By Luke Beaumont
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Finally, following an interrupted playoff process the MLS Cup final between Toronto FC vs Seattle Sounders takes place this Saturday at 4pm Eastern time. It’s a deja vu sort of feeling as these two sides met in last year’s final, with the Sounders coming out on top on penalties – Will it be repeat or revenge?
Toronto will be hoping it’s the latter as last year’s final was a big disappointment for them. In the comfort of their own stadium there was a huge weight of expectation on their shoulders. They dominated the game for sure, but in this sport, that means absolutely nothing If you do not take your chances.
Seattle were brilliant on the night, they frustrated Toronto and stayed strong defensively with standout performances from Roman Torres who scored the winning penalty, and goalkeeper Stefan Frei who made a world class save in extra time.
If Toronto want to win the cup this time around, they have to be much better in front of goal. Their key men, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, weren’t at their best and both missed good opportunities to seal the win.
Toronto go into Saturday’s game as favourites, and rightly so. They have been superb this year, breaking records for the highest regular season points tally with 69. They can create more history if they get their hands on the trophy as they will become the first MLS team to win the domestic treble which includes Supporters’ Shield, Canadian Championship and MLS Cup.
If the Sounders are to defend their title they will need to soak up the inevitable pressure from the home side, as they did last year, defending well and trying and take their chances on the counter attack.
Bizarrely, Seattle didn’t record a shot on goal in the 120 minutes of last year’s final, although that didn’t matter in the end. Sounders Coach Brian Schmetzer said he wants to silence the critics who slammed his team for having no efforts on goal, while Frei was more cautious in his approach to this year’s final.
“I think if we’ll have it our way, we’re not going to have it be wide open,” said the keeper this week.
“I think that would be counterproductive to the way we play and what I think is best for us. When we find ourselves playing good games is when we’re defensively sound, organized, not all over the shop, very disciplined.”
“We’ve tried to make a point of being in control defensively, making things more predictable, organizing rather than shouting when things have not gone our way, being a bit more proactive when it comes to those things,” Frei continued.
“Organization and just awareness, tactical awareness as a squad and the way our coaches have prepared us has helped us in that aspect. It’s given us not just a bit of a streak now defensively, but obviously we had quite an extensive streak in the middle part of our season where we had a shutout for quite a while, so those things all bode well.”
“… Does that mean we’re going to try and go for a 0-0? No, we’re not at all. We’re going to try to be organized but definitely carve out some chances, hopefully more than last year. And I’m confident the guys up top, when we do get our chances, will convert.”
Whatever happens, fans will be expecting a great final, especially neutral ones. As a fan of either team however, things might get quite frustrating.
The match at BMO Field will kick off at 4pm ET on Saturday and will be shown live in 170 countries across the world.
ESPN will be broadcasting the final in the United States, and the game will be called by Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman.
If you wish to watch the match in Spanish-language, the game will also be aired by UniMas and Univision Deportes in the United States.