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Previewing MLS Cup 2016 with Eric Wynalda

The FOX analyst sits down for a chat

2007 MLS SuperDraft - January 12, 2007 Photo by A. Messerschmidt/MLS

FOX will be broadcasting its first MLS Cup on network television tomorrow night as Toronto FC hosts the Seattle Sounders. U.S. national team legend Eric Wynalda will be part of the coverage and he was able to take some time to preview the match with Dirty South Soccer.

When asked about his thoughts on the two teams in the match, Wynalda said:

“Watching the league over the last 20 years, one of the things you realize is that you don’t get to a final without a legitimate #10, a real playmaker. That’s what the league has taught us over the years.

This will be a good final, people didn’t think these two teams would be there but that’s what happens when you have the arrival of Lodeiro and the return from injury of Giovinco. In my opinion, Giovinco is the best playmaker in the league.”

Jozy Altidore has been in some of the best form of his career during the playoffs, but he will run up against one of the most physical center backs in the league on Saturday night in Román Torres. Wynalda said:

“One of the things that Jozy can do is that he can bully you. He’s got those broad shoulders, very strong and if you get in a running race or if the ball is bouncing into space and you have two guys going after it, it’s going to be fun to watch. These are two incredibly physical people battling it out. I’m looking forward to it. The only concern would be… Jozy likes to turn people, he’s going to find it very hard to turn Torres. He’s just one of those guys who is not afraid to foul you, he’s not afraid to hurt you. He’s going to make it a long night. If he has his way, it could be a rough night for Jozy.

That’s one of a couple of intriguing match-ups, but you’re spot on. It’s like boxing. I’ve never boxed, but I’ve always been curious about the mindset of a boxer prior to the actual fight. You’ve trained for months and months and suddenly there you are sitting in a small little room putting Vaseline on your eyebrows wondering how the next hour is going to go. That’s the kind of night that both Jozy and Roman Torres are going to be looking at. It’s going to be fun for us to watch, but I think they’re both going to need a couple of days to recover.”

Seattle will have to try to find a way to take control of the match. Wynalda thinks it could be out wide:

“If you look at how Montreal was able to get some joy out of playing Toronto, it was the ability to make a timely pass to break pressure out of the midfield. That’s what Lodeiro is all about.”

One player Wynalda specifically noted was Sounders’ rookie Jordan Morris. He said:

“It’s going to be the likes of Jordan Morris, who let’s be honest, is going to be the focal point. He does have good speed and he does have good instincts. He knows when to exclude himself from the defensive part and start to sneak away early. I look for qualities like that in a player because that’s a player that’s reading the game and willing to take a calculated risk. At his age, Jordan Morris does that a lot. He will run when he’s supposed to and that’s what a lot of people see. He’ll put in the defensive shift. But what I really like about him is when he sees the opposition start to lose the ball, he takes a look around and says, ‘Alright, where can I be more dangerous if Lodeiro can find me.’ That’s going to be a problem for Toronto. There’s a couple of plays where that will happen. If he reads it right and stays true to his instincts, they can get some joy out of that. “

When it comes to the home side, Toronto has a few players who can make a big difference besides Jozy Altidore. Wynalda said:

“They’ve got lightning, they’ve got Giovinco.

Will Johnson in my opinion is a really undervalued player. His role and Michael’s role is much more well defined where Michael can sit back and not feel like he’s got to run into that space and engage in the attack. His first option should always be to get the ball, get your head up, and give it to him. When I say him, I mean Giovinco. That guy just makes stuff happen out of nothing. It’s fun to watch. For someone who, like myself, has a divine appreciation for talent, this guy is really special to watch. As a defender, if you let him go for that one play and he gets going, you’re only one or two cutbacks away from really looking stupid. I think defenders know that. Giving him space is the biggest problem that Seattle could have.”

As I said this morning on the Peachtree Post, I predicted a 2-1 win for the Sounders. Wynalda said:

“I just feel like it’s one of two things. It’s going to be a low scoring win for Seattle or a high scoring win for Toronto. I would go for the first, I’m with you there. I think there will be plenty of chances and both goalkeepers are going to have to come up big at certain points. It’s going to be a very entertaining 1-0. I do think Seattle will take it.”

Thanks to Eric for taking the time out of his busy schedule ahead of MLS Cup to speak with us, and special thanks to Claudia Martinez at FOX for setting this up. You can watch Eric tonight on FS1 as part of an hour-long MLS Cup preview show at 10:00 p.m. and tomorrow starting on the pregame show at 7:30 p.m. on the FOX broadcast network.

Stay tuned later this afternoon for Eric’s thoughts on Atlanta United and his time with the Silverbacks.