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Scouting Report: There’s blood in the water

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Both Seattle and Toronto are beaten up. Toronto looks to be finding its feet, can Seattle do likewise?

2017 MLS Cup - Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC
Jozy going down without contact? Preposterous!
Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

What You’ll Watch

The Seattle Sounders hit the road for their second of three games in nine days. They will travel across and out of the country to take on Toronto FC in this mid-week clash.

Toronto enjoyed a run to the CONCACAF Champions League Final but have paid for it dearly in league play. Currently, they are 10th in the 11 team Eastern Conference. They are 2-4-1 (seven points in seven games played; 1.0 ppg). Seattle is dead last in the Western Conferece with a record of 1-4-2 (five points in seven games played; 0.71 ppg).

Last time out, Toronto defeated the Philadelphia Union 3-0 at BMO Field while the Sounders drew 0-0 against the Columbus Crew.

Seattle leads the all-time series against Toronto 7-3-2 in the regular season, including a 3-1-1 mark on the road. However, Toronto has won the last two meetings, including the 2017 MLS Cup Final. This will be the fifth meeting in less than two years between the two.

A Look at the Enemy

Last Five: W-L-L-D-W

Top Goal Scorer: Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez, two

Top Assist Leader: Sebastian Giovinco, three

Injury Report

Toronto

The Reds are in the midst of their own injury crisis. Center backs Nick Hagglund and Drew Moor are both out, and Jozy Altidore seems to have flopped and flailed himself right into another hamstring strain (note: no idea if that’s the actual cause, but it seems the most just of the possible causes). The other two center backs, Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta, are both questionable; the first also with hamstring issues, the second with a quad strain. Lastly, Justin Morrow is questionable with a calf strain.

Seattle

A small glimmer of good news: Chad Marshall is back! News of his neck’s demise was greatly exaggerated. Not as great: Victor Rodriguez is ruled completely out, and Roman Torres has been added to the confirmed out list. Harry Shipp and Waylon Francis are both quetsionable; Francis at least travelled.

Match Officials

Referee: Ted Unkel

AR1: Adam Garner

AR2: Richard Gamache

4TH: Armando Villarreal

VAR: Chris Penso

What to Watch

Toronto’s system

Greg Vanney sets up, if not the most, then certainly one of the more tactically fluid teams in the league. Unfortunately for him, the Reds are facing a similar situation at center back to the Sounders forward situation. All four primary CBs are fighting leg muscle injuries, which has recently forced him to move a defensive midfielder and engine of his team, Michael Bradley, and a veteran right back, Gregory van der Wiel, into the positions.

Of course, this has led to fall-on implications across the rest of their setup. Without Bradley deflecting and protecting in front of the back three, they’ve been forced to move to a 4-1-4-1, using Marky Delgado as a dedicated defensive midfielder. Against an aggressive Chicago Fire side they struggled defensively in this setup, but then put in a strong showing against an inept Philadelphia side. Of course, with Seattle’s offensive performance, it’s tough to see much hope in this info.

At the same time, Altidore’s hamstring problems have resurfaced, leaving Giovinco alone at the top. He’s obviously an entirely different animal up there, and to support him Vanney has crafted a bit of a bucket four under him that ends up playing a bit like a less aggressive 4-3-3. Vazquez and Aketxe swap positions at will in the middle, playing as forward-focused box-to-box mids, while Jonathon Osorio and Nicolas Hasler run the wings. Hasler stays wide on the right along the touchline, while Osorio does more cutting in and combining with Gio.

The structure doesn’t allow for the same fluidity and connection that Toronto has seen in their more standard 3-5-2 setup, but it’s still provided five goals in two games. The transition game is a bit slower to get turned around, and there’s necessarily a reduction in the number of long balls knocked up for hold-up. It’s still a talented roster, and a smart coach who has shown he’s quite capable of putting together a game plan that takes apart the other side. Whatever records and stats may be, this will not be an easy match.

Quick Keys

One more time, with TEMPO: If I have to watch timid, passive passing for another 90+ minutes, I’m going to cry. It’s not just that they’ve turned into 11 versions of 2016 Tyrone Mears — a whole lot of windup, telegraphed intent, and a softly looped delivery, it’s that the team in it’s entirety seems hell-bent on pulling out surveying equipment to get the lay of the field before hitting a pass. This is soccer; you have to accept that you’ll run a bit in the transition game as a result of missing on a risky pass here and there.

Go up the gut: The Sounders have hopefully reached a “why not try something else” point. They have to find a way to generate variety in their attack in some way, and not just for probing with. Three out of position players at high leverage spots are a great opportunity to practice some directness. After all, it’s not like it could get much worse.

Refuse to cross: Please. Something else.

Bonus: Hide Giovinco in a suitcase somewhere until the game is over.

How to Watch

Date/Time: May 9, 4:30 PM PT

Location: BMO Field

TV: FS1, TSN

Streaming: YouTube TV, FOX Sports Go

Radio: 950 KJR AM (English), El Rey 1360AM (Spanish)