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Sports Two showcase franchises meet as Toronto and Seattle clash again in MLS Cup final

18:25  09 november  2019
18:25  09 november  2019 Source:   msn.com

Toronto FC coach says Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore continue to make progress

  Toronto FC coach says Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore continue to make progress TORONTO — The injury report was positive Saturday for Toronto FC ahead of Wednesday's MLS Eastern Conference final in Atlanta. Centre back Omar Gonzalez (hamstring) took part in training — "involved with everything," said coach Greg Vanney. "He feels great," Vanney added. "He did a lot of high-intensity change-of-direction movement. All the things that we need him to do to show he's ready to play. And he felt good. So he'll be in full trainingCentre back Omar Gonzalez (hamstring) took part in training — "involved with everything," said coach Greg Vanney.

One of America’s most unexpected and unlikely rivalries will resume on Sunday when Seattle and Toronto FC meet in the MLS Cup final for a third time in four years.

MLS Cup 2019 will be the 24th edition of MLS Cup , the championship match of Major League Soccer ( MLS ), and is scheduled to take place on November 10, 2019.

a man wearing a suit and tie© Provided by Canadian Press Enterprises Inc

SEATTLE — A season that started in turmoil could end in triumph Sunday for Toronto FC.

TFC will have to do it on hostile ground, however, with a sellout crowd of more than 69,000 solidly behind the home-town Sounders at CenturyLink Field as Toronto and Seattle meet in the MLS Cup final for the third time in four years.

"An unprecedented rivalry," said commissioner Don Garber.

There will be a small pocket of Toronto support in the Pacific Northwest. The visiting team was allocated 3,000 tickets.

Toronto, which has already knocked off higher seeds in New York City FC and Atlanta United FC on the road, is unfazed. It is a team forged in the cauldron of CONCACAF Champions League play in such unfriendly soccer venues as Mexico City and Guadalajara.

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The MLS Cup trophy is displayed on the roof of the Space Needle with the downtown Seattle in the background. The Sounders won the lone meeting Respect was the order of the day Thursday as the Seattle Sounders met the media ahead of Toronto ’s arrival in the Pacific Northwest for Sunday’s

Can he win the MLS Cup MVP trophy again ? Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei makes a save against Two new franchises , from finalists Sacramento, Nashville, Cincinnati and Detroit, are due Hello and welcome to the 2017 MLS Cup final between heavy favourites Toronto FC and defending

Toronto, whose season has been a slow boil, has found ways to get the job done throughout the playoffs.

"I would say there's just that confidence among the group, to where it just doesn't matter where the game is," said midfielder Nick DeLeon, who has been a force off the bench. "There's always the belief that we can come back or that we can hold the lead and get the job done at the end of the day. That belief is definitely strong with this group right now."

The matchup, the rubber match with Seattle winning the title in 2016 and Toronto in 2017, features two of MLS' success stories.

Seattle entered the league in 2009, two years after Toronto (with San Jose resuming play in 2008 after a two-year hiatus). Both TFC and the Sounders were hits right out of the box, with fervent fan bases.

Sounders upset league-best LAFC 3-1 to reach MLS Cup final

  Sounders upset league-best LAFC 3-1 to reach MLS Cup final LOS ANGELES — Although Los Angeles FC had the best regular season in Major League Soccer history, the 2-year-old club had never been this deep in the playoffs. The tough, tested Seattle Sounders go deep almost every year, and they'll get to play for another championship after a vintage display of post-season grit and guile in the Western Conference final. Nicolás Lodeiro scored a goal and assisted on two more by Raúl Ruidíaz, and the Sounders advanced to the MLS Cup final for the third time in four years with a 3-1 victory over LAFC on Tuesday night.

Emerging as the league's flagship franchises , Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders have turned the MLS Cup final into a familiar clash .

Unlike MLS , which is a franchise -based league with no promotion and relegation, the But Seattle didn’t yield to their more fancied opponents, and though the upstarts from California dominated league play, in what was only their second season in MLS they might not be in tune with the demands and

Garber says Toronto's arrival in MLS triggered "a new era of growth and opportunity for our league, setting the stage for what we describe as MLS 2.0."

But while Seattle has made the playoffs every year since joining the league (the streak is now a league-record 11 seasons), Toronto had to wait until 2015 to experience the post-season.

Now the two are jostling for dynasty status.

"Both teams have had a lot of stability in terms of ownership, in terms of management, in terms of players on the field," said Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey.

Stability took a while for Toronto this year. Prior to the season kickoff, the team lost GM Tim Bezbatchenko to Columbus, offensive stars Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez departed for greener pastures and Dutch international Gregory van der Wiel was dismissed after a training camp bust-up.

Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo helped fill the void but other reinforcements took time. It was only in July, after players returned from the Gold Cup, that coach Greg Vanney was able to finally get all the pieces of his puzzle and really start moulding the team.

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Emerging as the league's flagship franchises , Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders have turned the MLS Cup final into a familiar clash .

Seattle 's third MLS Cup final in four years shines spotlight on Schmetzer. 23hJeff Carlisle. The Canadians played the upset card again in downing reigning champions Atlanta United 2 -1 Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders are no strangers to each other and provided two classic MLS finals in

"Honestly it's felt like a really long year," said Vanney, a master tactician who stands on 99 wins in all competitions with Toronto.

"I've felt a lot like I've had to adjust, adapt, be reactive to certain situations and come up with solutions . . . And I can tell you this from 2018 (when Toronto missed the playoffs), you're never going to be successful if you're reacting to things all the time. You want to be able to plan, you want to be able to map out the direction you want to take the team and you want to be able to start to set course to things.

"It's been a long year but I feel all of that has been worth it now in the end because I think it's helped us come together as a group and be resilient and win games on the road and show how tough we can be because we've had to come through some adversity this season."

Toronto is riding a 13-game unbeaten streak (7-0-6) in league play and has not lost since a 2-0 setback Aug. 3 at the New York Red Bulls. While Vanney's team left some points on the table during that run, it has begun to show a cut-throat mentality — fouling to end a threat if needed.

Jozy Altidore says it will take a miracle to pay Sunday in MLS Cup final

  Jozy Altidore says it will take a miracle to pay Sunday in MLS Cup final Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore offered a blunt update Monday on the quad strain that has kept him out of the MLS playoffs. "It's been a while. At this point, it'll take a little bit of a miracle to be out there on Sunday," he said, referencing the MLS Cup final in Seattle against the Sounders. "But that's where I am. And I've just got to try to keep trying to get myself there." Pressed on what's needed to get back on the field in time for Sunday's sold-out championship game at CenturyLink Field, Altidore repeated "a miracle" and laughed."As simple as that," he added. "That's where we're at at this point.

Seattle Sounders to meet Toronto FC in MLS Cup rematch. A handful of MLS stars will be on display when the two sides meet again , including MLS MVP finalist Sebastian Giovinco and long-time U.S. national team standouts Dempsey, Altidore and Michael Bradley.

SEATTLE (AP) — When Michael Bradley left Italy and returned to Major League Soccer to join Toronto FC, he was the secondary attraction. For the third time since making the move back to MLS in 2014, Bradley will captain Toronto in the MLS Cup final Sunday against the Seattle Sounders.

Seattle, well coached under Brian Schmetzer, has overcome similar challenges (Osvaldo Alonso departed for Minnesota, Chad Marshall retired and Roman Torres was banned for 10 games for testing for a performance-enhancing substance). The Sounders proved to be equally pragmatic and successful as the season wore on.

Seattle has won five straight and lost just two of its last 14 league outings (8-2-2) since mid-August.

While Toronto has shown its mettle in returning to the championship game, it has had to do it without star striker Jozy Altidore, who suffered a quad strain in the regular-season finale Oct. 6.

Altidore's status has become a daily question, causing the usually even-keeled Vanney to become a little grumpy. Given Altidore has largely trained on his own, it would be a shock if he represented anything but a last roll of the dice off the bench — and even that would be a surprise.

Pozuelo has proved to be an effective if different replacement up front. While he lacks the physicality of the bullish Altidore, the shifty Spaniard is able to float around the field — pulling defenders away from their comfort zone while finding space for teammates.

Nicolas Benezet and Tsubasa Endoh have proved to be willing runners for Pozuelo.

While Altidore's status is a medical issue, Vanney will have to make the call between Omar Gonzalez and Laurent Ciman at centre back. Gonzalez (hamstring) missed the first playoff game and dressed but did not play for the next two. Ciman, like Gonzalez a former MLS defender of the year, has filled in admirably.

Sleepless in Seattle. The MLS Cup final kicks off early in Pacific Northwest

  Sleepless in Seattle. The MLS Cup final kicks off early in Pacific Northwest TORONTO — While it may not be sleepless in Seattle, Toronto FC will have an early start Sunday at the MLS Cup final with kickoff at noon local time (3 p.m. ET) at CenturyLink Field. And that has not happened too often this year, Toronto opened the regular season with a 1 p.m. ET kickoff in Philadelphia on March 2 and had four 3 p.m. ET starts, the last of which was May 18 in Salt Lake City. It also had five starts at 4 or 5 p.m. ET and one at 6 p.m. ET.In all, 23 of TFC's 34 regular-season games started at 7 p.m. ET or later.Toronto was slated to open the post-season at home to D.C. United on Oct. 19 at noon ET.

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The Sounders have won their first MLS championship after a 5-4 victory on penalties following a dreary 0-0 stalemate. Well, congrats to Seattle . They pulled it out of the bag, even though they were rubbish on the night. A generally tedious final , but Seattle won’t care.

Schmetzer has a similar choice between Torres and Xavier Arreaga at the heart of his defence. Torres (hamstring) is healthy again but Arreaga has performed well in his absence.

Do the coaches change a winning hand?

Seattle's success will likely hinge on Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro and Peruvian danger man Raul Ruidiaz. They were instrumental in dispatching league-leading Los Angeles FC in the Western Conference final.

"When we signed Lodeiro, we wanted him to be a force-magnifier, that was the terms we used, to make everyone around him better," said Lagerwey.

"And then we added Ruidiaz, we really felt like that was the capstone, that was the final piece to complete the puzzle, to say 'OK how do we get the best out of Lodeiro?' Somebody to stick home the goals with the chances he creates," he added. "I think that pairing together has been really really elemental to what we want to do."

Vanney calls Lodeiro a "joker on the field ... with a ton of freedom to really do whatever he feels is necessary."

Lagerwey simply says Lodeiro and Ruidiaz "make everyone better." That includes hard-running Jordan Morris, another of the possible game-changers who will be on display Sunday, along with Aussie Brad Smith on the flank.

"In the big moment, in the big games, those are decided by big players," said Lagerwey.

Championship games can also be decided by penalty shootouts, which have proved to be Toronto's kryptonite. TFC has lost finals on shootouts in the 2016 MLS championship game (to Seattle), the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League and 2019 Canadian Championship.

Toronto 'keeper Quentin Westberg has proved adept at saving penalties and Seattle's Stefan Frei is no stranger to frustrating his old club.

Toronto captain Michael Bradley, who will be making his 200th appearance for the club in all competitions, provides an intriguing subplot with his contract status. It expires at the end of the year but both he and club have declined comment on a report that a win Sunday will trigger another year at his current salary of US$6.5 million.

The two teams have ties.

Lagerwey worked for seven years under Toronto FC president Bill Manning at Real Salt Lake. Frei was drafted by Toronto and played 99 games in all competitions for TFC between 2009 and 2013. Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio was a teenager at the academy of Uruguay's Nacional, where a young Lodeiro was with the first team.

Vanney headed up the Real Salt Lake academy, under Manning and Lagerway, and served as a TV analyst for the Sounders in 2009 after calling time on his playing career.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2019.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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