TORONTO — The Seattle Sounders’ strong second half to the season has its fairytale ending, as the agonizing wait for that ever-elusive MLS Cup is over.
The Sounders were crowned MLS Cup champions for the first time on Saturday night after beating Toronto FC, 5-4, on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw at BMO Field. Roman Torres converted the title-clinching shot in the sixth round after Justin Morrow was denied by the crossbar, sending the Sounders and their fans into a frenzy on the frigid night.
The Sounders made MLS Cup history in the game, as they became the first to win the championship despite failing to register a shot on goal. The Sounders finished with three total shots, which was the fewest ever by a team in the final.
Chances were few and far between for both teams in the cagey affair, as they combined for just seven shots on frame. The best one of the night came via a looping Jozy Altidore header in the 108th minute, but Sounders goalkeeper MLS Cup MVP Stefan Frei flew in the air like Superman to push the shot away to safety in jaw-dropping fashion.
Frei also came up big in the penalty shootout, as he denied Michael Bradley on Toronto FC’s second attempt. Bradley stuttered on his run up before going low and to the right, but Frei read it and made the stop.
Toronto FC was not behind in the shootout for long, as Clint Irwin stoned Alvaro Fernandez on a low effort to the right in the next round.
The hosts went ahead in the fifth round when Drew Moor placed his shot to the bottom left corner, but Nicolas Lodeiro made sure the dramatic penalties would ensue when he hit a stinging blast to the top right corner.
Morrow then went up for Toronto FC in the first round of sudden death penalty kicks, but his high shot caromed off the crossbar. The miss set up Torres’ golden chance to be the hero, and the veteran centerback came through by firing the ball to the top left corner.
Toronto FC was the better side from the run of play during regulation and extra time, but could not find a way to break down the Sounders. The Canadian club, which was hoping to become the first to win the MLS Cup, had a chance two minutes in to take the lead when Sebastian Giovinco fed Jozy Altidore inside the penalty area. Altidore’s shot was deflected wide of the post, however.
Altidore was again denied, this time by Frei, in the 30th minute on a downwards header that proved easy work for the Sounders goalkeeper.
Giovinco then had a decent look and the first of the second half shortly after the intermission, but his effort from the right side of the 18-yard box hit the wrong side of the net.
The Sounders had to wait until the 82nd minute to get their first shot of the game, which came when Tyrone Mears hit a harmless shot low and wide.
Toronto FC then came within inches of finding a winner in stoppage time when a corner kick was knocked down by Nick Hagglund. Altidore was at the back post and attempted a diving header, but Frei just beat him to the ball and punched it clear.
It was more of the same in extra time, as Toronto FC could not capitalize on its looks. Tosaint Ricketts missed on a low volley that curled just wide in the 107th minute, and Altidore was denied spectacularly by Frei seconds later.
That set the stage for the dramatic penalty shootout, which went to the Sounders after Torres’ final kick.