by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. Toronto FC make the trip down to Seattle for a Saturday afternoon rematch of the 2016 MLS Cup Final. You think TFC are still sore about that? Sore about getting defeated on penalties after allowing the Sounders FC zero shots on goal for the entire two hours of regular and extra time in freezing weather that felt like 10ºF? I guess we’re gonna find out. Buckle up it’s gonna be a wooly one! Link up with the Green Family at the park or at a viewing party in your area. Join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY.
The Good News
We’ve only lost one match in the last seven. We are unbeaten at home. Outside of Fisher and Marshall, our first team is healthy. Coming back from three goals down last Saturday, against New England showed how much heart and resilience the Sounders have in the team. The all-time series between the sides favours Seattle (7-2-2). When hosting TFC our record is 4-1-1. Toronto has managed only one win on the road this season. Toronto looks set to be missing first-team goalkeeper Clint Irwin if he continues to suffer from his hamstring injury. The weather for this match is likely to be far warmer than last December’s cup final in Toronto, surely a godsend for us all.
The Bad News
Toronto is 5th in the league table, 10 places above the Sounders who currently reside at 15th. Although we’ve only lost once in the last seven, only two of those matches were wins. Going down 0:3 in the first half against New England, and our form in general, seem to be evidence of a disturbing trend of inconsistency in the Sounders team. Toronto are on a three-match winning streak, having lost only once in all nine matches so far this season. This season Toronto have taken 18 points from a possible 27. We have taken 10 points from a possible 24. Although Toronto beat Vancouver and Houston, we lost to both those sides. Although we managed a 0:0 draw against Atlanta United, Toronto’s draw against them was 2:2. The goal scoring metrics only slightly favour us by about 0.2 goals/match. The glaring difference is that Toronto is defending so much better than we are. They are conceding less than a goal per match (0.89), whilst we are conceding 1.38 goals/match. I would anticipate a tonne of extra motivation in Toronto wanting revenge for our upset victory in the MLS Cup Final last December. Seattle will be without three starters from the Cup Final, (Valdez, Friberg, and Mears who were all waived over the winter) four if Torres isn’t fit. Toronto will be missing Drew Moor from the Toronto cup final lineup, currently disabled with a heart irregularity and possibly Clint Irwin, who suffers from a hamstring problem.
Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – Toronto has only one true starting goalkeeper, Clint Irwin. He’s played over 140 times as a pro, but may not be fit for today’s match with a hamstring injury. The apprentices prepared to deputise for him are: Bono, who played in their 2:0 win over Houston last Friday, has played in less than 30 MLS matches. The other choice is Pais who has played 33 times as a pro, but not one match at the MLS level. Edge to the Sounders and Frei.
Defence – Zavaleta, Hagglund, and Morrow were the starting defenders last Friday. No reason to think they won’t reprise their roles today. Zavaleta has played over 60 times at the MLS level and was highly rated enough to play 23 times for USA U-17s. Hagglund has also played over 60 times at MLS level. Morrow has played nearly 170 times at MLS level and has scored 24 goals in his career. In short, a capable group, not hindered by age. Edge to Seattle defence on sheer experience and skill level.
Midfield – Beitashour, 30, has played nearly 180 times in MLS and has been selected six times to play for Iran. Delgado, 21, has played over 80 times at MLS level adding 10 USA youth caps. Bradley, 29, is a mainstay for the United States team, often captaining the Yanks. His resumé is well known as is the $10M fee it cost Toronto to pry him from AS Roma. With well over 300 matches as a pro, many of them in Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, it’s safe to say Bradley is a seasoned pro of great quality. Vazquez, 30, is a winter acquisition from Cruz Azul of the Mexican League. Vazquez was developed by FC Barcelona and played nearly 150 times for Barcelona reserves. Plenty of skill and experience there (nearly 300 pro appearances). Edwards, 21, has only played seven times in the first team for Toronto. Toronto may opt for a more experienced player as they descend into Green Hell this afternoon. Edge to Seattle on experience and skill. Bradley and Vasquez alone do not a midfield make.
Striker – Giovinco, 30, has an impeccable resumé. A product of Juventus and the Italian national team, he played nearly 200 matches of top-flight Italian league football. He has 86 goals in 263 appearances as a professional. He is deadly dribbling at the defence, and deadly on the ball for set pieces. Altidore, 27, has 86 goals in 251 appearances. He’s played in England, Turkey, Spain, and the Netherlands. He is notorious for having the highest fee ever paid to MLS for a transfer, $10M (€7.4M) to Villarreal CF. No one pays that much money unless you have a tonne of skill. These two are, predictably, the most dangerous strikers on the pitch for Toronto, and have seen ample success not just in MLS, but also in the crucible that is European football. Against Dempsey, Lodeiro, and Morris: Edge – even.
Toronto defender, Eriq Zavaleta, was originally drafted by Seattle Sounders in 2013. He was traded two years later to TFC for a 2nd round draft pick.
Selections for Last Match
Sounders FC: Frei, Delem, Svensson, Alfaro, Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Lodeiro, Dempsey, Morris.
Bench: Meredith (gk), Torres, Wingo, Fernández, Mathers, Shipp, Adekoya.
Toronto: Bono, Zavaleta, Hagglund, Morrow, Beitashour, Delgado, Bradley, Vázquez, Edwards, Altidore, Giovinco.
Bench: Pais (gk), Cheyrou, Cooper, Chapman, Osorio, Ricketts, Endoh.
Sounders FC –
OUT: Fisher (hamstring), Marshall (back), Tolo (dislocated shoulder).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Evans (calf), Kovar (groin surgery).
OUT: Moor (cardiac arrhythmia), Mavinga (quad), Irwin (hamstring), Morgan (broken foot), Hernandez (calf).
MATCHDAY DECISION: none.
None suspended from either side.
After we defeated Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Cup Final, Graham Parker, a journalist for the UK newspaper, The Guardian, wrote: “For years, Seattle have built a reputation for attacking flair that wilts in the play-offs, but their gutsy charge through the second half of a difficult season has been built as much on defense as attack, and this final was an extreme example of that. Having beaten Sporting KC 1-0 in the play-in game with their only shot on goal, Seattle went one “better” in the final – becoming the only team in MLS history to not have a shot on target for the two hours of regular play.” The Guardian also wrote a sub-heading after the historic match: “The Sounders have won their first MLS championship after a 5-4 victory on penalties following a dreary 0-0 stalemate.”