TORONTO – Though there will be no love lost when Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders FC square off in a second-straight MLS Cup Final on Saturday afternoon (4 pm ET | ESPN, UniMas, TSN, TVAS), there still exist relationships that span the divide.
The Reds' Armando Cooper and Sounders' Roman Torres will go to next summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia as teammates with Panama. Toronto's Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Justin Morrow won the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup this past summer alongside Seattle's Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan, and Clint Dempsey.
TFC assistant coach Robin Fraser recalls fondly the performances of Sounders centerback Chad Marshall, who was once a rookie alongside Fraser when both helped lead Columbus Crew SC to a Supporters' Shield in 2004. And Toronto defender Eriq Zavaleta began his career with Sounders FC after having been drafted 10th overall by the club in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
Though Zavaleta made just five appearances in Seattle before departing for Los Angeles-based Chivas USA the following season, friendships from those days persist. And they will again, even if the buildup to MLS Cup has brought a temporary hiatus to the conversations.
“It's been a little while since I've talked to them, but I was really good friends with Clint when I was there, lived in his guest house,” said Zavaleta on Tuesday. “Good friends with Brad Evans and Chad Marshall as well, guys I still keep in touch with a little bit, but I haven't talked to for a couple months. It will be fun to line up against them again.”
“It was great,” said Zavaleta. “He's got a big family; great family. He was really good to me. I was a rookie when I was there, but him and I just clicked. It was nice of him to offer that up to me. I was living pretty well.
“It'll be fun to see them on that day,” said Zavaleta. “Clint wasn't on the field last year. It will be different to play against him this time.”
Zavaleta has said Seattle is a team that he wants to beat more than any other because of what happened last year. And given how last season's MLS Cup Final played out -- Toronto losing at home in a shootout, Seattle taking the trophy home without a shot on goal -- one could have expected there to be a little back-and-forth between the friends, some gentle ribbing.
“No, there wasn't. There hasn't been,” said Zavaleta ahead of the rematch. “I think we both felt like this was a possibility.”