Seat­tle, Toronto FC ready for any­thing

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Paul Attfield

toronto» Hav­ing played in two World Cups for the United States and fin­ish­ing on the los­ing side of the Coppa Italia fi­nal when he was with Roma, Toronto FC cap­tain Michael Bradley is no stranger to the big oc­ca­sion.

But he’s also savvy enough to know that pregame plans don’t al­ways pan out, so when he leads his team onto the field for Satur­day night’s MLS Cup fi­nal against the Seat­tle Sounders, he will be keep­ing an open mind.

“There’s no blue­print for these games, for big games,” he said. “You never know what to pre­dict; you have to re­act and not let any­thing faze you and to go for it.”

Toronto FC has cer­tainly done that through­out the MLS Cup play­offs, set­ting an MLS record with 17 goals scored through the team’s first five games. But while Jozy Alti­dore and for­mer league MVP Se­bas­tian Giovinco have cap­tured most of the head­lines in that re­gard with nine goals among them, what takes place in the mid­dle of the field may have a big­ger im­pact on which team lifts the cham­pi­onship tro­phy.

That’s where Bradley will go head to head with Seat­tle’s Os­valdo Alonso and Cris­tian Roldan — and he knows just how im­por­tant that bat­tle will be, ac­knowl­edg­ing that their per­for­mance dic­tates how much free­dom Seat­tle stars such as Jor­dan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro will have.

“I think ul­ti­mately what goes on in the cen­ter of the field in these games goes a long way to dic­tat­ing who wins,” Bradley said. “So it’s im­por­tant for us to feel like in all ar­eas in the cen­ter part of the field we’re tak­ing good care of things.”

While Toronto coach Greg Van­ney said the at­tack­ing na­ture of each team could pro­duce “one of the most ex­cit­ing MLS Cup fi­nals yet,” Seat­tle coun­ter­part Brian Sch­met­zer said the matchup be­tween Giovinco and Lodeiro could pro­duce fire­works.

“De­fend­ers have to be on their toes,” he said. “Nico makes sharp, quick turns. Giovinco does the same. They’re a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, though. Giovinco is a scorer. Nico has scored his fair share of goals, but Nico can put in those fi­nal passes.”

Lodeiro agreed with his coach’s as­sess­ment to a point. Though they have both scored four play­off goals so far, for the Uruguayan, that’s where the sim­i­lar­i­ties end.

“We’re com­pletely dif­fer­ent play­ers,” he said through an in­ter­preter. “The only way we’re alike is that we’re short.”

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