Jozy Altidore celebrates the winning goal. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
TORONTO — Stefan Frei was fabulous, but he wasn’t perfect.
Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez on the other hand, found the perfect way to finally beat the Seattle Sounders FC in MLS Cup.
After Frei continued to make life miserable with save after save on Toronto FC, Altidore and Vazquez scored in the second half to lift Toronto FC to a 2-0 victory and its first Major League Soccer championship at BMO Field Saturday night.
The triumph, before 30,584 freezing, but enthusiastic spectators, gave Toronto FC a rare treble. The Reds also won the Canadian Championship and the Supporters Shield.
Altidore, who had been unmercifully booed through the league after the U.S.’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup, connected in the 67th minute.
Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley, who was outstanding on the defensive end, started the scoring sequence by clearing the ball out of the back. The ball eventually found Sebastian Giovinco, who feed an onrushing Altidore. The former Red Bulls forward booted the ball over a diving Frei into the net to snap an 187-minute scoreless streak against Seattle spanning the last two MLS finals.
“On bebalf of the team, this is the greatest city in the world,” Altidore said. “This is for you guys. We love you guys.”
Four minutes into stoppage time, Vazquez put the exclamation point on the victory, knocking in an Armando Cooper shot off the right post into an empty net.
The first half featured two clinics — one by the Toronto FC attack and another on goalkeeping by Frei.
The hosts kept possession for seemingly an endless amount of time and produced some quality opportunities that was denied by Frei, who was the man of match at the 2016 MLS Cup.
Let us count the ways Frei saved Sounders FC against his former teammates:
After Toronto FC’s Justin Morrow set the tone of the onslaught with a header over the crossbar only 100 seconds after kickoff, Giovinco made life easy for Frei by rolling a mediocre shot to him from the middle of the penalty arc in the eighth minute.
On behalf of the team, this is the greatest city in the world. This is for you guys. We love you guy.
Then Frei took center stage. He denied Jonathan Osorio with a fine stop in the 10th minute.
He then parried Giovinco’s hard shot over the bar in the 23rd minute, made a two-handed save by Marco Delgado in the 35th minute and produced a sprawling stop by knocking away Victor Vazquez’s attempt in the 41st minute.
Frei’s outstanding performance in the opening half almost went for naught as Trinidad & Tobago international Joevin Jones almost tallied an own goal in the 44th minute that would have given the hosts a big boost.
Almost lost in the commotion of Frei’s one-man show was the fact that Seattle finally placed a shot on goal against Toronto FC in the MLS Cup. Jones actually had the distinction of taking an historic attempt for the visitors, firing a shot from the left side that keeper Stefan Frei easily handling, breaking an astounding span of 150 minutes without a shot on target in consecutive finals.
Frei almost was surprised by another teammate, Roman Torres, almost put a backpass behind him, but the keeper managed to get to the ball in the 56th minute.
Bradley tried a shot from distance in the 60th minute. Frei actually showed he was mortal as he could not held onto the ball, but the Reds could not put the ball away.
Only a minute later, Altidore had a point-blank header on net, but Frei saved the day again.
In the 64th minute, Frei did it yet again, diving to his left to knock away Giovinco’s hard shot to keep the game scoreless.
Three minutes later, however, Frei proved to be mortal.