By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) – Jozy Altidore’s second half goal helped propel a relentless Toronto FC to a 2-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Saturday to claim their first Major League Soccer championship after a gut-wrenching loss in last year’s final.
The victory capped a superb season for the Reds, adding the MLS Cup to the Supporters’ Shield that goes to the club with the best regular-season record and the Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champions.
Everything they accomplished this season, however, including a regular season points record, mattered little beyond getting back to the final and avenging their loss on penalties to Seattle last year.
“This trophy has been an obsession for the last 364 days not just for me but every single guy on our team, every coach, every member of our staff,” Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley told reporters.
“To get back here, to give ourselves another crack at it has been, honestly there is no other word for it, other than obsession.
“It’s hard to describe to people outside what it has been like to live that every day.”
The victory did more than exorcise the demons from a year ago, it also went some way towards restoring the pride of a franchise whose reputation had been one of failure rather than excellence.
Toronto, who played their first season in 2007, did not reach the postseason until 2015 – the longest playoff drought in league history.
“It has been a long time, a long journey to get here and heartache along the way as we saw last year but it’s been an incredible journey,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, who had also lost three previous finals with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
While Toronto had dominated the final from the outset, Seattle goalkeeper Sebastian Frei was in imperious form as the home side peppered him with shots.
Altidore, who scored the only goal in the Eastern Conference final against the Columbus Crew, finally beat Frei when he ran onto a through ball from Sebastian Giovinco, outpaced the defense and coolly slotted a shot past the goalkeeper.
It was the first goal conceded by the Sounders in this year’s playoffs.
“It’s my job, I’m a striker it is my job to create and try to score goals,” said Altidore, who was named man of the match. “Night’s like this is what it is all about.”
Victor Vazquez then added a second into injury time lighting the fuse on wild celebrations for the capacity crowd of 30,584 who had braved the chilly conditions.
“This team, this year is like nothing I have ever been a part of just in terms of a group guys so single minded,” said Bradley.
“To cap it off tonight the way we did, to play the way we did with everything on the line I’m so proud.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)