Part One was released earlier today, looking at their lineup and form.
Seattle’s attack is a star-studded outfit that must be watched carefully if Toronto has any chance of stretching their streaks – winning and unbeaten – to three and four, respectively.
Obafemi Martins, the Nigerian front-man, is their top scorer; quick, powerful, and skillful on the ball, he poses a unique threat that very few forwards in the league embody.
Perhaps only Los Angeles’ Robbie Keane and Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio possess a similar ability. He has seven goals and three assists in just fourteen appearances (991 minutes) encompassing a mere eleven starts.
His tenacity, even when a chance looks gone, is part of what makes him such a challenge to mark. Toronto’s backline must remain alert at all times, less they be made to look as silly as DC did when Martins crafted this goal.
Complimenting his potency is Eddie Johnson, who has five goals and a single assist through limited minutes himself – having missed large chunks of the season on international duty.
Johnson has proved most dangerous on quick breaks, as his goal against Dallas from the weekend exhibits, where his pace and quality runs free him from the shackles of the defenders.
He is no slouch in the air either, and has a fierce shot from distance, which he does not mind unleashing on occasion.
Completing the attacking trio is Lamar Neagle, a local lad, who returned to the Sounders after a brief spell in Montreal.
Either paired up top or surging from the left-wing, Neagle has speed to burn and can finish and create, as his five goals and three assists attest.
Those three, each in possession of speed, make Seattle a very dangerous team on the counter.
A fairly common ploy from the Sounders is to focus on the right-side of the pitch, where Mauro Rosales tends to operate and DeAndre Yedlin overlaps, to open up the left-side for devastating breaks.
Or, they may just go straight down the middle, as in Johnson’s goal above, courtesy of a fine ball over the top from Brad Evans – who is a very useful role player that is often overlooked. When Sigi Schmid brings a player with him after changing clubs, one knows that the player offers value.
Then, of course, there is the service of Rosales from open-play or dead-balls that can cause trouble to no end.
Whether from a corner kick…
Or with a direct attempt at goal.
That Martins header was something else, eh?
Needless to say, Toronto would be wise to avoid silly fouls in their half of the field.
Interestingly, many of their strengthes are also their weaknesses.
They have suffered to properly mark and track runners in the box, either on free-kicks…
Or corner kicks – yes, the keeper flapped at this delivery, but Colorado’s Drew Moor was ridiculously open with a free run to the back-post to slice in from of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
Embarrassingly they even conceded directly from a corner, the dreaded Olimpico, from Dallas’ Michel, who has punished quite a few teams this season.
Similarly, they have struggled on service from wide areas.
Look how wide open Camilo gets at the back-post for this Russell Teibert cross – and how disjointed the Seattle backline gets as they try to push up.
And Rodney Wallace nodded in this Andrew Jean-Baptiste cross for a late Portland equalizer after a completely unobstructed run.
TFC should commit numbers forward, especially on recycled plays where the backline has lost track of their marks.
One gets the feeling Doneil Henry is due for a towering header soon.
That fractured back-four has been a weak point for the Sounders, watch for how out of line Hurtado is on this Findley goal. A few steps forward and the Salt Lake forward is offside, but a lack of recovery speed from the Seattle centre-backs leaves them overly cautious.
Or course, they have good reason to be wary, too high a backline gets burned by both the slow and the fast alike – both Kenny Miller and Darren Mattocks scored in a mid-July 2-0 loss in Vancouver, two forwards on opposite ends of the speed spectrum.
Points of Interest
Seattle won their meeting last season by a score of 3-1 with a David Estrada hat-trick overpowering a stunning strike from Ryan Johnson. That was the match where Torsten Frings’ excellent last-ditch tackle saw him jar his hip in the unforgiving surface, spelling doom for his time in Toronto.
Highlights can be viewed here.
Seattle has dominated the all-time series, winning five of the seven league meetings – outscoring TFC 12-5.
In Toronto, Seattle has won two of their three visits, with Toronto’s lone win coming in 2010 on goals from Dwayne De Rosario and O’Brien White.
Sigi has Toronto’s number; in thirteen all-time league meetings he has only ever lost once, winning eight.
As mentioned in Part One, the addition of Dempsey brings to MLS the Johnson-Dempsey partnership that features the goal salute familiar to US National Team fans, prompting Johnson to say, "We’re going to see a lot of saluting this year." Hopefully not this weekend.
Toronto fans should have a strong distaste for Eddie Johnson, as he scored the first ever goal at BMO field on April 28, 2007, in the 81st minute, ruining what should have been a marvelous day with a late strike for the Kansas City Wizards.
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated and Beckham Experiment fame, owner of a lovely hat, wrote a very elucidating article on the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Clint Dempsey transfer that is well worth the read. Apparently TFC was considered as a destination for the American star.