Frei's fine form had Toronto coach Vanney 'on edge' throughout MLS Cup
TORONTO -- Even at 1-0 up, having controlled the 2017 MLS Cup final from start to finish and with the clock frozen at 90 minutes, Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney did not exhale until Victor Vazquez pounced on a rebound to double TFC's lead.
Only then, in the 94th minute and with BMO Field breaking into hysterics, did Vanney allow himself to believe that his team was really going to avenge last year's title-game defeat to the Seattle Sounders, win the club's first MLS Cup and become the first team in league history to win three major trophies in a single season.
"That was the first time I took a deep breath and felt like we had done it," Vanney said. "Before that, it was obviously a long game, where I felt like chances were coming but we weren't putting them away. [Sounders goalkeeper] Stefan Frei was having another blinder of a game and making saves. Even with that first goal I was still, like everybody, feeling a little bit on edge.
"That second goal was for me the first time that my emotions came out a little bit. I looked up at the sky because as most of you are aware I lost my mother, and she would have really proud. I've lost this game four times prior to tonight and she witnessed all of those, so I was really happy to do that with this group of guys who have been amazing all year."
Toronto dominated Saturday evening's match, out-shooting the Sounders 22-7, including an 11-1 edge in shots on goal. And even though his team could have started wondering if it was going to be another one of those nights when they entered halftime at 0-0 -- having similarly taken over last year's game but not being able to break through -- at intermission they were calm and composed.
"[I] mostly just wanted them to stay positive, not get frustrated after a year like last year and a half like that," Vanney said. "Keep your foot on the gas, keep trying to create chances and not be afraid that you're going to give up something in the endeavor of trying to go win the game. That was one of our big statements this week. Be bold. Nobody wins anything by being afraid. Go out and be bold and the ball kept going."
The breakthrough finally came in the 67th minute. Jozy Altidore sprinted onto a threaded pass by Sebastian Giovinco and finishing in front of a noisy South End. Vanney stayed internally clenched for another half hour or so, before Vazquez struck again and the coach could finally begin to celebrate.
"We're so proud do to this in front of our city and our fans," Vanney said. "It's been a long time and a long journey to get here, heartache along the way as we saw last year, but to get here tonight and be able to lift a trophy with them and in front of them is an incredible journey and we're so proud to be here in this moment."
Matt Pentz is a Seattle-based soccer reporter covering primarily the Sounders, Timbers and Whitecaps. Follow him on Twitter @mattpentz.