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Roman Torres provides the difference as Sounders win first MLS Cup

Photo by John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports
Photo by John E. Sokolowski/USA Today Sports

TORONTO — Roman Torres stepped to the penalty spot looking to best the goalkeeper by putting the ball in the back of the net. His shot was saved. The chance wasted.

That occurred on Friday in practice, but the miss did not even cross his mind when he was in the same situation, albeit on a much grander stage, a day later.

The Seattle Sounders won their long-awaited first MLS Cup on a wintry Saturday night at BMO Field, and it was Torres who authored the historic moment by converting his spot kick in the sixth round of a dramatic penalty shootout against Toronto FC. Torres hit the winning shot with a high effort to the left after Toronto FC’s Justin Morrow had bounced his attempt off the crossbar, and the ensuing scenes were that of jubilation for Torres, the Sounders, and their traveling fans.

Coming through in such a pressure-packed situation may have seemed easy given how calmly the 30-year-old centerback took his shot, but his ability to step up and deliver was due at least in part to his confidence. Torres had a penalty saved by Sounders’ backup goalkeeper Tyler Miller a day earlier in training, but the memories of that miss never seeped into his mind.

Instead, he stayed entirely focused on the task at hand and entered Sounders’ lore as a result.

“I’m happy that my name is there and that I could contribute to the club,” said Torres after the 5-4 penalty shootout victory that followed a goal-less draw. “They supported me in tough moments. When I was injured, they were always right there with me, giving me energy and supporting me the whole way.”

For Torres, capping off the season with a championship that he helped win in a tremendous way was the culmination of his hard work over the past year-and-a-half. The Panamanian international suffered a knee injury in 2015 that sidelined him almost a full year, but he looked like a player that was back to his best on Saturday.

Not only did Torres have ice in his veins on the decisive penalty kick, but he also put forth a strong, 120-minute performance in the heart of the Sounders’ defense. Alongside centerback partner Chad Marshall, Torres used his combination of size, strength, and skills to frustrate and limit Toronto FC attackers Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.

Altidore had a few big plays in the match, but also spent parts of the game floating out wide instead of up the gut dealing with the physicality of both Torres and Marshall. Giovinco, meanwhile, did not have as much of an impact on proceedings and was eventually substituted.

“We needed to have lots of concentration,” said Torres, reiterating the point he stressed in the build-up to the game. “We knew that in certain moments when Altidore received the ball with his back to goal, we had to be very close to him so that he couldn’t turn. I think I did a really good job of that in certain moments, I think Marshall did it on various occasions as well. On Giovinco, too. We didn’t give him room to breathe.

“We did a good job, and the focus that we had in the back was fundamental and we achieved our goal.”

Torres may not have won the MLS MVP award, that honor went to teammate Stefan Frei, but the bruising veteran nonetheless had one of his more impressive outings in a Sounders’ uniform. He was a rock at the back in a game he labeled as the coldest of his career, winning the majority of his individual battles and helping to keep his side in the match despite the fact that it could not create a single shot on target.

The old saying is that defenses win championships. Well, Torres certainly provided more credibility to that line of thinking.

“Roman is a tremendous defender. He showed that today,” said Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. “He had Altidore marked well. He fought, he hit, he was always there, and then he scores the goal that gives us the title. I’m happy for him because he’s recovered and back to 100 percent, and now we get to celebrate with the cup.”

There was a moment early in the game where it looked like Torres might not be able to continue. He took a stinging shot to the face after Giovinco tried to volley a ball on frame in the first half, and was left laid out on the ground for a couple of minutes while teammates and doctors checked him out.

Torres proved to be just fine, though. No concussion. No injury. Only a ring of the bell that would become just another obstacle for him to overcome.

“Roman is a very tough kid,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. “I was not nervous. Obviously concussion protocol and all that. Once he passed the concussion protocol, because our team doctor was on our bench, I had no worries. He’s a tough kid.”

Tough, clutch, tremendous, healthy. The adjectives used to describe Torres on Saturday were plentiful, but the one he might like the most is MLS Cup winner.

All thanks to an unforgettable play on a historic night.

“I’m happy to be a champion in MLS, and I think this team deserves it,” said Torres. “We came into this working really hard and at midseason no one believed in Seattle, and I think every single one of us contributed and we believed in ourselves. I think we deserve this because all of us believed we were capable of doing things right and God rewarded me.”


  1. “Alongside centerback partner Chad Marshall, Torres used his combination of size, strength, and skills to frustrate and limit Toronto FC attackers Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco”…hhmmm

    “When it comes to picking the most distinguished defenders in the history of MLS, Chad Marshall’s name belongs near the top of the list. No defender in league history has ever won more than Marshall’s three MLS Defender of the Year honors, a testament to both his longevity and consistency as one of the best center backs to ever suit up in MLS.”…..hhhmmmm

    “Marshall, often colloquially called ‘Air Marshall’ for his imperious aerial ability, is deceptively good with his feet and distribution ability despite standing a lumbering 6-foot-4.”……hhhmmmm

    …Take note Bruce Arena (Jan-Camp)

      • He played well yesterday and is a good player in general but is he really better than Cameron or Brooks (notwithstanding Brooks’ performance in CR)? I don’t think he is.

      • Chad Marshall has always been a favorite of mine since his Crew days, but he isn’t one of the six best CBs in the US these days. He does a fine job for Seattle and when paired with Torres they are a good combo especially when allowed to play physical as they were on Saturday night.
        Cameron, Gonzo, Besler, Birnbaum, Miazga, CCV, Hedges, Zimmerman, and probably one or two others I can’t think of.

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