On Saturday afternoon Toronto FC will travel to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park for a date with the Colorado Rapids. Toronto FC have a very important CONCACAF Champions League game on Tuesday, the home leg of the final against Chivas Guadalajara, and have already made it known that many key players didn’t even make the trip to Colorado, and won’t travel to Houston next week either. This will open doors for players who are fighting for minutes like Jay Chapman and Jordan Hamilton. One Instagram user even commented on a Toronto FC post: “I’ve been trying to see a TFC II game all season, today we get to see Toronto FC 1.5”.
Greg Vanney will likely set up his team in the 4-4-2 diamond formation for this one, as it is sturdy and also accommodates all of the players he’ll have available to him. As mentioned, most of the starters will not be taking part, and you could probably field the best side in MLS using the players that Toronto FC are not bringing to Colorado: Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Victor Vazquez, Auro Jr., Gregory van der Wiel, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund and Alex Bono.
Irwin has only appeared in one match this season — TFC’s last league game, a 3-1 victory over Real Salt Lake. He looked decent in his rare oppurtunity to play, and he will be hoping to take advantage of a couple of games off for Bono (both on Saturday and next weekend in Houston). Bono will certainly get both games against Chivas if all goes well.
Nicolas Hasler, Eriq Zavaleta, Jason Hernandez, Ashtone Morgan
Jason Hernandez was one of four signings made by Toronto FC ahead of this match, and he’s the one most likely to play. He will provide some much-needed depth in the middle of defence for Toronto, and he may line up alongside Eriq Zavaleta. The only reason I’m giving Zavaleta the advantage over Moor is the sense of youth in the side. Both have been poor lately, often being outrun and have given away silly fouls. Moor might get the start for his leadership capabilities, but Hernandez is a 14-year veteran of the league and hasn’t played for a while, so he is more rested than Drew.
On the sides of the defence, I have chosen Nicolas Hasler and Ashtone Morgan as the starters. Hasler played a lot of right back last season, but has been used in his natural midfield position this year. I’m sure, however, that he would jump at the opportunity to get a start, regardless of the position. On the other side of the back four is Ashtone Morgan. The Toronto native has won back a lot of support for his play in the absence of Justin Morrow, and with Morrow on the verge of coming back from his injury, Morgan could play in Colorado.
Michael Bradley, Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser, Ager Aketxe
Michael Bradley is the rock in this team, the captain and the heart of the midfield. He is the main link between the defenders and the attackers, and when he’s healthy, he plays 90 minutes, even when he’s tired. There is no way Vanney would leave him out of this one.
The other three midfielders are in a dramatically different position than Bradley. While Bradley has played every minute of every game thus far, the other three, Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser and Ager Aketxe have combined for 206 minutes (175 for Aketxe, 31 for Chapman and 0 for Fraser). All three will be fighting for more playing time in a crowded midfield, and like Clint Irwin, they will be hoping to impress Vanney over the next 2 league games.
Jordan Hamilton, Tosaint Ricketts
Jordan Hamilton will be another player hoping to get plenty of minutes over the next couple of league games, in order to fight for a spot on the bench behind Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. His opponent, and front-runner, for that bench spot is Tosaint Ricketts. Ricketts played most of the game against Club América on Tuesday after Altidore left with an injury, and looked good, helping to create Jonathan Osorio’s away goal.
Caleb Patterson-Sewell, Julian Dunn, Drew Moor, Aidan Daniels, Ben Spencer, Ryan Telfer, Ayo Akinola
This bench is filled with a lot of players you may not have heard of before as Julian Dunn, Ryan Telfer and Aidan Daniels were all signed to professional contracts on Friday ahead of this match. Caleb Patterson-Sewell and Ayo Akinola were both signed during preseason, but are both yet to play for the team. It is certainly a young bench as Dunn (17), Akinola (18) and Daniels (19) are all born in 1999 or 2000, and we could see the first player born in the 21st century to suit up for TFC.