Toronto FC fans may have the date circled on their calendars but the team itself is playing down the revenge factor in Saturday’s MLS Cup final rematch in Seattle.
It was just five months ago that the Sounders defeated Toronto in a penalty shootout at BMO Field after a 0-0 championship game that saw Seattle fail to register a shot on target during regulation or extra time.
“You can’t ever make up for a final in a regular-season game. There’s no way of doing that,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney.
He offers the company line that Saturday’s game is just another chance to pick up three points. Dig a little deeper and the emotion still seems raw, however.
While politely crediting the Sounders for the Cup win, he acknowledged calling Seattle champion is “a hard thing to say, but it’s a reality. It’s motivation too.”
And he said once his team is ready to take the field Saturday, “there’ll be a little bit of a hunger that you want to try to get one back over this team.”
Defender Eriq Zavaleta also said all the right things, while making it clear that Toronto has not forgotten Dec. 10.
“We obviously still have a bit of a sour taste in our mouths with how the year ended. But we also understand that beating them in Seattle is not going to change anything,” he said. “It’s not going to give us a better taste in our mouths and say, ‘Yeah, we deserved to win on that day last year.’ Because at the end of the day we know that chapter has ended and we’re on to a new one.”
“It’s more of a yearlong revenge tour, if you will, than it is just a one-game thing,” he added.
Both Cup finalists suffered through slow starts to the season.
Seattle lost its opener and collected just six of 18 available points from its first six games. TFC earned seven points over the same stretch.
Toronto (4-1-4) has since found its stride and won three straight to rise to third place in the Eastern Conference. Seattle (2-2-4) has lost just once in seven outings and stands seventh in the West.
May is a hectic month for TFC, with eight matches. Given Toronto played Wednesday â€” a 2-1 win over Orlando City â€” and the club had a long flight to a game on the artificial turf of CenturyLink Field, Vanney said he will “mix it up a little bit” when it comes to his roster.
If so, Victor Vasquez could be a prime candidate to have the weekend off. The Spanish playmaker, who leads the league with six assists, has a history of knee problems and artificial turf is not his friend.
Vanney sees such long trips as “an opportunity to push some guys in different ways.”
“We keep saying we have a deep roster so it’s important that at some point guys will see the field,” he said. “Especially with this short turnaround … and we want to get some fresh guys out there that are really hungry to go get a result against the champion team.”
The MLS Cup finalists have met at least once during the following season in every year since the league’s second campaign. And usually it does not turn out well for the champions.
The Cup-holders are 5-11-4 in those first rematches between the previous yearâ€™s finalists.
Portland’s 2-1 win over Columbus last year marked the first time since 2009 that the champions extended their bragging rights over the Cup runner-up.
After Seattle, Toronto travels to Columbus for an Eastern Conference showdown Wednesday.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press