There are quite a few storylines swirling around Saturday’s MLS Cup Final between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders. Both teams are contesting their first MLS Cup Final, Toronto is the first Canadian team to make it to the final, among other things. But one of the most intriguing aspects to Saturday’s showpiece fixture at BMO Field in Toronto is that it will pit two of the league’s most exciting talents against one another.
In one corner, you’ve got Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco; the Italian dynamo who couldn’t quite make it at Juventus and has come to MLS and become perhaps the best the league has ever seen.
In the other, Seattle’s Jordan Morris, the young American who had the opportunity to sign with Werder Bremen in the German Bundesliga, but took a different route, preferring to remain in his comfort zone in the Pacific Northwest. His father Michael is Chief Medical Director at the Sounders.
Giovinco is in his second rampaging season in MLS. Last season he was league MVP and his exclusion from the shortlist for this year’s honor – which eventually went to NYCFC’s David Villa – was a notable talking point for everyone, except Giovinco that is. The 29-year-old has carried on doing what he does, scoring goals, making assists, and basically turning MLS defenses inside out with his winding runs and telling passes.
With 17 goals and 14 assists in the regular season, Giovinco helped propel TFC into the playoffs and made them for a time, look like favorites to top the Eastern Conference. Although they eventually finished third, behind the two New York teams, they took the postseason by storm with Giovinco notching another four goals and two assists in playoffs.
Giovinco also seems to have brought out the best in Jozy Altidore. The USMNT striker has actually been Toronto’s best player in the postseason, particularly over the two legs of TFC’s Eastern Conference semifinal against Montreal Impact.
Although he hobbled off the pitch before the final whistle in the second leg against Montreal, Giovinco has been pronounced fit to play in Saturday’s final. And if TFC is to go the last step and hoist its first MLS Cup on Saturday, the Italian will surely have a part to play.
Jordan Morris is still in his first season as a professional soccer player. However, the former Stanford star has found his feet quickly. Although many U.S. soccer watchers were disappointed in the 22-year-old’s decision to spurn the challenge of European top-flight soccer for MLS, Morris has vindicated his decision by being Seattle’s best player this season.
And it’s been a particularly challenging campaign for the Emerald City outfit. In July, the Sounders parted way with long-time coach Sigi Schmid. In August, the team’s star player and attacking talisman Clint Dempsey was ruled out for the remainder of the season with a heart murmur. Into the fray has stepped Morris.
The rookie attacker was Seattle’s leading scorer in the regular season with 12 goals and three assists. Chipping in with two more goals and another assist in the postseason, Morris has already earned the right to call his debut season an unqualified success, regardless of Saturday’s result.
While other players have stepped up in the playoffs – notably Nicolas Lodeiro and Nelson Valdez – Seattle would never have made it this far were it not or Morris. Although Brian Schmetzer who was named interim manager after Schmid’s departure, and later given the role full-time, must also take some credit.
Two exceptional players, at slightly different points in their careers, but only one will lift the MLS Cup come the final whistle on Saturday.
Don’t miss the 2016 MLS Cup Final, this Saturday December 10 at 8:00 p.m. EST on Fox.