Christian Roldan

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Seattle players, coach credit bravery for MLS Cup win

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Toronto FC came to CenturyLink Field and maintained 65% possession on the road, completing 497 passes to the home side’s 217.

And yet, Seattle matched Toronto shot for shot, and ultimately came away with the season’s biggest prize via a 3-1 win in the MLS Cup final. Christian Roldan admitted “it wasn’t our plan” to concede so much possession, yet it did not phase the hosts.

“First of all, I just want to say that we don’t, our team, our club, we don’t operate in the realm of fear,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said to begin his post-match press conference. “We don’t do that, we address problems, we overcome, we try and be better at everything that we do and I think we respect our opponents, but we don’t have any fear.”

Being brave and overcoming the early Toronto wave of pressure was a common theme among the players and coaches following the win. “Today was a day we didn’t play our best game, but we fought and we kept going,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “Yes, maybe we didn’t have a season like LAFC, but honestly in the end, I could care less how pretty we play. [Forget] possession and all those other stats. In the end we got another star and that’s what matters.”

Midfielder Christian Roldan trumpeted not only his team’s grit, but also their ability to adapt to different scenarios, all while remaining stout at the back. “The whole playoffs I feel like we were down possession, and we played three games at home,” Roldan said after the win. “That’s unlike Seattle, right? The fact of the matter is we won those games. We found ways to win and I think that’s what makes this team so special. We played in many different ways throughout the year and in the postseason. That’s an example of why this team is so special.”

Despite the hefty possessional disadvantage, Seattle finished with 14 shots, exactly as many as Toronto collected, and they picked up one more shot on target, winning that battle 6-5. They also amassed a whopping 10 corner kicks to Toronto’s four and won the expected goal count by a significant margin, 1.63-0.93.

“We just come out and play our game,” said forward Jordan Morris, who overcame a torn ACL last season to collect 10 goals and six assists this season, plus another three in the playoffs. “I think some people didn’t think we’d be here at the beginning of the playoffs and the last couple of games, we just wanted to prove that we deserve to be here.”

Not only did the Sounders prove they belonged, they proved worthy of the trophy.

MLS Snapshot: NYCFC 2-1 Seattle Sounders

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The game in 100 words (or less): With the Yankee Stadium pitch utterly soaked amid a heavy downpour, NYCFC held much of the possession and eventually earned all three points behind a pair of goals by David Villa. Christian Roldan put the visitors ahead in the first half, but Villa could not be stopped. He gave Seattle a harbinger of things to come after clattering the crossbar ticks before halftime, before assuming direct control in the second half with a pair of goals, proving dangerous from start to finish.

Three moments that mattered

40′ – Some nice midfield touches sprung Seattle, and with Christian Roldan onto the long ball in a two-on-one situation, he took it himself, tucking his shot low inside the far post for a 1-0 lead. Roldan had Clint Dempsey streaking near the far post, but Maxime Chanot did all he could to cut off the passing lane, forcing Roldan to shoot, and the USMNT call-up finished selfishly.

52′ – A controversial moment saw NYCFC equalize as the referee pointed to the spot and David Villa finished it off for MLS goal #50 of his career. The foul, however, was the subject of some serious scrutiny. Oniel Fisher attempted a tackle through the back of David Villa as he charged down the left edge of the area, and although there was contact with Villa’s left leg, Fisher also successfully dispossessed the NYCFC attacker, but the referee still awarded the hosts a spot-kick.

77′ – NYCFC began to show signs of serious attacking intent, and they would earn all three points through Villa’s second goal. A hard-worked cross by Jack Harrison fell to a charging Villa who was completely unmarked at the far post, and he powerfully buried the chance to put NYCFC 2-1 up.

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Man of the match: David Villa.

Goalscorers: Roldan 40′; Villa 52′, 77′