Let's be real: Any discussion of 2017's top moments needs to include Toronto FC lifting the cup that clinched the historic treble, their club's first MLS championship and the culmination of a season-long sending back all challengers to Canadian Championship, Supporters' Shield and MLS Cup glory. Gaining revenge against Seattle after falling in last year's final added an extra cherry. And we could tell:
WATCH: Michael Bradley and Toronto FC lift MLS Cup
With that acknowledgement in hand, let's take a look back at the year's heart-tuggers and heart-attack heroes, those in-an-instant times we knew something singular sped by. Happy Holidays!
—Ben Couch, Senior Editor | Dec. 25, 2017
Clint Comes Back
MARCH 4, 2017
After missing the Seattle Sounders' run to the 2016 MLS Cup due to a heart condition, Clint Dempsey was cleared to return to game action in February, and made his 2017 debut on Opening Day … scoring a goal, of course.
Three weeks later, wearing the Red, White & Blue, Deuce tagged Honduras with a memorable hat trick.
"It is a grind. You don't want to just be back and not make an impact," Dempsey told SoundersFC.com. "If I can find that right balance, then I know that the remaining years I have will be good ones."
We'd all be so #blessed. Glad to have you back, sir.
Expansion Derby: Snow Clasico edition
HIGHLIGHTS | Minnesota United 1-6 Atlanta United | 2-minute Highlights
Dax Returns to RBNY
APRIL 29, 2017
The trade stunned the league. An icon's era unexpectedly coming to an close gave everyone the feels. And emotions ran high when Dax McCarty made his first trip to Red Bull Arena since being sent off to Chicago.
Though RBNY took the points, Dax won the night with a 30-minute South Ward lovefest.
Rapids rally for Laurie Ford
MAY 5, 2017
Though Homegrown defender Kortne Ford didn't make an appearance in the Colorado Rapids' May 5 contest vs. Vancouver, everyone in attendance stood during the game's 24th minute as a show of support for No. 24 – his mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 bone cancer earlier this year.
Salinas is Gordon. Gordon is Salinas!
JULY 1, 2017
The Cali Clasico has proven, time and again, that it's a stage for magic … and soul-crushing Galaxy defeats. Super-sub Shea Salinas provided the latest San Jose Earthquakes stunner, scoring in the third minute of stoppage time to earn Chris Leitch a victory in his MLS coaching debut.
The craziest part? Salinas called his shot, waving his jersey around like Quakes icon Alan Gordon during pregame warmups, celebrating "the goal I'm going to score." True to his word, Salinas sank the Galaxy, and well … we all knew what was coming next:
GOAL: Shea Salinas gives Earthquakes Cali Clasico victory
JULY 22, 2017
I mean … #TheFreakingPrinterBroke
All-Stars take Madrid to PKs in Chicago
AUGUST 2, 2017
The 2017 MLS All-Star Game brought everyone's attention – and freshly minted UEFA Champions League winner Real Madrid – to the Windy City amidst a Chicago Fire revival that had captured the dormant soccer spirit. Fans sold out Soldier Field, and were rewarded for hanging through the early rain with a nervy, 1-1 draw decided by penalty kicks after Dom Dwyer cleaned up the 87th-minute rebound on a near-hometown-hero-making header from McCarty.
ATL sets attendance record(s repeatedly)
SEPTEMBER 16, 2017
Sure, Mercedes-Benz Stadium held an Atlanta United match the week prior. But it marked a new-venue soft pedal (smart business; I remember how fraught it was debuting the Barclays Center debut in Brooklyn) and the full forces didn't take effect until this second match, when ATL UTD set an MLS single-game record with a staggering 70,425 fans.
They went on to break the record toward season's end, eventually setting an all-time single-season high and adding a new playoff mark in the Knockout Round, but nothing can compare to that first realization soccer could be 70,000 strong in the States.
Kaká and Patrice Bernier take a bow
OCTOBER 15 & 22, 2017
Former Ballon d'Or winner Kaká joined MLS with Orlando City SC for that expansion run in 2015, and he forged a memorable connection with the club and its supporters through three seasons, helping to establish a rock-solid foundation in the Central Florida swamplands. It was a special day from the jump.