MLS Cup 2019 Completes a Trilogy

(Photo: Hopes Kikonyogo/Flickr)

by Russell Varner

There are few things people love more than a good grudge match, which means come Sunday afternoon, the soccer-watching world will be in luck when the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC face off for the third time in four years in the MLS Cup Final (3 p.m. EST on ABC – yay big networks!).

In case you checked out after Atl*nta Un*ted got knocked out (or just haven't been paying attention for whatever other reason), here are a few things to know before kickoff.

1. Round Three ... FIGHT!

While this is the third time the two clubs will meet in the final – becoming the second matchup to feature in three different MLS Cup finals (LA Galaxy and New England Revolution loved playing each other for a while there) – it will be the first played in Seattle. The first round in Toronto went to the Sounders, who won on penalties in 2016 after goalkeeper Stefan Frei (who has been quietly establishing himself as one of the best keepers in league history) made the best save, arguably, in MLS Cup final history.

In 2017, Toronto got revenge, winning 2-0 to complete the treble and finishing off the best season (also arguably) in MLS history.

Oh, and the only regular season meeting this year between the clubs was a 3-2 Sounders home win back in April. Fingers crossed for another goalfest.

2. All Falling Into Place for Seattle?

On paper, it looks like the Sounders should have the advantage heading into the match. Forward Raul Ruidiaz has three goals and three assists in three games this postseason, including a brace in the conference semifinals against a record-setting LAFC club.

Nico Lodeiro is arguably the best creative force in MLS, and the club features two USMNT players: do-it-all midfielder Cristian Roldan and forward Jordan Morris, who are both experiencing career years offensively. For Morris, this is particularly impressive because – lest we forget – this is his first season back from a torn ACL. Oh, and they are playing at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders lost just two games all season.

3. Or is Toronto a Team of Destiny?

However, Toronto FC is in the best form of any club in North America (R.I.P. Phoenix FC's $1 Beer Night run in USL). The Reds enter on a 13-game unbeaten run and haven't lost in their last eight road games.

What makes this even more impressive is that star forward (and frequent USMNT hate target) Jozy Altidore has not been available for a solid chunk of it. He could make a big difference if he is fit enough to play – he did score a brace against Seattle earlier this year. If not, Alejandro Pozuelo will continue to carry the offensive burden on his shoulders.

Toronto's lesser-known DP has two goals and two assists in the playoffs this year. Greg Vanney has done an excellent job of coaching this club (and probably should've gotten the USMNT job with the benefit of hindsight...) and has made the magic touch with all of his moves.

So, will you be watching the MLS Cup final this year? Where? Who are you cheering for? Join us in the Mint City Collective Slack to discuss.

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