BY Andrew Harvey 07:23PM 12/09/2016

It’s time: Sounders reach pinnacle MLS moment

Practice done, talk is over. Now healthy with Alonso and Evans doing well, Sounders get to the championship business Saturday in Toronto.

Osvaldo Alonso will play Saturday, despite a recent injury./ Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

TORONTO — The Seattle Sounders had their final day of practice Friday ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup clash against Toronto FC (5 p.m., FOX). Coach Brian Schmetzer said his team is ready to write the final chapter in Seattle’s unlikely comeback story.

“It’s been a really good run,” Schmetzer said. “The players have done a tremendous job of keeping themselves in games when they had to win games. I would say that the team hit its stride very early on. That run of three (against Orlando City, Real Salt Lake and Portland) to start us off when Clint Dempsey was still here, that put us on a good note.

“We hope (it carries us through). We won some tough playoff games against good opposition.”

Saturday’s conditions are not expected to be especially harsh. Temperatures are forecasted to be around 23 degrees with winds of nine miles per hour. There is a 40 percent chance of snow flurries in the afternoon, but BMO Field has a heated surface, so significant accumulation is unlikely.

Schmetzer said his Sounders were healthy. Midfielder and captain Osvaldo Alonso, who sprained his left knee in the second leg of the Western Conference final against the Colorado Rapids, will play. Midfielder Brad Evans, hampered by a series of injuries in the late season, is also healthy.

The outlook is less bright for 21-year-old Oalex Anderson, who collapsed late in practice holding his knee and had to be carried off the field by two staff members. Anderson was a stretch to play, but a serious injury could derail the start of his next season due to MLS’s short offseason.

“That one was not a good one,” Schmetzer said. “I feel bad for the kid.”

Schmetzer will rely on his defense to stop Toronto’s designated player trio Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley. Schmetzzer said that the trio was dangerous.

“It will take a good defensive performance,” Schmetzer said. “We need Alonso and Cristian Roldan to limit space for Giovinco. Our center backs will have to put some muscle on Altidore, we have to make sure Bradley doesn’t dictate the game.”

More cash to clubs

Commissioner Don Garber gave his state of the league address from a downtown hotel Friday. The biggest news regarded a significant increase in targeted allocation money (TAM),  to be dispersed to each team’s budget. TAM is used to buy down the salary cap hits of high-value players, and also to sign new players.

The amount rises from $400,000 per team per year, to $1.2 million per team in 2017.

Garber’s other major goal for 2017 was to come up with an iron-clad procedure for the remaining four expansion slots (slots 23 and 24 are occupied by David Beckham’s Miami FC project and Los Angeles FC, which will begin play in 2018).

Garber said that the process would be confirmed soon, perhaps as early as the MLS board meeting Dec. 15.

“We do plan to announce the full details of our process, our timeline, our pricing and everything else related to our expansion as early as the 15th,” Garber said.

Garber praised the fan communities of each club and the clubs’ investment in youth academies to spur the growth and development of soccer in the U.S. and Canada.


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