Thanks to an agreement with the United States national team, the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC will each have one marquee American player this weekend.
There is still some luster lost from this matchup, though, as Italian star Sebastian Giovinco is out due to an injury and wasn’t scheduled to play to begin with.
Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and Toronto’s Michael Bradley are available but Giovinco will have to be replaced Saturday night by TFC, which looks to halt a five-match road winless streak in league play.
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International games this weekend have forced MLS clubs to release players to their national teams. Seattle (12-13-2), however, will keep Dempsey and Toronto will have Bradley this weekend before both join the United States for next week’s game against Brazil.
Toronto forward Jozy Altidore, second on the club with 10 goals, is with the U.S. team and won’t be available.
Giovinco was originally expected to miss this game to play for Italy, but he exited last Saturday’s 2-1 win over Montreal in the 51st minute with an adductor strain. He was sent back to Toronto.
Giovinco is an MVP candidate who is second in the league with 17 goals to go along with 13 assists.
Dempsey is set to return after being out since Aug. 1 with a hamstring injury. He could be on the field with fellow designated players Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez for the first time.
"It’s the first time that they’re working together, they’ve just got to work together, get their understanding down," coach Sigi Schmid said.
Seattle will be without defender Roman Torres and midfielder Marco Pappa due to international duty.
Toronto FC (11-10-4) will also be without defender Collen Warner, suspended two games for violent conduct in the Montreal match. Herculez Gomez has yet to start with the club while Luke Moore looks ready for his first action since June 20 after being out with an ankle injury.
With Toronto’s lineup in flux, Seattle’s preparation has been difficult.
"Are they going to drop back into a 4-4-2?" Schmid said. "Are they going to come at us with a 4-2-3-1 that they’ve played the last couple of games. Who’s going to replace those people? Are we going to see Herculez Gomez start his first game? Is Luke Moore back into the mix? So there’s different situations that way that we’ve got to look at."
Toronto can count on Bradley, tied for second on the club with six assists, to bolster the attack. He is excited about the trip to CenturyLink Field, where TFC ended a five-match losing streak in the series with a 2-1 win March 15, 2014, the last time these clubs met.
Duplicating that effort won’t be easy since TFC has allowed 17 goals in an 0-3-2 stretch on the road.
"This is one of the best environments to play in in the league," Bradley said. "We know it’ll be a difficult game but again, we look forward to it and see if we can come away with another few points and get back home."