On Saturday afternoon Toronto FC are in Seattle for the latest rematch of the 2016 and 2017 MLS Cup finals.
Dealing with injuries to Drew Moor and Auro, Greg Vanney might have to be a bit creative with his lineup selection. I think he will go with a back three, setting up his team in some sort of a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation.
Still undefeated in this early part of the season, Bono will face his biggest challenge yet, as the Sounders have scored an impressive 11 goals in their five games so far. Toronto FC have scored 12 in four games, so Bono’s counterpart Stefan Frei should also be a bit nervous, but the Sounders defenders have also allowed just three goals so far compared to TFC’s five.
A positive performance against his toughest opponent so far would do wonders for Bono’s confidence, as he has been the focus of online blame for almost every mistake that TFC have made defensively so far, even when some things are quite clearly not his fault. A positive game will surely quiet some of his doubters as he looks to continue his unbeaten streak, and the club’s best-ever start to an MLS campaign.
Nick DeLeon, Eriq Zavaleta, Laurent Ciman, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow
With injuries to Drew Moor and Auro likely keeping them out of this game, big opportunities have opened up for a few defenders on the roster.
After making his debut against the Chicago Fire in TFC’s last game, Richie Laryea is deserving of another opportunity to start, but if Greg Vanney chooses to go with three at the back, there can only be one player on the right flank, and that player should be Nick DeLeon. One of TFC’s best players so far in 2019, DeLeon was awarded a contract extension this week that will keep him in Toronto through the 2021 season. He has been playing on the right wing so far this season, but has plenty of experience at right-back, where he’ll likely play on Saturday if Vanney opts for three at the back.
With Drew Moor out of the team, I think Greg Vanney will bring in a pair of centre-backs who haven’t seen a lot of action so far this season, Laurent Ciman and Eriq Zavaleta.
Ciman played both Champions League games, as well as the season opener in Philly, but after some shaky performances, has been starting on the bench since. The pairing of Mavinga and Ciman is seemingly a bit of a risky one, as both are good with the ball but can sometimes be caught out of position, which has resulted in a number of good scoring chances, some of which have been converted. Ciman can’t ride the bench forever, and this starting opportunity against one of the league’s better offences is a big chance for him to prove that he is deserving of more starts.
As mentioned above, both Chris Mavinga and Laurent Ciman can sometimes be caught out of position, so without Drew Moor, having a third centre-back there to cover if one of the other two go higher up the pitch certainly isn’t the worst idea in the world. The defender I think would get the nod would be Eriq Zavaleta. Zavaleta has yet to see any action in 2019, so the injury to Drew Moor is a perfect opportunity to give him some minutes. He’ll almost certainly be on the bench if he’s not in the starting 11 I think. Often the scapegoat in 2018 after a couple of poor performances, Zavaleta will be hoping that he can find his 2017 form again, when he was one of the most important defenders on the best team in MLS history.
Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio
After scoring his first goal of the season to grab a point against Chicago, Jonathan Osorio is off to another good start to the season. He has been linking up nicely with Alejandro Pozuelo, and his passing has been excellent to start the 2019 campaign. If he can be that strong link between the defenders and forwards, he could be a difference maker in this game against a decent Sounders midfield.
With Michael Bradley, who has played every minute of the season so far, and Marky Delgado slotting in behind him defensively, Osorio will be able to push forward and attack the Sounders goal with the final two players on this list.
Jozy Altidore, Alejandro Pozuelo
Toronto FC have both the best goal difference and the most goals scored in the Eastern Conference so far in 2019. Not bad considering they’ve played just 4 games while most teams have already reached the 5 or 6 game mark.
This is thanks in large part to Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo, who have combined to score 5 of TFC’s 12 goals. Altidore has scored a goal in each of his first three matches to start the season, while Pozuelo scored a brace in his debut against NYCFC, and has set up two Jozy Altidore goals for four combined goals/assists to start his TFC career.
Pozuelo has been playing in a free role, allowing him to move wherever he wants, something that will give MLS defenders nightmares if he manages to keep up the form he’s currently in.
My Full Starting XI: