of the penalty area in last week’s 2-2 draw.

The Red Bulls’ only win in Seattle came in 2010, 1-0 on a goal by Macoumba Kandji.