On Saturday night at BMO Field, they'll line up on opposite sides. But Morris, the rookie Sounders forward, said the USMNT trio will go "back to being friends" afterward.
If you’re looking for some good, old fashioned smack talk between the Sounders and Toronto FC ahead of Saturday night’s MLS Cup final, don’t ask U.S. national teammates Jordan Morris, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley.
“I’m a big fan of Jordan’s,” Bradley, the respected Toronto midfielder, told reporters on Monday.
Added fellow TFC star Altidore: “To see him grow, become the player he is today, everybody is pleased for him. We’re all cheering for him, happy with his progression.”
Morris didn’t exactly stoke tension when told of Bradley and Altidore’s effusive comments following practice at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. The rookie Sounders forward referenced how kind both of them were upon his first USMNT call-up in 2014, and how much their public support has meant to him since.
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“They’ve been so supportive of them throughout the whole process,” Morris said. “I can’t say enough about both those guys – obviously amazing players, but off the field, they’ve been so great with me.
“Going into a new situation like that with the national team, I was pretty nervous. Having those guys there, knowing they have my back and think I deserve to be there is awesome. I can’t say thank you enough to those guys.
“Obviously when we step on the field, we’ll be competitors. But after the game, back to being friends. They’ve been great.”
– Morris is coming off a standout performance in the Western Conference finals, having scored the game-tying goal in Leg 1 and fought off both a stomach bug and gimpy leg to net the winner in the second leg. Schmetzer has been asked often about what makes the 22-year-old so special, but I thought his answer on Monday morning was as well-articulated as any he’s given.
“He’s had to overcome a lot of things with his (type 1 diabetes),” Schmetzer said. “He’s got great parents and a great family. We try to support him as an organization. He’s got a lot of things that are helping him along the way. He always talks about his pseudo-brother, Cristian (Roldan). That has helped him, as well. It’s a combination of a lot of things. But he’s really maturing into a nice young man and a really tremendous soccer player.”
– The current forecast for Toronto on Saturday calls for a high of 29 degrees and a low of 24. Given that kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern time and with the possibility of extra time, things could get quite frosty at BMO Field.
“I’ve played in cold weather, snowy weather, frozen ground, whatever,” said Sounders midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz, a native of Austria. “I’ve had all of those situations already. Those circumstances aren’t easy to handle and we have to be mentally prepared for a tough opponent and tough conditions. There will be no excuses.”
That’s easy for field players to say, per Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. They’re constantly moving, unlike those shivering in front of net.
“Their feet are constantly kicking the ball,” Frei said. “… When you’re in minus weather and haven’t used your hands and all of a sudden, a 90-mile-an-hour ball is coming your way, it can be quite the stinger. You want to just keep moving those things as much as you can.”
– Major League Soccer announced that tickets to the championship game sold out in three minutes on Monday morning. Should additional tickets become available, they’ll be released later this week, per the league release. If you’re making plans to travel to Toronto for the match, I wouldn’t count on it.
– No Sounders were named to the 2016 MLS Best XI voted on by league media, players and front office staffers and released on Monday. Less than a week out from the club’s first ever MLS Cup appearance, few of them are likely to mind.