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Hometown boy Jonathan Osorio has game of his life in MLS Cup final

He saved his best for the biggest stage of all.

2017 MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Jonathan Osorio could hardly watch. As the clock ticked down, and his dream of Toronto FC winning MLS Cup became a reality, the Toronto-born midfielder said he couldn’t bring himself to take in the final four minutes of the match.

As the club’s most-capped player, Osorio had seen every facet of the ‘process’ TFC have undergone to turn into their best self. Before that, he saw even more as a young fan watching the team from the stands of BMO Field.

So when the final whistle finally confirmed that Toronto were, in fact, MLS Cup champions, defeating the Seattle Sounders 2-0, he was overcome with emotion.

“It just means so much to me,” he said of helping the team win its first championship. “It’s something I will never forget for the rest of my life.”

It certainly helped the moment that Osorio had just delivered what he believes to be the best performance of his career. Through 85 minutes on Saturday, the lone Canadian to appear for Toronto barely put a foot wrong.

Osorio led all starters in passing percentage with a 95.7 per cent success rate. He created two chances, forced an excellent save out of Stefan Frei himself and was only dispossessed once. On the defensive end, he put in four tackles.

MLS: MLS CUP-Seattle Sounders vs Toronto FC Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

“He was one of the motors for us in that midfield and did a really good job of keeping the ball,” said Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono. “He’s so tricky and slippery when he’s trying to work out of things.”

The midfield was really where Toronto asserted their dominance the most during the match. For the biggest game of the season, Greg Vanney decided to move away from the 3-5-2 formation that has brought Toronto so much success this season. He went with a 4-4-2 diamond instead.

It’s safe to say it worked. In fact, Osorio thinks the formation change was central to Toronto’s victory. The home side controlled 56.9 per cent of the ball while firing 11 shots at the Seattle net to the Sounders’ two.

“The formation change was key, I think,” said Osorio. “It got us the extra midfielder and it helped up to dominate the whole game.”

Another key to Toronto’s success, says Osorio, was their mentality throughout the season. He said the team didn’t take days off, and continued to work at improving their individual and collective games, something he called a “champion mentality”.

Mentality is also what Osorio thinks he improved on most individually this season. He believes he has always had the quality in his game, but a difficult start to the year saw him make only nine regular season starts.

2017 MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

However, the Canadian international continued to refine his game out of the spotlight. He evolved into one of Toronto’s best players in possession of the ball, which he almost never turns over to the opposition. By the time the big game rolled around, Osorio was back in the starting lineup.

“Honestly, the support around me really helped me - and my family, my grandparents - to get through some tough times this year,” said Osorio when asked how he remained focused when he wasn’t getting minutes.

“[There was] some really tough times when I felt I deserved more. A big virtue I learned a lot this year is patience.

“I’m so glad I kept with it and that patience paid off today.”

As a result of that patience, a year that looked like it might be Osorio’s last with this club turned into a year of progress. The 25-year-old once again looks like he will be an important piece of this franchise for years to come.

“I have a long career ahead of me, hopefully, so I want to keep getting better,” he said. “It doesn’t stop here.

“I’m going to celebrate this for now but then it’s on to the next one and trying to get this feeling every year.”