TORONTO – Take a glance at the stat sheet and it may be hard to believe. But after an intense 120 minutes of soccer the Seattle Sounders have an MLS Cup and Toronto FC go home having come up agonizingly short.
The numbers present a stark contrast. Toronto took 19 shots, including seven on target, while Seattle made just three attempts to score and got none on target, both MLS Cup record lows. But Seattle, battered and facing a hostile crowd on the road, put in a heroic defensive effort, despite playing most of the game on the back foot. They also held their nerve in a penalty shootout, leaving a frustrated TFC in their wake.
“It’s tough after 120 minutes to lose a game where the other team didn’t have a shot on goal,” said Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin. “What can you do? That’s the game, this is what soccer is when you get to a cup final and you see it across the world. And it doesn’t take anything away from Seattle for winning it, but it’s tough for us to take.”
Though he also credited the Sounders for a defensive job well done, Toronto’s Jozy Altidore was a little more pointed in his assessment of Seattle’s game plan.
“Look, we were the better team but at the same time, Seattle, their game plan was to be unspectacular and to just kind of absorb pressure and try to stay in the game as long as they could,” he told reporters after the game. “Credit to them, they did, and we just weren’t able to find a way.
“I thought maybe in the middle of the park we could’ve been a little bit better in terms of creating more clear-cut chances. But hey, that’s football at the end of the day, and like I said, we have to regroup and try to get back here next year.”
Most of Toronto’s shots on goal on the evening did not seriously test Seattle ‘keeper Stefan Frei, save for one spectacular stop the former TFC man made on a looping header from Altidore in the first period of extra time.
Frei’s save on Altidore, as well as Justin Morrow’s crucial penalty miss coming just off the underside of the crossbar, served to underscore the thin margins by which the game was decided.
“They didn’t have a shot on goal, and what can you say? That’s sports,” said Irwin. “It comes down to these moments and a couple inches here and there, and it’s tough to take.”
And to lose a game of this magnitude on penalty kicks?
“It’s not easy,” said Altidore. “It’s a really crappy feeling, obviously. What are you going to say? The whole city was behind us and you kind of feel like you let them down, but I don’t think we did. I thought we showed them what this could be and it’s up to now to get back in preseason, work hard and try to get the city, try to get the love back.”