Seattle Sounders Win MLS Cup 2016 In PKs Behind Stefan Frei

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TORONTO, ON (December 10, 2016) – The Seattle Sounders are 2016 MLS Cup Champions. They defeated Toronto FC in PKs 5-4 after a 0-0 score in 120 minutes. They did so on a Roman Torres PK take and brilliant defensive play from goalkeeper Stefan Frei.

Seattle Sounders Win MLS Cup 2016 In PKs Behind Stefan Frei

Both managers came out with all their weapons. Toronto manager Greg Vanney started Jozy Altidore up top with Sebastian Giovinco. Michael Bradley led an attacking minded midfield next to Armando Cooper and Jonathan Osorio. Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow started as wing backs. Drew Moor lead the three man back line in front of goalkeeper Clint Irwin.

Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer started Nelson Valdez with Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris on the wings. Ozzie Alonso wore the Captain’s Armband in a holding role. Chad Marshall and Roman Torres centered a four man back line with Stefan Frei in goal.

There was no snow on the field, but kick off temperatures were at 23 F. With windchill, it felt like 10 F at the start.

First Half:

Toronto nearly scored in the opening minutes. Off a restart, Giovinco got the ball at the top of the box and found Altidore. The No. 9 squared the ball and fired it far post, but it was deflected for a corner.

While The Reds had a good start, Seattle was able to turn up the heat. They had several waves of attack, with Lodeiro leading the way. The Sounders were able to earn several restarts and give Toronto some nervous moments in the box. No dangerous scoring chances resulted though.

In the 15th minute, Toronto had another chance from short range. Giovinco created space around several defenders. The ball ultimately found Osorio in the box. He turned and fired quickly, but Frei was well positioned to make the save.

Seattle had some injury scares in the first half. In the 23rd minute, when Valdez went down with a shoulder injury after landing awkwardly on the grass. He would return minutes later. In the 27th minute, Torres went down after taking a Giovinco shot point blank in the final third. Head official Alan Kelly stopped play with the ball still in play headed towards goal. Torres was taken off and evaluated.

Altidore nearly found the opener moments later. Justin Morrow got space on the wing and sent a ball into him. Altidore rose up beyond his defender and headed it near post, but Frei made the save just a foot from the goal line.

Both teams defended the opposing stars well. For much of the first half, defenders won 1-v-1 exchanges. The Sounders were physical with Giovinco, limiting him. Toronto defenders took no chances, clearing balls before runners could get to them.

The teams continued to change rushes up and down the field, but neither could score. Toronto got several chances off sustained possession and restarts. Seattle continued to use counters and wide play to get the ball in the box.

The half ended scoreless with Chad Marshall being the only player on a booking.

Second Half:

Toronto started the game on the front foot. They saw most of the ball in the opening minutes. Giovinco had a great chance in the 49th minute. He got on the end of some great build up play, but his shot near-post was just wide.

Minutes later, Bradley had a thumping shot that was blocked and led to a counter from Seattle. Both Bradley and Alonso continued to come up big defensively. Toronto continued to have the majority of the ball and chances as the game hit the hour mark.

A bit of chaos started in the 72nd minute. Valdez went down again in pay shortly after Christian Roldan was slow to get up on a challenge. Toronto continued to play forward with Valdez down. Joevin Jones was called for a foul later in the play for getting hands to the face of Beitashour. Valdez was subbed off shortly after.

Seattle was able to turn the tables with substitutions. Alvaro Fernandez and Andreas Ivanschitz came into the game, allowing Morris to move up top. The visitors started seeing more of the ball and sent numbers forward. They still had trouble creating shots, but they forced Toronto to go Route 1 at times.

Toronto had trouble holding the ball but was able to get one late rush. Substitute Benoit Cheyrou found a streaking Giovinco, but he was unable to get it to an open Altidore and a 2-on-2 rush was squandered.

Altidore nearly won it at the death. In the second minute of stoppage time, Bradley took a corner and it fell to Altidore in the box. Frei rushed out to swat it away from the striker and it was cleared out.

The official blew for full time and the clubs headed to extra time. Bradley, Jones, and Marshall were all on yellow cards. Both teams had a sub remaining.

Extra Time:

Toronto got a chance in the first minute off Alonso slipping in the final third. Cheyrou took a shot in space, but it trickled wide of goal off a deflection.

The two traded punches but neither could muster a shot attempt. In the 95th minute, Toronto got a counter on a long ball. Giovinco redirected it to Cheyrou, who took a hard shot, but Frei made the save from a good position.

Vanney had a hard decision to make later in the period. With the game slowing down and TFC’s attack sputtering, Giovinco came up hobbled and was forced to be subbed out for Tosaint Ricketts.

Neither team was willing to give up any space and the extra time half ended 0-0.

The Sounders nearly had it in the opening minute of the second period. Morris got into space near goal and sent a cross in that was cleared out. Moments later, Toronto had a flurry in the box. First, Ricketts had a volley that went just a foot wide of goal.

Then TFC got on the run and Altidore headed the ball for the far corner, but Frei rose up to palm it out of the box, making the best save of the game to that point.

In the 112th minute, Beitashour bobbled a cross into the box. It deflected off Torres towards Irwin, who made the save on the door step.

Ricketts created another chance in the 119th minute. Altidore unleashed him, he ran into the box, and fired a low shot, but Frei made the save.

Full time was called 0-0. The match headed to PKs.

Penalty Kicks:

Bradly missed the first PK of the second round with the score at 1-1. Irwin was able to bail out his captain with a save on Fernandez in the third round to level it at 2-2. Every PK taker converted their chance through the first five to tie the take at 4-4. In the top of the sixth round, Morrow’s shot went off the post and bounced out. Torres stepped up to take and converted it.

Seattle Sounders won MLS Cup.

Final Thoughts:

In the 120 minutes, Toronto were the better team. They had more of the ball, created more chances, and created better chances. But they couldn’t convert and Seattle endured. At points, it seems they played for PKs. With the cold weather, perhaps Irwin wasn’t as sharp. Frei was sharp from the first minute and he came up big in the shoot out. It’s an imperfect way of deciding a champion, but Morrow missed his chance when Torres converted.

Toronto are still in good position to contend in the future. They’ve got great DPs and a solid core around them. On the other side, Seattle have some uncertainty. Clint Dempsey still needs to come back. But for now, they’re champions on one of the most improbably runs in league history. It’s going to be one long party in the Emerald City this off-season.