Jimmy Mack: Toronto FC
In all honestly, it’s hard to pick against the Seattle Sounders. They’ve turned into the hottest team in all of MLS. The combined attacking threat of Nicolás Lodeiro and Jordan Morris is enough to strike fear in the heart of any defender. And despite a much improved defense compared to early in the season, Toronto FC seemed to regress against the Impact in the Eastern Conference finals, allowing five goals over the course of the tie. So that means I’m picking Seattle, right?
Despite their inconsistencies, Toronto FC found something in the second leg of the conference championship. With their backs against the wall, facing a heart-breaking elimination at the hands of their bitter rivals in front of their home crowd, TFC stepped up with five goals from five different players, none of them named Giovinco. So you’re telling me TFC can score en masse without having to lean on Seba? That’s scary.
Toronto will be in front of their home fans at BMO once again Saturday night for their first ever MLS Cup appearance. While I think this game will be a hard fought battle that goes to extra time, it seems the stars have aligned this year for the boys in red. I just can’t bring myself to go against them.
I can only hope Osorio scores the game winner so we can get another post-game interview for the ages.
Friggin‘ Toronto FC wins 4-3 in extra time.
Steven Clark: Seattle Sounders FC
Toronto FC’s regular season rocketed out of the gate, picking up eleven points in eight matches, all on the road thanks to the renovation project at BMO Field; they scored ten and gave up only six in that time frame. The rest of the year maintained that level of consistency, aside from a small hiccup between May and June. The club allowed the fewest goals in the East during the regular season, and was eleven goals off the pace of leaders NYCFC in goals scored. Meanwhile, Seattle picked up ten points in their first eight (all but one point on home turf), and not winning a single road game until June. Their slump would continue until Sigi Schmid’s firing deep into the month of July. Their woes on the road dissipated, but the team could never really shake off the demons. The Sounders’ last away win before Sunday’s elimination match at Colorado was in the first weekend of October against a poor form Vancouver Whitecaps team which required a Brad Evans penalty late in the 2nd half to achieve. Toronto’s last home loss was on that same weekend against a D.C. United that seemed unstoppable at that time.
All of that said, this playoff run has gone against convention, seeing a myriad of goals in the East and a spattering in the West. Toronto has scored an astounding seventeen goals this post-season and allowing six, five of them to Montreal alone. Seattle has scored a respectable eight goals, but has given up only three goals in those five matches, posting three clean sheets in the process. Given the form of Roldan, Lodeiro, and Alonso in the midfield both offensively and defensively, Altidore’s service may be more choked than usual, forcing Bradley and Giovinco into uncomfortable situations. Toronto’s five goals allowed in the last two games are too much to overlook, which gives Seattle a miniscule advantage. If TFC wins this match, it will be because the match went to penalties. I predict a 2-2 draw which will go past extra time, but will give Seattle the edge in a 2-1 victory in extra time if I am forced to pick a winner.
Cory Jensen: Toronto FC
I’m going to pick TFC. I believe in Canada. I don’t believe in Nickelback. They’re Albertans, anyhow. But I believe in poutine.
And the ghost of Danny Koevermans.
And “Run to You” by Bryan Adams.
And Lil’ Seb Vinco.
And Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye Whiskey.
And Our Lady Peace.
I saw Danny Koevermans score a goal against FCD in Toyota Stadium about four years ago. Pulled pork poutine, smothered with gravy was a delicacy that I once enjoyed at the Canadian steakhouse inside Epcot. Sebastian Giovinco is fun to watch. And frankly, the only way I can listen to Our Lady Peace at the age of 32 is with large amounts of pristine, pure Canadian whiskey, the best in the world.
And to be even more honest: I hate you, Seattle. I hate you for the 2014 MLS playoffs where you knocked out my beloved FC Dallas on away goals, despite Dallas never actually losing a match.
However, I love you because you gave me Sir Mix-a-lot, Sunny Day Real Estate, Nirvana, and Temple of the Dog, and thusly gave us Dave Grohl, who is the only man, alongside Tom Hanks, in which Americans still have faith.
And, yeah, you did give us Kenny G, so there’s that. A black mark on society if there ever was one.
But I can’t get past this year’s playoff defeat, despite your cultural contributions. You can ask the many writers that grace the halls of Total MLS, “What things has Cory stated about Seattle in the 2016 MLS season?”
Possible responses might include:
“Lodeiro is a poor man’s Mauro Diaz.”
“Brian Schmetzer looks like an accountant and a bad one at that.”
“Ozzie Alonzo is a Holocaust denier.”
Only two of those statements are true. Choose wisely!
This is really a point of no return. It’s essentially an errant fart in an elevator occupied by two people. It’s time to own this. I guess that makes me #TFCTID, and I will wear it on my sleeve today.