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Toronto FC vs. Seattle Sounders | 2016 MLS Cup Preview

TORONTO FC vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS
2016 MLS Cup
BMO Field | Toronto, Ontario
Saturday, Dec. 10
8 pm ET (FOX and UniMas in the US | TSN1/3/4 and RDS in Canada)

The Lowdown:

More than nine months after the 2016 season began, we’re finally ready to crown a champion. Two of the biggest clubs in the league will square off for a shot at their first MLS Cup on Saturday, Dec. 10, when Toronto FC will host the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field.

Both sides feature huge payrolls, big stars, rabid support and, most notably, no MLS Cup trophies. One will win the league championship for the first time in their history on the shores of Lake Ontario. Regardless of who lifts the trophy, we know one thing for certain: It’ll be one serious spectacle.

Must-reads:

Toronto FC Snapshot:

  • 2016 Regular Season Finish: East No. 3 seed (14-9-11 record, 53 pts / 8-3-6 home record)
  • Current Form: W-L-W-W-W
  • Strengths: Toronto’s strengths start with their star Designated Players. Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are probably the best DP trio in MLS and are just about impossible to stop when firing on all cylinders. TFC are more than a collection of three stars, however. Toronto are talented and deep at just about every position, and have used their mix of savvy MLS veterans (Drew Moor, Will Johnson, Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow), experienced internationals (Armando Cooper, Benoit Cheyrou) and promising youngsters (Jonathan Osorio, Nick Hagglund) to great effect all season.
  • Weaknesses: It got a little bit lost in all the drama of their insane Eastern Conference Semifinal win against the Montreal Impact, but Toronto looked a bit shaky at the back against their Quebec rivals. The Impact were particularly effective on the counterattack, picking TFC apart with three first half goals on the break in Leg 1 of the series and another in Leg 2. They’ll need to tread carefully against Seattle, who have plenty of speed and skill up top in in-form striker Jordan Morris.
  • Injuries/Suspensions: None reported.
  • Player to WatchJozy Altidore: Giovinco may be Toronto’s biggest star, but Altidore is the one in the midst of an historic playoff run. The US international became the first player in league history to score in five straight playoff games when he tallied in Leg 2 against Montreal. He’s recorded an astounding five goals and four assists in five playoff matches and has been generally fantastic since returning from the hamstring injury in July that kept him out of the Copa America Centenario, notching 15 goals and seven assists in his last 19 matches between the regular season and playoffs.
  • Probable Starting XI: Clint Irwin; Nick Hagglund, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta; Justin Morrow, Will Johnson, Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper, Steven Beitashour; Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore

Seattle Sounders Snapshot:

  • 2016 Regular Season Finish: West No. 4 seed (14-14-6 record, 48 pts / 4-9-4 away record)
  • Current Form: W-W-L-W-W
  • Strengths: Nicolas Lodeiro and Jordan Morris draw the headlines, but it’s been Seattle’s defense that have carried them through the playoffs. Boosted by the late summer return of center back Roman Torres, the Sounders have been incredibly stingy in the back, with Stefan Frei, Chad Marshall, Ozzie Alonso and Co. allowing just three goals and recording three shutouts in five playoff matches. In fact, since Torres made his first start of the year on Sept. 10, the Sounders have allowed just 10 goals in 13 games across all competitions. They’ll look to keep things on lock at BMO Field.
  • Weaknesses: Lodeiro is an absolute star, but if he has an off night, his Sounders teammates could have a hard time picking up the slack. Seattle don’t have many potential candidates to carry the playmaking load if Lodeiro struggles in Toronto, and their chances of lifting the first MLS Cup in club history would lessen significantly if TFC put the clamps on the Uruguayan international.
  • Injuries/SuspensionsClint Dempsey (irregular heartbeat) -- out; Oalex Anderson (right hamstring strain) -- questionable
  • Player to Watch: Nelson Valdez: Choosing Lodeiro or Morris seemed a bit on the nose, so why not go with the Sounders’ wild card? After a rough regular season, Valdez has been huge in the playoffs, scoring two goals – including the winner in the Knockout Round against SKC – and adding the icing assist in Seattle’s West Championship Leg 2 win at Colorado. If he can contribute again in Toronto, the Sounders should have a solid shot.
  • Probable Starting XI: Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Roman Torres, Chad Marshall, Joevin Jones; Osvaldo Alonso, Cristian Roldan; Nicolas Lodeiro, Andreas Ivanschitz, Jordan Morris; Nelson Haedo Valdez

Match Essentials:

Referee: Alan Kelly
Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Joe Fletcher
4th Official: Allen Chapman

Toronto vs. Seattle Head-to-Head
All-Time (11 meetings)

Toronto 2 wins, 10 goals • Seattle 7 wins, 18 goals • 2 draws
All-Time Playoff (0 meetings)
First meeting
All-Time in Toronto (5 meetings)
Toronto 1 win, 4 goals • Seattle 3 wins, 6 goals • 1 draw
2016 Meetings (1 meeting)
TOR 1, SEA 1 (July 2)

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