Sounders FC (1-0-0) vs. Toronto FC (0-0-0)
Saturday, March 15, 1:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
Local TV/radio: Q13 FOX, 97.3 FM, SiriusXM FC (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
National TV: NBC Sports Network (John Strong, Kyle Martino, Russ Thaler)
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO2), ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Canadian/French TV: TSN, RDS2
Referee: Ioannis Stavridis
KEY TORONTO FC PLAYERS
M Michael Bradley — Of course we have to start with him. The two-way midfielder can control a game in so many facets. He can break up an opponents’ attack. He can orchestrate his team’s own attack. He never turns the ball over. He can score (you see this free kick in preseason?). It doesn’t take long to see why some view the 26 year old as America’s best player.
F Jermain Defoe — Another multimillion acquisition has been all over the preseason Golden Boot discussion. The speedy 31-year-old English international arrives via Tottenham, where he was the one of the top goal-scorers in club and Premier League history. He’ll be motivated this year, as well, with his World Cup standing on the line.
D Steven Caldwell — The Reds acquired lots of attacking talent, but will this team be able to defend? Well, a lot of that responsibility falls on this 33-year-old Scot originally brought in on loan last season from Birmingham City. He quickly became a fan and team favorite, where some team blogs ranked him the best player of 2013 and the team has named him captain.
Obafemi Martins vs. Doneil Henry — The TFC defense didn’t have to deal with Seattle’s dynamic forward for very long last year, as he went out injured early (coincidentally making way for Clint Dempsey’s debut). But I expect Martins to have an active day in the offensive third, and Henry will want to make up for last year’s own goal.
GK Stefan Frei vs. Julio Cesar — The former Toronto goalkeeper has played down the sentiment of playing his former team with Seattle, but you can tell there is a bit of competitive fire burning to showcase what he can do. He won’t be playing the guy who took his job, though. No, he’s be opposite Brazil’s top goalkeeper at the moment.
TFC talent vs. TFC chemistry — The Sounders can very well relate to having an influx of talent and also have to make it work on the field. It’s not easy. Toronto has also had a ton of injury issues in preseason, which means the group will likely need several more weeks to develop some cohesiveness. Playing on the road in a hostile environment on a challenging surface could also play into it.
Let’s just get it out there. The MLSsoccer.com guys are going with Seattle in a clean sweep, and I agree.
Ultimately, I don’t think the visitors will have developed into a team that’s capable of coming into CenturyLink Field and getting a big road win in its first action. Having the Week 1 bye will have helped to get healthy and scout the Sounders, but again, I’m not expecting to light switch just to turn on with all the new additions.
Fortunately for the Reds, unlike the 2013 Seattle team, they have plenty of time to work things out. I just don’t expect to fall into place Saturday.
Sounders FC 2, Toronto FC 0
SEA — Obafemi Martins (un) 44′
SEA — Chad Marshall (Marco Pappa) 71′
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What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?