TORONTO, ONTARIO – Traveling to face Toronto FC in MLS Cup for the second consecutive season, Sounders FC fell 2-0 on the road Saturday evening in front of 30,584 fans at BMO Field. Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez scored for the Reds, who captured their first MLS Cup after losing to Seattle last season via penalty kicks. Sounders FC’s ninth Major League Soccer campaign comes to an end after a standout season in which it finished second in the Western Conference before registering four straight shutouts in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs until Saturday’s championship fixture.
(Top photo: Sounders FC / Mike Fletchner)
The home side got off the starting blocks quickly, applying pressure to the Rave Green during the first 15 minutes of the contest, only to be rebuffed by 2016 MLS Cup Most Valuable Player Stefan Frei and his backline. The Seattle goalkeeper provided two critical saves for his side during the opening exchange, first making a diving stop to his right, denying Jonathan Osorio on a loose ball shot inside Seattle’s area in the 10th minute. One minute later, Frei combined with centerback Chad Marshall to thwart an onrushing Sebastian Giovinco, getting just enough of the ball to deflect the Italian playmaker’s shot.
It was Giovinco who had the match’s next best opportunity in the 23rd minute, weaving through Seattle’s defense, unleashing an attempt from almost point-blank range at Seattle’s near post. Once again, Frei frustrated Toronto’s attack, getting a firm right hand to the ball, pushing it away to safety.
Frei closed his emphatic first-half performance with a diving, low save on Vasquez, as the attacker ripped a shot from the edge of Seattle’s area, forcing Sounders FC’s netminder to stretch all the way down to his right. The save capped an incredible first 45 minutes for Frei, as his six saves in one half tied him for the second-most in MLS Cup history, trailing only San Jose’s Pat Onstad in 2003 (seven saves in one half).
Frei picked right back up where he left off in the second half, making arguably his best save of the day in the 64th minute, once again on Giovinco. Altidore laid the ball off for the Italian, allowing for a clean look at goal, with Frei once again making a fraught, diving save to deny the home side.
TFC finally broke the scoreless deadlock in the 67th minute, as Altidore found himself through on goal courtesy of a Giovinco through ball, leaving Seattle’s backline scrambling to recover on the counter-attack. Frei came off his line, and Altidore chipped a shot into the back of Seattle’s net to make the score 1-0 Toronto.
The Reds added a second goal in second-half stoppage time after pouncing on a turnover in Seattle’s defensive half. Vasquez played a quick pass to the feet of Giovinco, who then put Armando Cooper through on goal. Cooper’s shot ricocheted back off the post for a Vasquez tap-in from close range, allowing Toronto to seal a 2-0 victory for their first MLS Cup title.