Dec. 11, 2016
MLS Cup Preview: Featuring Three Guest Writers
MLS Cup is here! No matter the winner this is going to be an extremely historic MLS Cup. I am going to do a rundown of each team, their journey, and eventually my pick for MLS Cup. But before I go into my usual breakdown of this game I have exciting news for this article. I am extremely happy to introduce three writers/podcasters who I have met in the MLS community. Each writer will be giving their own breakdown of each team and their view of MLS Cup. I encourage all my readers to take a minute and check out each of the following writers on Twitter, Youtube, or their respective podcasts.
First off, I`d like to introduce Matthew McQuillan. Matthew is a lifelong Philadelphian who is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Union. Matthew runs a podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud names Pilly Soccer Pod. The podcast mainly focuses on the Philadelphia Union. You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @matt_mcquill and you can follow the podcast on Twitter at @phillysoccerpod. Here is Matthew`s take on MLS Cup:
"Seattle’s strength is in the middle of the field. They have a talented playmaker in Nicolás Lodeiro, who favors the middle even when he plays as a winger. The Uruguayan dynamo is supported by Osvaldo Alonso, an experienced and physical defensive midfielder. The Sounders often force teams to adjust to their style of playing through the middle, only to exploit the space that will open up out wide. Seattle’s back line is battle-tested, and their fullbacks are some of the best in MLS at getting involved in the attack. In order to stifle Toronto, sole striker Nelson Valdez will have to keep constant pressure on their defenders when they are in possession, and Seattle’s CAM cannot allow Michael Bradley time on the ball to distribute and link the defense to the offense.
Expect Seattle to line up in their favored 4-2-3-1, with Osvaldo Alonso and Cristian Roldan anchoring the midfield. Jordan Morris will be on the right wing. The left side is a toss up between Nicolás Lodeiro (reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year), and Andreas Ivanschitz. If Ivanschitz plays on the left wing, Lodeiro will handle the playmaking duties of a traditional number 10. If Lodeiro plays on the wing, Erik Friberg will most likely occupy the center attacking midfield spot, but expect Lodeiro to tuck inside. He is the Sounders’ most influential player, and the role in which coach Brian Schmetzer deploys him in could make or break this game.
Toronto FC will likely put out a 3-5-2, with Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour staying wide on either side. Coach Greg Vanney will have to choose between Jonathan Osorio’s creativity and the savvy veteran presence of Will Johnson in the midfield. Michael Bradley will play as the most central midfielder, with freedom to roam anywhere. Look for him to collect the ball from the back line and pick out the other midfielders, especially Johnson/Osorio and Armando Cooper. Toronto must make sure Bradley has a lot of the ball. If they can possess the ball in Seattle’s half and let Bradley find Sebastian Giovinco or the in-form Jozy Altidore, TFC’s attack will be tough to stop.
Prediction: Toronto wins 3-1
-3 reasons why:
1. Jozy Altidore is in the best form of his life. If anybody is ready for a cup final, it’s him.
2. Despite its postseason success without Clint Dempsey, I think Seattle lacks the offensive firepower to win MLS Cup unless he’s on the field.
3. Toronto FC has outscored its opponents a combined 8-1 after the 60th minute. This team can produce when the pressure is on. Watching TFC this postseason, one can’t help but feel like this is their year."
Second, we have Luis Baron. Luis is a resident of Los Angeles and has been a fan of the LA Galaxy since 1996. He has had season tickets to the Galaxy since 2006. His fandom of the Galaxy has turned into a podcast that he loves to do. Luis and two of his buddies run a podcast LA is our House. The podcast focuses on the LA Galaxy, MLS, and the U.S. Men`s National Team. You can hear the podcast on most sites but I like to listen to them on iTunes. To follow Luis and the guys you can go over to Twitter and follow them at @LAisOurHouse, follow them on Instagram at la_is_our_house, and they have a Facebook page coming soon. Here is what Luis has to say about MLS Cup:
"After 9 long months, the MLS season is coming to an end and the last 2 teams standing are the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC. Both are making their MLS Cup debuts but only 1 will be adding that coveted first star to their jersey. This has the makings to be an MLS Cup instant classic and neutral fans should be salivating with anticipation. The lineups are star-studded and seem to be evenly matched. So who wins MLS Cup 2016 and who has to wait another year to get another shot at their first title? I will do my best to try to do the impossible and successfully predict the outcome of an MLS game.
Let’s start by breaking down the visiting Seattle Sounders. After being left for dead midseason, Seattle fired head coach Sigi Schmid and signed future MVP candidate Nicolas Lodeiro. They have since been the hottest team in MLS and have been playing like the championship contending team they were supposed to be this season. Rookie Jordan Morris has been playing like the star Seattle fans were hoping he would be thanks to the vision and defense-breaking play of Lodeiro. The 2 have been one of the most dangerous duos in the league and can cause headaches for any defense. Nelson Valdez has been a bust all season but appears to have found some confidence in the playoffs. He scored the game winner against KC and was a part of the goals scored against Colorado. Leaving him space or unmarked would be a devastating mistake and he will surely make you pay. Needless to say, Seattle can hit you from all angles and can score goals at will. However, Seattle isn’t just offense. They have one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS. Osvaldo Alonso has provided great protection for the backline, and thanks to his play, were able to shut down a strong Dallas attack and keep Colorado to 0 shots on goal despite giving up a lot of possession. Seattle has all the tools to win their first title, but will it be enough to get over that last hump and exorcise their playoff demons?
Toronto enters this match riding an emotional high. After a thrilling and entertaining series against their Canadian rival Montreal, Toronto feels that this might finally be their year. They too have all the tools needed to win the title and can counter Seattle’s stars with some of their own. Sebastian Giovinco, last year’s MVP, has been picking apart defenses ever since he came into the league. His vision and playmaking ability has made everyone around him that much better. Enter Jozy Altidore. Altidore has been on a fantastic playoff run. He has scored in every single playoff game so far, an MLS record. The star striker for the USMNT will surely be the best forward on the field in this game and with his confidence at an all-time high, Seattle will have a difficult time keeping him in check. Finally, there is Michael Bradley, the last piece of Toronto’s 3-headed monster. Bradley hasn’t quite been in great form defensively for Toronto, but don’t give up on Captain America just yet. He has come up big when he is needed the most. His experience in big games for the USMNT will play a pivotal role in helping Toronto win this game.
Who has the advantage? These teams seem to be evenly matched up. We all know that both of these teams have a high-octane offense and will surely score goals. This game will be won by the defense. Stopping either one of these offenses is no easy task, and the winner of the defensive battle will surely be crowned MLS Champion. I give the defensive advantage to Seattle here. However, there is one advantage that Toronto has that is difficult to overcome: the home field advantage. Home field advantage in a 2 legged playoff series doesn’t mean too much in MLS, but it definitely becomes more valuable in a 1 game playoff. This is why I have Toronto winning MLS Cup by a 3-2 margin."
Our final guest writer for today`s article is a close friend of mine, Riley McManus. Riley is a high school student from Louisiana and a huge MLS fan that knows a lot about the league. A fun fact about Riley is that oddly loves the color clear (if that is technically a color). Riley is the U.S. Men`s National Team and MLS analyst for the World Football News Network. The World Football News Network has a Youtube channel that covers a wide variety of soccer news from around the globe. Riley has a numerous amount of MLS and USMNT related videos on their Youtube channel. You can also follow Riley and the World Football News Network on Twitter at @RileyJamesMC and @footballnews167 respectively. Here is Riley`s take on this year's MLS Cup:
"So, MLS Cup is here, and again we crown a new champion. Now the question that we all want to know is this: will the confetti have the sprinkling tint of Rave Green or a gleaming Canadian hue of red? December 10th is when we present the second most beautiful trophy (American bias) in soccer (behind the World Cup, of course). Who you got?
So, we start with representative from the Eastern Conference, Toronto FC. Of course, we know about guys like Jozy Altidore, Will Johnson, Clint Irwin, and the Italian superstar Sebastian Giovinco. The Toronto gang as a whole played extremely well all through the tear finishing 3rd in the East behind a pair of teams from the Empire State. Speaking of the 5’ 4” Giovinco, the Toronto star man tallied up 17 goals in only 28 regular season games, also adding 15 assists. A dominate run through the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, beating the Philadelphia Union in the knockout stage; the advanced to handily destroy NYCFC and advance to play the hated Montreal Impact, who was taken down in an instant classic.
Next, are the Seattle Sounders, yeah those Seattle Sounders. The same Seattle that was dead in the water in June, and who fired their coach, and seemed doomed to miss the playoffs for the first time in their 8 year MLS existence. Then, a godsend named Nicolas Loderio showed up from the bowls of Argentina. Combine that with the excellent play of MLS Rookie of the Year Jordan Morris (side comment: Keegan Rosenberry should have won) and the Sounders were back in the playoff conversation. Finishing 4th in the west, they handled Sporting Kansas City in the knockout round. Next was heavily favored FC Dallas, the U.S. Open Cup champions, as well as, the Supporter’s Shield holder. Against every metric in the book, they won. Next were the Cinderella Rapids… I mean Colorado. Jordan Morris proved huge with 2 playoff goals to clinch the win.
So with all that, you make the choice. Green or Red?" Riley`s pick for MLS Cup was a 2-2 draw between Toronto FC and the Sounders. He picked Toronto FC to win in penalty kicks.
After three guest writers we finally come down to the MLS Aces pick:
"Since our guest writers have done a phenomenal job in recapping the season`s for TFC and the Sounders I`ll dive into the game itself. Honestly, I don`t know how this game will go. I can see this game being extremely high scoring or ending in a 1-0 defensive win. I am leaning more towards a high scoring win by one of these teams.
Toronto FC is in great form. They came out in these playoffs an were able to beat two tough teams in NYCFC and the Impact. Toronto has also the most in-form player in the league, Jozy Altidore. Jozy in on fire and if he doesn`t score in this game I will be shocked. Toronto also has the best player in the league, Sebastian Giovinco. Given the extreme talent of Altidore, Giovinco, and Michael Bradley TFC will be a tough stop for the Sounder`s defense.
Seattle was down and out half way through the season... and here they are. The Sounders have been lead by Nicolas Lodiero, Ozzie Alonso, and super rookie Jordan Morris. The Sounders play tough defense and have beaten some of the best teams in the league in these playoffs (FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids). Seattle will need another miraculous performance from Morris and Lodiero to get past the attacking dominance of TFC.
Given the hot form of TFC and the home field advantage for them, I am picking Toronto FC to beat the Sounders 4-2. After reading four different breakdowns and predictions from four great writers, there seems to be a consensus that Toronto FC will be the next MLS Cup champions. Who do you think will be winning the most important soccer trophy in North America?"