The Sounders are MLS Cup Champions after edging Toronto FC at BMO Stadium in penalties in a hostile environment. It was a fitting end to an imperfect season.
The Sounders’ MLS Cup win at Toronto last night had echoes of the famous US-Belgium World Cup match. The US Men’s Team faced a superior side but battled the Belgians all game thanks to a series of heroic saves by Tim Howard. With the Sounders on the road in a very unfriendly environment (Toronto fans engaged in their traditional throwing of trash and beer at opponents as usual), they managed to keep Jozy Altidore and company off the score sheet for 120 minutes of regular and extra time.
Stephen Frei made a number of heroic saves, much like Howard in the World Cup game. None was more important than stopping an equally-incredible header by Altidore in the second period of extra time. Frei stopped Altidore’s MLS Cup-winning attempt by his fingertips to get the Sounders to penalties.
I knew the Sounders would have a chance if they could keep the game scoreless:
Obviously, if you watched the game, it wouldn’t take a genius to come up with that inspiring bit of color commentary. Especially because the Sounders couldn’t penetrate Toronto’s defense. They went the entire game without a shot on target, similar to the 3-0 defeat to Sporting KC that got Sigi Schmid fired midway through the season. But this is a different Sounders team that won the cup. The revelation of Nicolas Lodeiro, the unleashing of Jordan Morris, the locker room chemistry fomented by Brian Schmetzer all came together over the second half of the season and ended with a dramatic penalty shootout in enemy territory.
Frei’s heroics weren’t over after saving Altidore’s header. He blocked a Michael Bradley shot in the first round of penalties. Justin Morrow’s shot in extra penalties clanked off the crossbar and it was up to Roman Torres. Torres shook off a shot to the face in the 27th minute to bury the PK and give the Sounders their first-ever MLS Cup win.
It was a gritty, at-times ugly performance, but it was just what the Sounders needed to complete their resurrection and capture their first MLS championship. Well done, boys.