Seattle, Toronto FC ready for anything
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.”