Story and photos
By Aldwyn McGill
Toronto FC won the 2017 MLS Cup after defeating Seattle Sounders 2-0 on second half goals by Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez last Saturday at BMO Field Stadium in Toronto.
It was a rematch of the 2016 MLS Cup at the same venue where the Reds lost in front of their fans on penalty kicks and the game finished scoreless after extra time. Although the match up was the same, the performance of Toronto FC was completely different.
As the favourite in both games, the Reds were on the offense from the opening whistle and only some brilliant saves by Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei kept the game scoreless at the half. The outcome seemed inevitable as Toronto dominated in all facets of the game.
The winning goal was scored in the 85th minute when Altidore broke free of Sounders defenders and chipped an advancing Frei to give TFC a 1-0 lead. Victor Vazquez scored the insurance in injury time that set BMO on fire.
The entire 2017 season belongs to Toronto FC. It won the Canadian Championship, Supporters Shield as the team with the best overall record in the MLS, won the Eastern Conference Championship and the MLS Cup.
TFC Captain Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore said that the team was on a mission to get another chance at the MLS Cup and they delivered. “It was an obsession” Bradley said. To accomplish the mission Bradley and company removed every team which posed a threat.
Reds were never on a major losing streak or scoring drought during the season. In fact, Toronto FC was the highest scoring team in the MLS in 2017 with 74 goals scored – 37 goals against, the second lowest in the league.
It was a balanced team effort with the offense helping on defense and defenders contributing in the scoring department. Justin Morrow scored seven goals on the season at the left wing back position.
Clearly, Toronto FC did not struggle when key players were out the lineup. It is a tribute to Coach Greg Vanney who had the team performing well with key players, injured or not, performing at their best.
It was business as usual with Vanney and the Reds on FIFA dates without the leadership of Captain Bradley and the scoring of Altidore who were pressed into service with the US national team.
Teams are as good as their weakest link and Vanney dug deep into his bench to keep the momentum on what turned out to be a record setting 2017 season. Some teams need to get hot to win championships but all the Reds did was remained consistent all year long.
Reds General Manager Tim Betzbatchenko deserves some credit for adding several pieces to the MLS Cup puzzle after 2016 MLS Cup disappointment. He brought in midfielder Victor Vazquez, Chris Mavinga, and Nicolas Hasler to boost all three lines.
Congratulations to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited. As the owners of TFC franchise they put their money where the best fans in Major League Soccer are, at BMO Field. In 2014 MLSE invested in a “Bloody Dig Deal”.
It was not a bad attempt to win a championship but it did not produce the desired result. However, it was a defining moment in the history of the club. Michael Bradley was part of that big deal in a transfer from AS Roma and he is currently the driving force behind the Reds.
Bradley stayed with TFC to see what used to be elusive playoff hopes. He influenced his friend and US teammate Jozy Altidore to join Toronto FC and if you fast forward you’ll recognize that Jozy scored the decisive goal in both the Conference final and MLS Cup.
So hats off to both Michael Bradley, MLS Cup MVP Jozy Altidore and the entire Toronto FC organization on a record breaking 2017 season.