The two teams who have appeared in the most MLS Cup finals over the past six seasons will meet for the first time in the regular season since 2019, as the Seattle Sounders wrap up their Canadian road trip by facing Toronto at BMO Field on Saturday.
These sides have faced each other three times for the Cup from 2016 to 2019, with the Sounders winning twice (2016, 2019), while the lone triumph for TFC came in 2017.
There is a lot of excitement in the Ontario capital at the moment, much more than you would expect for a team currently third from the bottom in the Eastern Conference with 18 points.
Most of the hype is centred around Lorenzo Insigne, who was recently introduced to the Toronto fans and will have plenty of high expectations to try and fulfil, while also trying to bring this once-great franchise back to respectability.
On paper, he seems like a fantastic addition who should provide them with more potency in the attacking third, although that area has never been a big problem for the Reds, who are currently in the top five when it comes to goals scored in their Conference (24).
Bob Bradley needs help fixing their leaky defence, who have conceded the joint second-most goals in MLS (32), and the club have entrusted another Italian to try and plug those holes, signing former Genoa defender Domenico Criscito.
June was a challenging month for Toronto, who have not had longer than four days to rest in between games since their return from the international break, winning two of their last three matches in all competitions.
One of the recurring themes for the Reds in the first half of this campaign has been a failure to put together a solid 90 minutes, as they have played well in stretches, but that has not always been sufficient enough for them to pick up points.
Seattle have not had any trouble starting games brightly of late, tallying first in four consecutive encounters, with three opening goals coming before the 10th minute.
There was always a belief that the Rave Green would eventually find their footing in this domestic campaign despite winning only two of their first eight fixtures, and they come into this match having earned at least a point in four of their last five MLS contests.
Brian Schmetzer has called on his wingers to provide more attacking width and production to this team, and his players have delivered.
The 59-year-old Seattle-born coach has one luxury that not many managers in this league can count on, as the Sounders possess a group of versatile players, who can adjust to any formation or tactical shift at a moment's notice.
As rugged and compact as they can be on the back end, Seattle have at times looked vulnerable against the press, conceding 18 goals so far this season, more than half of their entire regular-season total from 2021 (33).
Four of their seven defeats to this point of the campaign have come away from home, though the Rave Green have had plenty of fond memories at BMO Field, capturing their first MLS Cup there in 2016, while they have not lost a regular-season game in Toronto since 2010.
Jesus Jimenez notched his eighth of the season for Toronto on Wednesday in a 2-1 defeat at home to the Columbus Crew, while Alejandro Pozuelo moved ahead of him for first for the Reds in assists, picking up his fourth on that play.
Jonathan Osorio and Ralph Priso each found the back of the net last weekend, helping them defeat Atlanta United 2-1, while Alex Bono returned in between the sticks against Columbus, replacing Quentin Westberg, who started in their five previous outings in all competitions.
Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan have turned into quite the duo for the Sounders, with the two traditional wingers contributing 13 goals and 14 assists between them in MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) this season.
Last weekend goalkeeper Stefan Frei became the third player in Seattle history to make 300 appearances as the former Toronto shot-stopper has three clean sheets domestically in 2022.
Nicolas Lodeiro has chipped in nicely for the Sounders in limited action, with 13 goal contributions (goals and assists) in 17 starts across all competitions.
The four-time MLS Cup finalists will be without Joao Paulo for the remainder of the year (right ACL tear), Xavier Arreaga and Raul Ruidiaz are out with left hamstring strains, Obed Vargas has a lower back stress fracture and Josh Atencio might be ruled out once again because of health and safety protocols.
Toronto possible starting lineup:
Westberg; Chung, Salcedo, Mavinga, Marshall-Rutty; Bradley, Osorio; Priso, Akinola, Nelson; Jimenez
Seattle Sounders possible starting lineup:
Frei; Medranda, Andrade, Cissoko, Tolo; Atencio, Rusnak; C. Roldan, Lodeiro, Morris; Montero
We say: Toronto 1-1 Seattle Sounders
The energy and excitement with the newcomers in Toronto should provide the home side with a nice burst of momentum heading into this encounter, even though neither Insigne nor Criscito will be eligible to play until next week at the earliest.
Seattle were poor against CF Montreal in mid-week, losing 2-1, but they rarely drop consecutive encounters, so we expect them to come out more determined while doing enough to earn a point.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.
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