Toronto FC loses MLS Cup to Sounders on penalty kicks
Seattle's 0 shots on target and 3 total shots both MLS Cup records
While the Seattle Sounders celebrated with the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy after the MLS Cup final, numb Toronto FC players tried to process what had just happened.
There are few more painful ways to lose a championship game than by penalty shootout. But there is salt in the wound when you hold the opposition to no shots on goal in a 0-0 tie over 120 minutes, only to lose the ensuing shootout 5-4 on a bone-chilling night on home soil.
"It can be a cruel game sometimes," said a despondent Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who sat in his locker-room stall looking like he had been hit by a truck.
"It's not easy," added striker Jozy Altidore. "It's a really crappy feeling obviously."
"It all happened so quickly and it's over," said goalkeeper Clint Irwin, who looked like a ghost. "You don't really know what to feel or what to do. It's just over. There's no words to describe it."
It took Toronto FC 10 seasons, nine coaches, 324 regular-season and six playoff games to finally get to the championship game. Some 3.49 million fans went through the turnstiles before the 36,045 lucky ones Saturday night.
Frei wins MVP
Toronto got there having set an MLS record 17 goals in these playoffs. But they could not beat Stefan Frei, named MLS Cup MVP.
The former Toronto FC 'keeper made a brilliant save in the 108th minute, using his left hand to claw away a looping Altidore header from the top corner. Frei somehow extended himself like Inspector Gadget to preserve the tie.
"He made a great save, kept his team in the game," said Altidore. "It was going to take something special, either to win or in that case to keep them alive and they got that play."
Frei was modest about his miraculous stop.
"Sometimes you throw technique out the window and just make the save," he said.
Frei, who spent five seasons in Toronto where he lost his starting job mostly to injury, credited Seattle's coaches for believing in him.
Altidore, Benoit Cheyrou, Will Johnson and Drew Moor scored in the shootout for Toronto. Frei stopped Bradley on Toronto's second attempt and Justin Morrow hit the underside of the crossbar with Toronto's sixth attempt.
Defender Roman Torres then stepped up and beat Irwin to end the drama.
Brad Evans, Andreas Ivanschitz, Joevin Jones and Nicolas Lodeiro scored earlier in the shootout for Seattle. Irwin stopped Alvaro Fernandez on Seattle's third penalty.
It was a bitter pill for Toronto to swallow after a game where the tension was ratcheted up as the night wore on, with Toronto turning the screws. The shots were 19-3 in Toronto's favour (7-0 in shots on target) after 120 minutes but Seattle defended stoutly.
The Sounders' zero shots on target and three total shots were both MLS Cup records. And it was the first 0-0 MLS Cup final in regulation time.
"We were the better team but at the same time, Seattle, their game plan was to be unspectacular, to just kind of absorb pressure and try to stay in the game as long as they could," said Altidore. "Credit to them, they did. And we just weren't able to find a way."
Both teams' star men had quiet nights. Striker Sebastian Giovinco was treated like a pinata by Seattle defenders. Uruguayan playmaker Lodeiro was kept in check by Toronto.
"We can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this together with us," said Bradley. "I'm sick to my stomach that we couldn't reward them with the biggest trophy tonight."