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Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps Preview: Rising to the Top

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Toronto FC and the Whitecaps meet for the first time since opening day of the 2015 season.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It was the first game of the 2015 season, and there was an air of expectancy around Toronto FC. The club had made international headlines during the summer by acquiring Jozy Altidore, and even more so for their signing of Italian international Sebastian Giovinco.

Both would hit the ground running, as Altidore had a pair of goals and Giovinco an assist in their Toronto FC debuts: a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was a day that had many excited for what the club's future would hold.

A lot has happened to both clubs since the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC last met on that season-opening day a year ago. Throughout the course of 2015, both clubs would build up high expectations from their fans with quality play. Both would ultimately end up disappointing, however, being bounced unceremoniously from the playoffs.

This year is about correcting errors made in the past for both clubs. So far, Toronto FC has done a better job of convincing their fan base that they have indeed improved. The Whitecaps got off to a slow start to the 2016 season, losing four of their first seven games of the season and struggling to score from open play.

The Whitecaps have looked especially poor away from home, where they have won just once all season. They have been outscored 11-5 during five away matches. In the club's history, the have never won at BMO Field.

Vancouver has turned things around of late, however, losing only once in their last five matches. This includes a pair of 2-1 wins in their last two games, against the Portland Timbers a week ago, and the Chicago Fire on Wednesday. This puts Vancouver in good form coming into today's match.

They do, however, also come into the match limping. A gruesome jaw injury to striker Masato Kudo means that he will miss today's match. Joining him on the sidelines are striker Octavio Rivero and defender Christian Dean.

While Toronto FC is fairly healthy heading into the match, they will have to make one replacement to the starting lineup. Midfielder Marky Delgado, a mainstay in the starting 11 of late, was injured in last week's 1-0 win over FC Dallas. Jonathan Osorio is expected to replace him in the midfield diamond.

A win today for Toronto FC has the potential to put them at the top of the Eastern Conference, provided the Montreal Impact and Philadelphia Union draw their match a 5 p.m. eastern today. Ten games into the season, that would be quite the feat for a club who has played just twice at home all year.

Projected Lineup:

Only the one change needed for Toronto FC, as Jonathan Osorio comes back into the starting lineup to replace the injured Marky Delgado. The interaction between Osorio and Tsubasa Endoh is something to watch for, as both are creative players who significantly boost the club's attack.

After scoring twice the last times the two clubs met, all eyes will again be on Jozy Altidore up top to see if he can score his first goal of the 2016 season. The striker drew criticism last week, despite a solid performance, for his inability to put the ball in the back of the net.

Alongside him, Sebastian Giovinco was disappointed to not score in the club's home opener against FC Dallas. He will be desperate to find the back of the net today against one of the few sides in MLS he has never scored against.