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Seattle crowned MLS champions for first time after dramatic penalty shootout in Toronto

Roman Torres proved the hero while goalkeeper Stefan Frei also proved crucial to the Sounders’ victory.

Eoin O’Callaghan reports from Toronto

IT DIDN’T QUITE go according to script.

With Toronto hosting the MLS Cup and the local, in-form side appearing in the decider for the first time, it seemed set to be a special night for the locale.

It’s been a while since the sports-mad city has celebrated success but that wait must go on a little longer.

It’s Seattle Sounders who are the new champions.

A scrappy and scoreless 120 minutes was followed by a sudden-death shootout and it was centre-back Roman Torres who proved the hero, stepping up and sending Clint Irwin the wrong way to ensure a 5-4 victory at BMO Field.

With the wind chill from Lake Ontario ensuring temperatures of around -10 degrees, the piercing cold didn’t seem to hold back the hosts who began brightly.

Toronto had more of the ball and tested Stefan Frei on a number of occasions, though meaningful chances were largely at a premium.

Having been so prolific over the course of their last four games in particular, much was made of TFC’s attacking potency beforehand. And though Sebastian Giovinco was relatively quiet, Jozy Altidore proved a handful in the early stages and rolled a shot narrowly wide after just two minutes.

Later, he tested Frei with a downward header but it was a straightforward stop for the former Toronto goalkeeper.

Seattle’s plan was simple: contain Toronto, reduce them to half-chances and utilise the pace of Jordan Morris and the guile of Nicolas Ludeiro to prise open some opportunities of their own.

They got it half-right. Defensively, Torres and Chad Marshall were excellent while Ossie Alonso was his usual calm and composed self in front of the back-four.

But they offered little in attack and went through the entire game without offering up a single shot on goal.

They also had Frei to thank for keeping them in the game.

The 30-year-old, who spent four years at BMO Field between 2009 and 2013, conjured a spectacular save in extra-time to deny Altidore once again – flinging himself to his left and clawing away the looping header from underneath his crossbar.

In the shootout, Frei saved Michael Bradley’s weak effort to give Seattle a brief advantage but Irwin blocked from Alvaro Fernandez in the next round of kicks to keep it level.

In sudden-death, Justin Morrow saw his thunderous effort crash back off the bar before Torres did the rest.

Having hinted at greatness for years – owing to their exciting players and hardcore support, Seattle’s patchy domestic campaign – complete with mid-season coaching change – saw them huff and puff towards the play-offs.

In contrast, Toronto marched to the post-season and obliterated near-neighbours New York and Montreal on their way to the final.

Yet, in their own backyard, they couldn’t make their dominance count and, following Portland Timbers’ success in 2015, the trophy will now stay in the Pacific Northwest for another year.

‘I’ll always reflect on where we started, the highs, lows and everything in between’

Drogba bids farewell as Toronto complete thrilling turnaround to reach first MLS Cup final

About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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