I hadn’t planned on watching the MLS Cup final, but Tuesday night, needing a bit of soccer injected into my pre-Christmas routine, I pulled it up on my laptop.
And regretted it.
The Seattle Sounders edged out Toronto FC in penalty kicks after a 120 minute display of soccer that Major League Soccer hopes can be buried in the vault, never to see the light of day again.
The positives were few. Toronto FC dominated the game, generating plenty of attacks that stretched the Seattle Sounders back line. They commanded the ball, snuffed out Seattle’s limited and feeble attempts to get forward, and generally looked up to the task of grabbing their first MLS Cup. Seattle managed some decent defense throughout the night. Stefan Frei was probably their best player with at least one great save.
As you can already guess, the negatives piled up.
First and foremost, neither team was able to put the ball into the back of the net. Seattle’s zero shots on goal stands like a black eye to the game of soccer and to the idea of a championship final. It’s not as if Toronto played the most suffocating defense in the world either. Seattle looked unimaginative, directionless, and worn down when attacking. They had no ideas, no creativity, no spirit.
A neutral fan might have been excited to see two great stars of this league, Nicholas Lodeiro and Sebastian Giovinco, displaying their talents as a showcase of what soccer in North America can be. Instead, neither looked right. Lodeiro was pedestrian. Giovinco probably was playing through an injury.
The coaching left a lot to be desired. Toronto FC’s game plan quickly turned route one, blasting the ball up the field time and time again, hoping Jozy Altidore could do it all by himself. Seattle’s tactics looked as boring and unimaginative, bunker down and ride out the storm. Even when they did get forward, the final pass was left wanting.
In the end, Seattle was the team left standing, taking home their first MLS Cup. Toronto had to be feel devastated, out shooting and out playing the eventual winners in every aspect of the game. A tough night for the teams - but also a tough night for those of us wanting a great show to point out how exciting Major League Soccer is becoming.
In the end, we were left wanting too.
Don Garber and the official MLS people had to say the right things after the match. There’s no loophole for a Final to be awarded to a more deserving team. There is no do over. Toronto couldn’t score, and Seattle were unwilling to try. Still, I hope MLS officials huddle up and take a hard look at their format. It’s time for change. Despite the excitement of both fanbases, the MLS Cup needs a jolt of energy. It needs to be the best MLS has to offer.
For me, consistency is key. If the Supporter’s Shield cannot become the actual championship of this league, the whole playoffs are in need of an overhaul. I’d suggest every round be more consistent.
- Every round should be like a wildcard game, one and done, higher seed hosting. The final would be played within relative spitting distance of the regular season, not nearly two months later.
- OR Every round, including the Final, should have a home and away leg, including wildcard games. The Final might get played in January, but at least you could potentially erase a “black eye” game like the one we saw Tuesday night with the second leg.
In the end, no one is going to go back and rewrite MLS history. Seattle Sounders take home the cup. Fans, like myself, wouldn’t mind having our couple of hours back after that game though. Maybe I could have popped in Christmas Vacation instead? A bit more fireworks, at least.