TFC notebook: Injured Altidore improving ahead of MLS Cup

Courtesy of Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney talks about the team’s preparation for the MLS final.

After having a day off, Toronto FC was back in training on Saturday ahead of next week’s MLS Cup final against the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field.

Here are some news and notes from the day’s practice.

Altidore recovering from ankle injury

Jozy Altidore didn’t train on Saturday but the expectation is that he’ll be available to play in the MLS Cup final.

The American forward scored the winning goal on Wednesday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final against the Columbus Crew. Early in the second half, Altidore suffered an ankle injury and came off the field to get treatment. He ended up fighting through the pain, and came back onto the field to score the winner after having his ankle taped up. He was eventually subbed out of the game.

Despite not training with the team, coach Greg Vanney confirmed Altidore’s condition is improving.

“He’s not ready to be on the field and training yet. … We’re confident that he’ll be ready [for MLS Cup]. Obviously, until we get him on the field running and sprinting and changing directions, we’ll know exactly where he’s at. But the MRI and the reports that he’s giving us and how he’s feeling are positive,” Vanney said.

Altidore left no doubts if he’ll be ready to play in MLS Cup when asked about it after the Columbus game.

“I’m playing in the MLS Cup final. It doesn’t matter how the ankle is. You’re not taking that game away from me,” Altidore said.

An easier path to the final for Seattle?

Seattle beat the Vancouver Whitecaps (2-0 on aggregate) and Houston Dynamo (5-0 on aggregate) in the playoffs to advance to the MLS Cup. The Dynamo had players sent of in both legs of the two-match series.

Vanney called the Sounders “the class of the Western Conference,” but felt that the games in the West half of the playoff bracket weren’t as nearly intense, as high-speed or as hotly-contested as those in the Eastern Conference.

“That’s how the whole season was, to be honest. We knew going into the playoffs that when the top five teams in the Supporters’ Shield standings are from the [East] that you’re really going to have to compete hard and do what you have to do to get out of the Eastern Conference. Our series were not short of any of that,” Vanney stated.

“Seattle showed that they’re the best team in the West. … It’ll be interesting because I don’t think they’ve faced the type of intensity that we’ve had to face and put into our games.”

Toronto beat the New York Red Bulls on the away goals rule in the Eastern Conference semifinal before defeating Columbus 1-0 on aggregate in the next round.

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A different Sounders side

TFC topped the Eastern Conference and the overall MLS standings with a 20-5-9 record and a league-record 69 points, while Seattle finished second in the Western Conference (14-9-11, 53 points).

Vanney believes this is a deeper Sounders team compared to the one the beat TFC in last year’s MLS Cup final. They’ll also have Clint Dempsey back in the lineup after the American forward missed last year’s game due to injury.

“They’ve added some good pieces that give them a different look. Obviously, Clint is back into the mix – he’s always a little bit of an X-factor. His ability to sniff out a situation and to technically pull [things off], you add that to [midfielder Nicolás] Lodeiro … they’re a deeper team. They have more options, whatever they choose to come with, whether it’s off the bench or in the game, they have more ways to impact the game,” Vanney offered.

All-time series vs. Seattle

Seattle leads the all-time series against Toronto, winning seven of 12 regular season games with two draws. TFC won the only meeting between the sides this year, earning a 1-0 win at CenturyLink Field on May 6 – Altidore converted from the penalty spot.

Of course, Seattle won its only playoff game against Toronto, hoisting the MLS Cup trophy after beating the Reds in a shootout in last year’s championship final at BMO Field.

Vanney admitted that this game has far more intrigue for his players with Seattle as the opponent.

“From an emotional perspective, it adds a whole lot more to this game than if it were to be Houston. Nothing against Houston, but it wouldn’t have the same feel that it would have had coming off a year ago,” Vanney said.

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