For a second straight season, Toronto FC will take on the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field for the MLS Cup on Saturday afternoon (4 p.m. ET).
While the core of each club remain intact, there are some fresh faces who had no part in last year’s game, but will play pivotal roles in the sequel.
What took place on that cold December 2016 night where Seattle defeated Toronto 5-4 on penalty kicks is all but history. TFC head coach Greg Vanney says it’s been a while since he’s watched the game and he plans to view it again in the coming days.
But Vanney insists there isn’t much he can take from it besides reigniting the raw, competitive emotions that comes with a championship game.
“I’ll look at a few things tactically, but we’re just two different teams and we’ve had a whole year behind us to learn, grow, and evolve as teams,” Vanney says.
Perhaps the most notable absentee from a year ago was American international Clint Dempsey, who missed the entire 2016 post-season with an irregular heartbeat.
The Sounders’ forward gave the club another dimension to its offence, leading the team this season in goals (12) while adding five assists in 29 games played.
The 34-year-old has another three goals in as many post-season games this year.
“Clint is back into the mix…[he] is always a bit of an X factor. His ability to sniff out a situation and technically be able to pull [it all together]…you add that to [midfielder Nicolás] Lodeiro and they’ve been able to get some minutes together,” Vanney says.
Dempsey’s presence on the pitch alone commands attention and teams must be weary of him at all times.
“Clint’s been in all the big matches. He’s experienced a lot in his career and he has tons of skill and talent to go with it. He can hurt you in any moment,” says TFC defender Justin Morrow.
Toronto right wingback Steven Beitashour echoed his teammates’ statement, and has all the respect for the United States’ joint all-time goal scoring leader.
“You just look at his career — he’s [been] a star player in this league and in other leagues. You definitely have to keep an eye out for him from minute one to 90. He’s a good player and you want to limit his chances,” Beitashour says.
While Dempsey has been a game changer for the Sounders, TFC added…