The MLS Cup is the Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC, but there are going to be smaller battles playing out all over the field. Here is a look at the ones we think may be the keys toward deciding the outcome of the MLS Cup on Saturday (8 p.m. ET on FOX).
Sebastian Giovinco vs. Seattle's wall
Giovinco is one of the top scorers on set pieces in MLS, and it's all about his ability to take stunning free kicks. (If you need visual evidence, look here.) If the Sounders give up any free kicks in dangerous areas – which they may very well need to do to contain their explosive offense, all eyes will be on Giovinco and his ability to bend past walls.
He didn't have the greatest series against Montreal and it seemed he was nursing a lingering injury of some sort. He came off early in the second leg and the club later said it was just a cramp and he will be fine for the MLS Cup. Toronto fans will hope so, since the magic he can create on a restart is some of the best in MLS.
Jozy Altidore vs. Chad Marshall and Roman Torres
What makes Altidore so dangerous is that he has both the physical power and the technical ability to get in on goal for a scoring chance. He is in the best form he's been in for a while, perhaps his entire career, and he's playing with the sort of confidence that is difficult to shut down. But that is exactly what Marshall and Torres need to do.
The good news is that Marshall and Torres offer one of the most underrated centerback pairings in MLS, and Torres' return from injury has played a big role in helping sort out some of the team's defensive woes. Marshall is excellent on set pieces too, and should do be the best chance to keep Altidore at bay, where he can get on the end of balls and wreak havoc.
Michael Bradley vs. Nicolas Lodeiro
Toronto FC's biggest question coming into the MLS Cup centers around their central midfield. When Bradley attempted to hold things down on his own, the Montreal Impact ran them ragged in the Eastern Conference final. But when coach Greg Vanney subbed in Will Johnson alongside Bradley as a more defensive presence, Toronto was able to control the match more.
Control is going to be pretty darn important in the central midfield, particularly with Lodeiro being the one who is going to using that space to create the magic he does for his teammates. Lodeiro is difficult to track, and his presence, along with the likes of Jordan Morris, can pull opposing teams out of shape. Bradley and presumably Johnson, rather than an attacker like Jonathan Osorio, will need to work together to contain Lodeiro.
Jordan Morris vs. the right flank
Coach Brian Schmetzer seems to be onto something with Morris as a winger. His pace and his ability to either provide service or drift centrally allows him to make maximum impact. He is still a fine target striker, but as a winger he has filled a clear need for the Sounders, and he helped dispatched both the FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids from the role.
That is going to put pressure on Toronto FC to lock down that right side of the pitch. Assuming Toronto sticks to what they know, they will come out in a 3-5-2 with wingbacks who will need to be able to track back and forth. Steven Beitashour in particular is going to be busy, but if he is pulled out of shape like happened against Montreal, that may be the opening Morris needs.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY SportsJennifer Buchanan