TORONTO — For the first time in three trips to BMO Field, the Seattle Sounders won’t be playing for an MLS Cup.
Having won the 2016 final against Toronto FC and then lost in a rematch last year, the Sounders are out to win the rubber match on Wednesday (4:30 p.m. PT; FS1, YouTube TV, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM). It won’t be easy, though. TFC is coming off a heartbreaking penalty-kick loss in the CONCACAF Champions League Final and is eager to try and reassert its status as reigning champions, while the Sounders are trying to take back what’s theirs.
“We have a lot of memories from last year, but not really good ones, so we want to change that,” said midfielder Gustav Svensson. “We are very motivated to beat Toronto and to show them that last year was only luck.”
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Each side will line up considerably different than the ones that faced off last December. In addition to Jordan Morris’ season-ending ACL injury, Seattle’s Román Torres (hamstring strain) and Víctor Rodríguez (knee sprain) are out, and Nicolás Lodeiro is questionable with a toe fracture. TFC has been forced to employ defensive midfielder Michael Bradley at center back to combat the losses of Drew Moor and Nick Hagglund, and the club just announced on Tuesday that forward Jozy Altidore would be lost for 4-6 weeks after undergoing foot surgery.
Despite TFC’s shift in personnel and lineup switch from a 3-5-2 to a 4-5-1, the Sounders aren’t expecting Toronto to be any easier to handle.
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“They’re a pretty flexible team to begin with, their movement is pretty much the same,” said Svensson.
“They’ve still got good players,” said Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer. “However [Toronto FC Head Coach Greg Vanney] puts his lineup out there, it’ll be a good team, a good squad, so we’ll be prepared.”
The loss of Altidore still may loom large for the Reds. The United States international has 40 regular-season goals in just over three years in Ontario and scored the game-winner in the final last year. His absence allows the Sounders’ back line to hone in much more on playmaker Sebastian Giovinco.
“[Altidore is] a big player for them, a great player for them,” said Svensson. “He’s a danger in the box.”
Said Schmetzer: “[Altidore is] a big part of their team, but they still won a pile of games with just Giovinco. [Víctor] Vázquez is back. They’ve got some good attacking players. We’ll see when the lineup sheet comes out and go from there.
“It’s a business trip,” he added. “We’re all business.”