Toronto gets revenge over Sounders to complete historic treble – Exclusive photos from the 2017 MLS Cup Final

For the first time in MLS history, a Canadian side has won the MLS Cup. Toronto FC claimed the 2017 MLS Cup Final with a 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders on Saturday night, completing a historic treble after an almost faultless year. They have been the best team by a margin this year and have now been rewarded with their first MLS Cup title.

They dominated the game from start to finish but could not get past Stefan Frei, as the game started to feel like a repeat of the 2016 Final in which Seattle stunned the hosts on penalties.

But after 66 minutes, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore took the game by the scruff of the neck and broke Seattle’s resolve. Giovinco’s pass put Altidore through and the powerful striker coolly finished past the once again excellent Frei.

The goal woke the Sounders up but not enough as Toronto withstood the late pressure and then sealed the win with a stoppage time tap-in from Victor Vazquez. That goal sent BMO Field into raptures as they knew a decade’s worth of pain was over. They’d got revenge. They’d won the title. And they have probably earned the tag as the ‘greatest MLS side of all time’.

Check out exclusive photos from the 2017 MLS Cup Final below, courtesy of Jil Hendershot.

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MLS Cup Final Preview and Prediction: Toronto FC vs Seattle Sounders

Competition: 2016 MLS Cup Final – Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders 

Venue: BMO Field – Saturday, December 10 – 20:00 ET (01:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: Toronto 10/11 – Draw 12/5 – Seattle 14/5

Match Preview

Toronto face Seattle Sounders in the 2016 MLS Cup Final on Saturday night in what is set to be a historic night for one of these two sides, with both making the final for the first time.

Both teams deserve to be here after strong runs and both have plenty of goals in them, so we’re in for a real treat in this year’s showpiece game.

Toronto head coach Greg Vanney believes this will be the “biggest MLS Cup to date”, given the fact that two of the league’s major-market franchises are going head-to-head, and he’s probably not wrong.

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Toronto have set a record during their run to the final. The Reds scored 17 goals during the playoffs, more than any other side has managed in history, so they’ll be confident of adding to that tally in Saturday’s final.

This is the first time a Canadian team has ever made the final and the Reds will now be aiming to lift the trophy on home soil in what will be a special night.

Seattle are a really dangerous opponent though and travel to Toronto off the back of one of the most incredible turnarounds this season.

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Sounders fans won’t want to recall their horrendous start to the season. They sat ninth in the West at the halfway point but have managed to completely transform their fortunes and have gone on to prove themselves as one of the league’s most dangerous sides.

A 3-1 aggregate win over Colorado got the Sounders here, and they will be expecting to cause Toronto troubles given the creativity of Nicolas Lodeiro and pace of Jordan Morris in attack.

The only meeting between these sides during the regular season ended 1-1 at BMO Field but Seattle had won two in a row at BMO before that draw in July.

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Team News

Toronto have no injuries or suspensions to worry about ahead of the final and so Greg Vanney can put out his strongest possible team for this crunch tie.

Seattle remain without Clint Dempsey, who has been out for a long time with an irregular heartbeat, while Oalex Anderson is listed as ‘questionable’. Other than than, there are no concerns and so an unchanged lineup could be sent out at BMO Field on Saturday.

Key Points

Toronto’s last five: W/W/W/L/W

Seattle’s last five: W/W/L/W/W

Key Stat: Goal-fest – There have been 15 goals in the last five meetings between these teams, with both sides scoring in each of those five clashes.

Key Player: Jozy Altidore – A number of talented players will be on show during Saturday’s final, but Jozy Altidore is arguably the in-form player in MLS coming into this one. He has five goals in his last seven and has played a starring role in guiding Toronto to their first ever MLS Cup Final. Playing at BMO Field will play into his hands, so expect the powerful forward to shine here.

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Score Prediction

Toronto 2-3 Seattle – Goals are expected in what will be a historic MLS Cup Final on Saturday night. Both sides have reason to be optimistic but Seattle have worked wonders to get this far and will be intent on making sure they finish the job after an incredible run to the final. Home advantage is in Toronto’s favour, but as we saw last season in Columbus, home form doesn’t always mean that much in a game of this magnitude. It could honestly go either way, but we expect to see Seattle lifting the trophy come the end of the night.

FA Cup Final Preview and Prediction: Crystal Palace vs Manchester United

Competition: FA Cup Final –  Crystal Palace FC vs. Manchester United FC

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Saturday, May 21 – 17:30 BST (12:30 ET)

Match Odds: Crystal Palace 17/4 – Draw 12/5 – Man Utd 3/4

Match Preview

Crystal Palace take on Manchester United in the 2016 FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday in what is a huge game for both clubs after fairly disappointing league campaigns.

Palace finished the Premier League season in 15th place and lost three of their last four games, including a 4-1 loss to Southampton on the final day last weekend.

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However, Alan Pardew’s side have been excellent in the FA Cup. They beat Watford in the semifinal and also saw off the likes of Southampton, Stoke, Tottenham and Reading to reach the final.

A win on Saturday would see Palace win the FA Cup for the first time in their history. Their only previous final appearance came in 1990 and was incidentally also against Manchester United.

United won that final 1-0 in a replay after the side’s drew 3-3 in the original clash. Another tight affair is expected this weekend, though the Red Devils remain favourites.

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Louis Van Gaal may well be preparing for his final game as Manchester United manager, with speculation about his future not going anywhere.

The team will be solely focused on this game for now, though. They beat Bournemouth 3-1 in their final Premier League game on Tuesday night, which was rescheduled following last Sunday’s abandonment.

The lack of preparation time might affect the squad but they will still be expected to win in 90 minutes on Saturday evening.

They beat Sheffield United, Derby, Shrewsbury, West Ham and Everton to reach this stage and will now want to lift the FA Cup for the first time since 2004.

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Team News

Manchester United boss Louis Van Gaal has eight injury concerns ahead of Saturday’s game. Marcos Rojo, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Will Keane all look certain to miss out, while Adnan Januzaj, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian and Morgan Schneiderlin are listed as doubts. Wayne Rooney will likely occupy a midfield position once again, with Marcus Rashford set to start in attack.

Crystal Palace have seven injury worries of their own. Kwesi Appiah, Marouane Chamakh, Brede Hangeland and Joe Ledley are all sidelined, while Connor Wickham, Yohan Cabaye and Wilfried Zaha are all 50/50 ahead of the final.

Key Points

Crystal Palace’s last five in all competitions: L/W/L/W/L

Manchester United’s last five in all competitions: W/D/W/L/W

Key Stat: United are unbeaten in six games against Palace, conceding just once in that time.

Key Player: Anthony Martial – The United striker has scored four goals and bagged two assists in his last four outings and is in the form of his season. He fired United into the final with his late goal against Everton and will look to shine at Wembley once again here.

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Score Prediction

Crystal Palace 0-2 Manchester United – A low-scoring affair is expected between two sides that don’t tend to score too many. Palace have been in poor form and despite their strong run in the FA Cup, they are underdogs here and look likely to come up short. United have improved towards the end of the season but will need a trophy to feel satisfied, having missed out on the top four. United to win.

Portland secure first ever MLS Cup – Match report from Columbus

The Portland Timbers came into Columbus and the MLS Cup game as underdogs, but left as MLS Cup champions, triumphing over the Columbus Crew 2-1, with early goals from Diego Valeri and Rodney Wallace sealing the historic victory.

The Timbers enjoyed a dream start within 27 seconds of kickoff, when midfielder Diego Valeri took advantage of Columbus Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark’s horrendous error.

Valeri made a strong tackle on the ‘keeper and the Timbers quickly found themselves up 1-0 to the complete disbelief of the Crew and their fans.

Valeri’s goal was the fastest goal ever scored in MLS Cup history.

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The Crew struggled to connect on their passes early on due to the Timbers’ high pressure on the midfield and defense. It eventually led to a crucial turnover that the Timbers capitalised on in the 7th minute to make it 2-0.

Portland midfielder Darlington Nagbe found winger Lucas Melano, who crossed it into the six-yard box. Rodney Wallace connected with a flying header and put the ball into the back of the Crew’s net to further stun the home crowd.

Controversy couldn’t stay away from this cup final, as replays later showed that the ball won by Powell in the build up to the goal was actually a couple of feet out of play.

Portland and Columbus had probably planned for most eventualities. But being two up after seven minutes is a strange situation for any side, let alone an away side in a final. The Timbers started the game like it was the 87th minute, and not the 7th.

With their backs against the wall, the Crew quickly came alive and regained control of the game. They continued to find chances in the first half and were eventually rewarded in the 18th minute.

The home team found fullback Harrison Afful, who crossed it into the penalty area. A goal-mouth scramble ensued and league-leading scorer Kei Kamara was on hand to finish.

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Portland looked happy to hear the halftime whistle and head coach Caleb Porter sent them out in the second half with a solid game plan to hit Columbus on the break.

The Crew dominated possession and created chances. However, their finishing left them wanting, as they were unable to register a shot on target in the second half.

Portland took advantage of the Crew playing high up the field by countering back whenever they found the chance. That led to two huge opportunities that hit the woodwork as a third goal looked more likely that a Columbus equaliser.

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The first left the Crew scrambling on a corner, as the ball fell to Wallace, who had his shot saved by Clark. The clearance then hit the crossbar before getting cleared.

The second chance came for Timbers striker Fanendo Adi as his header from Jorge Villafana’s cross hit the far post before hitting Steve Clark, who fumbled the ball out of bounds.

Both teams continued to fight tooth and nail for every loose ball and take any shot they could get. But as the final minutes of added time came and went the final whistle blew, the Timbers rushed onto the field knowing that they just won their first ever MLS Cup.

MLS Cup Final Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Portland Timbers

Competition: MLS Cup Final – Columbus Crew vs. Portland Timbers

Venue: MAPFRE Stadium – Sunday, December 6 – 16:00 ET (21:00 ET)

Match Odds: Columbus 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – Portland 12/5

Match Preview

It’s here. The 2015 MLS Cup Final between Columbus Crew and Portland Timbers will cap off the campaign in fine style on Sunday night as East meets West at the MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.

It looks set to be one of the most unpredictable MLS Cup finals in recent memory and both sides will feel they have a genuine shot at success on Sunday evening.

Columbus come into the game as Eastern Conference champions after beating the New York Red Bulls 2-1 over two legs in the last round. They have earned the right to host the final as a result of their goal difference to Portland’s and will hope home comforts can see them lift a second title in their 21-year history.

Columbus Crew’s 2015 MLS record: P38 – W17 – D8 – L13

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Portland will be looking to spoil the party though. The Timbers travel to Columbus as Western Conference champions after a fine two-legged performance against FC Dallas, advancing 5-3 on aggregate.

They have a formidable away record in MLS this year and will hope their first ever MLS Cup Final appearance can be a successful one in what is just their fifth season in the league.

Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS record: P39 – W17 – D11 – L11

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Caleb Porter’s side will look to score early on Sunday. They haven’t lost a game when scoring first all season and will be able to silence the crowd if they get the go-ahead strike in this one.

This will be just the seventh meeting between the two sides. They are equal in every aspect based on previous meetings as both have won two, drawn two and lost two, scoring and conceding six goals each.

WATCH: 2015 MLS Cup Final Preview Show

Team News

Columbus Crew manager Gregg Berhalter has just one injury concern as Kristinn Steindorsson will miss out again. Other than that the Crew have no concerns and are likely to remain unchanged for the final.

Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter will be sweating on the fitness of two of his key men in Liam Ridgewell and Fanendo Adi. Both are doubts but should be passed fit to play. Ben Zemanski is definitely out as he continues to recover from his ACL injury.

Key Points

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/L/W/W/L

Portland Timbers’ last five: W/D/W/W/D

Key Stat: Portland Timbers have won more away games (8) than any other MLS side in 2015.

Key Player: Kei Kamara – The Columbus Crew striker can single-handedly decide a game if he is at his best and the home fans will be desperate to see the powerful forward carry the Black and Gold to MLS Cup success in this one.

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Score Prediction

Columbus Crew 1-2 Portland Timbers – This looks set to be one of the most unpredictable MLS Cup finals in a while between two of the league’s most entertaining sides. We should be treated to goals in Columbus on Sunday night but Portland might just stun the Crew by becoming champions.

MLS Cup Final set as Portland prepare visit to Columbus

We’re down to the wire. After a long and entertaining season, the 2015 MLS Cup Final will crown a new champion as the Columbus Crew will host the Portland Timbers at MAPFRE Stadium next Sunday night.

The Timbers will take part in their first ever MLS Cup Final after beating FC Dallas 5-3 on aggregate to become Western Conference champions last night. They have won more away games than any side in MLS this year and will need one more to lift the title in Ohio.

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That won’t be an easy task against a Columbus side that eliminated Supporters’ Shield winners New York Red Bulls 2-1 on aggregate over two legs.

The Crew fell 1-0 in New York last night but were able to edge through, thanks to their outstanding performance in the first leg at home.

Columbus have won their last three home games in total. But their last defeat came against Portland.

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The Timbers won 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium at the end of September in the only meeting between the two this season and that will give the away side confidence as they chase a first ever championship title.

Columbus will be taking part in their second MLS Cup Final after winning the championship against the Red Bulls in 2008.

MAPFRE Stadium will host its second ever final after the 2001 MLS Cup Final between LA Galaxy and the San Jose Earthquakes took place in Ohio, with the Quakes lifting the trophy that year.

Preview: Montreal Impact face triple threat in Champions League final first leg

By Sandy Beeson – Twitter: @Sandy_Beeson

For Montreal Impact, facing Mexican giants Club América in the CONCACAF Champions League final would seem a stern enough challenge on its own, but when you factor in both a record attendance and a substantial increase in altitude, Wednesday’s first leg becomes even more daunting for the history-making Canadian side.

Reports from Mexico suggest that the iconic Estadio Azteca has already sold out with a 105,000 capacity crowd expected. That figure would eclipse any equivalent attendance from UEFA’s showpiece event since Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in 1960 in front of 127,621 at Glasgow’s Hampden Park.

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Fortunately for the Impact, the second leg will be hosted at Montreal’s Stade Olympique where there will also be a capacity crowd, albeit a decidedly more modest audience of 58,000.

Prior to this season, Montreal had held the CONCACAF Champions League attendance record since 2009, until the 55,571 that saw Impact beat Santos Laguna 2-0 was eclipsed by Wednesday’s opponents earlier this month. Club América welcomed 66,208 to the Azteca to witness an emphatic 6-0 semi-final win over Costa Rica’s Herediano to book their place in the final.

Montreal also saw off Costa Rican opposition in the semis, defeating Alajuelense on away goals to become the first ever Canadian side to advance to the final of either the Champions League or its predecessor the Champions Cup. Victory would not only make them the first Canadian champions but also the first MLS champions since the Champions League era began in 2008.

Standing between them and victory is Club América, this season’s top scorers with a formidable 30 goals from the eight games they’ve played. Forwards Darío Benedetto, Martín Zúñiga and Mexican international Oribe Peralta have combined for 14 goals between them, one more than the Impact’s entire total in this year’s competition.

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Not only will Montreal Impact be coming up against this season’s outstanding performers in one of the most formidable arenas in world football, they will do so at an altitude of 2,200 metres. Preparation is key in such circumstances and Montreal have given themselves as much time to acclimatise in Mexico City as possible, having arrived last Wednesday, thanks to a bye week in MLS.

A similar arrangement paid dividends at the quarter-final stage as a Dilly Duka double secured a vital 2-2 in the first leg against Pachuca, following a fortnight acclimatising at 2,400 metres, with Montreal eventually progressing on away goals.

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The Impact would hope for a similar outcome from Wednesday’s game and will need to put in a disciplined defensive display if they are to achieve it. They’ve got the personnel to keep themselves in contention but they will need the likes of former Belgian international Laurent Ciman, experienced centre-back Hassoun Camara and the tenacious Nigel Reo-Coker to perform heroically if they are to still be in the tie by next week’s second leg in Canada.

Playoff Preview and Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs LA Galaxy

Seattle Sounders welcome the LA Galaxy to CenturyLink Field in what will be the last game of the 2014 season for one of these sides and a place in the MLS Cup Final is at stake.

The Galaxy take a narrow 1-0 lead to Seattle with them thanks to a deflected second-half strike from Marcelo Sarvas in the first leg at the StubHub Center last weekend.

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The Sounders will be thankful that they limited the damage to just a one goal deficit in a game where they will be the first to admit that they weren’t at their full-flowing best, but they’ve still managed to keep themselves very much alive in the tie.

It has been an amazing season for Seattle no matter what happens but they appear to be stuttering slightly in recent weeks and they will hope that they don’t fall at the final hurdle, so to speak.

They’ll be looking to their usually solid home form and hoping that it will be their saviour in this clash and also hoping that Osvaldo Alonso will return from injury in time to give his side the edge they need in midfield.

Seattle Sounders 2014 home record: Played 18 – Won 12 – Drawn 2 – Lost 4

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Boosted from their 5-0 thrashing of Real Salt Lake in the semi-final, LA Galaxy look like a revitalised team from the one that succumbed to a 2-0 defeat against the Sounders on the last day of the regular season and will be happy with their lead, as well as being quietly confident they can get themselves over the line.

Hitting a good vein of form at the right time is crucial in competitions like this because one moment in a game can change the face of everything, so LA can be pleased that they’ve scored six in their last three games and conceded none.

They know that they are now the slight favourites as keeping a clean sheet at home means that the Sounders don’t have an away goal to their name, so if the Galaxy can knick one in Seattle, they will be firmly in the driving seat and will leave their opponents needing three.

LA Galaxy 2014 away record: Played 18 – Won 5 – Drawn 7 – Lost 6

It’s a clash of the Western Conference titans and the incentive to get to the final couldn’t be higher as both are seeking to make history – MLS Cup success for Seattle would see them become the first team in MLS to win the treble (Supporters’ Shield, U. S. Open Cup and MLS Cup) while LA Galaxy are looking to record their fifth MLS Cup glory and become the most successful club in the history of the competition.

Both sides know what to expect from each other and they both also know how tough a game it will be, which can only make for a tight and intense encounter which looks set to go down to the wire.

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Key Player: Clint Dempsey – he’s missed a few good chances of late and he knows he can do better. He’s a player of real high quality and the Sounders will be looking to him to inspire the team.

Key Stat: LA Galaxy are without a win on the road in their last five attempts – their last win away from home came at Chivas USA on September 1.

Seattle Sounders last five: D/W/D/D/L

LA Galaxy’s last five: D/L/D/W/W

Score Prediction: Seattle Sounders 1-2 LA Galaxy – We aren’t expecting a goal-fest but it should be a tight game. The Galaxy are high on confidence right now and look hungry for success, while Seattle look like they have run out of steam right at the end.

The 2014 MLS Cup guarantees to make history

The team that now goes on to win the 2014 MLS Cup will be making new history in some way or another which only adds to the excitement and intensity we’re all expecting.

Seattle Sounders have had a fantastic season irrelevant of the eventual outcome of their MLS Cup campaign as they scooped the Supporters’ Shield and U.S. Open Cup double.

However, should they manage to seal MLS Cup glory, they will become the first ever team to complete the treble and thereby print their name in the record books, which would be a remarkable achievement and truly cement the fact that they have been the best team this season.

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[Seattle Sounders enjoyed success in this year’s U.S. Open Cup]

LA Galaxy narrowly missed out on the Supporters’ Shield title when they lost 2-0 to Seattle Sounders, but they can focus all their attention on trying to bring home the MLS Cup.

If they go on to win it, they will become the most successful team in the history of the competition with five titles – they are currently tied on four with DC United.

Meanwhile, both New England Revolution and the New York Red Bulls are hunting down their first ever title in this competition.

The Revs are probably the unluckiest team in MLS Cup history having been to four finals and finished on the losing end on every occasion, twice losing 1-0 after extra-time and once losing on penalties.

Title winners since 1996:

MLS HistoryWhatever happens, it promises to be entertaining and will also set new history for one of the clubs.

Who do you think will win the 2014 MLS Cup?

Clint Dempsey says Seattle Sounders are “feeling good” ahead of LA Galaxy clash

Following their Western Conference playoff semi-final victory over FC Dallas, Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has been looking ahead to the conference final against LA Galaxy in a fortnight.

“We believe in ourselves – to win the Supporters’ Shield we had to play two games against them (LA Galaxy) and get the right result, so we’re a team that’s done well this season in terms of silverware.

“We have that confidence moving forward and we feel good,” he said to the Seattle Sounders YouTube channel.

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Despite the high level of confidence in the team, Dempsey is still cautious of the quality that the Galaxy possess.

“They’re a good team with a lot of quality – that’s the reason why they’re still in the playoffs.

“We have to figure out a way to manage these games in the right way because you don’t want to leave yourselves with a mountain to climb come the second game.

“To be the best you’ve got to play against the best and we’ve got to stay hungry for more.”

Dempsey’s partnership with Obafemi Martins has been inspirational to the Sounders this season and is one of the main reasons that they’re where they are.

“I love playing with Oba, he’s a world class player, we have a good chemistry, I think you can see that all year, we work well together and create chances for each other.”

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Although Dempsey has been left off the roster for the upcoming USMNT friendlies, he still “wishes them the best” and he’s had a “good conversation with Jurgen (Klinsmann) and looks forward to 2015”.

Every cloud has a silver lining though, as his omission from the squad for this international break should leave him feeling fresh and ready to fire on all cylinders in the next stage of the playoffs.

How crucial is Clint Dempsey to Seattle Sounders?