The key battle in the 2016 MLS Cup final between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders will be what happens in the midfield, according to former U.S. international Brian McBride.
The matchup will feature plenty of firepower on both sides as Seattle boasts playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro, while Toronto has Michael Bradley, along with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, who will often drop deeper in order to impact the game.
And McBride, who spoke to Goal USA as part of an Allstate-sponsored clinic to help underfunded youth soccer teams, sees dealing with those attacking threats as the deciding factor in the contest.
“The biggest thing for me is going to the midfield with the impact Lodeiro can have,” McBride said, “and the ability Toronto has to drop someone into the midfield and transition via either Giovinco’s special skills or Jozy (Altidore) with the way he’s played lately.”
McBride noted how Osvaldo Alonso handles Giovinco in a very difficult assignment as being something to watch out for.
“I think (a big key) is space — who can condense that space around the defense the best?” McBride said. “Ozzie Alonso, in my opinion, is one of the best defensive center midfielders in the league, but you saw what Montreal did to limit that space for Giovinco — they added an extra player and really congested that middle of the field.
“I don’t see Seattle doing that very much. They like to play an open side. What a lot depends on whether (Toronto FC) is going to have a lot of space to find Giovinco’s feet because I think that will be detrimental to Seattle. Having said that, I think Chad Marshall is a very good defender and Roman Torres is up for any fight too and is a good defender in his own right.”
What makes Giovinco so dangerous? The former Fulham man credits the Italian attacker’s skill set, which includes the imagination to dream up difficult moves and the technical ability to turn those dreams into reality.
“He’s so gifted technically. You look at his ability when he gets the ball at his feet to get out of tight spaces,” McBride said. “He’s got excellent touch, he’s got excellent footwork, he can finish with both feet. But, to me, the biggest thing what separates him from the rest of the talented players in the league is his ability to think and do — act upon his thought process and pull off something people don’t think he’s capable of.
"His agility, in terms of turning quickly, his low center of gravity — I think he has attributes that if he gets the right touch, he can do things that most people don’t even think about trying to do.”
As for how it will turn out, McBride sees a close-fought contest should really come to life as the match goes on.
“I really think this is going to be a really good game. I can see Toronto being very aggressive, listening to some of the stuff (Toronto FC coach) Greg Vanney said. I do think there will be a ‘figuring out’ period of the game but after that, both these teams like to play wide open and there are some really, good talented players,” McBride said. “In the end, the little more talent Toronto has, along with being at home, is probably going to take them to the win.”