TORONTO - Seattle Sounders manager Brian Schmetzer hailed his side's defensive display in defeating Toronto FC on penalty kicks to win the 2016 MLS Cup final.
Seattle was outshot 19-3 over 120 minutes, with shots on goal in favor of Toronto to the tune of 7-0. Despite that deficit, the Sounders were able to keep the home side at bay, and prevailed in the penalty kick shootout 5-4 after extra time finished scoreless.
"Some people say defense wins championships," said Schmetzer. "I think Roman [Torres] had a tremendous performance. I think [so did] his running mates, Chad [Marshall] Cristian [Roldan], Ozzie [Alonso], marshaling in front of those guys.
"Jozy [Altidore] and [Sebastian] Giovinco are tremendous players. They really put a lot of pressure on us, especially early on. The first 10 minutes they could have scored."
Toronto could have scored late as well, including a looping header from Altidore in the 108th minute. But just as it looked like the ball was going to go in, goalkeeper Stefan Frei palmed the ball away to keep the score level.
"It looked like it was going to go in," said Schmetzer. "And then all of a sudden here comes this big paw and he gets a hold of it. It was a tremendous save."
Frei added, "Sometimes as a goalkeeper, you feel like you're never going to get to a ball, but you never know until you try. I tried to keep my feet moving and gave it my best shot. Luckily I was able to get there."
There were a couple of other anxious moments, like when Frei had to punch away a Nick Hagglund header in second-half stoppage time with Altidore lurking nearby. But for the vast majority of the game, Seattle's back-line and midfield managed to keep Toronto under control.
Alonso's play in particular was vital. The Seattle stalwart had what Schmetzer said was a pulled tendon in his knee. Alonso later admitted he had taken a total of eight pain-killing injections; four before the game and four more at halftime. But Alonso managed to put in complete performance and was a critical piece to Seattle staying in the game.
"They found a way to win, they found a way to persevere in tough situations, and guys like Ozzie are part of that," said Schmetzer. "His determination on half a leg, it's just a testament of how much Ozzie wants to win. I can't be any more proud or happy that he's in our club."
Frei triumphed on the field that he called home for five seasons, the last two of which were blighted by injury. But a move to Seattle back in 2014 rejuvenated Frei's career, and now he's an MLS Cup champion.
The fact that this is the first Sounders team to win the MLS Cup makes it even sweeter.
"When you go to the San Siro and you get a tour of the stadium, at some point you're going to come through to that black-and-white picture of the team that won the first trophy," he said.
"MLS is pretty young, the teams are fairly young. You can make history. Granted, the picture won't be black and white, but this is what you want to be a part of, and we made Sounders history. It could have happened anywhere. I don't care, as long I was with my team and my teammates. I'm so proud of them."