The Seattle Sounders host Toronto FC on Sunday, November 10 (12:00 p.m. PT; ABC, Univision, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM) in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup. Here are three matchups to watch.
Raúl Ruidíaz vs. Laurent Ciman
Like LAFC in the Western Conference Final, Toronto FC has never faced off against Ruidíaz, making the Peruvian scoring machine a secret weapon of sorts. Seattle’s No. 9 proved against the 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners that he can turn that unfamiliarity into an advantage, as he posted two goals against the league’s best defense.
Beyond the shroud of mystery, Ruidíaz holds several advantages in this matchup. Ciman, 34, is an adventurous center back, often shadowing strikers as they roam in search of touches. Ruidíaz tends to drop into midfield as he helps relieve pressure and link play in transition. If Ciman follows suit, that will open up massive gaps in the heart of Toronto’s back line for the likes of Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones to exploit. Additionally, Ciman’s elite distribution makes him a critical component of Toronto’s build-up play. Unlike most free-scoring No. 9’s, Ruidíaz consistently defends from the front, which could force Ciman into turnovers in TFC’s defensive third.
Nicolás Lodeiro vs. Michael Bradley
Lodeiro and Bradley have already squared off twice with a trophy on the line. With Seattle hosting MLS Cup this time around Lodeiro, now the club captain, has a chance to lead the Sounders to a second league trophy in the decisive rubber match.
Bradley is still one of the league’s elite defensive midfielders, but his playing style has changed significantly since Toronto beat Seattle in the 2017 MLS Cup. No longer able to cover ground and win 50/50’s like he used to, Bradley lacks the range to effectively track Lodeiro all over the pitch. Seattle’s Uruguayan midfield maestro, therefore, will be able to find pockets of space to receive the ball with enough time to carve apart TFC’s back line. Lodeiro has seven goals and six assists all-time in the postseason, including two goals and four assists in Seattle’s current run. Look for him to float wide as he creates overloads with Brad Smith, Kelvin Leerdam, Morris and Jones down the flanks.
Jordan Morris vs. Auro Jr.
A Mercer Island native and product of Sounders Academy, Morris has been unstoppable at times in 2019. His dynamism in the attack and ability to link quickly in transition have added new dimensions to Seattle’s offense. And with 13 goals and 8 assists from 27 starts this season, he’s repeatedly shown he can supply match-winning performances. On Sunday, he’ll have a chance to deliver a second MLS Cup to his hometown club, this time in front of the Seattle supporters at CenturyLink Field.
Auro, a former Brazilian youth national team prospect, has been a staple of TFC’s back line over the last two seasons, earning 41 starts. Make no mistake, he’s one of the most underrated wide defenders in MLS. If Morris can win his individual matchup against Auro down Seattle’s left-hand side, that will open up space and create dangerous chances for the likes of Lodeiro and Ruidíaz.