Toronto only has two wins in their last eight MLS matches. Sitting outside the playoffs in the East, it has been a mighty struggle for the Giovinco show this season even with Sebastian picking up eight goals in the 15 matches this season. TFC is great on the counter mainly because the Atomic Ant can really do anything he wants against MLS defenders, he’s that good. It is unfortunate timing for Toronto though, as they will be barely able to fill an 18 due to a large set of injuries combined with many starters playing 90 minutes plus in the midweek Canadian Championship. Starters Clint Irwin, Will Johnson, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore all are going to miss this one. Giovinco played all 90 minutes midweek as well as did 75% of the projected starting backline. Josh Williams is suspended, so TFC is out a bench guy.
Injuries and fatigue after going from Orlando to Vancouver, playing 90 there, and then flying back to Toronto are a concern but more problematic is the lack of identity a sluggish club will have without three of their four best players. TFC likes to play quickly and get Gio the ball early and often. My AYSO team in 2nd grade played "get the ball to Tim", by far the best player, and he went and scored for us. Toronto plays a very similar style and it only will be worse this week with a fractured lineup. Without the engines in midfield, they’ll need to play the ball up to Gio and just get out of his way and hope. The midfield will likely get passed over in the offensive flow with Tsubasa Endoh sitting on top of three mids playing as a CAM but will slide out wide to provide support to Gio. Likely Hamilton/Babouli slide into a 4-3-3 during the attack from a 4-3-1-2. Without Bradley and Johnson, it is likely that they’ll play more of a a 4-5-1 most of the match and hope for Giovinco to pick up a couple of goals by himself. Expect Alonso to track back and mark Gio to hold him to less than five chances in this one. On average, he scores on 10% of his shots, so it will be important to limit his chances. Absent a majority of their playmakers, the secondary option is a rookie in Endoh who should be easy to mark out of the match. Toronto might be able to steal a goal, which with the Sounders poor road form might be a death sentence and it is imperative that Seattle be the first to score.
Defensively, TFC is fatigued. Drew Moor and Eriq Zavaleta are not great CBs by any means but for the most part they can get the job done. Adding to their struggles is the 90 minutes they and LB Justin Morrow played midweek. All three will have a problem dealing with the individual skill of Ivanschitz, Dempsey and Morris. They are slow, poor in the air and are likely to foul when they think they are beat. They are not going to take the ball off one of those guys and will have to defend against a large swath of crosses and long shots. As CBs they are unlikely to close out and Cheyrou is not the best at man marking without fouling, meaning the Sounders should have plenty of free kicks in dangerous areas and space to shoot and cross in the attacking third. The question is not will Seattle create chances but will they finish them against yet another sub, backup keeper Alex Bono.
Toronto is coming off a high, getting a late aggregate tying, away goal winning, stoppage time goal by the now injured Will Johnson. It puts them into next year’s CCL, winning the Canadian Championship over Vancouver. That said, Seattle is coming off a high from the reserves beating RSL’s first team at Rio Tinto on penalties on the shoulders of a massive performance of their own backup keeper Tyler Miller. The energy should be high even from two teams that will have a handful of players running on fumes but massive deficiencies in each squad (TFC’s midfield, defense, lack of non-Giovinco on offense and Seattle’s lack of finishing and creating) This will likely lead to either an incredibly interesting or very sloppy match. I think Clint Dempsey brings his scoring run from the Copa America and gets Seattle on the board early and the away team never looks back. Seattle wins 3-1 in Toronto and we cheer about three goals for three points.
Toronto: Bono, Morrow, Moor, Zavaleta, Beitashour, Cheyrou, Delegado, Osorio, Endoh, Giovinco, Babouli (3 CMs under a CAM in a 4-3-1-2)
Seattle: Frei, Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears, Alonso, Friberg, Dempsey, Ivanschitz, Morris, Kovar