There are a number of important factors to Toronto FC having a successful season, but one of them is that their star players have to be just that. Last year was the first time that Toronto FC's designated players have truly lived up to their titles and cap hits.
Sebastian Giovinco's had a record breaking year, Jozy Altidore scored 13 goals and Michael Bradley had a strong season in the midfield. But Toronto FC will be hoping that a stronger group of players around this core will make their performances even better in 2016.
It is a long time before the club's designated players can truly be measured for their performances this year, but early results are promising. All three of Toronto's players look to be in good shape with the season just a month away, which can only bode well for the year ahead.
Giovinco is the only one who has suited up for Toronto thus far, as both Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore have been with the United States national team. But being without his fellow designated players has hardly held Giovinco back, albeit against preseason opposition.
Nonetheless he leads the club in preseason scoring with 4 goals in 3 matches, including a pair in a 3-2 victory over the LA Galaxy to culminate the California leg of the club's training camp. At the very least this shows just how engaged he is, and ready to make the most of this important year in his career.
Altidore, meanwhile, did not quite have the same success that Giovinco did in his first season in Toronto. When he did play he was solid, scoring 13 goals in 25 matches, but long absences due to injury and international break left something to be desired in 2015.
He will be looking to change that in 2016, and has clearly already put in the work to take a step forward. An offseason full of hard work has seen Altidore lose weight, making him noticeably fitter and quicker on and off the ball. This is definitely important, as at times last year he was a non-factor for Toronto.
Altidore was likely the best player for the United States at their January camp, earning plenty of praise from manager Jurgen Klinsmann. Klinsmann, it should be noted, hasn't always been Altidore's biggest supporter dropping him from the knockout round Gold Cup roster this past summer.
Altidore scored the American's opening goal against Iceland, and then broke Canadian hearts by scoring in the 89th minute in the United State's second game. He had, and created, several other chances in both games and looked a constant threat to score.
Many of those chances also came courtesy of Us Men's national team and Toronto FC captain Bradley. Interestingly, he played a deeper role in the American team this camp becoming more of a box-to-box midfielder. Nonetheless he was effective in both matches and was the starting point for the American attack on many occasions.
Against Iceland he would find Altidore behind the defense for the opening goal. His freekick would also set up Steve Birnbaum's game winning goal on a night that would see two assists for the American captain.
Supporters shouldn't read too much into preseason, evidently, but perhaps more into the international stage where Bradley and Altidore (not to mention Will Johnson) had strong performances. Either way it is promising to see Toronto's best players are in good shape and spirits going into 2016, as they will be crucial to making sure the team takes a step forward.