‘You wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome’
Free-agent striker linked with a move back to Serie A
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has thanked LA Galaxy for making him feel “alive again” before instructing the club’s fans to “go back to watch baseball” now he has played his last MLS game for them.
The Swedish striker will end a two-year spell at the club when his contract expires in December. Ibrahimovic scored 52 goals in 56 games for Galaxy after leaving Manchester United in March 2018, but his final match ended in defeat with Galaxy losing to Los Angeles FC in the MLS Cup play-offs conference semi-finals.
I came, I saw, I conquered. Thank you @lagalaxy for making me feel alive again. To the Galaxy fans - you wanted Zlatan, I gave you Zlatan. You are welcome. The story continues...Now go back to watch baseball pic.twitter.com/kkL6B6dJBr
Major League Soccer’s original super franchise has made an understated, under-the-radar efficiency their calling card – and it served them well en route to their improbable second title
On the statistics alone, Toronto FC had the edge in Sunday’s MLS Cup final, claiming 65% of possession, attempting 408 passes in the attacking third compared to the Seattle Sounders’ comparatively low tally of 184 and registering just as many total shots (16) as their Pacific Northwest hosts. The Sounders are a team with a track record of going against the numerical grain, though.
The Seattle Sounders are an MLS success story, setting a new standard for club ambition and supporter fervor. They won a few US Open Cups, but the grand prize eluded them for nearly a decade.
Until today, they still hadn’t scored a goal in MLS Cup even though they won the trophy once. Even when the goal finally happened, it was an own goal -- no matter what the statisticians say.
The Canadian club will feel aggrieved, claiming a foul in the buildup to the first goal after dominating possession for a half and more. But they can only blame themselves for creating very little out of all that possession. It was a comfortable day for former Toronto keeper Stefan Frei apart from one superb save, and Toronto simply capitulated after conceding the goal.
Then a superb finish from Victor Rodriguez gave Toronto an even longer path back. Then Toronto made the fatal mistake of letting Ruidiaz sneak past them.
A cross, a header from the spot, and you have to wonder if he could’ve made a difference had he been fully healthy.
90 min+2: Seattle make a final defensive substitution, mostly to provide Ruidiaz with a ceremonial farewell.
90 min: The goal was Route 1. Literally. A long pass up the middle. Mavinga is far too casual with it, and Ruidiaz simply slips past him.
We’ll have five minutes of stoppage time.
Well, that’ll do it. After an injury brings action to a fault for an eternity, Toronto make an absolute mess of things, letting Ruidiaz take the ball off a defender for a breakaway and a chip.
The defender was Mavinga, who has had a simply awful game.
87 min: The second-best chance of the game for Toronto, as a ball is lobbed into defender-turned-forward Omar Gonzalez, who collides with Frei and sandwiches a defender in the process.
ABC informs us that the first Seattle goal has been credited to Leerdam. The commentators disagree, as would anyone who was actually watching. The ball was going well wide until it hit Morrow.
86 min: There is absolutely nothing to suggest Toronto will get back into this match.
I say this hoping I will jinx things and set up a grandstand finish.
85 min: Jordy Delem is now replacing Seattle-born Jordan Morris, who gives a hug to a teammate and strides off the field with the speed of an electric car whose battery has run down to zero.
83 min: Same thing now from Toronto that we saw all game. Possession. Nothing resembling a chance. Toronto have only had one half-decent chance all game, the shot by the since-withdrawn Benezet in the first half.
81 min: The U.S. president isn’t here, but you can’t escape politics these days:
78 min: How do you get instructions to your captain in a loud stadium? Send a note with your substitute. Richie Laryea enters for Toronto and hands a piece of paper to Michael Bradley while the ball goes around them, in play.
Let’s give credit to referee Allen Chapmen here for a second. Toronto clearly fouled Lodeiro as he was laying the ball off to Rodriguez. The ref let play continue, and Rodriguez ripped the ball to the lower right corner from the top of the box.
75 min: Seattle didn’t commit many numbers forward on that corner, but they’ve managed to maintain possession.
Mavinga hobbles back on, but Toronto are preparing another substitution.
74 min: Toronto haven’t recovered from surrendering the goal. They may be forced into another substitution, with Mavinga limping off just as Seattle take the corner.
73 min: A mess in the Toronto defense forces Westberg into an awkward save with his own defender running straight at him. The result is another Seattle corner.
71 min: Altidore also holds the ignominious distinction of playing 70 Premier League games for Sunderland and Hull while only scoring two goals.
Elsewhere, he has been very successful. He blasted his way onto the MLS scene as a teenager before going to the Netherlands and scoring at will.
68 min: Jozy Altidore scored against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup when the USA pulled off a historic upset. Since then, he has been alternately cheered and vilified by U.S. supporters.
He’s on now for Toronto, to a chorus of boos.
67 min: Lodeiro and Morris combine on Seattle’s right flank and think they’ve won yet another corner for the Sounders. They have not.
65 min: Attendance announcement: 69,274 fans have packed the stadium. Most of them are quite happy right now but will be fretting as Toronto’s attack gets more dangerous.
Jozy Altidore is tying his shoes. And still tying them. That’s a long camera shot of someone tying his shoes.
64 min: Now Toronto must press forward and leave some holes at the back. Frei finds himself under pressure with the ball at his feet before passing to the only defender in sight.
62 min: Toronto introduce Nick DeLeon, whose superb goal knocked out Atlanta United in the semifinals.
Tsubasa Endoh is the player to depart.
61 min: ABC reminds us of what Justin Morrow would surely like to forget -- he missed from the spot for Toronto in 2016 against Seattle, leaving the door open for Torres to net the winner.
60 min: Seattle’s Victor Rodriguez, once on Barcelona’s books and a La Liga veteran, goes into the game to replace fullback Brad Smith, which seems a touch odd.
That was unusual.
We did mention before the game that Kelvin Leerdam was good at getting forward down the right flank. He finds some space in the box and fires. It hits the unfortunate Justin Morrow and promptly nestles in the lower left corner.
56 min: Same as the first half -- a lot of Toronto possession with no incisive play to make it matter.
54 min: A new approach for Toronto, eschewing the flanks to let Pozuelo beat 6-7 Seattle players before his final pass is played out to safety.
53 min: They’re getting snarky in Canada ...
So when do the Sounders replace the needle on their logo with a parked bus?
51 min: And Benezet will surely maintain his lead in that mysterious Player Index after taking a hard shot from his preferred spot at the upper right corner of the box (from Stefan Frei’s perspective). Another solid block from the green wall.
50 min: Toronto’s Benezet has just claimed the lead from Seattle’s Torres in the MLS stat breakdown called the Audi Player Index. Is any bonus money at stake there?
49 min: Jordan Morris has switched sides to the right, which may not be for the best if he can’t do more with it at the end of one of his runs than he did there. Promising run but obvious discomfort as he tried to figure out what to do next.
48 min: A nice Toronto attack, and the ball is laid back to Delgado, whose shot is well-blocked.
47 min: Seattle doing something it didn’t do through the entire first half -- maintain possession. It’s in their own half, but it’s something.
Before we start the second half, let’s see the other save that has kept this match scoreless:
Terrific pressure from Toronto, but aside from forcing one terrific save from Frei, they haven’t done much with it. Seattle look dangerous going the other way but just can’t keep the ball.
45 min: CHANCE and as I type that, Ruidiaz nicks the ball away from Omar Gonzalez and forces Westberg into a point-blank save.
Toronto have had the better of play, but Seattle has had as much of a chance of scoring as the visitors.
45 min: As we’ve been reminded many times now, Seattle have yet to score against Toronto in all these MLS Cups. The Sounders lifted the trophy in penalties once but have not yet done anything in regulation.
43 min: Toronto hail right back Auro Jr., who has been causing all sorts of problems.
40 min: Now Seattle are defending for their lives. Multiple lunging tackles just to get the ball out of immediate danger and into slightly less immediate danger.
39 min: Toronto with some possession that would be threatening if the Sounders hadn’t put most of their team and probably a few players from the Seattle Seahawks in their own box. Quite a few bodies back there, neatly camouflaged against the green field.
38 min: A kind word from Twitter ...
@duresport As a Brit who lives in Toronto and supports Chelsea with TFC as my second team, I am impressed that The Guardian is covering it. I am not going to say what I think about the game so far because I might jinx it I have not even whispered the words
36 min: CHANCE, and it’s a stellar save by Frei, who quickly sprawls to his left to paw away a well-driven low shot by Benezet. Kim clears it from there.
35 min: The crowd reaches a crescendo for the third corner, but it’s collected by Westberg, and everyone calms down.
Svensson concedes a rather pointless foul to give Toronto a free kick from 30 yards out. It’s cleared, but Toronto maintain possession and ...
34 min: And another.
33 min: Michael Bradley now appears to be playing every defensive position at once. This time, he’s to the left of his own goal to block the ball away from Torres, who has adventurously crept up from the Seattle back line. Another corner. And another.
31 min: Brad Smith plays a nice 1-2 with Lodeiro and crosses, only to see it blocked away by Michael Bradley, whose work rate has never been questioned.
Seattle win a corner. And another. And it’s starting to feel as if the home side are finally getting a grip on the game besides the occasional counter.
30 min: A bit of boring midfield back-and-forth until the Sounders decide to liven things up by blasting the ball back toward Stefan Frei with a bit more venom than a keeper would like from a backpass.
Toronto win a corner, and Frei flies out to punch it away.
28 min: The odd thing here is that Seattle seem to be playing as if they’re the underdogs. They’re not. They earned home field here by having a better record than Toronto, which has had 61% of possession according to a TV graphic that I can’t verify because I’m not using a stopwatch.
26 min: Michael Bradley gets a bit of space 25 yards out and decides to go for glory. The ball rolls harmlessly wide.
25 min: From the dean of the U.S. soccer press corps ...
23 min: The ball and Ruidiaz get past Mavinga, but those two objects are not really in proximity to each other, and nothing results from it.
I did referee a game earlier today, so yes, I do feel that I can question the second-guessing of our commentators. Take a recertification class and THEN argue with me. So there.
21 min: Brad Smith gets forward on the left for Seattle, which inspires the crowd. The ball pings around for an eventual Sounders corner, which lands at the feet of the onrushing Torres to volley over the bar.
Best chance so far for either team.
20 min: Another Mavinga foul at midfield, this time on Lodeiro. ABC’s Taylor Twellman doesn’t see a foul, but he’s incorrect.
18 min: Now Mavinga has to do some actual defending against Ruidiaz, whose pressure forces the Toronto defender to boot it out of play. Seattle reclaim the ball and send the ball in to Ruidiaz, who has little room to put his header on frame.
16 min: And a bit of pain the other way as Mavinga whacks Ruidiaz in the back. Michael Bradley has a discussion with the ref, but it’s hard to see why he’s doing that except that he’s Michael Bradley.
15 min: Seattle defender Kim Kee-hee inflicts a bit of on Alejandro Pozuelo by stepping on the Spaniard’s ankle.
Toronto maintain possession and win a corner that looks a bit dangerous but is cleared.
13 min: Seattle’s talisman Ruidiaz gets the ball to the left just outside the box and sends a cross to the far side that bends a bit too much and goes out of play.
12 min: Now Toronto gets a bit of possession in the Seattle box (OK, fellow refs -- “area”), and Benezet his a square pass to Osorio near the spot. He only has a narrow slot between defenders to shoot and puts it into Frei’s hands.
10 min: Michael Bradley floats a ball into the box. It’s headed upward and rather fortunately arcs gently into the hands of Stefan Frei. The Seattle crowd loves that, but it’s not the best sign for the Sounders defense.
9 min: THERE’S the crowd noise. Jordan Morris picks up a pass and goes 3v4, then beats his defender with a burst of speed and unleashes a quick shot on goal. Westberg covers rather easily, but that’s a nice bit of inspiration for a Seattle team that has been pinned back for a while.
8 min: A patient buildup from Toronto now, again working it wide to marauding right back Auro.
A bit of pressure forces another rushed Seattle clearance. This is good from the visitors.
7 min: Toronto is putting on some pressure now, forcing Leerdam to escape to the outside and clear, only for TFC to regain possession.
6 min: Our commentators have mentioned the noise many times already, but we’re not hearing much on the broadcast. Some singing and a little bit of percussion, as you’d expect.
4 min: Our first shot on goal is from Toronto’s Benezet, and it’s rather speculative from outside the box. Toronto worked the ball nicely down the right and switched fields well but may have rushed things a bit.
3 min: Seattle has a good spell of possession and wins a corner.
J.R. in Illinois asks why Seattle doesn’t have a grass surface, pointing out that the argument of “it’s too rainy” doesn’t stand up when English clubs make do with the same amount of precipitation. It’s a good question, here and in Portland. Maybe someone will spring for retractable fields someday.
1 min: Lodeiro starts us with a tone-setting tackle at midfield.
The crowd will compare favorably to any soccer gathering in the world today. The Pacific Northwest not only has large crowds but also the best tifo displays.
(This picture is just a taste. Much bigger displays have been on the broadcast.)
Neither team is supposed to be here.
In the West, LAFC ran away with everything -- until Seattle upended them in the conference final. In the East, Toronto struggled through a middling season but dumped out both East-leading NYCFC and defending champion Atlanta United on the road in the thrilling new MLS single-game playoff format.
Each of these teams claims a place in pushing MLS forward. Toronto came into the league in 2007 and quickly established a reputation for having some of the largest and liveliest crowds in the league.
Seattle joined MLS in 2009 and took things up a notch. Previous attempts to put MLS teams in NFL stadiums had looked dreary, with pockets of fans scattered throughout vast stands. Seattle was different. They sometimes cover part of the stadium and limit ticket sales to just under 40,000, but for some games, the whole stadium is available -- and loud. Atlanta United has duplicated that success on the other side of the country.
Toronto starting lineup
The irony here is that this Canadian club features two of the most debated players in recent U.S. history, midfielder Michael Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore, the latter of whom is on the bench after a late race to get fit for this final. Defender Omar Gonzalez had the misfortune of being credited with an own goal in the USA’s loss to Trinidad and Tobago that kept them from World Cup 2018. At the time, he was playing in Mexico, but he joined Toronto this summer.
The tip of the spear is a strong one. Forward Raul Ruidiaz, who has been nicknamed “The Flea” and “the Peruvian Messi,” has been a consistent scoring threat in his first full season with Seattle. He’s also connected to a country that has had a strong taste of success recently -- Croatia, from which his mother’s family hails.
Never a simple question when you’re talking about a U.S. soccer broadcast, which mimics other U.S. sports by having a pregame show for its pregame show.
Good afternoon to the East Coast, good morning to the West Coast, good caffeinated overnight to Australia and much of Asia, and good evening to those in Europe who watched Liverpool beat Manchester City and are hoping for a closer game here.
Funny thing about that -- MLS is a league of salary cap-enforced parity, and yet we have the same two teams in the final for the third year in the last four.
One of America’s most unexpected and unlikely rivalries will resume on Sunday when Seattle and Toronto FC meet in the MLS Cup final for a third time in four years
There are derbies and there are rivalries. Most derbies are rivalries, but not all rivalries are derbies. Some in Major League Soccer circles are often guilty of conflating the two. The so-called 401 Derby between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC, for instance, isn’t really a derby. Neither is the contest between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC given that there is over 2,500 miles between the two clubs. And yet circumstances have certainly made them rivals.
Indeed, this Sunday will mark the third time in four years that Seattle and TFC have met in the MLS Cup final. While most of the focus in MLS these past two seasons has been on Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC, two shiny new franchises who have set new standards across the board, the Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC has flown under the radar to become the league’s defining fixture.
As the league prepares for the MLS Cup final, we spoke to five European players to understand how US soccer compares to the their careers back home
Not every European import into Major League Soccer is greeted with the kind of fanfare and red-carpet treatment afforded to such brand-enhancing superstars as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. For many, crossing the Atlantic to ply their trade in the US requires a leap of faith, with MLS, despite its steady growth in interest and viewership, still vying for recognition among the elite leagues of Europe.
Nick DeLeon winner completes Toronto FC fightback in Atlanta
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Toronto back in championship match for third time in four years
Nick DeLeon scored the winning goal in the 78th minute, Quentin Westberg stuffed a penalty kick and Toronto FC advanced to the MLS Cup title game with a 2-1 victory over defending champion Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference final Wednesday night.
Frank de Boer never seems to get flustered. ''As a coach, you want to put your stamp a little bit on the team,'' de Boer said after a training session at Atlanta United's glitzy suburban complex. After failing so miserably in Serie A and the Premier League, then enduring a sluggish
Although Los Angeles FC had the best regular season in Major League Soccer history, the 2-year-old club had never been this deep in the playoffs. The tough, tested Seattle Sounders go deep almost every year, and they'll get to play for another championship after a vintage display of postseason grit