The Seattle Sounders have had to deal with a lot of misfortune so far this season, but over the past few weeks their performances have indicated that they still have the talent to compete with any team in MLS. As that reality has become apparent, the frustration of the Sounders faithful has turned from poor circumstances to poor results. Seattle's 3-0 pasting of Toronto FC was followed immediately by an embarrassing loss to a mediocre DC United team. The win that ended Real Salt Lake's record home winning streak came on the heels of a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas at home. Seattle's last game might have been the most frustrating of the season; for 75 minutes, the Sounders looked the far superior side but still trailed 1-0. Two goals in quick succession seemed to have righted the ship, but one of the best goals in MLS history ensured things ended on level terms.
That's been the way it's gone this year for the Sounders. The performances have been almost uniformly solid (save DC United away) but the results haven't come as often as they perhaps should. At a certain point, this team needs to start winning the games it should. Points dropped are points dropped, and while good overall performances are always encouraging three ugly points are preferable to an impressive draw any day of the week. Toronto FC aren't an especially good team, but while they've won only twice at home this season they've lost only twice as well while picking up five draws. Toronto have earned some solid results at home, not least of which was a 0-0 draw to LA Galaxy in mid-April.
Unfortunately for Toronto, they've also put up a few shockers. Most embarrassing is without question the 6-2 loss to Philadelphia, a game which the Union entered having score all of eight goals on the season. The Sounders win in the reverse game earlier in the year was as dominant a performance as Seattle has put on display in the MLS era. Point being, while there are reasons that a draw might not be totally shocking, there aren't really any reasons to find it an acceptable result. Toronto FC is just a very poor team at the moment, still struggling to find their identity under Aron Winter and without Dewayne DeRosario.
The good news for Toronto is that Alan Gordon will be starting as opposed to the last time these two teams faced off. Gordon and Maicon Santos are a formidable attacking pair through the center of the pitch. Toronto's 4-3-3 formation is very dependent on the play of their twin holding midfielders (most likely Julian De Guzman and former Sounder Nathan Sturgis) who are responsible for shielding a very suspect back line. Despite employing one of the best keepers in MLS in Stefan Frei, Toronto have surrendered a league-high 25 goals. If ever there were a remedy for Seattle's scoring woes, facing Toronto FC's defense may very well be it.
While it's still anyone's guess as to who starts up top for Seattle, the rest of the lineup seems mostly settled at this point. If Alvaro Fernandez is healthy, he should start on the left. Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso seem a safe bet in the center, while Mauro Rosales has been Seattle's best player in recent weeks on the right. Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado appear to have cemented themselves as the first-choice center back pairing, while James Riley starting at right back is almost a given and Tyson Wahl looks to have usurped Leo Gonzalez as preferred left back. As far as the strikers are concerned, expect to see Fucito and Montero once again; they were a solid pairing against Vancouver and while Nate Jaqua is probably the preferred option over Fucito when he's in good form, Jaqua hasn't been in anything close to good form since the beginning of the year. Still, it's anyone's guess; any two of the three would be little surprise.
The nature of qualification for the MLS playoffs being what it is, Seattle would have to collapse pretty spectacularly not to make the postseason. But this team wants to take a step up from last year and build some momentum ahead of what should be an interesting transfer window, these are the kinds of games they absolutely must win. Despite their place in the standings, the Sounders just aren't anywhere close to an elite team right now; a front-loaded schedule and allowing fewer than a goal a game have been largely responsible for that, but to hang around the top of the standings they'll have to do a lot better than 1.22 goals scored per game. In that sense Toronto are a good team to see in this situation, but the downside is this; another incomplete performance and points dropped against a team as poor as Toronto will not do anything to improve the spirits of the team or the fans. It's been said before and it will continue to be said until it starts happening with some sort of regularity; sometimes, you've just got to dominate inferior opponents.