As 2016 comes to a close, we look back at the champions of the year that was:
MLS Cup: Seattle Sounders
After the worst start in club history, no one saw Seattle’s playoff run coming. The acquisition of Uruguayan international Nicolas Lodeiro, the return from injury of central defender Roman Torres, the emergence of rookie sensation Jordan Morris and the coaching moves by new boss Brian Schmetzer proved the difference.
And so Sounders supporters got to celebrate the club’s first-ever MLS Cup, which came in the unlikeliest of seasons and in the most unlikely of ways — via a penalty kick shootout following a 0-0 draw during which the Sounders didn’t register a single shot on goal.
Supporters’ Shield: FC Dallas
While the Sounders were forced to right the ship midway through the 2016 season in order to have a chance at MLS Cup, FC Dallas were steady from start to end during the 2016 MLS regular season, claiming their first-ever Supporters’ Shield with the best record in the league (17-8-9, 60 points) on the final matchday of the season.
Oscar Pareja, who would later earn the Coach of the Year award, worked with technical director Fernando Clavijo to construct a deep squad and one that withstood the summer loan of influential winger Fabian Castillo to Turkish side Trabzonspor.
But the loss of playmaker Mauro Diaz to a season-ending Achilles injury on the eve of the MLS Cup Playoffs proved a hurdle too great to overcome as their historic treble run fell one trophy short.
US Open Cup: FC Dallas
After 20 seasons with only a single trophy to the club’s name, FC Dallas claimed two pieces of silverware during 2016 and it started with the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in September. Inspired by Diaz, the Dallas side hoisted the trophy after a thrilling 4-2 win over the New England Revolution in front of a sold-out home crowd at Toyota Stadium on September 13.
FC Dallas needed penalty kicks to oust USL side OKC Energy at the start of their USOC run and then they used one-goal victories over MLS sides Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo and LA Galaxy to earn the chance to host the final.
Canadian Championship: Toronto FC
It was a moment that will never be forgotten in Toronto FC and Canadian Championship lore: Canadian national team midfielder Will Johnson breaking his left leg on the final shot of the match in stoppage time in order to score the goal that gave his team the Canadian club title and at the same time snatching it out of the hands of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Toronto ousted rivals Montreal Impact in the semifinal round of the competition and then claimed a narrow 1-0 win in the first leg of the final against Vancouver at BMO Field. But the Whitecaps overturned the result with two goals in the second leg, only to see Johnson’s last-second goal give the Reds the Voyageurs Cup on the away goals tiebreaker.