Raul Ruidiaz celebrates - Seattle Sounders
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Toronto FC's Greg Vanney praises Seattle's tactical flexibility, impact of "assassin" Ruidiaz

TORONTO – Though infinitely tied together by having already met in two MLS Cup finals, it has been some time since Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders last played.

The two sides clashed just once this season, on April 13, with the Sounders winning 3-2 at home. Will Bruin scored a brace, as did Jozy Altidore, with Cristian Roldan chipping in the decider.

In MLS terms, that is a lifetime ago. A lot has changed since.

For TFC, Quentin Westberg was making his debut appearance and Alejandro Pozuelo his third. Chad Marshall, since retired, was in the Sounders starting XI, while Xavier Arreaga had yet to join the club.

So as they prepare for a third MLS Cup final on Sunday at CenturyLink Field (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN in US; TSN, TVAS in Canada), Toronto, who first dominated D.C. United at home and then made the most of limited chances against NYCFC and Atlanta United on the road to reach this point, see Seattle’s progression through the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs as similar to their own.

“They’re a team that like to have the ball if at all possible, but they’re comfortable not having the ball too,” said Greg Vanney. “You’ve seen them go to LAFC, not have the ball and do a great job of protecting their goal, minimizing chances, being very efficient on the attacking side, getting a counter, and putting away the chances they’ve gotten. Also against [Real Salt Lake].”

“Through the season they would prefer to have the ball more times than not, especially at home,” added Vanney. “But they’ve shown the ability to lock it down defensively and make it difficult on the opposition if they don’t.”

With both teams comfortable with or without the ball, the final shapes up to be fascinating.

“It’s going to be one of those, ‘See how the game settles in,’” predicted Vanney. “We would like to have the ball, that’s part of our style, but we don’t have to have the ball.”

Throughout this postseason, Seattle have been powered on the scoresheet by Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Ruidiaz.

Lodeiro has two goals and four assists; Morris and Ruidiaz three goals apiece. Gustav Svensson has the only goal not scored by that trio.

Ruidiaz in particular was clinical with his brace against Supporters’ Shield champions LAFC in the Western Conference Final, a trait that can be massive in a one-off match where chances are often rare.

“I like him,” said Vanney. “He is an assassin, he just finds little pockets, spaces, he will continue to work for them. He reminds me a bit of Josef Martinez – he is a striker’s striker. He is playing for his moments. He’s very clever about manufacturing those moments and finding them. And when he gets them he is very efficient about how he goes about it.

“Obviously, he has a good supporting cast helping him, especially with Lodeiro, who drifts all around the field,” he continued. “You’re trying to take care of him and not allow him to be the provider. It’s something we have to take care of.”

Where that duo has provided a lot of the firepower, Morris is “the guy that really can change the speed of things,” according to the TFC coach.

“He’s a powerful runner,” highlighted Vanney. “In transition, if he has open space, he’s fast, he’s powerful, he’ll run at you with the ball. There’s not going to be a ton of fancy stuff, not a lot of stepovers, he’ll go right at you and make you deal with him. Almost at times a forward who plays wide. Just keeps coming and you have to manage that, know where he is.”

And with Joevin Jones a strong complement on the opposite flank, Morris arriving at the back side requires extra attention.

“Anything that is crossed from the right side [Morris] is going to be in the box,” warned Vanney. “That’s his game.”