Arlo believes the top teams have all been to afraid to go for broke this season.

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United: Stalemate as Gunners fail to break down United (video)

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LONDON — Arsenal and Manchester United played out a 0-0 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night, as both teams failed to take the initiative in a result that doesn’t help either side.

The Gunners had more clear cut chances, as Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla and Laurent Koscielny all came close to breaking the deadlock but United defended resolutely and almost snatched all three points late on, when Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie combined to see the latter head against the crossbar.

With the draw Arsenal sit in second place on 56 points, while United stay down in seventh on 42 points.

(MORE: Three things we learned from Arsenal and Manchester United’s deadlock)

Two glorious chances arrived in the opening 190 seconds at the Emirates, as first Mikel Arteta inexplicably gave the ball away on the edge of his own box and former Gunners captain van Persie went clean through but slipped as he hit his shot and Arsenal were let off the hook.

That lapse woke Arsenal up, as moments later Jack Wilshere weaved into the box and won a corner, and from that set-piece Giroud was found unmarked on the edge of the box but he glanced his header wide.

In the swirling wind at the Emirates, both teams pushed hard to get an early advantage as Arsenal midfielder Thomas Rosicky’s long-range shot deflected off Nemanja Vidic and almost looped over David De Gea.

After a frantic start the game settled down slightly as both teams battled away in midfield, but the home crowd were growing increasingly restless as the Gunners kept giving the ball away needlessly. Van Persie, booed by the home fans every time he touched the ball, dragged a shot horribly wide in the 20th minute much to the delight of the Arsenal fans behind the goal. But the home side kept pushing forward and Giroud once again went close with a header from a corner, but the French striker was again off target.

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United’s record signing Juan Mata, playing out wide on the left, struggled to impact the game as Arsenal’s playmaker Mesut Ozil got on the ball and looked sprightly in and around the box. On the stroke of half time a break from Wilshere and Ozil found Rosicky on the edge of the box and he set up Cazorla to shoot but the Spaniard saw his effort blocked.

United’s stubborn 4-4-1-1 formation continued to shut out the Gunners, as the score was 0-0 at the interval.

source: AP
Giroud had a day to forget, as the Frenchman worked hard but left his shooting boots at home.

Rio Ferdinand replaced the injured Rafael at half time as United were forced into a defensive reshuffle. And the Red Devils looked solid throughout the start of the second half as Arsenal huffed and puffed but failed to get in behind United’s defense.

Arsenal finally got going in the second half, as Koscielny saw his header cleared off the line in the 62nd minute, as the Gunners defender rose highest to glance Ozil’s cross towards the top corner but Antonio Valencia cleared on the line.

The home side continued to press but United forced them wide and easily dealt with the predictable crosses from Arsenal’s attack. With 15 minutes to go Arsenal brought on Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Rosicky to liven things up, while Adnan Januzaj replaced the largely ineffective Mata.

In the 77th minute Giroud missed a glorious chance to put Arsenal ahead, as Bacary Sagna’s cross saw the Frenchman just fail to connect as Arsenal’s fans held their heads in disbelief. And moments later Man United struck the crossbar, as Rooney and van Persie combined in the box. Rooney dinked a lovely cross to the back post that RVP attacked and headed goalwards but Wojciech Szczesny tipped the ball onto the bar with a magnificent save.

Arsenal pushed late on for the win, as De Gea stopped Cazorla’s shot and the Gunners pushed forward in numbers in the dying stages.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Gibbs, Arteta, Wilshere, Rosicky (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 75), Ozil, Cazorla, Giroud

Manchester United: De Gea, Rafael (Ferdinand, 45), Smalling, Vidic, Evra; Valencia (Young, 82), Cleverley, Carrick, Mata (Januzaj, 75); Rooney, van Persie

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

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Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

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Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

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Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

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Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
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When it comes down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clear.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

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Three things we learned from Seattle Sounders’ MLS Cup triumph

Seattle Sounders players chase defender Roman Torres (29) after he scored the game-winning shootout goal to defeat the Toronto FC during shoot out MLS Cup soccer final action in Toronto on Saturday, December 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP)
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press via AP
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MLS Cup 2016 was the most well-played game of soccer all year — far from it, in fact — but the Seattle Sounders are MLS champions for the first time in their eight-year history anyway.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS Cup coverage ]

Three thoughts on a poorly-played, but thoroughly intense 2016 finale…

A cup final, it most certainly was

The numbers of cup finals which feature brilliant, composed attacking play is hugely outweighed by the number of cup finals featuring a total lack thereof. Whether it was down to nerves, the frigid conditions in which the game was played, or a combination of the two, Saturday’s final at BMO Field was yet another example of the latter.

The telling stats: 40 fouls between the two sides (just three yellow cards shown); zero first-half shots attempted by the Sounders, and just three shots in total over 120 minutes (zero on target).

The only moment of true quality came in the 108th minute, when Stefan Frei made the best save you’ve seen all year to deny Jozy Altidore and keep the Sounders on level terms (WATCH HERE).

Michael Bradley, man of the match (until his PK)

As we’ve come to expect, Bradley was anywhere and everywhere on the field for TFC, at all the right times. With Osvaldo Alonso playing the part of warrior in the Sounders midfield, and Jonathan Osorio’s attacking prowess preferred to the defensive chops of Will Johnson alonside Bradley, it was up to the U.S. national team captain to singlehandedly track and mark Nicolas Lodeiro out of the game. He did just that, and so much more.

Then, came his penalty kick, TFC’s second, which was hit with so little pace and no more than three feet to Frei’s left for the easiest save he’d make all night.

The greatest comeback in MLS history

You’ve heard it all by now, but it doesn’t make what the Sounders did from August to December any less remarkable — from ninth place on the day Sigi Schmid was fired (two days before Lodeiro arrived), to the MLS summit in four and a half months. Clint Dempsey, the Sounders’ highest-paid player, was then lost for the rest of the season a month later (irregular heartbeat). No team in MLS history had ever overcome a points gap that large (10) that late in the season to even qualify for the playoffs, let alone advance in said playoffs, reach MLS Cup, and lift the trophy.

Brian Schmetzer, a Seattle native and member of the Sounders family since his own playing days beginning in 1980, replaced Schmid with (presumably) the idea that he’d see out the lost season as interim head coach before making way for a big-name hire this winter. He won eight of his first 14 games as a head coach instead, led the Sounders to the four-seed in the Western Conference, and delivered to his hometown the ultimate prize on Saturday.

Watching the Portland Timbers lift MLS Cup 2015 was undoubtedly the toughest pill to swallow for anyone in Rave Green, but to end their Cascaida Cup rivals’ reign as defending champions by winning that very piece of silverware themselves … that’s a one-up that’ll last a lifetime.