Sometimes a team will just not be denied, no matter the circumstances or the adversity they face, as was the case with the Seattle Sounders this season.
Sitting here on a Monday morning, it’s easy to call the Seattle Sounders a team of destiny. After all, this is being written with the benefit of hindsight, i.e. after they won the MLS Cup on penalties, against Toronto FC.
Regardless, the moment when I — and likely a lot of other objective observers — realized the Sounders were just meant to win, came when Stefan Frei made his spectacular, barely believable save during extra time. You could say 99 times out of 100, Jozy Altidore’s header finds the back of the net, but not on Saturday. Not against this opponent. Not in this crazy, surreal season.
In many respects, the Sounders were perfectly set up to deal with the circumstances they faced against TFC – playing on the road, in freezing conditions, against a team containing the best player in the league, and arguably in MLS history. (Nicolas Lodeiro is special, but he still has a long way to go, to be talked about on the same level as Sebastian Giovinco.)
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No team faced as much adversity as the Sounders did this season. They had to contend with losing their head coach mid-season, sitting 10 points out of playoff spot with 14 games remaining and then losing the best player in US international soccer history.
If we’re honest, Toronto FC were the better team on the night. However, in some respects this was partly by design. Facing a team which had scored 17 goals in their previous five playoff games, the Sounders came up with the soccer equivalent of the game plan the Giants used to defeat the Bills in Super Bowl 25.
Understandably, TFC fans are aggrieved and trying to justify what happened, including criticizing the referee for not producing more cards, with Osvaldo Alonso particularly singled out as being fortunate. However, if you want to go down that road, consider that the home side actually committed more fouls than the rave green.
Don’t get me wrong, penalties are a terrible way to decide any championship. I would be favor of playing sudden death extra time, until someone scores.
(Of course, I realize the practicalities of doing this in December somewhere like Toronto is open to question, especially depending on how long the players could be out there. However, this leads to another issue, with the MLS season lasting longer than necessary.)
Overall though, the Sounders did what they had to do, to win the game and lift the MLS Cup. And again, with the benefit of hindsight, this was how the season was meant to finish.
Share your thoughts in the comments section about what this win means for you as a Seattleite or someone from the surrounding region, whether you are a Sounders’ fan or not.