TUKWILA, Wash. — Jozy Altidore may have labeled a return from injury as needing a miracle, but the Seattle Sounders are preparing to face him all the same.
The Sounders are continuing to prepare for this weekend’s MLS Cup final against Toronto FC, and part of their training Friday included preparing for a scenario where Altidore sees the field. The veteran striker has yet to feature in the playoffs because of a quad injury picked up on Oct. 6 and he said Thursday that he has yet to kick a ball — but the Sounders are not ruling out the possibility that he plays.
“We are preparing for the scenario that he’s playing and we’re preparing for a scenario that he’s not there,” said Sounders assistant coach Preki. “We’re not leaving anything to surprise, so we’re ready for either scenario. It’s just a flip of the coin (if he plays). We don’t know. It’s just a guess.”
“But like I said, we’ve been preparing the group for both sides of the things so we’ll see what happens.”
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney told media later on Friday that Altidore was going to participate in his club’s training session and would do some ball work, lending credibility to the thought that Altidore could see at least some minutes at CenturyLink Field. If he does not, Alejandro Pozuelo is likely to get the start up top albeit in a slightly different role.
Either way, the Sounders believe they are more than prepared.
“Physically, it’s two different players,” said Sounders assistant coach Djimi Traore. “One is a target man and the other one is a false nine, but it’s still two dangerous players, two players you need to always be aware of, especially in the box.
“But it’s different ways to defend against them. Maybe one you can be tight on him, you can be more aggressive. Maybe the other one you let him get the ball and turn and after that you adjust, but we are ready for them.”
SOUNDERS NOT PRACTICING PKs
While the Sounders are preparing for the chance that either Altidore or Pozuelo starts at CenturyLink Field, something the club is not working on is penalty kicks. The game will go to a shootout if it is leveln after 120 minutes, but neither that possibility nor the fact that the 2016 final between these two clubs went to penalties, has the club working on shots from 12 yards out.
“We’re not even thinking about penalty kicks,” said Sounders center back Kim Kee-Hee. “We’re not even going to go there.”
There is a chance the Sounders could be partaking in a bit of gamesmanship with their comments in order to psyche Toronto FC out. However, multiple members of the Western Conference said they were not instructing players to work on spot kicks.
“Our objective is try to win the game before. We don’t need to practice,” said Traore. “We all know our players, they all know each other, and they have confidence and we trust our goalkeeper.”