Nick Jehamy | November 8th, 2019
The Seattle Sounders will face off against Toronto FC in the MLS Cup Final! Yes, you heard that right. If you want to know how excited the fans are about this matchup just look at the ticket sales, the Sounders announced that tickets sold out in only twenty minutes after they were made available to the public! Let’s take a look at these two teams and what they’ve been through to get themselves back to the Cup Final this year.
If you follow Major League Soccer this final is something you’ve seen before, twice in fact, in 2016 and in 2017. In 2016 the Seattle Sounders took the victory in a 0-0 match that went to a penalty shootout where the Sounders won 5-4. In 2017, Toronto was the number one overall team in the league during the regular season and took the win from the Sounders 2-0 in the Cup Final. This year will be the tie-breaking match for the built-up rivalry between these two MLS powerhouses. This year, unlike the previous two, will be played in Seattle.
Let me start off by saying the Sounders home crowd may be one of the most exciting fan bases in sports, so having this matchup at home is already going to be exciting and advantageous for the Seattle side. For the third year in a row, the Sounders ended the regular season in second place in the Western Conference, that being said their point total and goal differential is the lowest it has been since 2016. That does not mean much though as 2016 was the season the Sounders beat Toronto for the MLS Cup. During the regular season and playoffs, this Sounders team has won on the power of their defense and the fact that you can never pinpoint a specific player on their team to try and lockdown, as match by match there was always a new face pushing the team to victory. Raúl Ruidíaz and Jordan Morris led the team in scoring putting up double-digit numbers on the season with Nicolás Lodeiro third on the team in goals scored and first in assists (tied for second in the MLS in assists as well). Watch out for those three in the finals, when both Ruidíaz and Lodeiro start for the Sounders, the team’s record is 24-4-4!
The Sounders may have been the number two seed in the West, and this may be their third Cup Final appearance in the last four years, but they didn’t start off their playoff run too smoothly. Starting off against the number seven seed FC Dallas, the Sounders gave up a goal in the 82’ minute which tied up the match and took them to extra time, they ended up pulling off the victory behind youngster Jordan Morris’ hat trick, scoring three of the team’s four goals in their 4-3 victory. The Sounders went on to win the second match 2-0 over third seed Real Salt Lake, relying on defense and strong counter-attacks as they only had possession 38% of the match but still somehow managed to take 20 shots, half of which were on goal. In the Western Conference Final, the Sounders took on the number one overall team this season, LAFC. The Sounders were relentless, and after giving up an early goal to LAFC they came right back and scored two of their own in the 22’ and 26’ minute behind two names that have been mentioned often, Raúl Ruidíaz and Nicolás Lodeiro.
Seattle is on a five-game win streak between the playoffs and the end of the regular season. Coach Brian Schmetzer and this Seattle club are looking to keep up this momentum and relentlessness and bring it into Sunday’s matchup against their rivals from up north.
Toronto FC hasn’t been as consistent as the Seattle Sounders when it comes to the past few years and their regular season play. After being the number one team in the league in 2017, last year they dropped to number nine in the East, and this year ending in fourth. Toronto’s star striker Jozy Altidore put up 11 goals and 7 assists in 22 games played this season before getting injured. Altidore is suffering from a quad injury that has kept him out part of the regular season and all of the playoffs so far, his status for the Cup Final at the moment is still very questionable as Toronto is currently preparing to take on the Sounders without their best player. With Altidore out, they will be relying on Midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, who led the team in goals and assists with twelve a piece on the season. Toronto currently is on a hot streak, holding a thirteen game unbeaten streak in MLS play, with their last loss all the way back on August 3rd to the New York Red Bulls.
Toronto FC, like the Sounders, had a rough first round of the playoffs and had to get through some of the top teams in the East to make it to the Cup FInals. Toronto took on number five DC United in the first round, giving up a match tying goal in penalty time (90+3’). They went into extra time tied 1-1… and then went on to blow DC United away scoring four more goals and taking a 5-1 victory with goals from four different players. Next match Toronto took on the number one team in the East, NYCFC. Alejandro Pozuelo scored two goals, the second of which being a game-winning penalty kick in the 90th minute to take a 2-1 victory from NYCFC. Toronto played number two in the East, Atlanta United, in the Conference Championship game. Atlanta outshot Toronto 19 to 4, had 60% possession time for the game, and 150 more passes in the match. But quality won over quantity, Toronto connected on two of their four shots and went on to win 2-1 again with their game-winning goal coming at 78’ by Nick DeLeon, sending Toronto FC into the Cup Final.
Veteran Quentin Westberg between the post has kept Toronto FC alive throughout the playoffs only giving up one goal per game. Westberg, Pozuelo, and six-year head coach Greg Vanney look to lead Toronto FC to another victory over the Sounders this coming Sunday.
The saga continues Sunday, who will take the third matchup of the trilogy? Between these two clubs, ten players are still around that were in both of their previous Cup Finals meetings, including Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who was traded from Toronto to Seattle in 2013. Tune in on Sunday, November 10th at 3:00 pm EST. Will it be the team with the league’s current longest winning streak, or the team with the current longest unbeaten streak, either way, this match is set to be an exciting one!
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Main Credit Image: Embed from Getty Images