Seattle Sounders win first MLS Cup in franchise history
TORONTO (Via Seattle Sounders FC) – For the first time in franchise history, the Seattle Sounders are MLS Cup champions.
Seattle battled Toronto FC to a scoreless deadlock through 120 minutes in Saturday’s MLS Cup final at BMO field, but eventually prevailed 5-4 in a penalty kick shootout, capped by a finish from resurgent Panamanian center back Roman Torres.
Brad Evans, Andreas Ivanschitz, Joevin Jones and Nicolas Lodeiro also converted their penalties and goalkeeper Stefan Frei made one save in the shootout.
TFC’s Justin Morrow missed his chance of his crossbar in what proved to be the decisive final misstep for the Reds, who became the second consecutive team to lose the MLS Cup Final at home.
The Sounders managed just three shots during regulation and failed to log a shot on goal over those 90 minutes, but Frei and the Sounders’ rugged defense kept Seattle in the hunt for their first title. Frei made seven saves to earn his third shutout of the postseason, none bigger than a jaw-dropping save off the line in the 108th minute to keep TFC at bay. Frei leapt and pawed Jozy Altidore’s looping header form six yards out of harm’s way, a play that left the U.S. national team star with his head in his hands in frustration.
Frei was later named the MLS Cup MVP, just the third goalkeeper to win the award in the league’s 21-year history.
Toronto had the first opportunity to open the scoring of the evening in just the second minute after Giovinco found Altidore with a feed in the Sounders penalty box that the US international tried to slot past a diving Frei. But Torres deflected Altidore’s shot wide, allowing the Sounders to avoid what would have been a catastrophic start.
Altidore had another look at the half-hour mark off a cross from Morrow that he headed overJones. But Altidore was unable to get much power behind the host and Frei corralled it for an easy save.
The Sounders managed to temper TFC’s dynamic attack through the opening 45 minutes but didn’t register a shot during the first half, conceding seven to the hosts. But none of TFC’s looks managed to thwart Frei and the game remained scoreless at the break.
Neither side managed to break through in the second half either, although TFC came close in the waning moments of stoppage time off a corner kick from Bradley that found the head of Nick Hagglund before popping loose in the box. Altidore looked to have a clean opportunity at a diving header that would have almost certainly sealed the game, but Frei managed to punch the ball away just before Altidore could get to it and the match would head to extra time.
The scoreless deadlock would persist through the first period of extra time, sending the game into a final, 15-minute showdown for each side to chase a deciding goal.
Seattle had perhaps its best opportunity of the evening just after the second period of extra time started after Jordan Morris managed to break free down the left flank and send a cross in the direction of a charging Alvaro Fernandez. But Fernandez couldn’t control the feed and the ball was cleared away.
TFC had two golden looks shortly thereafter, the first on a shot from substitute Tosaint Ricketts that went just wide of goal. Then, just a minute, Altidore lofted a header that looked to be headed over Frei and into the net. But the Sounders ‘keeper laid out to make a highlight-reel, acrobatic diving save to swat the ball away and maintain the 0-0 scoreline by a matter of inches.
The victory gave the Sounders their first MLS Cup championship since their 2009 expansion season, capping off a remarkable second-half surge that saw Seattle vault from ninth place to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference.