THEIR BEST VS. THEIR BEST.

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - NEIL DAVIDSON

TORONTO — Satur­day’s MLS Cup fi­nal will fea­ture ar­guably Toronto FC’s two finest goal­keep­ers.

Ste­fan Frei, who played 82 games for Toronto from 2009 to ’13, led Ma­jor League Soc­cer with 13 shutouts for Seat­tle this sea­son. Alex Bono, who made the Toronto start­ing job his own this year, tied for sec­ond with a club-record 10.

Given their tal­ents, and the rock-solid de­fences in front of them, the ques­tion is whether this year’s cham­pi­onship game re­match will of­fer what last year’s didn’t — goals.

Op­pos­ing teams found them hard to come by this year. Toronto ranked sec­ond — be­hind Sporting Kansas City — in goals con­ceded dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son with 37 (1.09 a game). The Sounders were third at 39 (1.15).

Still, Toronto coach Greg Van­ney does not think there will be a re­peat of last year’s game at BMO Field when Seat­tle won in a penalty shootout af­ter the con­test ended knot­ted at 0-0 af­ter ex­tra time.

“I do think there’s goals in this game,” Van­ney said. “I think both teams want to win this game in reg­u­la­tion. They don’t want to see that (score­less game).

“Both teams have been quite stingy de­fen­sively but I do think both teams have po­tent at­tacks and will looks for way to try and win the game.”

Seat­tle did not man­age a shot on goal in the 120 min­utes of last’s year fi­nal. Toronto out­shot the Sounders 19-3 (7-0 in shots on tar­get).

“I imag­ine one of the things they, again, want to rec­tify if you will is to come and get shots and cre­ate chances,” Van­ney said. “It’s not some­thing that hap­pened in the way they would like last year.”

Van­ney an­tic­i­pates a more at­tack­ing Seat­tle, which could lead to “some space and some chances be­ing created on both sides.”

Seat­tle coach Brian Sch­met­zer has heard it all be­fore.

“Cer­tainly for the soc­cer pun­dits, for the sportscast­ers, for some of the peo­ple that classified our win last year as no shots on goal, sure, I’d like to silence some of those crit­ics,” he said.

Sch­met­zer pointed to score­less ties be­tween Seat­tle and Van­cou­ver and Toronto and Colum­bus, part of ear­lier two-game se­ries in this year’s play­offs.

“There were some peo­ple in the me­dia that said those were bor­ing games and we need to change the sys­tem and all that sort of stuff. I can say from my per­spec­tive that we never not try and go out and score.

“We don’t bunker in for 90 min­utes be­cause we un­der­stand that’s the way you don’t win soc­cer games. You must come out and play at­tack­ing soc­cer. It’s just some­times that games man­i­fest them­selves like that. It’s cer­tainly not by de­sign from any of the coaches that I speak to.

“So we cer­tainly would like to have some goals and I would cer­tainly say that I’d like to have them come from Clint (Dempsey) or Jor­dan (Mor­ris) or Nico (Lodeiro).”

They will have to beat Bono, a 23-year-old na­tive of Bald­winsville, N.Y., who fol­lows the Buf­falo Bills, once dreamed of be­ing a hockey goalie and hopes to make a liv­ing in the me­dia af­ter soc­cer. A tal­ented shot-stop­per, Bono also serves as an ath­letic sweeper as needed.

The Swiss-born Frei ce­mented his spot in MLS Cup lore last year with a world-class save on Jozy Alti­dore. Frei launched him­self to­wards the top cor­ner of his goal, some­how claw­ing away Alti­dore’s loop­ing header with his left hand.

Scor­ing on Seat­tle has been nigh im­pos­si­ble of late. The Sounders goal has not been breached in more than two months with Seat­tle blank­ing Van­cou­ver and Hous­ton in its four play­off games to date.

In­clud­ing those four play­off games, the Sounders have not al­lowed a goal in six straight matches, a 542-minute stretch that dates back to a 2-0 loss in Philadel­phia on Oct. 1.

Frei, who did not play in Game 1 of this year’s West­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nal against Hous­ton be­cause of a ham­string strain, has posted five straight play­off shutouts.

The Sounders have not lost since Oct. 1 (5-0-1) and have been beaten just twice since June 28 (122-6).

CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO

Alex Bono and Ste­fan Frei, prob­a­bly the two best goal­keep­ers in Toronto FC his­tory, will face each other in Satur­day’s MLS Cham­pi­onship game.

TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.