Seattle, WA (Sports Network) - Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC have spent
the last couple weeks focused on the CONCACAF Champions League, but now the
two clubs will turn their attention to Major League Soccer play as they meet
at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
The Sounders crashed out of the CCL after a midweek loss to Mexican side
Santos Laguna, but Toronto was able to advance to semifinals following a shock
win over the MLS champion Los Angeles Galaxy.
"I'm very proud because it was a great victory," TFC head coach Aron Winter
said to The Toronto Star. "We played like a team. We won like a team. And, we
It is a good sign for Winter and his grand plan. The Dutchman worked to
implement a style of play predicated on passing to go along with his 4-3-3
formation, but when things went south and Toronto found itself floundering at
the bottom of the Eastern Conference for much of last season, Winter was hit
with a great deal of criticism.
With some key additions and full offseason to prepare though, Toronto could be
poised for a much-improved season in 2012.
The Canadian club splurged on striker Danny Koevermans and midfielder Torsten
Frings in the middle of last season. Both players should greatly benefit from
additional time to become acclimated with new teammates in a new surrounding.
Toronto also did well to draft Luis Silva in the MLS SuperDraft. The youngster
has already tipped as the favorite to take home Rookie of the Year honors.
Throw in complimentary pieces like Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata and Julian de
Guzman, and Toronto could be ready to make some noise in the Eastern
Conference and clinch a playoff berth for the first time.
Seattle, meanwhile, has a similar goal involving the postseason, but the
Sounders are trying to advance from the first round of the playoffs for the
The Sounders have made the playoffs each year since entering MLS in 2009, but
they have never made it beyond the opening round. With little turnover on a
team that been one of the league's most successful clubs on and off the pitch
- the Sounders have won three straight U.S. Open Cup titles - Seattle is a
long shot to miss out on the postseason.
If the CCL quarterfinals were any indication though, Seattle still has a bit
of work to do before they can labeled a shoe-in for MLS Cup contention.
"Defensively I thought we had a poor game," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said
about the club's second-leg loss to Santos. "I think they won the duels. ...
When they win all the 50-50 balls, it's tough for your team to gain momentum.
Like I say, it's easy to point fingers and say this guy or that guy didn't
have a good game.
"Us, as a coaching staff, we need to look at it and we need to see what we
need to do to avoid these kinds of things in the future."
The Sounders made a couple of minor changes in the offseason, but the one
glaring change is at the goalkeeping position.
Kasey Keller, arguably the greatest American stopper ever, retired at season's
end, and the Sounders replaced him with the sure-handed Austrian Michael
Gspurning. How Gspurning performs throughout the campaign will have a major
impact on how the Sounders play in the back.