MLS Cup final: Six players to look out for as Toronto FC face Seattle Sounders
By Ben McAleer, WhoScored.com
Last Updated: 09/12/17 9:48pm
It's been a long old slog in MLS this season, but Saturday marks the MLS Cup final, where Toronto FC face Seattle Sounders for the second successive year. The Sounders landed a penalty shootout win 12 months ago and Toronto FC will be out to exact revenge at BMO Field, live on Sky Sports.
Here, WhoScored.com run down the three top-rated players from either side worth keeping an eye on ahead of Saturday's showdown…
One of the standout stars in MLS, Giovinco has netted 60 goals in his three years following his move to Toronto FC in 2015, 17 of which have come in the Reds' progression to the MLS Cup final. A WhoScored.com rating of 7.42 is the best of all players coming into Saturday's meeting with the Sounders, however the Italian is yet to score against their final opponents in two attempts.
Giovinco will look to make up for last year's no show at BMO Field this weekend, though his form of late has fallen below the exceedingly high expectations set by the Atomic Ant. Indeed, the former Juventus man has scored just two goals in his last six top-flight outings, though that has not affected his confidence in front of goal - only David Villa (151) has had more shots than Giovinco (134) in MLS this term.
It could well be that three is the magic number for the 30-year-old, who can turn a game on its head at the drop of a hat.
Upon his arrival from Cruz Azul back in February, few could have foreseen Vazquez having such a lasting impact in MLS. Only Albert Rusnak (13) and Michael Barrios (12) has registered more assists than the experienced Spaniard (11) this season, four which came for a Jozy Altidore - more on him later - goal, that in turn one of the better returns in the league.
Having provided the key assist in the second-leg 1-0 win over Columbus Crew, the 30-year-old boasts the big game experience required to help Toronto FC to glory. Vazquez is making more key passes per game (2.5) than any other teammate, while a return of 10 accurate through balls, that in turn more than any other player in Major League Soccer this term, highlights his ability to thread through the eye of the needle.
Vazquez's good form has yielded a WhoScored.com rating of 7.20 this season and the Sounders need to keep a close eye on the former Barcelona man this weekend or run the risk of letting the game get away from them.
With 16 goals and six assists on their way to the final match of the MLS season, former Sunderland man Altidore has been in excellent form over the duration of the campaign. He's carrying an ankle injury coming into the meeting with the Sounders, but that won't keep the 28-year-old out of the final. "For him, it's not even a discussion - he will be there Saturday, and he will be there 100%," Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said earlier in the week.
It's no shock the Reds are keen to have their star forward fit to feature this weekend. He bagged the decisive goal against Columbus Crew, while Altidore's strikes were worth an additional 10 points over the campaign, including the winning goal in the 1-0 win in Seattle back in May. A conversion rate of 22.2% this term is a respectable return for the frontman and his availability, even if he is carrying a knock, is a boost for Toronto. With Vazquez in support of Giovinco and Altidore, then Toronto will be confident of avenging last year's defeat to the Sounders.
Roldan may have been a prominent figure in the Seattle Sounders XI last season, but the young midfielder has stepped his game up this term, with his WhoScored.com rating (7.41) among the best in MLS. The 22-year-old's ball-winning quality is crucial in midfield and having made 131 tackles, more than any other MLS player this term, Roldan's influence in the middle of the park looks set to determine how much or little creative freedom Toronto FC have in the midfield and attacking thirds.
Yet Roldan isn't primarily a holding midfielder by any stretch. The USA international has started in no fewer than six positions this season and while his best role is in the double pivot in front of the defence, he offers plenty going forward too, returning six goals from 1.1 shots per game and two assists from 1.3 key passes per game.
If he is able to keep Giovinco, Altidore and, in particular, Vazquez at bay, then the Sounders have a great chance of making it back-to-back MLS Cup wins.
Named the MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2016, Lodeiro followed up his successful debut campaign in Seattle with a superb showing in his first full season for the Sounders having arrived midway through 2016. The Uruguayan rapidly established himself as the creative hub in Brian Schmetzer's side and he's continued to pull the strings with aplomb. Seven goals and a further 10 assists were both commendable returns for Lodeiro, who is undeniably the danger man Toronto FC need to keep a watchful eye on.
Only Sacha Kljestan (118) has made more key passes then Lodeiro (108) in MLS this season, while no player has created more clear-cut goalscoring chances than the former Boca man (14) that return level with Saturday's opposite number Vazquez. The incredibly versatile creative star is also given license to drift across the final third and having made more successful final third passes (831) Schmetzer's decision to allow Lodeiro free reign in attack is reaping the rewards.
The Uruguay international has had a direct hand in just one goal in his last four league outings, a disappointing return by his standards. If he's on top form, however, Lodeiro has the means to make the difference this weekend.
Despite rumours last year circulating that Dempsey will be forced to retire from the game due to an irregular heartbeat, the former Fulham and Tottenham man returned to fitness before the start of the 2017 MLS season and was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year last month. The 34-year-old marked his return to action with a fine return of 15 goals and four assists and he'll be keen to play a key role in Saturday's meeting with Toronto FC.
He may not be the most technically gifted star in this Sounders setup, but he's crucial in their 4-2-3-1 formation behind striker Will Bruin. A knack for being in the right place at the right time to bury chances means 13 of his 15 league goals this term have been scored inside the 18-yard box, while his willingness to operate closer to Bruin opens up space for Lodeiro to maximise. A WhoScored.com rating of 7.10 is a respectable return for Dempsey, who'll now be looking to make up for last time after being forced to miss the penalty shoot-out win over Toronto FC last year.
Eighteen months ago, Dempsey said he wants to retire a Sounder - victory in the MLS Cup final could well provide the perfect chance to hang up his boots and allow him to bow out from the game with another winners' medal around his neck.
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