TORONTO >> Roman Torres scored in the sixth round of penalty kicks to give the Seattle Sounders their first MLS Cup title, 5-4 over Toronto FC after 120 scoreless minutes tonight.
It was the first MLS Cup final to fail to produce a goal in regulation, setting the stage for a dramatic tiebreaker.
While Toronto’s Michael Bradley and Alvaro Fernandez for Seattle had both seen their shots saved, the game went to sudden-death spot kicks. Toronto’s Justin Morrow could only clatter his shot off the crossbar, setting the stage for Torres to win it with a high shot down the middle of the goal.
Former Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei was named the game’s most valuable player.
Seattle became the first team in MLS Cup final history to fail to produce a shot on target throughout the game. Additionally, the Sounders’ three shots overall were the fewest in an MLS title game, the first to feature two expansion franchises. Toronto was the first Canadian MLS Cup finalist.
After a fairly subdued 90 minutes of regulation, extra time produced a number of opportunities, but even with Toronto enjoying a 7-0 shot advantage in the 30-minute period, no breakthrough could be found.
Seattle’s lone chance to score in extra time came from a defensive error. Toronto’s Steven Beitashour saw Brad Evans’ cross deflect goalward off his leg in the 112th minute, but Clint Irwin bravely dove on the ball to take it away from Torres.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney removed former MLS most valuable player Sebastian Giovinco in the 103rd minute in favour of Tosaint Ricketts. The gutsy call almost paid off.
Following Ricketts’ cross five minutes after coming on, it looked as if Altidore was going to give Toronto the lead in the 108th minute with a looping header, but an athletic save from Frei kept it scoreless. Leaping to his left, he scooped the ball off the line with his left hand, allowing his defense to clear the ball to safety.
A minute earlier, Ricketts had had a great chance of his own wen a defensive clearance fell to him 16 yards out, but with Frei flat-footed he could only drive his right-footed shot wide of the right post.
At the end of regulation, Toronto had a chance to win it in stoppage time when Nick Hagglund headed a Bradley corner kick toward Altidore in the 6-yard box, but Frei reacted bravely to punch the ball clear to end the threat and send the final to extra time.
Before that the game was very much in Toronto’s control, with the home side unleashing 12 shots, three of which hit the target. Seattle couldn’t even muster a shot until the 76th minute, when Osvaldo Alonso’s effort from 25 yards out was charged down by Bradley, and though the Sounders finished the 90 minutes with three, none required Irwin to make a save.
ONE COLD NIGHT
The temperature at kickoff was 28 degrees, making it the second-coldest MLS Cup on record. That honor goes to the 2013 edition at Sporting Park in Kansas City, where the game kicked off at 22 degrees.
ONE HOT TICKET
While the remaining tickets for Saturday’s final sold out in three minutes after going on sale to the general public last Monday, there were still 90 or so tickets available on StubHub 10 minutes prior to kickoff. Prices ranged from $147 up to $2,500 for a ticket that retailed between $55 and $555 at face value.
THE POWER OF CHANGE
Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer became the first coach in MLS history to take charge of a team midway through the season and lead it to a championship. Sigi Schmid (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Steve Nicol (New England Revolution) took their teams to the title match, but both came up short.