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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup against Philadelphia Union

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Who should start in the MLS season opener?

MLS: Champions League-CAI at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon Toronto FC and the Philadelphia Union will get the 2019 MLS season underway when they face off at the Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.

In the second leg against Independiente, Toronto FC played a 4-4-2, with both Ayo Akinola and Jordan Hamilton up top, but it looked more like a 4-3-3 when Nick De Leon went up the right flank and Ayo Akinola went up the left.

I think we will see another 4-3-3 from Greg Vanney, similar to what the team looked like in the aforementioned Champions League game. Greg Vanney could opt to rest some players, but with the 15-day gap between matches coming up, I think we will again see the strongest lineup possible.


Goalkeeper

Alex Bono

Bono let in just a single goal on Tuesday, but once again, he can’t really be blamed for it. After the ball was lobbed down the pitch by an Independiente player, Laurent Ciman tried to head the ball toward Chris Mavinga, but misplaced his header, sending the ball toward Bono. Omar Browne (who would be a great pickup for TFC in my opinion) picked it up and rounded Bono before tying the game with a calm finish. Bono might have been able to do a better job in the one-on-one situation, but overall he had a decent game and made a few nice saves.

Defence

Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Laurent Ciman, Auro

The same back four as the one used on Tuesday, this is theoretically the best Toronto FC have to offer at the back.

Both Justin Morrow and Auro were decent on Tuesday night, serving up some nice crosses. Morrow especially was a big part of the attack, as he was called upon time and time again to run up the left wing and create scoring chances. They should both be starting in Philadelphia.

The pairing of Chris Mavinga and Laurent Ciman has had a shaky start, but on paper, they are the best possible centre-back pairing for this club. Ciman made fatal defensive errors in both legs of the CCL tie, but looked pretty good offensively. His passing was good, especially the long-range passes to the forwards, and I think that he'll likely get the start in Philly.

Drew Moor looked good off the bench on Tuesday, so I wouldn't be surprised if he gets some minutes off the bench.

Midfield

Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado

Until Alejandro Pozuelo comes to town, this is likely the midfield trio that Greg Vanney will be going with.

Michael Bradley was nearly invisible in the first leg of the CCL tie, but in the second leg he was much more involved, both offensively and defensively. He made a few important tackles and found his teammates with some passes. He is also the captain, and is going to start every game.

Marky Delgado was also invisible in the first CCL game, but had a strong performance at home. He tracked back well defensively, and was a workhorse, running around for the full 90 minutes.

Jonathan Osorio showed flashes of his brilliance again on Tuesday, but was unable to find the back of the net. Oso, now in control of the attack following the departure of Victor Vazquez, dictated a lot of what TFC were trying to do on Tuesday but as mentioned, couldn't find the result he was looking for.

Forward

Tsubasa Endoh, Nick DeLeon, Jordan Hamilton

Nick DeLeon made his Toronto FC debut on Tuesday night and, in my opinion, was the best player on the pitch. He looked more than comfortable running at defenders, and impressed the crowd with a few nice runs, including one where he hopped around a sliding defender as if he wasn't even there. He could be a massive part of Toronto FC's success in 2019, and made a good first impression.

Jordan Hamilton, now wearing the number 7, played one of his best games in a TFC shirt on Tuesday, scoring the lone Toronto goal. He looked confident and composed, and linked up nicely with Ayo Akinola.

For whatever reason, Greg Vanney has still not given many minutes to Tsubasa Endoh. He looked really good in his limited minutes, impressing with a few nice dribbles down the left flank. He cut inside onto his right foot at one point, and looked like he was about to try one of his famous long-distance shots (he scored three of them against FC Cincinnati in the USL last year), but was quickly surrounded by defenders. He is one of the only natural wingers on the roster, so I'm amazed that he hasn't started yet. I think Saturday could be the day if Vanney goes with the 4-3-3 as expected.

#FreeEndoh


My full starting XI: