Seattle's MLS Cup triumph leaves Toronto and the Sounders in disbelief
TORONTO -- As one would expect, the scene in the Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders locker rooms couldn't have been more different after the Sounders beat TFC 5-4 on penalty kicks to win MLS Cup on Saturday night after 120 scoreless minutes.
Champagne flowed on the victors' side. Tears did on the other. Despite the contrast in emotions, the one feeling players on both teams seemed to share was disbelief.
After all, the hosts had the better of the play all night long. They managed 19 shots in all, seven of them on goal, while Seattle became the first squad in 21 MLS Cups not to put a single attempt on target. Yet when it was over, it was the Reds left wondering how they had been beaten in this typically chippy title decider. Meanwhile, the Sounders were almost sheepish about the good fortune that landed them their first championship. They knew they stole this one, not that they really cared.
"It can be a cruel game sometimes," Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley, one of two TFC players to have his penalty saved by match MVP Stefan Frei in the tiebreaker, said afterward. "The margins are so small. We were strong and brave and went after the game in a hard way, from the first minute to the 120th. On a different night, if you get a goal -- if you get the first one -- you probably get a few more. But that's the game. That's how it goes."
The home side could have gone ahead just two minutes into the contest, when Jozy Altidore whistled a low shot just wide of Frei's net after a neat combination with Sebastian Giovinco. The Reds absolutely should have scored in the first extra-time session, but Frei magically parried Altidore's looping header around the post.
"That save was darn near impossible, and he pulled it off," said Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey, a onetime MLS keeper.
"It looked like it was going to go in, and then all of a sudden here comes his paw," Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer added in his post-match news conference. "I think we were fortunate to get the game to penalty kicks."
No doubt. And as Altidore pointed out, "it's a game of luck at that point."
Even Frei, who spent five seasons with TFC before being traded to Seattle three years ago, admitted that the outcome was harsh on his former club.
"I have to say I'm not a big fan of PKs," Frei said. "I guess somehow you have to decide the game, but for me football is a team sport. That's the beauty of it. It sucks that it has to come down to an individual."
This isn't to say the Sounders don't deserve credit for their win. They were able to limit TFC, which had scored a gaudy 17 goals in five playoff games to reach the final, mostly to half-chances in front of an overflow crowd of 36,045 at frigid BMO Field, putting them in position to take the honors.
"They always had numbers around the goal and around the box when we got into those areas," Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. "We just couldn't get that final pass to someone who could finish it. A game like that needs a goal sometimes to loosen up one of the teams defensively. The longer the game went on, the harder they were protecting their goal.
"They came into a tough place and held strong and came away with the win. Congratulations to them for doing so."
It always takes at least a little luck to hoist a trophy, though. And for whatever reason, all of it seemed to be on the visitors' side on this night, from Frei's save to the spot kicks that were missed by Bradley -- who was flawless the rest of the way -- and defender Justin Morrow and even to the winning kick by Sounders defender Roman Torres, who had failed to convert a penalty in practice the day before. "I'm glad he missed that one and not the one today," Frei said.
"I thought they dominated us, to be honest," said Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan, who absentmindedly wrung out a champagne-soaked Sounders scarf as he spoke to reporters, smiling faces all around him.
Down the hall in TFC's dead-silent space, Toronto native Jonathan Osorio, his eyes still red from crying, struggled to compose himself as he fielded questions.
"We controlled the whole game," he said, his voice breaking. "You lose on penalties in a game where the other team didn't have a shot on goal. What can you say?"
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.