SEATTLE — MLS Cup is still a couple of days away, and as is tradition in any championship game, time not taken up by training is filled with media obligations. Print, television, radio and online all get their turn, and the Seattle Sounders go through the grinder just like everyone else.
With the Sounders having played in MLS Cup three out of the last four years, the team mostly knows the deal at this point. However, hosting MLS Cup for the first time since 2009 means the routine is somewhat different.
And so it was at the MLS Press Conference, where select members of the Sounders made their way up to the black-and-gold strewn MLS dais to respond to questions from the assembled press, many of whom may not have been to Seattle in years — if ever.
Media day in other sports — particularly the NFL — can seem like performance art with all manner of questions ranging from the mundane to the bizarre. Here, it was not nearly so entertaining. Or obnoxious, perhaps a reflection of MLS’s place in the sports media landscape. Everyone asked relevant, if standard, questions.
One-by-one, the Seattle Sounders made their way up to stage to answer questions that they’ve probably answered multiple times over the last week since it was confirmed they’d be hosting MLS Cup.
“Is Toronto/Seattle a true rivalry,” came a question from the press, referencing the fact the Sounders and Toronto FC have met in three of the last four MLS Cup finals.
“I was just asked this question actually,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said, providing a peek into how many media obligations he’s likely had with still three days to go. “I don’t think there’s a true rivalry.
“I think there’s two teams that mutually respect each other and have have the same attitude and intensity and mentality to win trophies.” Diplomatic as ever.
“What about your time in Toronto,” Stefan Frei was asked, who spent the first five years of his professional career with TFC before being traded to Seattle in 2014.
“I look back fondly at my time in Toronto to be honest,” Frei said, preventing an international incident from exploding right then and there.
“How excited are you to host and the chance to win MLS Cup at home,” winger Jordan Morris was asked, who you may not have heard was born and raised in the Seattle area.
“For me personally it would be a dream come true to win MLS in my hometown.” Morris said.
“What do you need to do to win?”
“La concentración,” center back Roman Torres said. No translation needed there.
By far the most entertaining part of the proceedings was a question directed at Raul Ruidiaz, the Sounders’ star striker. A foreign outlet wondered how Ruidiaz was dealing with the unwieldy number of media requests he is required to fulfill in MLS, as opposed to leagues he has played in such as Liga MX.
“As a player I try to adapt to the everything, the spectacle.” Ruidiaz politely said, though the side-eye from a MLS PR representative may have pierced the reporter’s soul. If looks could kill.
Ultimately, these press conferences rarely reveal anything of note — the players are too well-coached not to provide bulletin-board material to the opposing team. But the show must go on, and the media press conference is definitely part of the show. Everyone is in “hurry up and wait” mode, and with the game still days away, it’s probably best to just take it all in. Even the press conference, as tedious as it may seem.
Altidore still seems unlikely to start
If there was one piece of news from the press conferences, it definitely came from Jozy Altidore, the Toronto FC striker who has been nursing a quad injury for nearly six weeks. Altidore made some news earlier in the week when he said it would take a “miracle” for him to play. After joking that he wished he never used the word “miracle,” he did reveal that his status for the game is up in the air — at best. Altidore indicated he hasn’t played any soccer in about a month, and he is still trying to get back his fitness. Whether or not you think he and TFC are sandbagging his status, he was convincing at least in his answers during the Toronto FC press conference. So either he will be out, or MLS may need to create a “Best Actor” award for MLS Cup.