TUKWILA, Wash. – Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore may have all but written off his chances of returning from injury in time to feature in Sunday’s MLS Cup Final but Seattle Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer isn't so sure.
“[It’s] not mind games because Greg [Vanney] is a good guy, I don’t think he plays mind games," Schmetzer said after Sounders training on Wednesday. "But look, whether Jozy plays or not, we’ll be prepared. I expect — again, it’s the last game, this is it, it’s the last game of the year — I expect him to be involved in some way.”
Toronto have been forced to do without Altidore throughout the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs after the third-highest scorer in USMNT history injured his quad on Decision Day presented by AT&T, on Oct. 6. Throughout Toronto’s run, Vanney has spoken optimistically of Altidore being a few days away from a return, only for the 30-year-old to fail to make the matchday squad.
Talking on Saturday, Vanney offered a similar message, stating that he hoped Altidore would return to full training “within the next few days.”
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Altidore, however, was notably more cautious when giving his own update on Monday.
“It’s been a while, at this point it will take a little bit of a miracle to be out there on Sunday, but that’s where I am," said Altidore. "I’ve just got to keep trying to get myself there.
“It’s just time. Time is not on your side.”
In Altidore’s absence, Toronto have deployed playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo as a false No. 9. And Schmetzer explained that, having taken on, and beaten, an LAFC side featuring league 2019 Landon Donovan MLS MVP Carlos Vela in a not dissimilar role in the Western Conference Final, Seattle will not be fazed by facing the same proposition in MLS Cup on Sunday (3 pm ET | ABC, Univision, TUDN, TVAS, TSN).
“They’re a little different players,” Schmetzer said. “Is Pozuelo going to play as that false No. 9, what does Carlos do, where are the heat maps of both players? They are pretty similar.
“I think that the team Toronto vs. the team LAFC poses different challenges so we’ve kind of looked at it from a team perspective,” he continued. “Later in the week, we’ll make sure that the individual players get enough film on Pozuelo, his movements, his style and we’ll make some adjustments.”