(By: Thomas Debost)
It’s difficult to invent scenarios like this one.
This year’s MLS Cup final was the most important game in Toronto FC (TFC) franchise history to date, and the club delivered.
TFC faced off against the Seattle Sounders, the same team who broke the hearts of TFC fans in last year’s MLS Cup final after an intense draw that ended in a penalty shootout loss for the reds at BMO Field. A Canadian team had never won the MLS Cup, and TFC was hosting the championship game for the first time.
TFC had a chance at redemption this year, on home field once again.
The reds were coming off arguably the best season in MLS history. Their 20 wins tied them for the most wins in league history, and their 69 regular season points is the most in a single MLS regular season. After receiving the Supporters Shield, awarded to the best team in the regular season, and after winning the Canadian Championship, TFC wanted to cap off their memorable season in style.
This was more than just about winning a game for TFC. This was about a franchise and a passionate fan base thirsty for revenge.
The first half proved frustrating for TFC’s offense after a number of saves from Sounders goalkeeper, Stefan Frei. This was all too familiar to the home crowd as the Swiss keeper made an incredible save on Jozy Altidore in last year’s final that would have put TFC on top in the game’s final minutes.
Jozy Altidore redeemed himself this time around, solving Frei at the 67 minute mark after he received a pass from co-star and attacking partner Sebastian Giovinco.
Altidore also scored the goal that sent TFC to the MLS Cup in the second leg of the conference final against Columbus. Up 1-0 in the second half, the reds had set themselves up again to win with that much more on the line. The atmosphere at BMO Field was electric. Red flares were being thrown all over the place, and red smoke covered the stadium after Altidore’s goal.
TFC’s 1-0 lead didn’t guarantee them their first MLS Cup victory, but when Victor Vasquez slotted a rebound into the empty net at the 90 minute mark, it was certain the trophy would stay in Toronto in 2017.
Altidore’s performance earned him MLS Cup MVP honours.
TFC is the first Canadian team to win the MLS Cup in the league’s history. The reds played in back-to-back MLS Cup finals against the Sounders after years of failing to make the playoffs, and they finally got their redemption, capping off one of the best seasons in MLS history.
Following the game, TFC players engaged with the fans with the thunder clap, a winning tradition at BMO Field, and one that has never felt so good.
(Header image courtesy of Sports Illustrated)