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Seattle Sounders defender Joevin Jones (right) pushes down Toronto FC defender Steven Beitashour during second-half MLS Cup final soccer action in Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
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The Cup comes to Seattle: Sounders beat Toronto FC in shootout for 1st MLS title

For the first time in franchise history, the Seattle Sounders are the MLS Cup champions.

Seattle won their first MLS title after Roman Torres scored the winning penalty kick in the shootout.

The Sounders came into their very first MLS Cup final in great form and, for the most part, in great health. Erik Friberg came in for Andreas Ivanschitz for the Sounders, and captain Brad Evans made the bench.

Video: Frei’s huge saveSeahawks share reaction | Photo galleryStats

Toronto had a very early chance, when Sebastian Giovinco managed to get the ball to Jozy Altidore in the second minute, but his shot went just wide of Stefan Frei’s post. The home side continued to attack in the first five or so minutes, but the Sounders managed to keep everything out at the expense of giving away corner kicks and free kicks in dangerous spaces. They had their first big chance through a counterattack from Joevin Jones, but his cross was snagged by goalkeeper Clint Irwin.

Things started to even out after the opening attacks, with both teams getting up and down the pitch and creating chances. Toronto had another really dangerous chance after 15 minutes as Giovinco gave Torres the slip and passed it to Altidore in the box. Despite slipping as he received the ball, he managed to get it to Jonathan Osorio, who took a weak shot that Frei easily gathered.

Seattle’s Jordan Morris managed to latch onto a deep ball near the Toronto box, but the defense swarmed him before he could produce anything of note.

Around halfway through the first 45 minutes, Nelson Valdez had to be looked at by medical staff after landing awkwardly on his shoulder, but he was able to resume shortly after. Torres was the next to go down after getting hit point-blank by a volleyed shot from Giovinco. He was slow to get up, but the big defender managed to return to action after getting looked at by medical staff.

Not long after the Sounders nearly created an excellent chance in the final third, Toronto roared down the pitch and eventually forced the Sounders to give up a dangerous free kick just outside their box. Giovinco’s free kick deflected off the wall, but luckily for Seattle it was a favorable bounce that they could easily head away to safety. Both teams had tight chances near the end of the first 45, including a free kick for Toronto after Chad Marshall upended Altidore.

Minutes after the start of second half, Osvaldo Alonso lost the ball near the top of his own box, allowing Toronto to get the ball to a running Giovinco near the six-yard area. He managed to lose Marshall, who was marking him, but his shot went wide and scraped the outside netting. Another mistake nearly hurt the Sounders as a bad touch by Marshall gave Toronto the ball in a dangerous area, but Alonso managed to get the ball away from Giovinco near the corner of Seattle’s box.

After quite a while with little to no real action for both sides, the Sounders brought on their first sub, Flaco Fernandez for Erik Friberg. Some scuffling out wide of Seattle’s box ended in Toronto’s Steven Beitashour going down as if Jones made contact, though replays made it seem like there was little made. Valdez also went down with a cramp, and had to be replaced by Andreas Ivanschitz.

The final few minutes of regulation time saw both teams push and push on attack, but both defenses stood tall and held off their opponents. Frei came flying off his line to deny Altidore a header on a late corner, right before the referee blew the whistle to send it to extra time.

Toronto again had the most significant attacking chances in the first half of extra time, with Benoit Cheyrou dancing into the box and directing a tame effort at Frei’s goal. It earned a corner kick minutes after, but Michael Bradley’s effort was weak and cleared away by the Sounders.

Seattle came ever so close after 10 minutes when Ivanschitz’s pass just barely missed his teammates and skimmed the head of a Toronto player to send it out of play for a corner. Surprisingly, Toronto substituted Tosaint Ricketts in for Giovinco near the end of the period – it almost worked immediately as Ricketts’ speed nearly let him get on the end of a deep pass near Seattle’s box. But Sounders left back Jones showed off his own speed to hold off Ricketts and kick the ball out of play to end the first half of extra time.

Just as the referee kicked off the second period, Morris beat a defender to receive a great long pass from Lodeiro to get a ton of space near Toronto’s box. He tried to cross it into the box, but it was cleared. Toronto nearly had a goal as Ricketts took a reaction shot that went wide of the goal, and minutes later Frei made an unbelievable one-handed save to deny an Altidore header into his top corner. The Sounders came roaring down the pitch, earning a corner that was cleared away poorly, turning into a cross by Seattle substitute Brad Evans that went between Beitashour’s legs to Roman Torres, but his touch was too heavy and it bounced away.

After Seattle’s Cristian Roldan went down for an apparent cramp for a few minutes, Toronto nearly produced another great chance after Ricketts managed to get a slight touch on a ball into the box, but it only went straight to Frei. The score didn’t change before the referee blew the whistle to send us to a penalty shootout.

Shootout

SEA: Evans (scored); Ivanschitz (scored); Fernandez (saved); Jones (scored); Lodeiro (scored); Torres (SCORED)

TOR: Altidore (scored); Bradley (saved); Cheyrou (scored); Johnson (scored); Moor (scored); Morrow (missed, bounced off post)

Man of the match: It’s hard to pick just one player out of Seattle’s defense, but Stefan Frei truly kept them in this one for as long as he did. He played well in the shootout, as well.

Turning point: Frei’s big save in extra time kept it going as long as it did, and the Sounders wouldn’t have even gone to the shootout without that save.

What does this mean for the Sounders? It’s a big deal. For the Sounders organization, the players, head coach Brian Schmetzer. It means everything to the team, and hopefully the city.

Notes

• This is the first time that a team hasn’t registered a shot on target in MLS Cup, and definitely the first time the team without a shot won the match.

• It’s also the first match in which no goals were scored in regulation or extra time, which shows how resilient the Sounders’ defense was.