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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2016 MLS Cup Final: Exclusive photos from the Sounders’ penalty win over Toronto

The 2016 MLS season is now officially over. Saturday’s MLS Cup Final was far from the game many had hoped for, with Seattle Sounders and Toronto playing out a disappointing 0-0 after 120 minutes of action, but history was made at the end at BMO Field.

Seattle lifted a first ever MLS Cup title after edging past Toronto in a tense penalty shootout, with centre-back Roman Torres slotting in the winning penalty to send the travelling Sounders fans into raptures.

Toronto captain Michael Bradley missed in the shootout, but it was Justin Morrow’s shot that cannoned off the crossbar which allowed Torres to seal the victory.

Check out exclusive photos from Saturday’s final below, taken by our MLS Photographer Denise McCooey.

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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.

STATS: Comparing the 2014 LA Galaxy MLS Cup winners to the 2015 Portland Timbers

Portland Timbers became just the second side not named LA Galaxy in the past five years to win MLS Cup last Sunday night. Here, Jamie Dawe looks at how Portland’s championship winning team compares to that of the Galaxy’s from the 2014 season and weighs up how a battle between the last two championship sides could play out… 

If the three league matches in the 2015 regular season between Portland Timbers and the LA Galaxy tell us anything (5-0 Galaxy win, 5-2 Portland win and a 2-2 tie) – it would be that this matchup is extremely unpredictable!

However, these two sides have come out with the Major League Soccer’s biggest prize over the past two seasons and I’m sure if this ‘dream’ game were to come about, there would be some incredible battles on the pitch. So, here are four of the biggest head-to-head matchups that would occur if the past two championship-winning sides were to play up, along with a dream LA/Portland lineup.

1. Gyasi Zardes & Robbie Keane vs. Nat Borchers & Liam Ridgewell

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Firstly, it would be interesting to see how Borchers and Ridgewell would cope with Zardes’ constant movement and blistering speed, as well as whether Keane could capitalise on any space created by Zardes dragging the two centre-backs out of position. Robbie Keane had an unstoppable 2014 season, scoring 20 goals and grabbing 12 assists across the regular season and playoffs – with these performances earning him the 2014 MLS MVP award. I could see Keane and Zardes causing confusion within the Portland defence with some speedy link up play – but whether it would be enough to unlock a defensive duo with 13 clean sheets in the 2015 season alone – we may never know….

2. Landon Donovan vs. Alvas Powell

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Donovan is one of the most experienced MLS players to have played the game and a battle against a 21-year-old Jamaican right-back with only two years of MLS experience but an ever-growing reputation would provide great viewing. Even though you would expect Donovan to be able to hound Powell with pressure throughout the match, I have a sneaking suspicion that the youngster would use his attacking instincts to press down the right channel and pin Donovan in a more defensive role than he would otherwise be used to. Donovan’s 13 goals and 15 assists in his final season as a professional may have propelled the Galaxy towards MLS Cup, but you can’t dispute Powell’s ability to shackle any left midfielder in MLS. This battle would likely turn out to be the most surprising in the match – but then again, Donovan’s class knows no bounds and all he needs is one sniff of a chance to leave Powell as lost as a penguin in the desert.

3. Omar Gonzalez vs. Fanendo Adi

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Adi is a 6ft 4in monster of a striker, but at 6ft 5in, Omar Gonzalez isn’t a man to be messed with either. This would be a battle of brute force and would be particularly interesting at corners, where Adi has the ability to release a majestic salmon-like leap to win headers that really shouldn’t be his. Gonzalez however, won 69% of aerial duels he competed for across the 2014 season, which sets him up as a formidable opponent in the air.

Adi’s technical ability in the box is hard to contain as well – who can forget this assist for Will Johnson against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the 2014 regular season. A terrific tally of 18 goals and 3 assists in his 39 games across the 2015 regular and post-season show his incredible attacking quality. Neither of these players are slow either, so I’d expect a lot of body checking and other examples of football’s dark arts to nullify each other’s pace and power.

4. Marcelo Sarvas & Juninho vs. Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe & Diego Chara

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This would be an intense battle for control of the centre of the park. Whoever comes out on top in this head-to-head would control the possession and the tempo of this game. Obviously the formation that the Timbers play leaves them with three players to Galaxy’s two in this duel.  However, you should never underestimate the tactical knowledge of the two Brazilians in the middle of the park for the Galaxy. Marcelo Sarvas racked up a formidable five goals, eight assists and an 86% pass accuracy rate from the heart of midfield in the 2014 season – with Juninho scoring one and creating five, along with an 89% pass accuracy – which is the same as Barcelona great Andres Iniesta over that period of time. However, Nagbe’s ever-growing ability (89% pass accuracy in 2015 season) along with the force of having three players in the middle would almost certainly win Portland control of the centre.

Predicted final score: 2-2

The attacking tendencies and qualities of these teams outweigh the abilities of their respective defences – but I couldn’t pick a winner between two strong forces in MLS history. Keane and Donovan would be favourites to score the goals for the Galaxy, with a header from Borchers and an Adi strike making this ‘fantasy’ matchup 2-2! 

Portland Timbers/LA Galaxy Dream XI from MLS Cup winning sides:

LA Galaxy & Portland Timbers Dream Team

GK: Jaime Penedo (2014): 34 apps – 93 saves & 31 clearances

RB: A.J. DeLaGarza (2014): 33 apps – 4 assists, 73% tackles won & 103 clearances

CB: Nat Borchers (2015): 37 apps – 4 goals, 188 clearances & 39 shots blocked
  or  Liam Ridgewell (2015): 37 apps – 236 clearances & 81% tackles won

CB: Omar Gonzalez (2014): 27 apps – 75% tackles won, 203 clearances & 12 shots blocked

LB: Jorge Villafaña (2015): 39 apps – 33 crosses blocked & 79 interceptions

CDM: Darlington Nagbe (2015): 5 goals, 4 assists, 89% pass accuracy & 82% tackles won

CM: Diego Valeri (2015): 27 apps – 83 key passes & 9 assists

CM: Juninho (2014): 39 apps – 89% pass accuracy, 30 key passes & 5 assists

CAM: Landon Donovan (2014): 36 apps – 13 goals, 127 key passes & 15 assists

ST: Robbie Keane (2014): 34 apps – 20 goals, 13 assists & 2014 MLS MVP

ST: Fanendo Adi (2015): 39 apps – 18 goals, 95 shots & 76 aerial duels won

(all statistics include playoffs unless mentioned)

Which championship team was better? The 2014 LA Galaxy side of the 2015 Portland Timbers?

Podcast: MLS Cup reaction, Ashley Cole to NYCFC & Swansea’s troubles discussed

In the latest MLSGB podcast, Zack Walford talks to Louis East and Jamie Ives about Sunday’s MLS Cup Final as Portland Timbers lifted a first ever championship.

The team also discuss recent reports linking Ashley Cole to New York City FC and the Premier League.

And we finish with Swansea City and Garry Monk’s struggles with the team in recent weeks.

Remember to send us your thoughts on Twitter: @MLSGB_

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.

Portland Timbers’ MLS Cup success “hasn’t sunk it yet”

Portland Timbers made history by winning a first ever MLS Cup title by beating Columbus Crew 2-1 at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday night.

Portland head coach Caleb Porter admitted after the game that the team’s success had yet to fully register after a long but eventually successful season.

“It’s a great feeling, great feeling. All I could think about was sharing that moment with my players; we have been through a long season,” Porter said.

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“We have been together through highs and lows and they deserve all the credit, they are the ones playing the game inside of the lines and they had belief. I don’t think it has fully sunk in completely yet.”

The Timbers became the first team to win an MLS Cup championship away from home since the homefield advantage rule came into effect. They won more road games than anyone else in 2015 and extended that trend when it mattered most on Sunday.

Porter admitted that it wasn’t the smoothest of seasons but lauded the character of the Timbers team for the way that consistently battle.

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“A lot has been made of it not being smooth, but I think that is MLS. Every team goes through rough patches and that’s a big part of succeeding in this league. You have to survive and you have to keep the guys together and the locker room together.

“We haven’t always gone on long winning streaks, but when we do lose, we respond and get big wins and that’s what we did this year. Every time I think people thought that we were down and out, we pop up with a big result, the players deserve credit for that, that shows their character.”

Kei Kamara left to “soak in” Portland celebrations by remaining on pitch

It was tough not to feel sympathetic for Kei Kamara as the Portland Timbers celebrated their first ever MLS Cup championship at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday night.

The Columbus Crew star man’s goal wasn’t enough to complete a comeback as Portland won the 2015 MLS Cup Final by a 2-1 scoreline in Ohio, becoming the first team to lift the trophy on the road since the home advantage rule was introduced.

The Crew players quickly left the field at the final whistle, allowing Portland to celebrate their success, but one man remained as Kamara watched the Timbers’ celebrations for 15 minutes from a distance.

“I wanted to sit out there. I wanted to see what it feels like to lift that trophy,” he said afterwards.

“That’s why I was sitting out there. Those are the things that keep you going, working harder and harder.

“I’ve been there before – not to the final, but in games you really want to win. To me, it’s not just about getting up and walking away. It’s about seeing the other guys and how they feel, what that celebration is like. Because you want to feel that. That’s the feeling I was just soaking in.”

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Kamara enjoyed a stunning first season with the Crew as he netted a total of 26 goals in 37 appearances. Although being left disappointed with the way the season ended on Sunday, the 31-year-old attacker praised the support he’s received from Columbus fans since arriving.

“They’ve shown me love from day one, from the first tweet I did saying ‘New Crew, I’m coming to this team.

“They’ve always shown me love. The fans have been amazing all year, and I appreciate them.”

Portland Timbers beat Columbus Crew to lift first ever MLS Cup title

The Portland Timbers have won their first ever MLS Cup title after beating the Columbus Crew 2-1 in Sunday’s dramatic final.

Diego Valeri, who earned the match MVP award, got Portland off to a dream start, scoring the fastest goal in MLS Cup Final history, before Rodney Wallace made it 2-0 on seven minutes.

The Crew fought back to make it 2-1 on 18 minutes as Kei Kamara gave the home crowd some hope but Portland managed to hold out to deservedly claim the 2015 MLS Cup title.

More reaction to follow…

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.