This wasn’t the kind of MLS Cup performance the Seattle Sounders were hoping for. Far from it.
Jozy Altidore opened the scoring in the 67th minute and Toronto FC beat Seattle 2-0 on Saturday to become the first Canadian champion in league history, and deny the Sounders a repeat triumph.
Toronto avenged a penalty-shootout loss to Seattle last year in the title game.
“Lifting this trophy has been an obsession for the last 364 days, not just for me but for every single guy on our team,” Toronto captain Michael Bradley said. “There’s no other word for it.”
Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer pointed to a single statistic, duels won, to illustrate the disparity between the teams. Toronto won 58 duels to Seattle’s 24.
“We picked the wrong time to have a game that was below our standards,” Schmetzer said. “We put our best attacking lineup out there but we weren’t able to keep the ball in any part of the game. That was not one of our stellar performances.”
In the 67th, Sebastian Giovinco’s pass from just inside the Seattle half helped Altidore split a pair of defenders. Altidore took a few steps to his left and fired the ball over goalkeeper Stefan Frei, setting off a wild celebration among the 30,584 fans that left BMO Field shaking.
Altidore’s goal snapped Seattle’s lengthy streak of keeping opponents off the scoreboard. The Sounders had not been scored upon since a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 1, going six games without conceding.
Victor Vasquez made it 2-0 in injury time from close range after substitute Armando Cooper’s shot rebounded off the post.
Altidore was selected MLS Cup MVP.
“To cap it off the way we did shows what this team is all about,” he said.
Altidore scored in Toronto’s 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew in the Eastern Conference final. He had 15 goals in the regular season, second on the team to Giovinco’s 16. Altidore, who injured his right ankle minutes after scoring against the Crew, was replaced by Nick Hagglund in the 86th minute.
Toronto won the title in its 11th season, TFC did not reach the playoffs until 2015, the first season it avoided losing more often than it won.
Toronto’s 69 points this season are the most in league history, and the team won its first Supporters’ Shield as regular season champion. Toronto also won the Canadian domestic championship, defeating MLS rival Montreal Impact in that final.
“In terms of seasons, I think we had the greatest season in the history of the league,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “I don’t think it’s debatable.”
Seattle was seeking to become the fourth back-to-back champion in league history, joining D.C. United (1996 and 1996), Houston (2006 and 2007) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (2011 and 2012).
“The final game is what matters most and we didn’t come to play,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said.
Toronto outshot Seattle 22-7 and had 11 shots on target compared to two for the Sounders.
“At some point, if you’re going to rely on your goalkeeper that often and in that many critical moments, one of them is going to get through,” Schmetzer said.
Frei, who began his MLS career in Toronto, said he was “frustrated and disappointed” by Seattle’s failure to match Toronto’s desire and intensity.
“I’m disappointed in our performance,” Frei said. “Toronto deserves to win, there’s no two ways about it. You can only weather the storm for so long.
“I felt like we were defeated,” Frei added. “That’s what’s disappointing. I feel like we accepted defeat. Before they even scored we accepted the way the game was being played and it’s wasn’t good for us, obviously.”
After going without a shot on goal in last year’s MLS Cup, Seattle struggled to find the target in the opening 30 minutes Saturday, finally ending its dubious streak when defender Joevin Jones fired a tame effort into the arms of goalkeeper Alex Bono.
“When you don’t have any rhythm to your game, you don’t create a ton of chances,” Schmetzer said.