Earthquakes

Seattle wins MLS Cup, beating Toronto on penalty kicks

sounders.jpg
USATSI

Seattle wins MLS Cup, beating Toronto on penalty kicks

TORONTO -- As homecomings go, the MLS Cup final is going to be hard to beat for Seattle's Stefan Frei.

Frei made critical saves in regulation and then again in the penalty-kick shootout to help the Sounders win their first championship with a 5-4 victory in the tiebreaker against Toronto FC on Saturday night.

The Swiss goalkeeper, who was drafted by Toronto in 2009 and spent five seasons with the club until he was traded in 2013, earned the game's MVP honors.

"This is what you want to be a part of," he said. "We've made Sounders history and for me it could have happened anywhere, I don't care as long as I'm with my team and my teammates."

Roman Torres scored in the sixth round of penalty kicks to clinch the trophy after 120 scoreless minutes. It was the first MLS Cup final to fail to produce a goal in regulation, setting the stage for a dramatic tiebreaker.

While Toronto's Michael Bradley and Alvaro Fernandez for Seattle had both seen their shots saved, the game went to sudden-death spot kicks. Toronto's Justin Morrow could only clatter his shot off the crossbar, setting the stage for Torres to win it with a high shot down the middle of the goal.

"You need a little bit of luck," Frei said. "Let's face it, PKs are not the prettiest thing to decide a game, and actually Roman missed a penalty in training yesterday. I'm glad he missed yesterday and not today."

Seattle became the first team in MLS Cup final history to fail to produce a shot on target throughout the game. Additionally, the Sounders' three shots overall were the fewest in an MLS title game, the first to feature two expansion franchises. Toronto was the first Canadian MLS Cup finalist.

That meant little to Bradley, who was understandably dejected after seeing his team become just the second to lose at home since MLS switched from having the final at a neutral location to the home stadium of the finalist with the most regular-season points in 2012. The Portland Timbers became the first when they won the championship in Columbus against the Crew last year.

"Every guy gave everything they had, every guy walked off the field having pored their hearts into the game and we didn't get rewarded tonight," Bradley said. "That's sports, that's life."

With the game on the line, Toronto coach Greg Vanney removed former MLS most valuable player Sebastian Giovinco in the 103rd minute in favor of Tosaint Ricketts. While Vanney said that an exhausted Giovinco "couldn't move," after the game, the gutsy call almost paid off.

Following Ricketts' cross five minutes after coming on, it looked as if Jozy Altidore was going to give Toronto the lead in the 108th minute with a looping header, but an athletic save from Frei kept it scoreless. Leaping to his left, he scooped the ball off the line with his left hand, allowing his defense to clear the ball to safety.

"Obviously Frei makes a couple big saves that keep them in it," Vanney said. "But congratulations to them."

For Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer, who took over from Sigi Schmid on July 26 with Seattle in ninth place in the Western Conference, the turnaround was complete. Posting an 8-2-4 record since then, Seattle became the first team in MLS history to make the playoffs after having 20 or fewer points through the season's first 20 matches.

"Some people say defense wins championships," he said. "You couple Roman's performance with Stefan Frei, who came up massive with that one save and then in the penalty-kick shootout made the save that he needed to make."

ONE COLD NIGHT

The temperature at kickoff was 28 degrees, making it the second-coldest MLS Cup on record. That honor goes to the 2013 edition at Sporting Park in Kansas City, where the game kicked off at 22 degrees.

ONE HOT TICKET

While the remaining tickets for Saturday's final sold out in three minutes after going on sale to the general public last Monday, there were still 90 or so tickets available on StubHub 10 minutes prior to kickoff. Prices ranged from $147 up to $2,500 for a ticket that retailed between $55 and $555 at face value.

THE POWER OF CHANGE

Schmetzer became the first coach in MLS history to take charge of a team midway through the season and lead it to a championship. Schmid (Los Angeles Galaxy) and Steve Nicol (New England Revolution) took their teams to the title match, but both came up short.

THE PRICE IS RIGHT

"I hope we get to do this every year; it's pretty fun. If we don't win the championship every year I hope everyone has to go through us to get to the championship every year and when they get here they're bloody and bruised and can barely play." — Seattle Sounders part-owner, and host of the Price is Right, Drew Carey, in the locker room after the game.

Quakes choose young FIU defender with their first pick in 2018 MLS SuperDraft

Quakes choose young FIU defender with their first pick in 2018 MLS SuperDraft

The San Jose Earthquakes are hoping they've caught lighting in a bottle twice. 

Last season, Nick Lima emerged as one of the game's best young defenders. And on Day 1 of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, San Jose went to the fullback well with the selection of Paul Marie from Florida International University with the 12th pick in the first round. 

"Paul has the profile we were looking for from the very beginning heading into the combine and the draft," said Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli via press release. "We were looking for a fullback. We see in him an offensive-minded outside back that has technical qualities and the ability to read the game."

Experts pegged Marie, 22, as a late-first, early-second-round selection. But a pair of solid days during the MLS Combine boosted the Frenchman's stock -- especially on San Jose's board. According to Fioranelli, Marie was No. 4 on their draft board -- having him there at No. 12 must have felt like a steal for Fioranelli and staff. 

"We especially liked that he has character and in the interview that we had with him, he convinced us," Fioranelli said. "The entire coaching staff are really excited about having him part of the club."

San Jose not only lucked out that their fourth-best footballer was there at 12, but with American parents, he does not take up an international slot for San Jose -- the team is still three players over their allotment.

In an interview after his selection with Jason Davis of Sirius XM radio, Marie told San Jose fans what they can expect from the defender. 

"They can expect Paul Marie to give it all for San Jose," he said. 

The Quakes were in need of defensive depth going in to Day 1 of the SuperDraft. In Marie, they have a fullback who can stretch the pitch from the right side and be a backup to Lima. 

Did Quakes pull off 'steal' of MLS SuperDraft in Danny Musovski?

Did Quakes pull off 'steal' of MLS SuperDraft in Danny Musovski?

Not too long ago, former UNLV standout Danny Musovski was the darling of the mock draft. 

And rightfully so -- with 47 career goals in 88 appearances with the Runnin' Rebels, Musovski possesses a knack and nose for the goal that no MLS team can have enough of and thus an early selection in the MLS SuperDraft was expected. 

So when you examine the San Jose Earthquakes' first day of the 2018 SuperDraft, their selection of Musovski can be viewed one of two ways: it's either the steal/ best value of Day 1 at No. 30 or you're skeptical of why the 22-year-old who many experts had going in the top 10 fell all the way down the Quakes in the second round. 

Judging by the way those who know Musovski talk about him, it sounds like Earthquakes fans can lean toward the former. 

"Danny is a striker that we actually saw as one of the biggest prospects considering that over four years he had scored around 50 goals," said San Jose general manager Jesse Fioranelli via press release. "He is a player that we already knew because he was inside of our ecosystem. We are excited to have him at the club."

Fioranelli is talking about Musovski's time with San Jose Premier Developement League affiliate, Burlingame Dragons FC, in 2016 where the forward made a huge impact on a squad that made the PDL postseason fresh off his 12-goal year with UNLV. 

"Quakes got a steal by drafting Danny at No. 30," said his former Dragons FC head coach Eric Bucchere -- who spent last season as an assistant with San Jose affiliate Reno 1868 and founded Path2Pro Soccer thereafter. 

"He's an MLS-ready player with pace, a good soccer brain and knack for scoring goals," Bucchere said, adding that yes, perhaps Musovski's work during the combine wasn't steller, but those two days shouldn't overshadow the striker's upside. "Sometimes it's obvious why a player is good at scoring goals and sometimes you have to watch a player during the course of an entire season to really appreciate what makes him so good." 

There are some experts who point to Chris Wondolowski as a comporable skillset and physical build to Musovski -- a player who no-doubt can find the back of the net but won't blow you away with his athleticism. 

"The last point is that Danny showed more enthusiasm than any other player to join the organization, which was a determining factor for him to join us," Fioranelli said. 

Musovski was a four-year starter and two-time All-America selection for UNLV and the first Rebel to be selected in the Super Draft since Bradley Kamdem in 2016. During his senior season in 2017, he scored 15 goals (good for fourth in the nation) and added six assists in 16 appearances, earning Third Team All-America, First Team All-West Region, First Team All-Western Athletic Conference and Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year honors.

Time, and training camp, will tell if Musovski will make an immediate impact with the main club. But he'll definitely have a spot with Reno 1868, the Quakes United Soccer League affiliate known for scoring goals in (record-setting) bunches.