On Saturday, two USMNT stars will be pitted against one another, with Seattle’s Clint Dempsey facing off against Toronto’s new acquisition, Michael Bradley as the two sides go head-to-head at CenturyLink Field (Watch live on NBCSN, 4:30 p.m. ET and online via Live Extra).
Seattle will be looking for a second straight win to start off their season. Last week, the Sounders had to wait until injury time before they were finally able to break down Sporting KC. Substitute Clint Dempsey saw his header rebound off the crossbar and Chad Barrett pounced, putting in the winner.
It’s Toronto’s first match of the season, and they’ll be hoping that a revamped squad gives them enough of a boost to overcome Seattle – and its 12th man present at all home games. At least six new players could feature in the visitors’ starting lineup. Bradley Orr, Justin Morrow, and Jackson are all expected to be in coach Ryan Nelsen’s plans. Dwayne De Rosario could get his (re)debut. Jermain Defoe could start. And of course, there’s Bradley.
The extra week of rest certainly benefited Toronto, particularly since Bradley had been nursing a foot injury. However, the midfielder may not get as many minutes as fans would like, as Nelsen is concerned about the poor turf in Seattle. The visitors will be without new forward Gilberto, however, who didn’t make the trip due to injury.
As for Seattle, well, it’s nearly certain that Dempsey will be more than a mere substitute this time around. The hosts will be hoping he gives their offense a boost, as Kenny Cooper and Obafemi Martins looked rather ineffectual last time around. And, of course, Stefan Frei will be in goal to face his former side, with Sigi Schmid confirming that he’s the Sounders’ first-choice keeper.
What they’re saying
Seattle GM Adrian Hanauer on Clint Dempsey: My expectations are that he’s going to win a bunch of games. That’s all he can do. I don’t really care if he scores goals or makes assists, as long as he helps us win games. Having him be here from the first game of the year is going to be a big benefit. I expect Clint to be a big part of a winning team this year.
Ryan Nelsen on the problem with Michael Bradley: “The problem with Michael is kind of stopping him from doing stuff, he’s so keen and so eager, over-keen and over-eager, which is why he’s such a good player. It’s more holding him back and pulling on the reigns is my biggest problem with Michael.”
Seattle claim another three points. Toronto have made some smart acquisitions in the offseason, but they may not have all gelled together just yet. At least, not enough for them to defeat the Sounders. Besides, Frei is going to be pulling on some otherworldly strengths to make sure his former side don’t put any balls in the back of the net.