On Saturday Seattle Sounders FC takes its shot at history.
The MLS Cup final pits the Sounders against Toronto FC in a one-game, winner-takes-all affair for the league championship at 1 p.m. (PST) Saturday at BMO Field in Toronto, and Seattle can join elite company with a victory.
Seattle is the defending MLS champion, and if the Sounders repeat they’ll become just the fourth team to win back-to-back titles in the league’s 22-year history, joining D.C. United (1996-97), the Houston Dynamo (2006-07) and the Los Angeles Galaxy (2011-12).
Seattle has been imperious during the playoffs. The Sounders, the second seed in the Western Conference, are coming off a dominating performance against Houston in the conference finals, winning the two-legged tie 5-0 on aggregate. In Seattle’s four playoff games they’ve outscored their opponents 7-0, and the Sounders haven’t allowed a goal in the postseason for an astounding 647 minutes. This has been an extension to the end of the regular season as Seattle lost just twice in its final 18 games (9-2-7), outscoring the opposition 33-15 in the process.
But standing in Seattle’s way is the team that’s been by far the best in the league throughout the course of the season. Toronto FC won the Supporters’ Shield for having the best regular season record in MLS by finishing with a league-record 69 points, which was a whopping 12 points ahead of the second-best team. Toronto also finished the regular season strong, going 10-2-4 over its final 16 contests while outscoring its opponents 43-19. Toronto had a tougher time in the playoffs than Seattle, advancing via away goals in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Red Bulls and prevailing just 1-0 on aggregate over the Columbus Crew in the conference finals, but Toronto still is a formidable opponent.
Then there’s the revenge factor. These same two teams met in the final last year in the same location, with Seattle winning on penalty kicks despite failing to register a single shot on target during the game’s 120 minutes. No doubt Toronto still holds resentment from that outcome.
Seattle will once again be driven by Uruguayan midfield playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro, who finished the season with seven goals and 12 assists, as well as perhaps the league’s best central defending pair in Chad Marshall and Roman Torres. The Sounders will also have the services of forward Clint Dempsey (12 goals, five assists) this time around after Dempsey missed last year’s final because of an irregular heartbeat. [Seattle team stats]
Toronto still has its dynamic one-two punch in attack in Sebastian Giovinco (16 goals, six assists) and Jozy Altidore (15 goals, six assists), backed by midfield anchor Michael Bradley — though Altidore is considered questionable because of an ankle injury. Toronto also has an influential new face in playmaking midfielder Victor Vazquez (eight goals, 16 assists), who was named to the MLS Best XI. [Toronto team stats]
Toronto won 1-0 when the teams met in the regular season on May 6 at CenturyLink Field.
So what do you think? Do the Sounders make history Saturday? Have your say here: