Toronto FC fill their MLS Cup trophy hole
It seems almost too perfect that Toronto FC would become the first Canadian team to lift the MLS Cup to end a year in which the US failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986. After all, MLS as a whole was created to satisfy one of FIFA’s requirements for the US to host (and automatically qualify for) the 1994 World Cup, sparking more than 20 years of the sport’s remarkable growth in the United States. And now the league has a Canadian champion while the US are out of the World Cup once more. Yet more evidence that the football gods like a good joke.
Making the situation even more perfect still is that two oft maligned US national team players, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, along with Italian castoff Sebastian Gionvinco, led their once inept club to that historic title, winning a domestic (well, sort of) treble and cementing themselves as the best team in MLS’s brief history along the way.
For years now, Altidore and Bradley’s critics have derided these two mainstays of the US national team for coming up small when it matters most. But in the 2017 MLS Cup final, a rematch against the Seattle Sounders, both played key roles in Toronto’s success with Altidore scoring the first of the home side’s two goals and Bradley controlling the midfield.
For the second year in a row, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei made it difficult for Toronto, but this time Altidore was able to break through in the 67th minute. Victor Vazquez then sealed it in the fourth minute of added time.
Of course, Toronto’s success can’t all be put down to the tenacity and grit of a group of plucky misfits and outcasts. The club’s payroll was the highest in MLS at the start of the season at almost $22.5 million—nearly $5 million more than second player NYCFC and more than double that of the Seattle Sounders. This brings up another uncomfortable truth to some of the more stingy owners in MLS: that spending money can get results.
But finances and US-centric storylines shouldn’t take away from what truly was a hard earned and well deserved title for Toronto. And comedy.
Follow Brooks on Twitter @BrooksDT.