MLS’s grandest party pulls into town this weekend, and Seattle Sounders FC is looking to hold the biggest celebration.
The MLS Cup final, pitting the Sounders against Toronto FC (again), takes place at noon Sunday at CenturyLink Field, with Seattle hoping to earn the second championship in its 11 seasons in MLS.
Crazily, this is the third time in four years that Seattle and Toronto have met in the MLS Cup final. In 2016 Seattle prevailed in penalty kicks after the game remained scoreless through regulation and overtime. In 2017 Toronto controlled play and won 2-0. So this will be the rubber match, with the difference being that this year’s game is in Seattle while the previous two were in Toronto.
Neither team was supposed to be here. Seattle, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, was a heavy underdog when it went on the road to face Supporters’ Shield winner and top-seeded LAFC last Tuesday. However, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer put on a tactical masterclass, setting the team up to neutralize LAFC’s potent attack and hit on the counterattack, resulting in a 3-1 victory.
Meanwhile, Toronto was the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and in danger of not making the playoffs at all. Yet Toronto went on the road to upset both top-seeded NYC FC and second-seeded Atlanta United to reach the final, winning both by 2-1 scores despite being heavily outshot in both contests.
So an expected CenturyLink Field crowd in excess of 69,000 — the game sold out in a matter of hours — should be in for a treat.
Seattle (16-10-8) is led by Uruguayan playmaking midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro (seven goals, 12 assists during the regular season), who makes everything happen for the Sounders. He’s supported by Peruvian forward Raul Ruidiaz (11 goals, three assists), who has been on fire during the postseason, and local product Jordan Morris (10 goals, seven assists), who was named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year after suffering an ACL tear last year. The issues for Seattle have been in central defense, with Chad Marshall retiring and Roman Torres hobbled by a hamstring injury, meaning the Sounders have had to keep faith with Kim Kee-hee and Xavier Arreaga.
Toronto (13-10-11) is paced by Spanish playmaking midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (12 goals, 12 assists), who was brought in this year to fill the shoes of longtime star Sebastian Giovinco. Veteran Michael Bradley (three goals, three assists), now 32 years old, continues to dictate things from central midfield. Toronto is sweating the health of target striker Jozy Altidore (11 goals, seven assists), who hasn’t played this postseason because of a quad injury, and central defender Omar Gonzalez, who was at least recovered enough from his hamstring injury to make the bench against Atlanta.
So Seattle versus Toronto for all the marbles yet again. Who do you got this time? Vote here: