The Seattle Sounders are MLS Cup Champions. This ludicrous season ends with the most ludicrously beautiful of results. That this Sounders team that was in last place in July, that did not manage a shot on goal in the finals, that lost Clint Dempsey for the year mere months ago is MLS’ champion? Absurd!
Making the whole thing extra absurd, the Sounders offense was miserable on Saturday. The vaunted duo of Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris were out of sync all night long. Long balls went skipping out of play, the last pass of the few stretches of buildup play the Sounders managed just never managed to connect. All of this meant that the Seattle Sounders went 120 minutes without an official shot on goal. Only with hindsight does the Sounders inability to threaten Toronto FC’s goal feel like anything resembling a winning strategy.
The Sounders defense, however, was really good on Saturday. Toronto did more than Seattle offensively but still struggled to create anything resembling a clear-cut chance. Roman Torres and Chad Marshall were physical enough in central defense to prevent Toronto striker Jozy Altidore from muscling his way into any great shooting positions. Ozzie Alonso played through an injury in the midfield and was his usually imperious self-dispossessing the opposition. This was crucial as Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley was effective at building up attacks all game.
And then there was Stefan Frei:
Holy crap this save. In extra time, bending backwards, flipping the ball right onto a defender's thigh so the ball could be cleared. Incredible. Truly incredible. A defensive moment of brilliance that will be write in Seattle championship lore alongside Sherman’s tip, some Sonics play by Jack Sikma from before I was born, and the Mariners [FOOTAGE NOT FOUND].
And then penalties. Fucking penalties. The absolute cruelest way to decide a championship. Seattle got an early advantage when Bradley scuffed the ball into Frei, but then gave it away shortly thereafter when returning hero Alvaro Fernandez hit a tame effort right into the arms of Toronto’s keeper. The teams were level at 4-4 after five kicks when Justin Morrow rattled the crossbar with his shot. That left center back, and my man of the match Roman Torres with an opportunity to win the match with a penalty he sunk coolly into the back of the net.
The Sounders haven’t existed long enough to be a truly long-suffering team. Plus, they’ve won a host of other trophies in the past few years. And yet their ability to make the playoffs always had exceeded their ability to succeed in the playoffs. So many years of underachieving and heartbreaking losses lined up so quickly at the beginning of the franchise’s history made eight years of futility feel like far more than that.
And now after a season that saw the dismissal of a coach, and more bad moments than the previous three combined, that’s all washed away. The Sounders won the MLS Cup. The Sounders are due to land today at Boeing Field’s international terminal. Fans are welcome to greet them. There’s a parade on Tuesday. Totally ludicrous. Absolutely wonderful.
Save the date! Join us for the #MLSCup Champions March and Rally on Tuesday, December 13: https://t.co/FxqECxXmeb pic.twitter.com/829EZu6dQ1
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) December 11, 2016