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MLS Cup training notes: The final countdown

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Sounders, TFC conclude preparations for MLS Cup.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

SEATTLE — All that’s left to do is wait.

The Seattle Sounders concluded their last training session of the year Saturday at CenturyLink Field, ahead of what could be fairly argued to be the most important soccer event in the history of the State of Washington. Sunday, in front of more than 69,000 spectators, the Sounders will attempt to raise the MLS Cup in their home in a game that in some ways provides a tidy bookend to their first decade of their existence in Major League Soccer.

With all of the training finished and media obligations completed, the Sounders will take the last hours before the game to finish preparations and mentally focus on the goal at hand. Head coach Brian Schmetzer held his final press conference and addressed the last-day routine for the team, which may include Words With Friends, and definitely will include a glass of red wine with a member of his staff.

“We are going to do the same routine we always do,” Schmetzer said. “We’ll have our team meal, we’ll do whatever last-minute film we need to do, we’ll treat it as a normal game. It’s just preparation for what our jobs are, to give the players the tools to be successful and we want to make sure we do that.”

Toronto FC Coach Greg Vanney addressed the status of Designated Player Jozy Altidore, who has been out for over a month with quad injury. Altidore was involved in some training, but is listed as questionable on the injury report. Vanney indicated that if Altidore recovers from today’s session, he could play some role in the game on Sunday.

Given his status is still up in the air, Schmetzer said the team has accounted for both possibilities.

“We’ve planned for Jozy playing and for not playing,” Schmetzer said. “I’m sure he’s going to be involved in the game at some point. He’s too big of a player [and] it’s a final. I think we have a good game plan in place, and even if he doesn’t play they’re a dangerous team. We’ll be prepared for either scenario.”

Jordan Morris knows Altidore well, being teammates with him on the national team, and believes the team will be ready for Toronto whether the lineup includes the prolific striker or not.

“He’s a strong forward, a really good finisher in the box, a guy who just causes havoc,” Morris said. “It’s a little bit different when they’re playing with him versus [Alejandro] Pozuelo there, not as much of a holdup player. We just have to prepare for both options.”

Schmetzer has some personnel decisions of his own to make, with three centerbacks for (presumably) two spots. Roman Torres is back to full health and went though training with no issues. As did Victor Rodriguez, who has long since recovered from his lingering injury problems. Thus the question will be whether Schmetzer sticks what what has been working, or opts to change things up. Xavier Arreaga had an impressive showing against Los Angeles FC, though the concern about his late-season yellow cards (four in two games) certainly must be in the back of Schmetzer’s mind, no matter how questionable the respective calls may have been.

Notes

Vanney had a somewhat eyebrow-raising quote when he was asked about what he expects from the crowd on Sunday. “Fans create atmosphere, they don’t win games,” Vanney said. ... The Sounders announced that a limited number of standing-room only tickets will go on sale Sunday at 9 a.m. at the CenturyLink box office. The views may be partially obstructed and fans wishing to purchase the tickets must be at the stadium in person. There are estimated to be around 200 tickets available. ... Kickoff is at 12:08 local time, and gates open at 10 a.m. ... Macklemore will be performing prior to the March to the Match, which is scheduled for 10:45 a.m.