by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. It seems we’re often making the trip up to the Princes’ Boulevard to play Toronto FC. The Sounders have developed an unlikely rivalry with Toronto, seeing as we play them only once each year in the league. Somehow, we’ve contested the last two MLS Cup Final matches against them, winning the trophy on penalties in 2016, and losing 2:0 in 2017. Both Finals played in the sub-arctic, bitter cold of Toronto in winter. They defeated us in the Evergreen last season in the league, an achievement that is not so common, as our Sounders are notoriously difficult to beat at Royal Brougham Park, a/k/a Green Hell. This newfound familiarity has bred a spiky level of contempt between the sides. Buckle up for a wooly one.
Gather your Green Family where ye may. Whether it be at the pub, or on the settee in your home ‘cause you’ve invited your mates ‘round, being there to experience Sounders football together is the important thing. For those of our number headed to Ontario for the match, stick together – voices loud, eyes bright, and enjoy the poutine?
Before kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB AND VICTORY!!!
The Good News
Failure to score notwithstanding, the 0:0 draw on Sat against Columbus heartened me. We were able to hold more possession and do a better job passing and combining, though I grant that had a fair amount to do with playing 11 v. 10 for the bulk of the match. Perhaps better results are just around the corner.
Toronto are struggling with a rash of injuries to their defence. The attrition is severe enough that Yanks’ stalwart and poor man’s Lex Luthor, Michael Bradley, has been converted to an emergency centre-half. Injuries to the defence generally result in more chances conceded, with the quality of those chances giving likely to give Toronto goalkeepers sleepless nights. Toronto FC are currently conceding an average of nearly two goals a match in the league.
All-time we’ve had the better of the results in the league against Toronto. In 12 matches we have defeated the Reds seven times, drawing twice. Even when playing at Princes’ Boulevard in Ontario, we’ve played five matches all-time in the league winning three and drawing once. So current results notwithstanding, history points to success for the Sounders.
Jozy Altidore has recently had surgery on his ailing foot. With Altidore out, TFC have no target striker in the squad of his quality.
In our matches against common opponents, both the Sounders and Toronto lost to Montreal 1:0. Against Columbus, the Sounders drew 0:0 last Sat, and Toronto lost at home 0:2 to the Crew in their season opener.
Frei, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam, Nouhou Tolo, Alonso, Svensson, Alex Roldan, Cristian Roldan, Dempsey, and Bruin are all expected to be available for selection. Even allowing for the likely absences of Lodeiro and Torres, that’s a proper team.
Kim has been a pleasant surprise at centre-half. Along with teammate Gustav Svensson, the two provide much-needed cover in the centre of defence for Marshall and Torres.
With seven goals conceded in nine matches, the Sounders defence are far more likely to allow one or zero goals than two in a single match.
Since the league schedule began in March, Toronto are struggling nearly as mightily as we are, as the Reds sit only two places above us in the league table at 20th.
The Sounders have only lost once in their last four matches.
The Bad News
Sounders’ star midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro is listed as “questionable” by two different sources, but I’m thinking he’s probably out this match as he has a broken toe. Wouldn’t it be foolish for management to risk aggravating Lodeiro’s injury to get an early-season result in the league at Toronto?
We’re having serious trouble scoring goals. The Sounders are averaging less than a goal per match. This goal-scoring drought is unacceptable and must be quickly sorted.
Our away form in the league this season is not great. We haven’t yet won a match on the road, and have one draw in three away matches played. Toronto are 2-1-1 at home this season.
We haven’t beaten Toronto in the league since 2015.
Torres and Lodeiro are likely out this match, and Morris is out for the entire season. All three are vital members of the Sounders’ team. Having them all out at once is a bitter pill to swallow as their understudies attempt to play up until their teammates can return to fitness.
Toronto are on a two-match unbeaten streak and have only lost two of their last five.
Know Thine Enemy
(as they lined up on 4 May against Philadelphia)
Bono, 24, was the man in goal for TFC last season, starting 28 matches of 34 in the league. This season he seems to be sharing the workload with Clint Irwin. Bono has played 49 matches (15 clean sheets) in his four-year MLS career, all with Toronto. Bono has seven United States youth caps.
Morgan, 27, is a product of Toronto FC Academy. In his eight years with TFC, Morgan has played in 105 matches, starting 82 of them. The Toronto native has 14 caps for Canada.
Bradley, 30, is a mainstay for the United States team (140 caps, 17 goals), 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 350 matches as a pro, many of them in Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, it’s safe to say Bradley is a seasoned pro of established quality. With all the recent injuries in the Toronto defence, Bradley has moved from midfield to centre-half.
van der Wiel, 30, is a product of the Ajax Amsterdam youth system. van der Weil began his pro career at Ajax (130 matches/12 goals). After five seasons in Amsterdam, van der Wiel moved to Paris Saint-Germain for four seasons (89/4) before injury woes saw him move to Istanbul. At Fenerbache, van der Wiel struggled to get into the team, and only managed to play 11 matches. A further move to Cagliari produced only five matches of first-team football resulting in his move to Canada. PSG once valued van der Wiel at a reported €6 million. van der Wiel has 46 caps for the Netherlands.
Auro, 22, is a product of Sao Paulo FC Academy. Auro made 34 appearances for SPFC before loan spells at Linense, America Mineiro, and is now a loan player with Toronto. Auro has 15 youth caps for Brazil. Auro has played in five of TFC’s seven matches in this, his inaugural season. Auro lines up on the left side of the defence but is meant to play a prominent attacking role. A striker’s role.
Delgado, 22, began his pro career at Chivas USA in 2012, playing 37 matches and scoring two goals. Two years later, Delgado was selected by Toronto in the MLS Dispersal draft after the disbanding of Chivas USA. In 2015 Delgado signed with Toronto and since has played 79 times for them, scoring 10 goals. Delgado has one United States cap.
Osorio, 25, was produced by Nacional (Uruguay), and Toronto FC Academy. His six-year career began with SC Toronto of the old CSL. Osorio then moved to Toronto FC in 2013 and has since played 146 times for them, scoring 14 goals. Osorio has earned 20 caps for Canada, scoring twice.
Vazquez, 31, is a Spanish national developed by FC Barcelona. He played nearly 150 times for Barcelona reserves in his seven years at the club, and one match in the first team. In 2011, Vazquez moved to Club Brugge playing over 120 times and scoring 15 goals. This was followed by a brief stint at Cruz Azul and his subsequent move to Toronto for the 2017 season. Vazquez has played 34 times for TFC scoring 10 goals.
Aketxe, 24, is a product of Athletic Bilbao’s youth system where he enrolled at the age of 10. From 2012-2016, Aketxe played for Bilbao’s reserve team (89 matches/19 goals). Aketxe played 14 times for Bilbao in La Liga, scoring one goal. With injuries keeping him out of the side, Aketxe would move to Cadiz on loan (18/5). Aketxe’s contract was then cancelled by Bilbao to allow him to leave on a free transfer. In February 2018, Aketxe moved to Toronto and has played three of TFC’s seven matches this season.
Hasler, 27, is a national of Liechtenstein. Failing to come to terms with FC Vaduz (136 matches/10 goals) after serving them for six seasons, he moved on a free transfer to Toronto in July 2017. In his two seasons at Toronto, Hasler has played in 17 matches for TFC scoring three goals. Hasler has 51 caps and two goals for Liechtenstein.
Giovinco, 31, has an impeccable resumé. A product of Juventus (93 appearances/14 goals) and the Italian national team (23 caps, one goal), he played nearly 200 matches of top-flight Italian league football. He has 98 goals in 285 appearances as a professional. Agile and nimble, he is a force to be reckoned with whether dribbling at the defence or on the ball for set pieces. He is more than capable of providing the killer ball in the final third. Giovinco’s is in his fourth season with Toronto and has played 91 matches for them, scoring 56 goals and setting up 40 others.
Toronto defender, Eriq Zavaleta, was drafted by Seattle Sounders in 2013. He was traded two years later to TFC for a 2nd round draft pick.
Toronto from: Bono, Irwin, Patterson-Sewell, Dunn, Hasler, Hernandez, Mavinga, Morgan, Morrow, van der Wiel, Zavaleta, Aketxe, Bradley, Chapman, Daniels, Delgado, Fraser, Mino, Osorio, Vazquez, Akinola, Auro, Giovinco, Hamilton, Ricketts, Spencer, Telfer.
Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Alfaro, Francis, Kim, Leerdam, Marshall, McCrary, Nouhou Tolo, Torres, Alonso, Bwana, Delem, Eikrem, Neagle, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Bruin, Dempsey.
OUT: Hagglund (hamstring), Altidore (foot surgery), Moor (torn quadriceps).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Mavinga (hamstring), Morrow (calf), Zavaleta (quadriceps).
Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL), Rodriguez (knee surgery), Lodeiro (broken toe).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Torres (hamstring), Shipp (ankle), Francis (hamstring).
None suspended for either side.
The Sounders FC played Toronto FC in consecutive MLS Cup Finals (2016/2017) marking the third time in the history of MLS Cup that the same teams faced each other in the Final two years running. The other two occurrences were: Houston/New England (2006 and 2007), LA Galaxy/Houston (2011 and 2012).