After a harrowing start to the 2016 MLS season, Toronto FC could sure use a break. However, while the majority of MLS teams are currently enjoying a half-month vacation while the Copa America Centenario is being played, Toronto FC is back in training preparing for the Voyageurs Cup.
Tomorrow, Toronto FC play the first leg of the tournament's semi-final round at home against the Montreal Impact. They then travel to Montreal next Wednesday, June 8, for the away leg. Toronto FC was eliminated by the Impact in the semi-final round last season. In fact, Montreal has eliminated Toronto three years in a row.
Toronto FC has not won the Voyageurs Cup since 2012, something they will be looking to change this year. It will be a difficult change to make, however: this year's tournament comes at a difficult time for Toronto FC.
For one, they come in limping, both physically and emotionally considering their recent string of results. Toronto FC has not won since its May 8 home opener, and suffered its worst result of the season this past weekend in a 3-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls.
Its on-field options have been limited as well, as the teams sick bay continues to grow. Benoit Cheyrou, Tsubasa Endoh, Sebastian Giovinco, Josh Williams and Jozy Altidore have all been out of the lineup recently. Cheyrou and Endoh are likely to return to the lineup tomorrow. Giovinco is possible, as his injury looks to be short-term, but would likely only feature as a sub if at all.
Then, of course, there is the international break which has claimed even more key players from Toronto FC's lineup. Michael Bradley is currently captaining the United States as they prepare for the Copa America Centenario. Will Johnson, meanwhile, is with the Canadian team for a pair of friendlies in Austria. There is no word as to whether he will be back for the second leg.
So it is likely that Toronto FC will be without all three of their designated players for the semi-final round, while Montreal has the possibility of playing all three of theirs. They also got to keep all of their Canadian players, as not a single Impact player was called into the Canadian camp. Defender Laurent Ciman, who is representing Belgium at Euro 2016, is their only big absence.
In place of several key starters, Toronto FC will have to rely on a number of young Canadians in order to get the result against Montreal. According to Kurt Larson of the Toronto Sun, three Toronto FC II players will be up with the senior team for the match: Malik Johnson, Brian James and Chris Mannella. TFC II leading scorer Raheem Edwards likely would have joined them, but is injured.
By all accounts, Toronto FC really does care about the Canadian Championship, especially as it relates to qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League. They will not be playing mid-season international friendlies this year in part to better focus on this competition.
But circumstances have conspired to make that task incredibly difficult. Don't count Toronto FC out by any means, this competition has proven difficult to predict (other than that the Vancouver Whitecaps aren't going to win it). However, the timing of this tournament couldn't be much worse for the club, and they will need a pair of unexpected performances in order to progress.