Respect was the order of the day Thursday as the Seattle Sounders met the media ahead of Toronto’s arrival in the Pacific Northwest for Sunday’s MLS Cup final.
Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan even confided he had a Michael Bradley jersey growing up.
“When we played them here this year I was extremely motivated, because that’s someone I really look up to,” the 24-year-old Roldan said of the 32-year-old Toronto captain. “The way he carries himself. I’ve now seen it firsthand for a year and half, two years now [with the U.S. team]. He’s the ultimate professional, a true leader, a true captain.
“Any time I’m facing him, I want him to feel that I’m good enough to be on the same field as him. I’ve played alongside him and what a competitor he is. Any time I get to have a conversation with him, learn [from him], enjoy the moment that I have with him, is really a unique experience. I remember I had his jersey growing up, so it’s going to be really fun to face him again.”
Hardly bulletin board material.
The Sounders won the lone meeting between the two this season, a 3-2 decision on April 13 in Seattle.
The teams meet for the MLS championship for their third time in four years. Seattle claimed the title with penalty shootout in 2016 while Toronto won 2-0 in 2017. Both games were at BMO Field. This time a sellout crowd of more than 69,000 is expected at CenturyLink Field.
Toronto, which left the snow back east on a charter flight, was expected later Thursday.
Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who played 82 league games for Toronto from 2009 to 2013, was complimentary about the city and the organization.
“I look back fondly at my time in Toronto, to be honest,” he said. “I felt welcomed. The city was a good city – good people, great restaurants. Really [the] lifestyle is amazing in Toronto, I think the people are amazing there.
“Yes we had our struggles as a football team. But it was also nice to make history there and win the first Canadian [Championship in 2009].”
And he said the Toronto organization was always committed to the cause.
“The organization put so much money into that franchise. I mean going through so many coaches, a state-of-the-art training facility. These are things that cannot be overlooked and I think it ultimately got them to the success that they had.”