TORONTO (Reuters) - The Seattle Sounders hope to silence critics in Saturday’s MLS Cup rematch with Toronto FC following last year’s triumph on penalty kicks after they failed to put a single shot on goal during regulation.
During last year’s final, an energetic Toronto side pushed forward for set pieces while Seattle seemed more content to pick their spots on the counter but ultimately set an MLS Cup record with no shots on target.
“Certainly for the soccer pundits, for the sportscasters, for some of the people that classified our win last year as ‘no shots on goal,’ sure I’d like to silence some of those critics,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer told a conference call on Tuesday.
“But we never do not try and go out and score. We don’t bunker in for 90 minutes because we understand that that’s the way you don’t win soccer games.”
Toronto will again host Seattle in the MLS Cup and both teams are expecting a more open contest than last year but the Sounders are mindful of letting the game get away from them.
Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei said his team are at their best when they are defensively sound and so will do their best to avoid getting into a back-and-forth match with Toronto and risk opening up space for Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.
“We’re going to want to stay compact and organized and make it difficult for them but also take care of our chances when we get them,” said Swiss Frei, who was named the MLS Cup Most Valuable Player last year.
“Does that mean we are going to try and go for 0-0? No, not at all. We are going to try to be organized but definitely carve out some chances, hopefully more than last year.”
Italian Giovinco and American Altidore combined for 42 percent of their team’s goals during the regular season, but the dynamic duo will have their hands full against the Sounders.
Seattle have not conceded in a playoff record 647 minutes dating back to the first leg of the 2016 Western Conference Championship — a streak of nearly seven matches — and have not allowed a goal in their last 542 minutes dating back to their match with the Philadelphia Union on Oct. 1.
But Altidore, who shrugged off an ankle injury to score the goal that put Toronto into a second consecutive MLS Cup final, said he is not concerning himself with Seattle’s string of shutouts.
“It’s a final, it’s a different game,” said Altidore.
“Everything you’ve done up until this game, I’m not going to say it goes out the window entirely, but it’s just a different animal now than the games before.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge