The MLS Cup on Sunday is the third title-game meeting in four years between Seattle and Toronto. The match (2 p.m., Ch. 5) may come down to the Sounders’ ability to finish their chances vs. Toronto’s ability to create any.
Though the two teams split the 2016 and 2017 titles, Toronto was the better team. Seattle’s 2016 victory was the ultimate smash-and-grab, with the Sounders winning on penalties after a scoreless draw in which they managed just three shots, none on goal. Toronto’s 2-0 victory in 2017, after another dominant performance, gave it a measure of payback.
Toronto striker Jozy Altidore has missed the playoffs because of a calf injury but is an outside bet to return for the match, reuniting the attacking partnership with midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo that was the key in the Reds’ stretch run.
Seattle, meanwhile, has received exceptional finishing from Raul Ruidiaz, Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro in the playoffs. The three have combined for eight goals in three postseason games. Expect Toronto to bunker in defensively, as it did against Atlanta in the Eastern Conference finals, and hope for counterattacks to create chances.
The previous finals between these teams turned on Toronto’s finishing, or lack of it. Now it may come down to the same thing, but with Seattle’s front three on the hot seat.
• The National Women’s Soccer League is removing some of the financial shackles from its teams. The salary cap is going up, with the maximum salary going up to a still-minuscule $50,000. Perhaps most important, teams will have the option to spend up to $300,000 of their own money on other players — either for overseas stars or to retain American players. These are small amounts of money when compared to more established leagues. But anything that helps teams pay players more — and compete globally for talent — is a good thing.
• Keep an eye this MLS offseason on the battle over a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players. The players are determined to win better treatment, especially regarding travel, which forces players to fly commercial. They also seek a loosening of the league’s esoteric payroll and roster rules. Owners, as always, will fight to pay players as little as possible. We could see the first strike in MLS history.
Premier League: Manchester City at Liverpool, 10:30 a.m. Sunday, NBCSN. If anyone can stop Liverpool’s season of destiny, it’s Manchester City. The two-time league champion will relish the opportunity to trip up Liverpool’s so-far-all-conquering season. The Reds, though, have an air of invincibility about them this year, like they will get every break they need en route to their first league title in three decades. Can City stop the title procession?
Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org