TORONTO, Ontario — Well, it was a good run.
Toronto FC, quite possibly adding the final piece they needed to call themselves the “best team in the history of MLS”, dominated from end to end to win the franchise’s first-ever MLS Cup. The final score read 2-0 — with the second goal coming in the 95th minute — but that was deceiving. If not for Stefan Frei’s nine saves, the score would have been far more lopsided.
The Sounders came into their second consecutive MLS Cup final at BMO Field as reigning champions. There is pressure with that, sure, but the real pressure was with the home team. Toronto FC had a nearly perfect regular season, finishing as Supporters’ Shield and Canada Championship champions. They will now get to call themselves the first treble-winning team in MLS history (and surely let other debate the validity of it).
The home side reacted well to the pressure, dominating every aspect of the pitch for 90 minutes. Almost from the opening whistle, they were peppering Frei’s goal with shots. Frei held strong for 67 minutes — running the Sounders’ shutout streak to 714 minutes — but could not stop Jozy Altidore after he was put in on goal during a perfectly executed counter.
Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer brought out the lineup most expected, just making one change from the second leg against Houston: Victor Rodriguez started in midfield, and Joevin Jones went to left-back. Jordan Morris started on the bench as predicted, and Osvaldo Alonso was definitely not in the 18. Toronto FC had a pretty typical lineup for them, though they did look to be playing in more of a four-back formation than usual.
The first chance of the match was for the home side, who forced an early corner and almost capitalized on it, but Drew Moor’s header went over the goal. Seattle had their own chance that earned a corner, but they couldn’t do much with the set piece either. Giovinco had a shot soon after, but it was tame and right at Frei.
While those were decent chances, the first real opportunity of the game came for Jonathan Osorio, who smashed a decent control from Altidore. Frei came up back and made an epic save to knock it out for a corner. Giovinco found space and blasted it at goal, but again Frei did enough to force it to dribble past the goal and out. Toronto dominated early, but Seattle did enough to hang on despite the early chances.
Things started to settle down a bit after the early chances, but a poor tackle by Cristian Roldan on Giovinco after a tussle for the ball gave Toronto a free kick in a very dangerous position. Luckily for Seattle, the free kick by Giovinco went straight at the wall and the subsequent chances went nowhere. The Sounders managed to get the ball downfield and into a good area, but they lost the ball and a vicious Toronto counterattack ensued. A great pass from Victor Vasquez set up Giovinco, who whipped another vicious ball at goal. But yet again, Frei came up huge and pushed the shot over the bar.
While not exactly notable otherwise, the Sounders had their first shot on goal in about 150 minutes of MLS Cup Final play when Jones took a weak shot right at Bono around the 30th minute. Things turned back to the home side after as Toronto marched down the pitch and earned corner after corner. One resulted in an eventual, powerful shot from distance by Marco Delgado that Frei (again!) saved by pushing it over the crossbar.
Around the 40th minute, a bad pass from Bruin to Lodeiro gave Toronto a fast counter that resulted in Vasquez getting a dangerous shot, but Frei continued his phenomenal match by making a low save to knock the shot wide. A pinball in the box nearly saw Jones score an own goal, but luckily the ball bounced across the goal and wide. The first 45 ended 0-0, but Toronto were clearly the better side. Without Stefan Frei, that half would have been a bloodbath.
Seattle didn’t make any changes going into the second half, as Schmetzer chose to just make adjustments to his existing lineup before going to the bench. Toronto dominated the early minutes of the half, though the Sounders did get there second shot on goal of the night when Dempsey fired a tame effort at Bono from the edge of the box.
A foul by Svensson on Giovinco again set the home side up with a free kick from about 30ish yards out. However, it was another lucky break for Seattle as the Italian’s effort went way over the crossbar. A Seattle counter ended weakly as Leerdam’s shot flew high and wide, and a Toronto effort soon after was barely snuffed out by a sliding Chad Marshall.
Some confusion in the box ended in what looked like a possibly penalty near the end line for Toronto, but the referee waved it away and replays confirmed the call. Seattle came right back down the pitch with it and Dempsey earned a free kick to give his side a chance to organize. A chance nearly materialized, but they couldn’t do much with it. The home team again mounted a fierce counter attack that almost gave them a breakthrough. Bradley took a stinging shot that went straight at Frei, but it bounced off his chest and was eventually cleared by Roman Torres.
Yet again, Toronto out-classed the Sounders in their half and passed circles around them near the edge of the box, resulting in a shot by Giovinco that Frei parried away for another Toronto corner.
The breakthrough finally happened for Toronto FC in the 67th minute, as Altidore latched onto a Giovinco through ball and managed to stay barely onside and chip the ball over the outstretched, diving Frei.
The Sounders were about to introduce Nouhou before the goal, but Schmetzer changed his mind and instead brought on Morris for Rodriguez in the 71st minute.
The substitution changed things a bit for Seattle, but it didn’t fix the flaws that plagued them for the previous 70 minutes. Morris was deployed out left in what mostly looked like a 4-4-2 in possession, but the Sounders just weren’t crisp in their passing, on the ball, or in their finishing. They pushed with everything they had in the final 10 minutes, coming close at times but still lacking the final ball.
A prolonged stoppage near the end of regulation saw Nouhou come on for Jones, despite Roldan limping around with a what seemed to be a hamstring issue. Seattle had a corner kick waiting that whole time, but it was easily cleared by Toronto. They came up with another solid chance that was easily smothered by Bono.
After the first couple minutes of injury time, Toronto took advantage of Seattle’s offensive push and created a 3v1 that ended with a shot off the post by Armando Cooper that was bundled into an open net by Victor Vasquez. 2-0 to the home side with just seconds to go, wrapping up their official revenge against Seattle.