Toronto hosts Seattle in MLS Cup rematch

Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei (24) dives for the ball during practice ahead of the MLS Cup soccer final against Toronto FC, in Toronto, Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

TORONTO (AP) Toronto FC needs to beat the defending champion Seattle Sounders to cap their record-breaking regular season with an MLS Cup crown.

In a rematch, Toronto will host the Sounders in Saturday’s MLS Cup. Seattle won last year’s game in a penalty shootout after neither team could score in regulation or 30 minutes of extra time.

The memory of Sounders players celebrating on his home field remains painful for Toronto striker Jozy Altidore.

”It was not great, so it’s good that we have a chance to hopefully reverse that feeling,” Altidore said.

Led by Altidore, fellow U.S. international Michael Bradley and 2015 league MVP Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto set a league record with 69 points this season. That’s one better than the 1998 Los Angeles Galaxy. Toronto won 20 of 34 games, matching the 2014 Sounders for most victories in the league’s post-shootout era, and scored 74 goals, tied for the second-highest total.

Bradley said he and his Toronto teammates are ”all excited that it’s Seattle again” in the decisive game.

”This was all we wanted, to give ourselves another crack,” Bradley said.

Seattle has steamrolled its opponents in the playoffs after finishing second in the Western Conference during the regular season. The Sounders had shutouts in all four postseason games so far.

”You want a final like this each and every year,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said. ”It’s two powerhouse teams with fantastic quality.”

Here are some other things to watch in the MLS Cup:

ALTIDORE’S ANKLE

An injured Altidore was replaced in the final minutes after scoring the goal that helped Toronto beat Columbus in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final. He hurt his right ankle in a collision with Crew defender Harrison Afful. After practice on Thursday, the striker insisted he’d be ready to go against Seattle. ”I’ll play,” Altidore said. ”It’s good.”

ALONSO OUT, MORRIS AVAILABLE

Seattle midfielder and captain Osvaldo Alonso failed a fitness test on his strained right quadriceps muscle Thursday and was ruled out of the final. The prognosis was better for speedy Sounders forward Jordan Morris, the league’s reigning rookie of the year. After being sidelined for two months by a hamstring injury, Morris came off the bench late in the second-leg of the West finals against Houston and could reprise his substitute’s role against Toronto.

GREEN WALL

Seattle’s potent attack gets plenty of attention because of players like Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Will Bruin and Morris. But the Sounders’ biggest strength late in the season and during the playoffs has been the defense. Seattle hasn’t allowed a goal since a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 1. That’s a span of six full games since a shot got past starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei or backup Tyler Miller.

RARE REPEAT

The Sounders are trying to join three others teams to repeat as MLS Cup champions. D.C. United won the first two titles in league history in 1996-97. Houston repeated in 2006-07 and the Los Angeles Galaxy won consecutive titles in 2011-12, beating Houston both times. That Seattle and Toronto each managed to return to the final is remarkable considering that the 2015 finalists- Portland and Columbus – both missed the playoffs the following season.

FROSTY FORECAST

Temperatures are expected around the freezing mark at Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff time, with a 40 percent chance of snow flurries. No MLS Cup game has been played in the snow. If the flakes do fly, the referee has the discretion to switch from a white ball to an orange ball.

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Sports writer Tim Booth in Seattle contributed to this report.