MLS Cup Final – Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada – TORONTO FC v. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

“Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.” – Socrates

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. We have achieved a constancy with each other within the Green family, and surely we are all friends, united as we are in our support of the Sounders. And in this, we honour the words of Socrates. This season, the Sounders have finally earned an opportunity to reach the highest point in its eight-year MLS history. A chance for victory, in the MLS Cup Final, against a worthy adversary. We have seen this season’s football journey to its intended conclusion, overcoming significant obstacles for our chance at glory at Toronto’s Princes’ Boulevard ground. We know where the bluest skies, and greenest hills are. We’re going to explain it to the rest of the league, the rest of the country, and the world. We understand the necessary commitment to finish the job we started in March. We have defeated the two best sides in the league to get to the Final. What is one more great challenge to our boys in Green in their current form? I believe we have the talent, skill, technique, patience, pace, heart, and will to claim this trophy that we have sought in a similar way that Odysseus sought to find his way home to Ithaca. There is a singular goal. That goal is victory. In the Cup. Stand with me before the kickoff wherever you may be, voices loud, eyes bright. Whether you made it to the shores of Lake Ontario to be at the ground, at the pub with your mates, or at home watching intently on the tele, we all chant and sing as one this day. If we, the Sounders players and supporters, are of one heart, and one will, the side will return to the Evergreen with the MLS Cup. Before kickoff, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

The Good News
Sounders FC have earned clean sheets against both the League Champions (Dallas) and runner-up (Colorado) in this MLS Cup. This establishes our Sounders as a legitimate threat to defeat any club, no matter how great their achievements may have been this year. We have held our opposition in this MLS Cup tournament to three goals in five matches (0.6 goals/match), including three clean sheets out of five matches and have yielded more than one goal only once (two goals to the Dallas in the second leg of the Quarter-Finals). Jordan Morris is an indomitable force of nature. Even whilst ill, he managed to score a massive goal against Colorado in the Semi-Finals. Lodeiro is truly a midfield maestro, and is perhaps the equivalent in our league to what Diego Maradona was at the height of his powers in the Argentine and Italian leagues. Lodeiro’s four cup goals form the backbone of this Cup run. The more attention Lodeiro receives from defenders, the more space is opened for his mates to run into and strike true. We have, arguably, the two best centre-halves in all of MLS in Marshall and Torres. They will have to be at their level best to contain Altidore, who is a nightmare assignment for any defender. To be fair, Toronto has worse worries. Morris, who is a tank of a forward, will likely be defended by either TFC’s right or left back. Either of these matchups favour Morris in any mean comparison of strength, pace, and sheer will. Nelson Valdez has experienced a return to form, scoring twice in this cup tournament.

The Bad News
Altidore has scored in each of his five MLS Cup matches. There are five or six players in the team for Toronto that can hurt you with a goal. The acknowledged danger men are Altidore and Giovinco who have combined for nine goals in this tournament. Should a defence manage to mark the two of them out of the match, Bradley, Osorio, Cooper, Ricketts, Johnson, and Cheyrou can hurt you with a goal using the spaces that Altidore and Giovinco create for them. Toronto have been showing iron discipline of late, with no bookings in their last three MLS Cup matches, and have as a side been booked only three times in their five matches. In our one meeting in the league we could only manage a 1:1 draw away against a Toronto side lacking Altidore, Bradley, and Giovinco. Against a Toronto side containing four players that weren’t even on the substitutes’ bench for Toronto’s last cup match. The sting of this is mitigated by the fact this match was in the Sounders’ pre-Lodeiro era, and also before Roman Torres’ return to full fitness. so it’s difficult to put too much emphasis on a result from early July of this year. The Cup Final will be nothing like that match in any respect other than that it will also be held in Toronto. Toronto have scored a ton in the Cup, hitting 17 goals (an average of 3.4 goals/match) and allowing only six. In stark relief, Sounders FC have scored eight goals in our five matches in this tournament (1.6 goals/match). Like our Jordan Morris, Altidore is an absolute tank – big, strong, pacy, and extremely difficult to defend.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – Clint Irwin has played every match in the 2016 MLS Cup for TFC. He is fit, and is expected to start in the Final. He has over 140 professional appearances and has won a Canadian Championship with Toronto.

Defence – Zavaleta has over 60 pro appearances and has played 23 times for United States U-17s. Drew Moor is a seasoned veteran of nearly 350 appearances, 5 United States caps, and is one of the TFC defenders who might finish a chance if given it. Nick Hagglund is still young, like Zavaleta, but has nearly 60 pro appearances under his belt and has scored a goal in this MLS Cup run. Steven Beitashour has played nearly 200 pro matches and has six caps for Iran.

Midfield – Armando Cooper has played nearly 200 times as a pro scoring 31 times. Cooper has 75 caps and five goals for Panama. Cooper has won three Panamanian League Championships with Arabe Unido. Michael Bradley has over 300 appearances  and nearly 40 goals as a pro to add to 126 caps and 15 goals for United States. Bradley often captains the United States side and has won a Canadian Championship and a CONCACAF Gold Cup. Will Johnson has played over 250 matches as a pro, 40 of those in Dutch football. Johnson adds 30 professional goals to his 41 caps and four goals for Canada. Johnson has won two MLS Cups and one Canadian Championship. Justin Morrow has played over 200 times as a pro adding 22 goals. Morrow has one United States cap. Morrow won a Supporter’s Shield with San Jose in 2012.

Forward – Sebastian Giovinco has played over 250 times as a pro, with the better part of 200 of those appearances in Italian football – of those playing nearly 100 times for Juventus. He has scored 81 goals in his career, including nearly 40 goals in over 60 matches for TFC. Giovinco rounds out his resumé with 23 caps and one goal for Italy, winning three Italian league titles, an Italian SuperCup, and a Canadian Championship with TFC. Add to this a laundry list of personal honours. Jozy Altidore has played over 240 times as a pro. 70 of those appearances were in English football, adding nearly another 70 appearances in Dutch football. He starred at AZ Alkmaar hitting nearly 40 goals in just under 70 matches. He has scored over 20 in just under 50 matches with TFC. In addition, Altidore has just under 100 caps for United States having scored 37 goals. He has won a KNVB Cup with AZ Alkmaar, winning the Golden Boot as the top scorer in that competition. Both of these strikers are deadly finishers, with Alitdore having scored five in five in this cup, and hat-trick hero Giovinco hitting three goals against NYCFC in their Quarter-Final 2nd leg at Yankee Stadium. They represent the greatest scoring threat of all players in the Toronto side.

Familiar Faces
TFC defender, Eriq Zavaleta played five times for the Sounders FC. Midfielder Will Johnson played nearly 70 matches for the Treecutters, scoring 15 goals.

Selections for Last Match
Toronto: Irwin, Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund, Beitashour, Cooper, Bradley, Johnson, Morrow, Altidore, Giovinco.

Bench: Bono (gk), Williams, Bloom, Ricketts, Osorio, Cheyrou, Endoh.

Sounders FC: Frei, Mears, Torres, Marshall, Joevin Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Morris, Lodeiro, Ivanschitz, Valdez.

Bench: Miller (gk), Alfaro, Fernández, Kovar, Fisher, Gómez, Scott.

Injury List
Toronto –
No reported injuries.

Sounders FC –
OUT: Dempsey (irregular heartbeat).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Anderson (hamstring).

None suspended for either club.

Fun Fact
Toronto FC were granted their MLS franchise in 2005, two years before the league finally agreed to admit the Sounders FC in 2007, the year that Toronto played their first MLS season. Seattle would have to wait two more years to play their first MLS match.