Sounders FC @ Toronto FC
August 10, 2013, 4 pm PT; BMO Field in Toronto
TV/Radio: KONG 6/16; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
TORONTO – The last time Sounders FC faced Toronto FC was March 17, 2012. Seattle rebounded from a loss in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal with a 3-1 win over the Reds in the season opener, powered by a David Estrada hat trick.
So much has changed about the two teams since that day and on Saturday night they meet again at BMO Field in Toronto.
For Seattle, a large part of the team’s core is still intact, but additions of the likes of Djimi Traore, Shalrie Joseph, Obafemi Martins and, this week, Clint Dempsey show an ambitious club ready to make a push for MLS Cup like never before.
Toronto, meanwhile, has just two players remaining from the 14 who played in Seattle 17 months ago – forward Danny Koevermans and defender Richard Eckersley. Elsewhere, Toronto has scoured the globe, as well as the youth in the Academy system, to build this year's squad. Slowly, Toronto has developed under first-year head coach Ryan Nelsen and is now on a three-game unbeaten streak as Seattle comes to town for its only meeting of the season.
“They are defending better as a group. That has given them the opportunity to stay in the game,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said of Toronto’s recent turnaround.
Although Toronto had just one win through its first seven matches, the team was able to take points from matches against strong contenders in Sporting Kansas City, the LA Galaxy, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union.
In those seven matches, forward Robert Earnshaw paced Toronto with five goals and looked to be a tremendous addition. However, he has netted just one goal since. Along the way, midfielder Jonathan Osorio has pitched in four goals to lead a balanced group of scorers.
Built more in the image of Nelsen, a former New Zealand National Team defender who spent most of his professional career with Blackburn Rovers in England, Toronto has shown a propensity toward defense to build their success.
“They’re well-organized. The majority of the games have been very competitive,” Schmid said. “It’s certainly not going to be an easy game.”
Seattle is also on a three-match unbeaten streak and now will add more firepower to its roster as players return from injuries and Dempsey integrates himself into the team. Midfielder Shalrie Joseph is nearing full strength after missing time with a calf strain and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning has worked his way back into full training and may be ready to make his return after a three-match absence because of a forearm sprain.
While those two may be able to make their returns, Dempsey looks poised to make his Sounders FC debut, though just how he will make his impact with the team is still yet to be seen.
“We’ll see at the end of the day how it all fits together, but the important thing is that you want to get as many good players on the field as you can,” Schmid said.