Stefan Frei

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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.

New-look Rapids trounce thin Sounders (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  What the Colorado Rapids could have been if they had appointed Robin Fraser earlier this season. Sure, the Western Conference is no walk in the park, but there are currently very few teams playing as inspired as the Rapids. A longtime forgotten assistant, Fraser has brought hope to Commerce City by doing what both Anthony Hudson and interim Conor Casey couldn’t do: empower the youth. In his first game at the helm, 22-year-old Jonathan Lewis scored the first double of his young career. On Saturday, Andre Shinyashiki recorded his own in the Rapids’ 2-0 win over a depleted Seattle Sounders, who were 10 players short due to international duty. Regardless, Colorado, for a second week in a row, put on a commendable performance with their newfound proactive scheme. The new era is certainly welcomed at Dick’s Sporting Good Park, regardless if the Rapids’ playoff chances are long out the window.

Three moments that mattered

41′ — Shinyashiki puts Colorado ahead  — There aren’t many rookies playing better than the 22-year-old.

70′ — Shinyashiki records a double — Seven goals this season for the Rapids forward.

86′ — Stefan Frei with the point-blank save — This has to be the Save of the Week.

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Man of the match: Andre Shinyashiki

Goalscorers: Shinyashiki (41′), Shinyashiki (70′)

Portland outlasts Seattle in gripping playoff second leg

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Portland and Seattle staged a second leg befitting of their rivalry, as the Timbers knocked their rivals out of the MLS Cup Playoffs with a gripping win in Seattle early Friday.

A chaotic ending put the match in extra time, where Dairon Asprilla sent a bullet header into the back of the goal off a Diego Valeri cross to make it 4-3 on aggregate only to see a penalty make it 4-4 four minutes later.

Will Bruin hit the post with Seattle’s second penalty attempt and Jeff Attinella stopped Osvaldo Alonso on the next Seattle attempt. Stefan Frei stopped Liam Ridgewell‘s winning bid, but could only get a hand on Asprilla’s winning hit.

The triumph sets Portland up for a meeting with either Real Salt Lake or Sporting KC in the Western final.

[ MORE: Louisville City defends USL Cup title ]

The Sounders entered the match down 2-1 but holding an away goal. That meant 1-0 would be enough for them to get into the conference finals, and an awful Portland mistake put them in the catbird seat.

Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella bungled a cross and left it on the doorstep for Raul Ruidiaz, who made it 2-2 on aggregate in the 68th minute. Seattle, as it stood, was headed back to the Western finals.

Enter Sebastian Blanco.

The Argentine took a lay-off from Dairon Asprilla and hit a low ball that caught Stefan Frei in a hard place.

Portland was back in front, though the Timbers were denied a bid to close the match out via Frei’s in-tight denial of Lucas Melano.

Stoppage time made it 2-1 to Seattle, when Ruidiaz unleashed this beauty following a weak headed clearing attempt from Blanco.

The match went to extra time, and Valeri’s long cross was met at the back post by the leaping Asprilla.

The score line stayed the same for less than four minutes, as a Blanco handball sent Lodeiro to the spot and the Sounders star did not miss his chance to make it 4-4.

Ruidiaz had a goal pulled back for a handball as the match continued to deliver drama en route to kicks.

Some Timbers players celebrated after extra time, apparently thinking they advanced via away goals (away goals in extra time are no longer a tiebreaker). That’s… problematic.

LA Galaxy handles Seattle Sounders 3-0 to close playoff gap

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There is plenty more work to be done for the LA Galaxy to complete the unlikely push for a playoff spot, but they passed a major hurdle with a 3-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday night at the StubHub Center.

Seattle suffered a 60-minute defensive nightmare, and was never able to recover. It all started just nine minutes in when Brad Smith needlessly barged into the back of Ola Kamara who was chasing down a ball on the right side of the box, and the referee pointed to the spot. Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent Stefan Frei the wrong way with the ensuing penalty, and the Galaxy took the early lead.

Los Angeles found a second just before halftime as Ibrahimovic looked off the defense and then unlocked the back line with a burst forward on the left flank, feeding Romain Alessandrini through who burst towards the end line and crossed to Kamara for an easy tap-in just five minutes before the break.

Past halftime, the home side continued to dominate. Seattle held 55% possession, but failed to record a single shot on target until the 66th minute, finishing with just one among the 14 total attempts on net. LA would cash in on Seattle’s wastefulness for a 3-0 lead on a goal by Emmanuel Boateng in the 52nd minute and put the game out of sight.

The win lifts the Galaxy above the Vancouver Whitecaps and into 7th place in the Western Conference, with Vancouver’s loss to FC Dallas. They now sit just three points back of Seattle in the final playoff spot. The Sounders saw a nine-game winning streak and 12-game unbeaten streak snapped last time out against Philadelphia, and now the sudden slide could have devastating consequences should it continue.

Atlanta comes back to draw 10-man Seattle (video)

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A scrappy if not downright venomous affair between the lowly Seattle Sounders and high-flying Atlanta United ended in a 1-1 draw in Georgia on Sunday.

The Sounders went ahead through a Nicolas Lodeiro penalty kick, awarded via VAR a la this morning’s World Cup Final, but Atlanta leveled the score with a highlight which show every bit of the game story.

[ MORE: FIFA awards Golden Ball, Golden Glove ]

Just check Josef Martinez’s barking at Stefan Frei, who made an uncharacteristic error on the play, after his 19th goal of the season (Nice cross, Julian Gressel).

Martinez needs nine more goals to break the MLS single season record, and he has 13 games to score them.

Jordan McCrary was sent off for Seattle in the 63rd minute for a second yellow, but Seattle navigated the final half hour or so to scoop up an unlikely point.

Atlanta still sits first with its earned point but opens the door for New York City FC to reach the top of the table when it plays its match-in-hand, while Seattle is now 11 points back of the West’s final playoff spot.