The Seattle Sounders beat Toronto FC on penalties on Saturday night to win MLS Cup 2016 at BMO Field. Here are the ten things we learned from the final.
1. The Strangest of Victories
After putting together some of MLS’ best-ever teams, year in and year out, it took the season in which the Seattle Sounders fired their coach midseason, lost Clint Dempsey, and registered zero shots on goal in their last game to finally lift MLS Cup.
Were MLS Cup a lifetime achievement award, the Sounders might have been crowned a long time ago. As it stands, however, this triumph – 0-0 in normal time, 5-4 on penalties – will go down as one of the oddest in league history.
Not that it will matter to Seattle. This day has been a long time in coming, and for the likes of Brian Schmetzer, Osvaldo Alonso, and Brad Evans, it will feel like the culmination of one of the great eras for any club in American club soccer.
Just five months after sitting in last place in the Western Conference, the Sounders have kept MLS Cup in Cascadia. Perhaps in a league as strange as MLS, there is no more fitting champion.
2. Stefan Frei Puts His Name Up in Lights
For neutrals – and, you’d have to imagine, Toronto FC fans – this was a dismal final.
It was MLS’ first ever showpiece event to go scoreless through 120 minutes, with the Sounders failing to register a single shot on target and TFC, for all their endeavor, rarely threatening either.
Interestingly enough, it was the one player involved in this game with a link to the old, ugly history of Toronto FC who made the one play that will stand the test of time.
Stefan Frei’s save on Jozy Altidore’s looping header to keep the Sounders alive in the second half of extra time was stupendous, made with the Swiss goalkeeper reaching backwards while flying through the air to keep out what would have been the championship-winning goal.
Frei was strong all night, as he has been for three years now in the Pacific Northwest, and he did enough in the shootout to ensure that he’d be the 2016 MLS Cup MVP.
3. Toronto Despairs
Toronto was never going to match what they did in the second leg of the Eastern Conference Final against Montreal in this game. What they needed was a break. And they didn’t get it.