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MLS Cup Analysis

Thoughts on MLS Cup 2017

There was a lot to take away from Saturday's MLS Cup where Toronto overwhelmed the Seattle Sounders for a 2-0 win. ASN's Brian Sciaretta gives his thoughts on the game
BY Brian Sciaretta Posted
December 09, 2017
6:55 PM
The 2017 Major League Soccer season is now in the history books and Toronto FC is the deserved champions after winning the Supporters’ Shield in the regular season and dominating the Seattle Sounders 2-0 in MLS Cup to complete perhaps the finest season in the history of the league.

From the opening whistle Toronto controlled the game and completely overwhelmed Seattle. The 2-0 scoreline was completely flattering to the guests and the only reason why the game wasn’t a laugher was Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei who turned in a first-rate performance.

But this Toronto team will go down as one of the best assembled teams that the league has ever seen. General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko and head coach Greg Vanney put together a roster that had no flaws. It spent a lot of money on designated players Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco and all three turned in great seasons.

Beyond the designated players, there was also a lot of depth and quality. Victor Vazquez was one of the best midfielders in the league this year. Marky Delgado and goalkeeper Alex Bono are young and just entering their prime years but already played like seasoned veterans. Justin Morrow, Drew Moor, and Steve Beitashour were a solid and experienced backline.

Essentially, whenever this team was healthy it was far superior to any other team and Vanney had it playing to its potential.

Here are my thoughts on the game

Vazquez and Bradley controlled the game

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore run Toronto FC’s attack but this game was won in the midfield. Seattle’s Ozzie Alonso was ruled out of the final with knee issues and the Sounders desperately missed him. Toronto simply overwhelmed Gustav Svennson and Cristian Roldan. As a result, Will Bruin, Clint Dempsey, Victor Rodriguez and Nicolas Lodeiro were completely invisible.

The primary reason for this dominance were flawless performances from Michael Bradley and Victor Vazquez.

Michael Bradley has received harsh treatment from American fans following the U.S. national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. But he has found a home in Toronto and his performance in MLS Cup was one of the best in league history. He completed 65 out of 71 passes, his five tackles was the highest among all players and he also had four interceptions and six clearances.

Meanwhile Victor Vazquez was top-notch in playing dangerous passes into the attack to create multiple scoring chances. Seattle simply had no answer for his skill vision.

Giovinco and Altidore are a tough attack to stop but with a midfield that controls the game, Toronto is an overwhelming favorite in any game in this league.

Delgado and Frei deserve USMNT debuts

From an international perspective, Sefan Frei and Marco Delgado were the big winners in this game. With January camp starting in exactly one month under caretaker manager Dave Sarachan, the event will likely take the tone of talent identification as there are no meaningful games to prepare for.

Delgado, 22, made a strong case for his first ever U.S. national team callup. MLS Cup was his 30th start of the season and he has improved a lot in 2017 playing alongside of some of the best players in the league.

There is no doubt that central midfield is one of the most crowded positions among the next generation of American players. But beyond Weston McKennie, Jonathan Gonzalez, and Tyler Adams there is still room on a 23 player roster. MLS Cup will give him a platform to perhaps move past other players like Cristian Roldan who struggled for Seattle.

Meanwhile Stefan Frei, 31, is not young but is a highly competent goalkeeper that plays well in big games. Having only acquired his U.S. citizenship in 2017, he hasn’t been available to the U.S. team until recently. Of course the U.S. team needs younger goalkeepers like Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath to step up but having an older keeper in the mix is still a not a bad option.

What can Toronto do the Champions League?

As one of the best and most talented teams in league history, it will be interesting to see how Toronto does in the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League. Of course and MLS team has never won the tournament but Toronto will bring more talent and expectations when the quarterfinals get underway in February.

The timing of the knockout stages has always placed MLS teams at a huge disadvantage given that it takes place in preseason compared with Liga MX clubs which are in midseason form. But eventually MLS teams will have to find a way to overcome this and Toronto should have loftier expectations to contend for the Champions League crown.

Atmosphere was electric

The atmosphere in Toronto was about as intense as the league has ever seen. Toronto is a city that takes is sports seriously but the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, and the Blue Jays have not produced silverware in ages. The same can be said for most other Canadian cities.

But the crowd in Toronto came across great on television and it gave Toronto FC a true home-field advantage.

When Toronto came into the league, it drew well but the team’s constant failure to make the playoffs eventually chased fans away. But an aggressive plan to make the team competitive has now created one of the best atmospheres in North America and one that rivals intense European experiences.

Ranking Toronto’s achievement

So is this 2017 Toronto FC team the best team in MLS history? There is always a risk to making that judgement immediately after the final game but Toronto will have a great case. The Supporters Shield with the most ever points, Canadian Championship, and MLS Cup is an impressive resume.

The LA Galaxy teams which featured David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Omar Gonzalez are generally at the top of most people’s list as the best-ever MLS teams. But this Toronto team had tremendous depth and very few weaknesses.

MLS teams now have bigger budgets, more competition from a bigger league, and more ways to build rosters. There is less natural parity and assembling a top league takes skill and vision. So for Toronto to dominate the way it did in 2017 was groundbreaking.

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