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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup against Minnesota United

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Who might get the start in TFC’s return to BMO Field?

MLS: Toronto FC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night, Toronto FC return home to play Minnesota United.

After a disappointing road loss, where TFC looked the better team for parts of the match, there were a lot of players who were certainly deserving of another start, and most of them likely will.

I’ve gone back to a 4-2-3-1 formation in my prediction, as Auro is set to return from injury, so Vanney can drop one of the three centre-backs if he wants. It is kind of like a 4-2-2-2 at times, however, as he has been playing Alejandro Pozuelo up front alongside Jozy Altidore.

Goalkeeper

Alex Bono

Although Quentin Westberg had a solid debut on the road in Seattle, I think Alex Bono gets the start on Friday night. Westberg can’t be fully blamed for any of the three goals, as his defenders were poor on all three occasions, and many people online were calling for him to be named the starter immediately. He was good, but I wouldn’t go that far after a single appearance.

Let’s also not forget that Greg Vanney probably didn’t bench Bono due to a lack of trust, but because he always plays his backup keeper in Seattle. This is due to a combination of lengthy travel and bad playing surface, which can throw off a goalkeeper’s judgement on how to play the ball. Clint Irwin started instead of Bono in 2017, and Chris Konopka started instead of Joe Bendik in 2015.

Defence

Auro, Laurent Ciman, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow

Now that Auro is available to return from injury, Greg Vanney can drop the 3-5-2 that he played last weekend and return to the 4-2-3-1 that he’s been using since Alejandro Pozuelo turned up.

Against the Sounders, Vanney started 3 centre-backs, all of whom were poor on the day: Laurent Ciman, Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta.

On the first Sounders goal, they were caught ball-watching, as the cross from Brad Smith (although deflected) floated onto the head of Will Bruin, who dived for it and placed it past Westberg and into the goal. Zavaleta was removed at the half for tactical reasons, as Jay Chapman came on and played further up the pitch.

Midfield

Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, Alejandro Pozuelo, Nick DeLeon

The trio of Jonathan Osorio, Alejandro Pozuelo and Nick DeLeon has been great so far this season, as their versatility can be a headache for their opposition.

Osorio has been lining up wide left, but has been moving into the middle of the park, setting the ball up for Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore up top, Nick DeLeon on the right, or Justin Morrow on the left, who moves into an advanced position on the left wing.

This can be a nightmare to plan for, as you have to consider several tactical options when there is only three players in the attacking midfield, as the players around can them move all over the place, or stay right where they are and play as they line up.

Forward

Jozy Altidore

Mr. Altiscore, um... I mean Altidore, has gotten off to a really hot start to the season. After missing the two Champions League games and the MLS opener with an injury, Altidore has now scored in his first four games of 2019, scoring five goals in the process. The connection with Alejandro Pozuelo has been incredible, as they combined for another two goals last time out, and Pozuelo has assisted all four of Altidore’s goals since his debut against NYCFC.

One tactic that seems to be working particularly well is having Pozuelo fire a diagonal cross over the heads of defenders onto Jozy’s head, leaving him to head it home. They’ve already scored twice like that, against the Fire and the Sounders, and have tried it several other times.


My full starting XI (featuring some awesome new graphics by WTR’s own Jeffrey P. Nesker):