Toronto FC: Scouting the Seattle Sounders


Toronto FC are set to host another MLS Cup Final in a rematch from last season against the Seattle Sounders, but will the outcome by different this time?

Both Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders have been the measuring stick for MLS over the past couple of years. The two squads have had their success recently. Now, it all boils down to one match this coming Saturday, at BMO Field.

Things didn’t end on a high note for the Reds in the championship game last season. The Pacific Nowrthwest club edged TFC on penalties by a score of 6-5, to capture the MLS crown right in front of the Reds’ supporters.

The Sounders are looking for consecutive MLS Cup titles, after dominating the Houston Dynamo 5-0 on aggregate.

The difference between the average MLS club and Seattle is that the Sounders are known across the world. A couple of years ago, United States National Team star Clint Dempsey appeared on the cover of FIFA 15, while wearing the crisp light green Xbox shirt.

To become globally known as the Sounders are, requires success on the pitch. The players and coaching staff contribute to Seattle’s incredible results on the field, which makes things that much harder for Toronto FC to gameplan against them.

Here at Tip of the Tower, we will try to make it a bit easier on the Reds as the Seattle Sounders will be scouted in this piece. We’ll break down Seattle’s top players and best formations in hopes that TFC will lift their first ever MLS Cup in franchise history.

Sounders Roster

It would be hard to not start off with 34-year-old Dempsey, as he’s been the key to Seattle’s success all season long.

Dempsey was sidelined with an irregular heartbeat that kept him out for the second half of the Sounders’ championship campaign. This season, Dempsey has been able to notch a total of 15 goals and four assists in 28 starts. As a result, the 2004 MLS Rookie of the Year was named the 2017 MLS Comeback Player of the Year.

What’s dangerous about the American, is his ability to shift in between the forward and midfield areas. Dempsey contains a crisp 84 percent pass success rate, while averaging two key passes per game.

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On the other hand, Dempsey is very weak defensively. Expect the Sounders to start Dempsey in more of an attacking role, or else Toronto FC might have a field day with him.

Adding to the Sounders’ play at the top will be forward Cristian Roldan and attacking midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro.

The duo combine for 13 goals and 12 assists leading the team in average match rating, according to WhoScored.

What’s interesting about both Roldan and Lodeiro is they both come at a prime development age. At 22-years-old, Roldan has many years ahead of him, and he hasn’t even hit his prime yet. Loderio comes at the age of 28 and was still able to log over 3,000 minutes this season.

Will Bruin is another player worth noting, as he’s been a goal-scoring machine for years in MLS. Bruin already has 13 bulges of the net in this campaign.

The Sounders love to field defenders that can play on both the back line and in the midfield. In fact, four of their top nine defenders can play in the middle of the park too.

At the top of Seattle’s sublime list of defenders is Kelvin Leerdam.

Leerdam previously featured with Netherlands side Feyenoord, and has been able to carry that European style of play over to North America. The Sounders have enjoyed the experience from the defender that he’s been able to bring to MLS, according to the Sounders’ website:

"Adding Kelvin is another big step for our club. To get a player with European experience in his prime who spurned offers to play [UEFA] Champions League to come to Seattle is a sign of our progress."

The 27-year-old notches two tackles, interceptions and clearances per game. Leerdam also seems to struggle when distributing the ball, with the worst pass success rate on the club for players that play regular minutes.

Experienced keeper Stefan Frei returned to another year of MLS action after winning it all with Seattle last season. The native of Switzerland averages three saves per game. Similar to Zach Steffen in the last round, Frei is very good at saving penalties. The 31-year-old saves one chance in the area per contest.

Toronto FC face their biggest challenge of the season in the final game. The depth of the Sounders certainly won’t make things any easier for the Reds.

Tactics and Formation

Sounders’ coach Brian Schmetzer prefers to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation. As we noted earlier, the Sounders absolutely obliterated Houston in both legs while running the lineup.

The idea is to keep the ball towards the attacking midfield and let them create the magic. Dempsey, Bruin and Loderio can all hog possession and keep the ball away from their own area. In the Sounders’ last leg, it was noted they attacked primarily down the left side of the pitch.

Once the Sounders really start to establish their game, they take a dangerous amount of high-quality shots from virtually anywhere on the green. Frei is a great goalkeeper, but Seattle prefers to keep the ball away from him as much as possible.

The Reds can simply counter this by setting their backline and Michael Bradley to watch the three up front. If all goes well, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore should create enough of a distraction for the six players towards the back. In all, this should isolate the players at the top and force Seattle to play Toronto’s game.

Next: Michael Bradley leading by example

Who do you think poses the biggest threat for Toronto FC? Will they win the MLS Cup? Let us know in the comments below.