The 2016 MLS season reaches its climax on Saturday evening, as Toronto FC host the Seattle Sounders in what should be a thrilling cup final. Both clubs come into the match in fine form and the crowd at BMO Field will undoubtedly create an electric atmosphere.
Saturday will be the first MLS Cup final for either side, with both having been two of the more successful expansion teams in recent years.
Toronto joined the league in 2007 and, despite a lack of success on the pitch, saw excellent strides made in attendance and community engagement. Seattle was the next wave in this regard, with their first season in 2009 a tremendous addition for the league.
Again averaging over 40,000 fans per match this season, few clubs in North America receive the type of support that Seattle does.
Toronto and Seattle each have seen their attacks improve late in the season and key players perform at their best to get them to the final.
We review what each side will need to do in order to capture their first MLS championship.
Toronto – get the ball to Jozy Altidore
Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco suffered an injury late in the campaign that limited him to only 17 matches in the regular season. The Italian international was also subbed off due to injury late in Toronto’s Eastern Conference final victory over the Montreal Impact, possibly causing fitness issues for Saturday.
With one of their main playmakers either out or not at his best, Toronto manager Greg Vanney will want to ensure that US international striker Jozy Altidore is involved heavily in the attack.
Altidore scored ten goals in the regular season, but it has been the playoffs where he has truly shined.
Five goals in five post-season matches have been an incredible return for the forward leading to the cup final. His performance in the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals was sensational, with a goal and an assist in leading the Reds to a historic win.
Even if Sebastian Giovinco is ready for the match, Jozy Altidore’s current run of form will be the focus of Toronto’s tactical approach.
Seattle – central defence and transition forward
The Sounders boast two of the most talented centre-backs in MLS with Chad Marshall and Roman Torres. Both players were outstanding in keeping a clean sheet for Seattle in the second leg of the Western Conference finals against the Colorado Rapids.
Along with defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, Marshall and Torres will be tasked with stopping a high-powered Toronto attack and pushing the ball ahead to the club’s talented midfielders and forwards.
The signing of Nicolas Lodeiro in the summer was a turning point for the Sounders. The Uruguayan international’s pace and creative abilities have seen Seattle’s play drastically improve.
Forwards Nelson Valdez and Jordan Morris will be looking for Lodeiro to lead the team on the counter-attack with quality service from the defence.
In order to contain Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, Seattle manager Brian Schmetzer will need Chad Marshall and Roman Torres to play intelligently and effectively.
Toronto’s attack and home support will ultimately be too much for Seattle, with the Reds becoming the first Canadian club to win an MLS Cup championship.
Final Score: Toronto FC 3 – Seattle Sounders 1