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Chad Marshall #14 of the Seattle Sounders plays against Jozy Altidore #17 of the Toronto FC during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks.Claus Andersen/Getty Images

It was easy, after 120 minutes of regulation and extra time and then the agonizing penalty kicks, to confirm a widely held belief that Toronto teams, in particular Toronto teams owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, are cursed.

Going into Major League Soccer's championship game on Saturday night, fans of the heavily favoured Toronto FC were expecting history to be made. Their team was set to be the first Canadian champion in MLS history. It would also be the first team owned by MLSE to win a major championship.

History was made, all right. By winning 5-4 on penalty kicks, the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS Cup champion to win without getting so much as a single shot on goal through 120 minutes of regulation and extra time, which ended 0-0. Their first shot on goal came on their first penalty kick.

Capping the penalty-kick nightmare was the sight of TFC's star midfielder Michael Bradley shanking his penalty kick for an easy save. Up to that point, Bradley was a shoo-in as the most-valuable player of the game.

Instead, the award for MVP of the championship game went to Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who made not only that save on Bradley but an acrobatic one-handed stab on a header by TFC striker Jozy Altidore in the 17th minute of extra time. It was the crowning save of a night of holding off the TFC offence, which came at Seattle in waves only to be frustrated by Frei and his teammates, who rode a razor's edge to victory. The cruel twist here is that Frei is a former TFC keeper, a five-year veteran of the team who was shipped out after the 2013 season in one of the Reds' many house-cleanings before finally figuring things out in 2016.

But there is a "but" here.

This is not an old-style MLSE team, ripe for a roster blow-up. In the midst of the pain of losing a championship game on the wonky grounds of penalty kicks, the TFC players and their coach pointed out this is a team built for the long haul and how they expect to start preparing for a second appearance in the MLS Cup when training camp starts in about seven weeks.

"I think the whole city was behind us and you can feel like we let them down. I don't think we did," Altidore said. "I think we showed them what can be. It's up to us now to get back in preseason, work hard and try to get the club back in position to win."

The reason for optimism is based on the fact that all three of TFC's designated players are not the fading international stars that used to, and in some cases still do, come to MLS to wind down their careers with some easy money. Altidore, Bradley and striker Sebastian Giovinco are still in their prime years. Bradley and Giovinco are both 29 and Altidore is 27.

Supporting them is a solid mix of MLS veterans and young players from a development system that is starting to pay off. The only significant loss for next season is expected to be midfielder Will Johnson, 29, who is headed for free agency.

"I thought we played in the playoffs like a team that really wanted to go and try and win a championship," head coach Greg Vanney said. "There are a lot of lessons we can take away from this run. It will only make us better as we go into next year and stronger as a group as we try to get back to this and come away winners.

"It's a group that's grown incredibly over the last two years. I know their heads are down now but they'll come back fighting once we start reaching it next year. I think one of our key moves in the last couple years is we picked up designated players in their primes, not designated players who are at the end of their games.

"We've got a very deep team, probably deeper than some people know. This off-season, we'll look to make one or two moves, three moves at the most, to strengthen our team. We're just getting started."

Defender Drew Moor, who played a brilliant game on the back line with Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund, says of his teammates, "I hope they all stay here. We'll rest and recover and come back strong next season."

The 2016 campaign, during which the Reds won their first playoff game, brought the team close together, much closer than many MLS teams where players collect their cheques, put in some playing time and then go their own way.

"Yeah, we have a great core group of guys," Zavaleta said. "We have a front office that's committed to that core group of guys and committed to some stability with those guys.

"This is a group that's really close together and already thinking about how we can get together, push the envelope and get back to where we are today."

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