We’re just a few hours away now from finding out who will be the MLS Cup champion for 2016, drawing an end to the North American club season.
Our final question for Sounder at Heart concerned the meaning of tonight’s match for their fans and organization as a whole. Their journey to this match has been different to Toronto’s, but a lengthy one all the same.
You can also find our response to their final question further down the page.
WAKING THE RED: What would the MLS Cup mean to Seattle fans and the Sounders organization?
SOUNDER AT HEART:
Relief, exuberance, the completion of one quest and an immediate need to start another.
It would mean a parade through the heart of the city, and while that parade may only be tens of thousands rather than millions, it would be ours.
It would mean that this thing that Sigi Schmid and Adrian Hanauer built, that Brian Schmetzer and Garth Lagerwey refined, that Alan Hinton and Jimmy McAllister laid the foundation of, it's real and it is special. And that it will never go away again.
Beating Toronto would be especially nice because it would show the world that we Americans both north and south of the 49th (mostly south) love this beautiful game. We embrace it in the cold of winter and heat of summer. This is our game, in the rain and the sleet, the snow, the dry deserts and the marshlands. On an international stage with stars in their prime this game a symbol of how far North American soccer has come. I guess that happens even if TFC wins.
It means butts in the seats. There are about 20,000 empty seats most games. The Sounders want to fill those and winning a title will help in ways that brilliant marketing never could.
It means that a kid from Garfield or Mercer Island knows that they too can win championships playing soccer. They can not just earn a living, but be famous to some degree.
It means that perseverance and hard work can pay off. It means that a motley crew from scattered lands can excel together even when their best is unable to join them.
It would mean that once again, the Sounders are the best team in Cascadia.
It means that Brian Schmetzer's legend will live forever.
SOUNDER AT HEART: Who will be the match MVP if TFC wins?
WAKING THE RED:
In terms of who will be named the official MVP if Toronto win, it's difficult to look much further than Sebastian Giovinco or Jozy Altidore. If TFC are lifting the trophy, the likelihood is at least one of them will have scored a crucial goal.
As integral to the Reds' chances of success, however, is Michael Bradley. He was dominant in the most convincing playoff victory in MLS history over New York City, but struggled a little when flooded by Montreal's midfield runners in the conference final, particularly in the first leg. When Bradley plays well, it has the multiplying effect of not only protecting the back three but also adding to the pressure on the opposition by ensuring the ball is returned back in the right direction before they have had the chance to reorganize.
The captain is at his best when he plays a simple game. It has sometimes been to Bradley's detriment, particularly with his country, that he is an all-rounder capable of scoring, passing, running and tackling. If you ask him to do it all you risk spreading him too thin, but by having him play in a deeper, holding-midfield role Greg Vanney has drawn out his strengths more effectively than Jurgen Klinsmann.
He will be tasked with anticipating counter-attacks and stepping in before they have the chance to reach the TFC half, tracking Nicolas Lodeiro, playing early passes to spring the forwards and recycling possession in midfield when a more direct option is not available.
Perhaps most importantly, he is the true leader of this team. His professionalism and intelligence is not in question but during this playoff run we have seen a more emotional side of Bradley, which has endeared him further to the fans. He has bought in to every aspect of what makes Toronto special and we can only hope that is rewarded by seeing him lift the MLS Cup on Saturday night.