MLS Finals Seattle vs Toronto Sat Night 8 pm on FOX, NASL in trouble?
So its time for the finals in the MLS – with 2 of the most popular and best teams in MLS going head to head as Toronto with (Altidore, Bradley, Giavinco and Indy youngster Eriq Zavaleta) host the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night 8 pm on FOX (yes Fox not Fox Sports but Fox). Now Fox Sports will have pregame starting at 7 pm and post game after of course. And again I don’t care what the soccer purest say – Playoff Soccer is really cool –and I plan to be watching to see if young American Jordon Morris (yes Dempsey is still out with the heart ailment) can bring a title home to the best soccer city in America – Seattle!! Make your plans now to clear your schedule Sat night or set those DVRs as this one should be a doozy at the 40K full BMO Field in Toronto.
Got a chance to watch El Classico and boy does Ramos know how to finish things late or what? Another almost 90th minute header to tie the game with Barca was just what Real needed to garner the tie at Camp Nou. I also got a chance to watch the Chelsea v Man City match –and what a job the Chelsea coach has done with Chelsea. It’s a completely different team now with basically the same players as they solidified their top spot in the EPL.
So on my Christmas wish for the Indy 11 is that they have a league to play in next season. Sad to hear the issues with NASL and the Cosmos – and perhaps the decline of the league? I have no doubt the Indy 11 will land somewhere. Perhaps a move to USL – with rivalries in Cincy, Louisville, Nashville and will be the best move for the club. Already the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ottawa, OKC, and San Antonio have basically bolted to the USL. Got my fingers crossed.
Toronto wins Classic in OT at home –must see video here is you didn’t see –best playoff game ever
10 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Stoke City
12:30 pm NBCSN Leicester City vs Man City
8 pm FOX MLS Finals – Toronto vs Seattle
Sun, Dec 11
7 am NBCSN Chelsea vs West Brom
9 am NBCSN Man United vs Tottenham
9 am beIN Sport Torino vs Juventus
9:30 am FS2 Schalke vs Bayern Leverkusen
11:30 am NBCSN Liverpool vs West Ham
Mon, Dec 12
3 pm beIN Sports Roma vs AC Milan
2:45 pm NbCSN Everton vs Arsenal
Weds, Dec 14
2:45 pm NbCSN Middlesborough vs Liverpool
3 pm ?? Crystal Palace vs Man United
Toronto vs. Seattle: Which of league’s biggest clubs will win MLS Cup?
As we gear up for Saturday’s MLS Cup final, ESPN FC asks league contributors Jason Davis and Arch Bell to look exclusively at Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders to shed some light on who’s best positioned to lift silverware on Saturday night at BMO Field.
Do Toronto and Seattle have anything left?
Jason Davis: Even if Toronto FC wasn’t buoyed by hosting MLS Cup, there would be plenty of reason to believe it had enough left to win the title. Still, the long break before the game comes as something of a mixed blessing. On one hand, it allows both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to recover from minor injuries. On the other, it could leach away the form and confidence that has carried them to this point.
Arch Bell: Considering Seattle handled the international break between the conference semifinals and finals so well, I see no reason why there should be any worry about the two weeks between their win in Colorado and Saturday night. If anything, the break will allow some of their recently injured players, such as Roman Torres and Jordan Morris, to heal further. Seattle will be ready to go.
Lessons learned from regular-season matchups
JD: If TFC learned anything from a 1-1 draw with Seattle back in July, it’s that Morris is a dangerous player. A weakened Toronto team went up a goal at BMO Field, only to see its lead erased when the rookie split a pair of defenders, stopped on a dime and curled in a right-footed shot. Both teams will look very different on Saturday, but Morris will be there, and Toronto will be wary.
AB: Not a whole lot. The two teams played with vastly different squads in a 1-1 draw on July 2 than the ones we’ll see on Saturday. There was no Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore for TFC, plus Armando Cooper had not yet arrived. While for Seattle, ex-coach Sigi Schmid still had the pre-Nicolas Lodeiro Sounders in a 4-3-3, and Torres was out injured. It’s hard to glean much from their only meeting this season.
What one player on your team will cause trouble for your opponent?
JD: Despite the presence of Giovinco, the answer is Altidore. Giovinco is always dangerous, but Altidore’s form is otherworldly at the moment. Every aspect of his game — from his touch to his hold-up play and beyond — has been excellent during TFC’s playoff run. Seattle has the physical center backs necessary to deal with some of what Altidore can do, but the forward’s vision and passing are impossible to counteract completely.
AB: Lodeiro. The Uruguayan international is the ultimate playmaker and makes the Sounders attack go. Whether from the run of play or on set pieces, Seattle is a pass away from scoring if Lodeiro is over the ball. Oh yeah, and he’s a clinical finisher, as evidenced by his four playoff goals.
What one player on the opposing team should you be afraid of?
JD: Lodeiro has taken MLS by storm since arriving in late July and helped Seattle push all the way to MLS Cup. Toronto will need devote serious resources to stopping the Uruguayan, a choice that necessarily opens up space and opportunity for other Sounders players. That’s how good Lodeiro is, and how wary of him Toronto must be; due to his dynamic ability to impact the game all over the field, shutting him down comes first.
AB: Giovinco. Altidore was a beast in the conference final versus Montreal, but Seattle’s two big center backs should have better success against the U.S. international. Giovinco’s wizardry creates a different headache altogether, since the former Juventus man is so good at spinning off defenders or creating space for himself. Seattle cannot afford any lapses when Giovinco is in the area.
JD: Toronto has already shaken its reputation as MLS’ most historically incompetent franchise with this run to the final. But a victory at home in front of the TFC faithful would only further establish the club as one of the league’s elite. Spending without winning is just another form of failure; an MLS Cup championship would elevate Toronto into a select group in one fell swoop.
AB: Everyone knows how big the Seattle-Portland rivalry is in MLS, so last season when the Timbers left Columbus with the 2015 MLS Cup in hand, it had to have stuck to the ribs of all Sounders fans. But redemption awaits, and a championship would be a sweet reward for Seattle followers who have put up the best attendance numbers in the league. More important, they would regain top-dog status in Cascadia.
JD: Toronto 2-1 Seattle. With the support of the crowd and the firepower at its disposal, this is Toronto’s championship to win. Altidore’s form and a smart defensive plan will be enough to get TFC two goals (one on a set piece) and a title.
AB: Toronto 1-2 Seattle. Seattle’s late-season and playoff momentum will be put to the test by a rowdy home crowd and the TFC attack, but the visitors will hold firm, as Lodeiro’s two assists will pace the Sounders to a first-ever title.
Wiebe: MLS Cup is about more than hardware – legacies are at stake
December 8, 20166:43PM ESTAndrew WiebeSenior Editor
TORONTO – Twenty years from from now, a group of middle-aged men will gather to celebrate history. They’ll come from all over, bringing wives, sons, daughters, even grandchildren together to remember a moment of sporting glory that transcended themselves.They’ll tell stories, forgotten details resurfacing as they take turns driving the narrative. They’ll walk out on to the pitch for old time’s sake, highlights from long ago flashing across a massive video screen as triumphant music and soundbytes pulse through stadium speakers. They’ll wave to an adoring crowd, and mothers and fathers will tell their children about these men, the legends who captured the star stitched above the crest on the jerseys they wear proudly.These men will forever be known as MLS Cup champions, but they’ll also understand titles are about far more than the gaudy rings they wear on their fingers to commemorate that frigid December night at BMO Field. They’ll know that night was about more than a trophy, more than a ring, more than another entry in a dusty record book.They’ll know that night gave birth to a legacy, personal and collective, that lived on long after they said goodbye and their careers came to a close. Those men will be 2016 MLS Cup Champions, and that night has yet to come.On Saturday at BMO Field (8 pm ET; FOX and UniMas in the US; TSN and RDS in Canada), either Toronto FC or the Seattle Sounders will lift MLS Cup for the first time, writing the final chapter of a story that will be told for decades, a story that elevates men who kick a ball for a living to conquering heroes. They will be the winners. The losers will watch as the confetti falls and celebrations unfold in front of them. They’ll be remembered, too, as the team that inspired a city but fell just short.And while the margins on Saturday night will be razor thin, the implications are glaring and obvious. Sports are about defining moments, and none delineates between winner and loser more clearly than a championship game.Would Landon Donovan be universally remembered as the best American soccer player of all-time without the five MLS Cup championships he won with the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy? Without the record five goals he scored in those games? Without the big-game resume that screams, ‘I’m the best this league has ever seen, and I’ve got a handful of rings to prove it,’ would the league mint an MVP trophy that bears his name and image?
Would Bruce Arena, the godfather of US soccer coaches who is currently taking a second crack at the US national team job, be given that honorary title or considered for that job (again) without the two MLS Cups he won with D.C. United or the three he lifted with the Galaxy alongside Donovan? Would his coaching tree have branches across the country and globe without those triumphs?
How would our perception of the Revolution, five-time MLS Cup runners-up and never champions, change had a few of those finals gone New England’s way? Might the MLS careers of Steve Nicol, Taylor Twellman, Shalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston be remembered differently with a championship or two (or three or four)?
We know the answers to those questions. Championships change everything.
Michael Bradley doesn’t need to be reminded that he could be the captain to deliver Toronto FC the title that could complete the club’s transformation from laughing stock to regional powerhouse. Lifting the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy on Saturday night could be the defining moment of his MLS – and perhaps even club – career. It could make him a Toronto icon.
Jordan Morris could be the hometown star who did what so many before him could not and bring MLS’s ultimate prize back to Puget Sound. He could, at just 22 years of age and in his first year as a pro, seal his place in Seattle and Sounders lore, a young man forever close to the hearts of a city full of soccer fans who helped redefine the MLS paradigm.
Sebastian Giovinco could lay claim to the unofficial title Best MLS Player of All-Time should he cap off the most productive two-year span in the history of the league with a championship. Nicolas Lodeiro could be the savior who finally took the Sounders to the summit.
Jozy Altidore could prove his doubters wrong by capping off an MVP-worthy and potentially record-setting postseason with the Cup itself. Unfair as it might be, Clint Dempsey could be remembered in Seattle for the game his body wouldn’t let him play.
Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey could prove he’s more than Real Salt Lake’s moneyball title in 2009, a man who can spend big and win big, too. His equivalent in Toronto, Tim Bezbatchenko, could inspire Theo Epstein comparisons for his relative youth, innovative approach and turnaround of a moribund franchise with unbridled ambition and rabid support but little to show for it.Sounders fans could finally parade through downtown Seattle with the prize they’ve coveted above all others, a prize their arch rivals beat them to just last year. Reds fans, meanwhile, could claim the legitimacy they’ve craved since the very beginning, sweet redemption for all those seasons they showed up to watch a team destined to implode in the most painful way possible.Anything could happen. Only one thing will.For two clubs and two cities, Saturday night will change the course of their sporting history. Twenty years from now, one will look back on Dec. 10, 2016 fondly, memories flooding back with the sharpness and clarity that comes with victory. The other will wonder what might have been.That day has yet to come, but there’s more than hardware at stake. Legacies ride on it.
Five reasons why Toronto FC will beat the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup
With Saturday’s MLS Cup tilt between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders now just days away, ESPN FC takes a look at five reasons why Toronto will take home the championship.
- Giovinco makes it go
Simply put, Sebastian Giovinco is a difference maker every time he steps on the field — 17 goals and 15 assists in 28 regular-season games say it all. Rarely does he ever have a bad day and Saturday’s tilt should be no different. His low center of gravity will make defending difficult for Seattle center-backs Chad Marshall and Roman Torres, and with zero goals in the two legs versus the Montreal Impact, the former Juventus man is poised for a big-time performance in MLS Cup.
- Altidoreen fuego
Jozy Altidore delivered arguably the finest performance of his career in Toronto’s second-leg extra-time victory over the Montreal Impact. A big, physical test awaits against the Sounders’ aforementioned center-backs, but the confidence with which the United States international is playing is undeniable. For a player who has been riddled with hamstring and fitness issues, his energy in 120 minutes versus the Impact was impressive. Another outing like that on Saturday and it’s hard to see TFC losing the cup.
- The better bench
While Seattle does have options, Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney has better offensive weapons at his disposal on the bench. Tosaint Ricketts has been terrific this postseason, with two goals and an assist, while Benoit Cheyrou filled Giovinco’s shoes with aplomb to tally the series winner versus Montreal. If the two teams are tied entering the final quarter hour, the introduction of Ricketts or Cheyrou could prove decisive for the Reds.
- A strong spine
In Toronto’s 3-5-2, one of the things that stands out immediately is the strength of the team’s spine. The five-man midfield is led centrally by Michael Bradley, while the three-man defense boasts Drew Moor at center-back. An MLS Cup winner in 2010, Moor has the calm and experience that Toronto will need in the back while coping with Seattle’s dangerous attack. Bradley similarly marshals the Toronto midfield, while Clint Irwin is also a steady hand in goal.
- Red storm rising
With 36,000 expected to attend MLS Cup, BMO Field will be a cauldron on Saturday night. The rowdy Toronto faithful played a big part in pushing their team past Montreal, and now with the chance to snap a 23-year title drought in all major North American sports, Toronto fans will assuredly be at their loudest. In terms of fan atmosphere, it has the makings to be the most memorable final in MLS Cup history.Arch Bell covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .
Five reasons why the Seattle Sounders will beat Toronto FC in MLS Cup
With Saturday’s MLS Cup tilt between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC now just days away, ESPN FC takes a look at five reasons why Seattle will take home the championship.
- Lodeiro leads the way
He has only been in Major League Soccer for a few months, but Nicolas Lodeiro has quickly risen to the top as one of the league’s best players. The Uruguayan playmaker sets Seattle’s table and his inch-perfect crosses into the area will pose problems for the Toronto FC defense. There is no denying the importance of the former Boca Juniors man to his side and the feeling is that he will get the better of Michael Bradley in midfield.
- Big game Jordan
Whether at the collegiate, international or club level, Jordan Morris has a knack for coming through in the clutch. He scored the winner in the United State’s last victory against Mexico, a 2-0 friendly win back in April 2015, and bagged a brace in the final to help lead Stanford to last season’s College Cup. And, of course, he came up huge with his winner in the semifinal second leg at the Colorado Rapids. This is a player who thrives in the big moments.
- The land of Oz
There will be no bigger test for Sounders defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso than neutralizing TFC danger man Sebastian Giovinco. Luckily for Seattle fans, Alonso is one of the best in the league at his position; he’ll tackle, deflect or block passes and frustrate opponents to no end. To boot, he’s an accurate passer. The Cuban veteran can still cover a lot of ground and assuming his knee is healthy, he can be the guy to finally halt Giovinco.
- The boys in the back
Chad Marshall and Roman Torres make up one of the most intimidating center back pairings in the league and should enjoy more success than Montreal had in stopping TFC forward Jozy Altidore. Their experience should provide the Sounders with some needed calm in the back. Each player can also be an X factor on set pieces. With Lodeiro capable of serving up a perfect ball on a free kick, a goal via header from Marshall or Torres would be no surprise.
- Destiny’s child
There is just something about this Seattle side that screams destiny. Other Seattle teams have had more talent, but this squad has gotten hot at the right moment and is brimming with confidence. They took down Supporters’ Shield winner FC Dallas and then went to Colorado and became the first team all season to beat the Rapids on their home turf. With players who have played in soccer’s biggest games (Lodeiro in the Argentine Superclasico vs. River Plate and Nelson Valdez for Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich), the Sounders will be unflappable on Saturday night in Toronto.
MLS will consider playoff format changes for 2017 season
MLS will consider changing its playoff format in 2017, with regular season record serving as the first tiebreaker in the conference semis and finals among the possible tweaks, the league’s Vice President of Competition told ESPN FC on Thursday.”I think we believe that the format we have now works, but we’re always open to improving as much as we possibly can to make it exciting for fans and fair for our clubs,” MLS VP Jeff Agoos said in a phone interview three days before Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders meet in the MLS Cup final.”Every year we have a discussion over our playoff format.”LS has changed its postseason set-up frequently during its 20-year history. The playoffs have grown from eight to 12 participants as the league more than doubled in size. Two new teams, Atlanta United and Minnesota United, will grow the circuit to 22 members in 2017.The league’s technical committee will discuss possible changes from the drastic — such as introducing a group stage similar to what is used in tournaments like the Copa America or World Cup — to the comparatively benign — like eliminating away goals as the primary tiebreaker in two-leg series — it meets next month.Whether that’s a World Cup-style format, whether that’s single elimination like March Madness, whether we keep the format we have now — those are all things that are on the table and open to discussion,” Agoos said. “If they can improve our playoffs, we’ll certainly take a very hard look at it.”The away goals tiebreaker was introduced in 2014 to mixed reviews.”When we didn’t have away goals, people were criticizing us for that,” Agoos said. “Now that we do have away goals, people are criticizing us for having them.”That rule ensures fewer series are determined by extra-time or penalty kicks. But it can also limit how much home teams are willing to attack, especially if the aggregate score is tied late in the decisive contest.”We will be discussing the away goals rule in our January meetings, as we’ve done in the past,” Agoos said.Only two of 12 two-leg series have been decided by away goals over the past three seasons. Nonetheless, Agoos said there is a growing sentiment to consider using regular season record as the first tiebreaker instead.”I think this will be the first year we really try to put a focus on the higher seed advancing,” he said. “We’ve had some technical directors that have wanted to have that discussion. But we will also look at different alternatives.”Whatever modifications are adopted, if any, they won’t be made lightly.”We’re very reluctant to change things unless there’s a real strong sentiment one way or the other,” he said.”We changed our playoffs a number of times, and we want to create some level of consistency so our fans understand,” Agoos continued.”But that doesn’t mean we won’t change it if we think it’s the right thing to do.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.
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