Toronto FC

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Don’t gloss over Toronto FC’s richly deserved crown

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The embarrassment of riches that is 2017 treble winning Toronto FC is a richly-deserved experience for the Ontario faithful.

That may seem a bit farfetched for a supporter base with just 11 seasons of league play under its belt, but in many ways the Reds crammed about 50 years of misery into their first decade.

Allow me this personal indulgence as a regional microcosm of TFC trials.

[ MORE: Recap | Bradley’s rewarded obsession ]

The year is 2008, and friends north of the border have need of partners in their two-year-old habit of TFC season tickets. Given a love of the game and a less than two hour drive from Buffalo to BMO Field, we leap at the chance.

The Reds had won seven games in their inaugural campaign, but had signed Pescadito and hired ex-Leeds and Newcastle assistant John Carver (We didn’t know then what we know now). And it all looked great when Rohan Ricketts scored a brace on June 14, moving the team to 6W-4L-2T.

They won one of the next 14 league games. Toronto committed a similar grievance the following season — Two wins from 11 after a 7W-6L-4T start — compounding it by failing to score over 180 minutes of CONCACAF Champions League play against the Puerto Rico Islanders. Following a scoreless friendly against River Plate, we bid TFC the best and saddled up with a nascent club closer to home.

More misery followed for Toronto supporters, and little soothed the frayed nerves of the faithful enough Red Patch Boys. Little swings, like the signing of Mista, missed. The drafting woes were almost comical, selecting consecutive players the picks before Sporting KC took Roger Espinoza. The next year? O’Brian White when three of the next four picks were Rodney Wallace, Chris Pontius, and Matt Besler. 2010 and 2011? First round picks traded for Adrian Serioux and Nathan Sturgis.

This is a long way of describing why embattled American fans may not quite understand what Michael Bradley and Company have done up in Toronto, and why Canadian fans adore their bald-domed metronome. Even forgetting for a second that Bradley was a 90-minute force on Saturday.

Bezbatchenko(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Yes, Toronto spends money. This is nothing new, though, having names like Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans through the door in years past. But it’s how they spend money now under general manager Tim Bezbatchenko.

And for every discussion on how Bradley and Jozy Altidore may be better for country had they stayed overseas, or how Sebastian Giovinco somehow wound up in Toronto, there’s a solid acquisition like Justin Morrow or draft pick Alex Bono. There are savvy signings Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour, and the mining of MVP candidate Victor Vazquez from Club Brugge via Cruz Azul.

Jonathan Osorio developed in house.

Eriq Zavaleta for a second round pick.

Marky Delgado off the Chivas USA scrap heap.

Chris Mavinga from no more than 20 league matches anywhere in the world in recent history.

This is, without a doubt, the best team in Major League Soccer history. MLS is by far as good as its ever been, and Toronto FC took that class and dominated it. Say what you will about where the league stands internationally, but TFC didn’t just beat the teams on its docket; It largely crushed them.

We can only hope it sticks together through a CONCACAF Champions League season, and maybe gives MLS its best chance at a Club World Cup.

But for now, appreciate that Toronto’s ambitious project finally executed the plan its supporters deserved. On a cold night and its third time of asking — the first time TFC wasn’t even in the match — an MLS Cup was won by the boys in red at BMO. And the entire crew deserved it.

Bradley: “Dream became obsession” in pursuit of MLS Cup

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2017 was, to put it lightly and intentionally avoid re-litigating the multitude of failures put forth by the U.S. national team, a turbulent year for Toronto FC and USMNT captain Michael Bradley.

[ RECAP: TFC finally beat Frei and get their hands on MLS Cup ]

The was, of course, the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — we’re acknowledging it, but not delving any deeper right now — which has surely consumed his mind for the majority of the last two months, but before Oct. 10 came 10 full months of remembering and brooding over TFC’s 2016 MLS Cup defeat at the hands of the Seattle Sounders.

On Saturday, the Bradley-led Reds avenged last year’s heartbreak in storybook fashion — lifting MLS Cup after beating those same Sounders right back at the scene of last year’s torment, the friendly but raucous confines of BMO Field.

Not long after the final whistle, when approached for a television interview, Bradley was as thoughtful and introspective as ever. Never one to hide his emotions or conceal his true thoughts, the 30-year-old offered up the confession that what was once a dream — to lift MLS Cup in Toronto — had indeed become an obsession following last year’s loss.

“This has been the dream for four years, since the day I got here. For the last year, the dream has become an obsession. For this group of guys to work every single day, having to remember last year, to get back here and to play that game, in this atmosphere, with that on the line, it’s unbelievable.”

Long before Bradley began the move that would set up the eventual game-winning goal, scored by Jozy Altidore in the 67th minute (WATCH HERE), the groundwork was laid by TFC head coach Greg Vanney, who moved away from the tried and true three-man backline that had served the Reds so well all season — a regular-season points record — and opted for the 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield. Deployed at the base of the diamond, with Jonathan Osorio and Marco Delgado as the shuttlers ahead of him, Bradley turned in a man-of-the-match performance that’ll go down as one of the all-time great showings in MLS history.

Nothing will ease the pain of missing out on the World Cup — especially not once next summer rolls around and 32 other nations converge on Russia — but the 2017 story of Bradley and TFC, one of redemption and steadfast persistence, is a clear indicator that in trying times, MB90 responds like few others and he remains a necessary figure to lead the USMNT revolution in the coming months and years, as it’s reconfigured from top to bottom with an eye toward 2022.

Champions! TFC crowned MLS Cup champs for first time

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The game in 100 words (or less more): For the first time in franchise history, Toronto FC are champions of Major League Soccer. The best team in the regular season, the last team standing in the postseason. For more than an hour, Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Seattle, the side that broke TFC hearts a year ago, looked painfully familiar for Reds fans, as Stefan Frei, MVP of the 2016 final, turned in another man-of-the-match performance and appeared altogether unbeatable. The Swiss-turned-American goalkeeper made 10 saves before Altidore broke through for TFC, courtesy of some gorgeous build-up play flowing through fellow superstars Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco. TFC thoroughly dominated from start to finish — again, just like last year’s final — to the tune of 22 shots to 7 (11-2 on target). If not for Frei’s early-game heroics, the score would have been 3-0 by halftime. The postseason title puts a tidy bow on top of an already historic season for TFC, who set a new regular-season points record — in a much tougher Eastern Conference, to boot — and leaves little to no doubt over which team was truly the best of 2017.

[ BRADLEY: “Dream became obsession” in pursuit of MLS Cup ]

Three Four Five Six moments that mattered

11′ — Frei rushes out to deny Giovinco — Frei and Sebastian Giovinco will get the majority of the attention here (for the save and blown chance, respectively), but the 50-yard through ball from Victor Vazquez is the real story here. It almost doesn’t look real.

41′ — Frei denies Vazquez at full-stretch — Frei’s made six saves in the first half — none of which were individually spectacular in difficulty,

60′ — Bradley fires from distance, Frei saves again — Michael Bradley, who was neck-and-neck with Frei for best player on the field, made solid contact on a volley from 25 yards out, but Frei was able to get his body behind the bouncing ball and record save no. 8.

64′ — Frei gets to Giovinco’s shot through traffic — Frei couldn’t have seen this ball through a sea of bodies more than a quarter-second before reacting and diving to his left-hand post.

67′ – Finally, at long last, Frei is beaten — For the first time in 714 minutes of playoff soccer, Seattle are beaten. From back to front in five passes and 11 seconds, finished by Altidore, lifted over Frei and into the back of the net.

90+4′ — Vazquez slams home a rebound for 2-0 — Armando Cooper slammed the initial shot off the post, but Vazquez cleaned up the mess to send BMO Field into bedlam.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Michael Bradley

Goalscorers: Altidore (67′), Vazquez (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: TFC vs. Sounders — MLS Cup 2017

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It started back on March 3, 390 games ago, and it all comes down to this — MLS Cup 2017, a rematch of the 2016 final between Toronto FC, the hosts and favorites, and the visiting Seattle Sounders at BMO Field.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: TFC host Sounders in MLS Cup rematch ]

Seattle lifted the Cup on TFC’s home field last season, and Brian Schmetzer’s side is back with intentions to spoil spoil the party once again. Greg Vanney’s Reds are desperate for a small measure of revenge, and to cap off the best regular season in league history with the first league title in team history.

Neither Schmetzer nor Vanney have sprung any surprises by way of their starting lineups which can be found below.

Follow along at the link above — or, click here — and check back to PST throughout the game, and following the final whistle, for wall-to-wall coverage of the 2017 finale.

By the numbers: A closer look at Saturday’s MLS Cup final

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Toronto FC aims to avenge its 2016 MLS Cup defeat to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, as the two clubs meet again at BMO Field.

Brian Schmetzer and the Sounders look to take down TFC on their home field for the second consecutive season, while Greg Vanney and Co. hope to earn the club’s first MLS Cup trophy in team history.

[ PREVIEW: Will Toronto FC take down Sounders on Saturday? ]

Here’s a closer look at the two clubs that will contest tomorrow’s finale.


— Times these two teams have met this season (1-0 TFC victory)

33 — Combined goals between TFC duo Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, including playoffs

194 — Clint Dempsey‘s total MLS appearances since being drafted back in 2004

24 — Number of times Toronto has had a multi-goal game in 2017

14 — Different coaches that have won MLS Cup (Vanney would become the 15th)

7   Combined losses between TFC and the Sounders since June 1

17 — Victor Vasquez assists in his first season with TFC

1.09 — Stefan Frei’s goals against average during the regular season (2nd-lowest in MLS)

3 — Number of times Toronto has hosted the final

11 — Different teams that have won MLS Cup