Toronto FC Host Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup Final
The 2016 MLS Cup Final is set for Saturday night as Toronto FC welcome the Seattle Sounders to BMO Field.
While the teams have been almost dead even on form throughout the playoffs – four wins and one loss each – Toronto had the stronger regular season. Coach Greg Vanney’s team had a run of seven wins in nine games from mid-summer into the fall that had them for a time, looking certain to top the Eastern Conference standings.
In the end, TFC finished third behind the two New York clubs.
Seattle’s regular season was far less consistent. But after parting with long-time coach Sigi Schmid in July, the Pacific Northwest outfit staged an unlikely turnaround; eventually making the playoffs with room to spare by finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Seattle’s great escape was all the more impressive considering the team’s attacking talisman, Clint Dempsey, was ruled out for the rest of the season back in August with an irregular heartbeat.
The Sounders owe much of their success this season to Jordan Morris. The young forward, who made headlines earlier this year by spurning an offer from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen to remain in MLS, was Seattle’s top scorer in the regular season and has scored two vital goals in the Sounders’ playoff run.
Seattle’s attack in the playoffs has been further fuelled by the excellent goal-scoring form of Nicolas Lodeiro and Nelson Valdez – two players who did little during the regular season, but came up with vital goals in the postseason.
All three players will be fit for Saturday’s showpiece and Toronto’s backline will need to be wary of the threat posed by the trio.
TFC’s best player this season, predictably, was Sebastian Giovinco. Despite his notable snub for even making the shortlist for MLS Player of the Year, the diminutive Italian forward was the main man for Toronto, notching 17 goals and 14 assists in the regular season and a further four goals and two assists in the playoffs.
Toronto have also benefitted from the understanding between Giovinco and USA striker Jozy Altidore. Altidore, currently in some of the best form of his career, scored 10 goals in the regular season and has been TFC’s best player in the postseason with five goals and three assists in the playoffs.
Giovinco limped off during TFC’s spellbinding second leg win over Montreal in the Eastern Conference final, but should be fit to start alongside Altidore on Saturday.
While Michael Bradley is the star name in midfield for TFC, Panamanian Armando Cooper has arguably been the Canadian outfit’s most impactful player at the center of the park.
Toronto have been the better team over the course of the season and will benefit from playing at home Saturday. They thus go into the match as favorites to become the first Canadian team to be crowned MLS champions. However, Seattle have repeatedly defied expectations and beat the odds this season and may have one final surprise up their rave green sleeves.