SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

No shots on goal, no problem for the Sounders as they win first MLS Cup

Dec 11, 2016, 5:54 PM | Updated: 6:00 pm
Tyrone Mears and the Sounders' defense kept Toronto FC scoreless to force a shootout in the MLS Cup...
Tyrone Mears and the Sounders' defense kept Toronto FC scoreless to force a shootout in the MLS Cup final. (AP)
(AP)

After witnessing a nervy, excruciating 120-plus minutes of soccer in Saturday’s MLS Cup final, all I really wanted was to look at the game anew – to find something fresh and interesting to say about the Sounders and the match. But as I have many times this season, I keep going back to the same conclusion: the Sounders’ revolution that led them to the MLS Cup trophy started when they figured out how to win, even when it looked nearly impossible.

Impossible seems like a strong word, and it certainly didn’t feel likely that the Sounders would find a winner in this match. They had some chances, sure, but they had the familiar look of a team that was simply out of ideas. Seattle somehow even broke a couple records in this match. They were the first MLS Cup finalists AND winners to make zero shots on goal, and they also took the fewest total shots of a team in an MLS Cup final.

This is at the same time funny and sad – the Sounders’ performance on offense was dire, but they more than made up for it with a stout, heroic defense. After all, when you know you’ll be on the ropes, why not prepare for the worst?

Watching the Sounders attack Toronto was an exercise in futility. They’d push into the final third, but the real creativity – the so-called “final ball” – just wasn’t there for Seattle. Jordan Morris would latch onto a long ball from a teammate, but he’d cross it to nobody or get tackled by a defender before making a decision.

The passing wasn’t there for most of the players, either. Nicolas Lodeiro’s might have been at its worst since he arrived in Seattle.

But what did the Sounders do right? Defense, defense, defense.

Video: Seahawks react to Sounders’ MLS Cup championship victory

I, like many, talked before the match about how one of the top narratives would be Toronto’s vicious attack versus an organized, Seattle defense. Toronto had numerous chances, culminating in seven full shots on goal – but zero goals. As frustrating and upsetting as it was to watch Seattle attack, to watch them defend was, dare I say it, soccer at some of its heroic best.

Casual fans and those popping in to watch their first Sounders game on Saturday were probably a bit disillusioned with the game, simply because of the scoreline. It can be hard to accept that 0-0 draws are exciting or interesting to watch. But this wasn’t just another 0-0 draw. This was the soccer equivalent to a long pitchers’ battle or a drawn-out defensive battle in football.

When Tyrone Mears came flying out of nowhere to snatch the ball away from the best player in the league, that’s heroic soccer. When Chad Marshall, after playing nearly 120 minutes of the MLS Cup final in 20 degree weather, kept pace with freshly substituted Tosaint Ricketts to force him to shoot wide, that’s heroic soccer.

But the platonic ideal of heroic soccer, and the epitome of the “finding ways to win” philosophy, was Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. The player who was tossed aside by Toronto FC came back to haunt his former team, both in his excellent open-play saves and his work in the penalty shootout for the Sounders. Frei played like a hero, not just doing his job, but doing much more. His epic save against Jozy Altidore’s late header literally saved the game for the Sounders, since it kept out Toronto’s best chance of the entire match.

The shootout decided the game, but the Sounders don’t even make it that far without Frei’s save. He was the man of the match, and he should be paraded around Seattle like a king during Tuesday’s parade.

Seattle Sounders FC

Sounders Sporting KC...
The Associated Press

Sounders lose to KC 1-0, will miss MLS playoffs for 1st time

William Agada scored an all-important goal as Sporting Kansas City earned a 1-0 victory over Seattle, eliminating the Sounders from postseason contention.
3 days ago
Sounders Fredy Montero...
The Associated Press

Fredy Montero helps Sounders draw with FC Cincinnati 1-1

Fredy Montero equalized for Seattle in the second half of a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night that kept the Sounders' slim playoff hopes alive.
8 days ago
Sounders Whitecaps...
SeattleSports.com Staff

Sounders’ playoff chances take a hit with 2-1 loss in Vancouver

The Vancouver Whitecaps downed the Seattle Sounders 2-1 in MLS play on Saturday night thanks to a pair of goals in the first half.
18 days ago
Sounders...
The Associated Press

Ruidiaz scores 2 goals as Seattle Sounders defeat Austin

Raul Ruidiaz scored two goals and the Seattle Sounders beat Austin 3-0 on Saturday night. Both of Ruidiaz's goals were in the first half.
25 days ago
PORTLAND, OREGON - MAY 09: Fredy Montero #12 of Seattle Sounders reacts in the second half against ...
The Associated Press

Montero, Nouhou score, Sounders beat Dynamo 2-1 to stop skid

Fredy Montero scored the deciding goal in a 2-1 win for the Sounders over Houston as Seattle ended a five-game winless streak.
1 month ago
REUNION, FLORIDA - JULY 25: Kyle Smith #24 of Orlando City carries the ball during a match against ...
The Associated Press

Smith’s goal in stoppage time lifts Orlando City over Sounders 3-2

Kyle Smith scored in the first minute of second-half stoppage time and Orlando City beat the Seattle Sounders 3-2 on Wednesday night.
1 month ago
No shots on goal, no problem for the Sounders as they win first MLS Cup