MLS Cup 2017: Toronto FC lays claim to title of MLS's best team ever

Long-suffering Toronto soccer fans can say it proudly: 2017 Toronto FC is the best team in MLS history.

TFC won the  MLS Supporters' Shield with the most points (69) and largest margin (12) in league history. It won the Canadian Championship -- the Voyageurs Cup -- for the sixth time in the competition's 10 years. And it won MLS Cup on Saturday night. It didn't just beat the Seattle Sounders, it dominated them with flowing soccer and a suffocating defense.

Yes, TFC's 2-0 victory before its home fans completed the first treble in league history.

1. Toronto FC was a team on a mission.

After last year's shootout loss at home to the Sounders in MLS Cup, Toronto FC was a team on a mission. And it played like it in the final.

The Reds had played tentatively throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, squeaking past the New York Red Bulls (on away goals) and Columbus Crew (1-0 on aggregate), but if they were feeling any pressure, they didn't show it in MLS Cup. On a cold but dry afternoon -- the wind off Lake Ontario no factor in the game -- Toronto FC dominated the Sounders from the get-go.

The home team could have had four or five goals in the first half, but Stefan Frei, the hero of MLS Cup 2016 for the Sounders, had another blinder in goal, denying Jonathan Osorio, Sebastian Giovinco (twice), Marky Delgado and Victor Vazquez in the first half

Frei extended his MLS-record shutout streak in the playoffs to 714 minutes -- the equivalent of almost eight full games -- before Toronto FC broke through in the 67th minute.

2. Vanney's formation change stifled Sounders.

Toronto FC played a 3-5-2 formation for much of the season but came out with a 4-4-2 for the final, adding another midfielder, Marky Delgado, and dropped a third center back, Eriq Zavaleta.

TFC coach Greg Vanney adopted a diamond formation in midfield to thwart the Sounders, who like to attack through the center of the field, and give more opportunities for his outside backs, Steven Beitashour and Justin Murrow, to attack their opposite numbers, Kelvin Leerdam and Joevin Jones.

MLS Cup 2017: Player Ratings

The Sounders were outshot, 12-1, in the first half, and never in the game. Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer noted the lost duels -- 33-10 in the first half, 58-24 for the game -- and lamented that the adjustments the Sounders made at halftime had no effect.

The breakthrough came when the Toronto FC defense snuffed out a Seattle attack down the middle -- just where Vanney knew the Sounders would come -- and responded with a counterattack goal on six passes from the TFC penalty area to midfield -- Drew Moor to Michael Bradley to Morrow to Vazquez to Giovinco to Jozy Altidore, who just got himself onside for Giovinco's through ball.

Altidore was off to the races but showed enough patience to hold off the challenges of Roman Torres and Jones and force Frei to commit himself before shooting with his left foot to the far post.

3. Vazquez takes Toronto FC over the top.

The best players on the field for Toronto FC were Bradley, who had the most passes (70), highest passing percentage (91.4) and most tackles won (6) of any player, and Vazquez, who was rewarded with the second goal in stoppage time when Armando Cooper's shot hit off the post and fell to him to put into the empty net.

Center back Chris Mavinga and Vazquez were two starters who weren't part of the TFC team that lost to the Sounders last year, but Vazquez is the player that took the Reds over the top. Designated Players Altidore, Bradley and Giovinco have been together for three seasons, forming the bulk of MLS's highest payroll, but TFC was able to add Vazquez (guaranteed compensation: $700,000) thanks to TAM from Cruz Azul in Mexico.

Vanney said he moved Vazquez to the tip of the diamond for MLS Cup to be closer to Altidore and Giovinco, but he popped up everywhere on the field, cutting the Seattle defense apart with his angled passes.

3 comments about "MLS Cup 2017: Toronto FC lays claim to title of MLS's best team ever".
  1. R2 Dad, December 10, 2017 at 3:07 p.m.

    The best MLS team ever would easily win the concacaf champions league---right? They said it was a goal, but lets see how that plays out over the next 5 months.

  2. Terry Lynch, December 10, 2017 at 9:49 p.m.

    i don't think so.  Best they could manage was a single goal on a classic MLS long ball/breakaway.  And he was probably offsides.

  3. Goal Goal, December 13, 2017 at 3:27 p.m.

    Best team ever?  That is strong!!  Too strong I am thinking.

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