As the points race has two teams surging ahead (Red Bull and Galaxy), Seattle has the backend of the Double against a side that can't be underestimated, as they are a solid home side. Yes, Toronto is historically bad, but they are also an historical dichotomy that just plays much better at home. They also are still mix&matching players and formations so preparation is difficult.
To compound that Seattle has a string of injury issues. Keller seems likely, but Fucito and Noonan were unlikely enough that Nyassi was flown out, despite his own nagging injury. Seattle did get the opportunity to rest one Freddie Ljungberg. But do we really want the offensive end of the match to ride the shoulders of the bald one?
Keys to the Game
1 - Manage Expectations - Not for the fans, but the team. Play a patient game. This is why I expect that we will see three center midfielders in the starting lineup. With Seattle being a bit tired (especially Zakuani) it would make sense to play a purposeful match with Vagenas and Evans slowing things down a little bit. This isn't to say that Seattle won't counter, just that when they do it won't be through the long deep ball expecting Zakuani and Montero to chase the punts.
Instead they need to move up quickly with slightly longer passes and eventually using Ljungberg as a pivot. The Sounders can use the experience, and relative fresh legs of Vagenas and Ljungberg for a more purposeful match.
2 - Test the Reds Backline - Toronto continues their tradition of constant churn, of in-season tweaking. This year they have guys on the backline who weren't there for the pre-season, and who just don't have the time woking together. When a team gives you this opportunity you have to test their ability to communicate, even more so when they have three different native toungues there. Particularly on set-plays the Sounders should force communication and experience issues.
This is likely a case where the Sounders tradition of over-passing in the box will help. The ball movement in tight will be less wasted because a team with so many new faces won't have quite the education in their coaches system. Toronto gives up two goals a game even if we ignore the penalties that Casey hit. Sure, I don't expect that at home, but they are still a weaker defensive side.
3 - Let Ljungberg Manage the Attacking Third - He's the freshest of the pure offensive players that should start. But more than that, he's also the least likely to be intimidated by a crowd. Yes, I said earlier that the team should move with purpose, but that's within the central third, once they get it into the attack have the Swede take over, put the ball at his feet and let him provide the switch, run a triangle, or a give and go. 2010 hasn't had Freddie take over a match yet, and this would be a fine time to do it. Neither De Guzman nor Cronin are going to stop Ljungberg when he's running with the ball, so the Sounders must let him manage the offense from the center.
Seattle needs the Freddie and Fredy combination from late last year, and they need the Ljungberg that is hungry. Due to the rest/injury issues today is an ideal day for Ljungberg to take the team on his shoulders grabbing an assist or two and putting a few shots on net.
KING5 has the match today. That's the Mothership people. Should be great ratings.
The Reds are debuting their new Whites today.
Toronto has given up 7 of their 10 goals in the second half. Continuing last year's issue of falling behind late.
BayAreaRefugee, Carlos and maybe others will be at the George & Dragon. Buy them beers! I will be hosting the Gamethread.
Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA