Undermanned Seattle Sounders take advantage of slack defending to blank Toronto FC

·4 min read

TORONTO — Goals by Dylan Teves and Fredy Montero lifted the undermanned Seattle Sounders to a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC in MLS play Saturday.

Teves, scoring in his first career start, took advantage of some slack Toronto defending to put Seattle (8-7-2) ahead in the 39th minute. Montero, a former Vancouver Whitecap striker, added to the lead in the 60th minute as the TFC backline was caught short again.

Toronto (5-10-3) has now conceded goals in 26 straight league games. TFC last held the opposition scoreless in league play on July 25, 2021, when it tied 0-0 at Colorado.

Italian newcomers Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Criscito were part of the announced crowd of 23,954 at BMO Field on a warm evening. Both players are eligible to make their TFC debut next Saturday against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes after the league's secondary transfer window officially opens Thursday.

The two Italians received a standing ovation when they were introduced at halftime.

Toronto, which lost 2-1 to visiting Columbus mid-week, came into the game having won two of its last four league contests (2-0-2) but was 2-7-1 over its last 10 outings.

The Sounders have recovered from a poor 2-5-1 start to the season, although their four-game unbeaten run (3-0-1) ended in a mid-week 2-1 loss to visiting CF Montreal that marked the first Seattle defeat since May 22.

Seattle had lost just two of its previous eight MLS contests (5-2-1) despite an injury list that includes star Peruvian forward Raul Ruidiaz, striker Will Bruin and Ecuador defender Xavier Arreaga.

Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Albert Rusnak did not make the trip to Toronto, forcing Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer to dig deep into his roster with Ruidiaz and Rusnak both designated players, unavailable.

The Sounders opened the scoring late in the first half on their first shot on target. An accurate clearance by goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland found Jimmy Medranda near midfield who controlled the ball and sent it on to Leo Chu down the flank. Chu outpaced defender Carlos Salcedo and sent in a cross that Teves, outmanoeuvring centre back Chris Mavinga, deflected in from close range.

Teves, a 22-year-old midfielder from Hawaii, was a collegiate star at the University of Washington, helping the Huskies finish runner-up at the 2021 NCAA men’s soccer championship. Before Saturday's match he had made just one 18-minute appearance off the bench for the Sounders.

Toronto's defence was cut open again in the second half by captain Nicolas Lodeiro, who had two teammates to choose from with the TFC backline in disarray. He opted for Montero who easily beat defenceless goalkeeper Quentin Westberg for his second of the season and 82nd of his MLS career.

Saturday marked the first meeting between the two teams since the Sounders defeated Toronto 3-1 in the 2019 MLS Cup final in Seattle.

Only five Toronto starters from that championship game remain with the team. Lodeiro, the Sounders' other designated player, was the only Seattle starter from the 2019 MLS Cup in Saturday's starting 11.

Going into Saturday's contest, Toronto and Seattle had met just 14 times in regular-season play (with the Sounders holding a 9-3-2 edge in the series).

Seattle had won the last three meetings, with Toronto's last victory coming in the 2017 MLS Cup final — a 2-0 win for TFC at BMO Field.

The game marked the 100th Toronto appearance in all competitions for Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo. The 30-year-old designated player, who joined Toronto in 2019 and won league MVP honours in 2020, is out of contract at the end of the season.

Once again, Pozuelo was Toronto's best attacking threat.

Westberg, who missed the mid-week to Columbus with a knock to the knee, was back in the Toronto goal. Salcedo and Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio also returned, replacing Shane O'Neill and Ralph Priso.

Despite its absentees, Seattle started well and forced Toronto into a string of turnovers.

But while Jesus Jimenez put a shot on the Seattle goal in the first minute, scoring chances were few and far between in the first half. Osorio and Pozuelo, on a free kick, both had chances but fired wide.

Canadian referee Silviu Petrescu let little get past him, issuing three yellow cards — two to Seattle and one to Toronto — in the first half. He handed out two more, to Seattle, in the second half.

Toronto forward Ayo Akinola was pulled at halftime for the second game in a row. He had just 11 touches in the mid-week loss and 10 touches Saturday.

Montero came close for Seattle in the 52nd, but his shot off a Medranda cross hit the crossbar.

Cleveland made an acrobatic save in the 54th minute, kicking out a leg to deny Pozuelo after a fine setup by Jimenez and Mavinga. Osorio shot wide in the 73rd minute off a Pozuelo corner.

As in the mid-week game against Columbus, Toronto pressed as the second half wore on but failed to breach the Seattle defence.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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