New York, New York. The place so nice Toronto FC will play there twice to start their tenth season. While the Red Bulls will be looking to build off their Supporters Shield winning season, here are the keys to the game that you'll need to know ahead of this Sunday's season opener in New York.
With recent news that Collen Warner is on this way to Houston, it has been clear that Toronto FC will be relying heavily on the services of Michael Bradley and Will Johnson to boss the midfield. While there is no shortage of talent in the middle of the park it will be important for Vanney to maximize both players' skills to win this game, and throughout the season. Bradley has been used both as an offensive and defensive midfielder for both Toronto FC and the USMNT while Johnson has had experience on the middle of the pitch and on the wing. Both players have versatility in their roles however Vanney will need to determine early on each player's best positions and how they will fit into his system.
Toronto FC Lacking Attacking Depth
While Giovinco scored goals for fun last season, fans are expecting a similar performance heading into this year's campaign. However if a 20 plus goal season is not on the cards for the MLS MVP, other players will need to step up in 2016. Heading into Sunday's game Toronto's attacking options are inexperienced and unproven. With Altidore out with injury the young guns will be looking for playing time and earning their spot in the starting eleven. Jordan Hamilton, Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh will be expected to step up and ensure goal scoring is not to be a one man show this year.
Matchup of the Game
While most eyes will fall on Giovinco and his quest for his repeat performance Toronto FC fans should be looking to the newcomers and how they are fitting in Vanney's system. Fans will be treated to one of MLS' finest defenders in Drew Moor covering one of the league's most lethal strikers in Bradley Wright Phillips. The previous golden boot winner notched 17 goals and seven assists last season as the player adjusted his game from an all-out goal scorer to one who brings unity to NY's attack. If Moor can minimize BWP impact on the game the result will surely be more positive for Toronto.
Toronto FC can continue to win the off season, but it is Sunday when results begin to matter with points at stake. The Reds look threatening on paper but until they can prove on the field that they can come together as a unit and beat quality sides they cannot be considered favourites for any game. NYRB offer up a statement fixture on Sunday - who would you rather benchmark yourself against than the 2015 Supporters' Shield winners? Toronto FC will need to prove their worth in all areas of the field and only then can we begin to discuss winning trophies and deep playoff runs. Expect Toronto FC to still be without a win in Red Bull Arena on Sunday night, falling 2-1 to New York.