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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup against the Portland Timbers

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Who might Greg Vanney start against the Timbers?

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, Toronto FC host the Portland Timbers at BMO Field.

Despite the remarkable comeback against Minnesota United last time out, there are a lot of questions - especially defensively - about this team. The offense won’t be able to bail out the defenders every single week, especially considering red-hot striker Jozy Altidore will miss a couple of games with an injury suffered at the end of the aforementioned Minnesota United game.

I think Vanney will go for the 4-2-3-1 formation again, with an almost identical lineup to the one he played last time out.

Goalkeeper

Alex Bono

Bono has allowed 8 goals in his 450 minutes of action so far in 2019 - not an impressive statistic. Some of the goals can be blamed on Bono, such as the C. J. Sapong goal against the Chicago Fire, where he was caught in no man’s land, but some can be blamed on the defenders in front of him, as I’ll get to in a minute.

Alex has also, of course, made some impressive saves this season, some of which have kept TFC in games, and has the ability to go on a hot streak once he gets going. A clean sheet against a Portland Timbers side who have looked poor at times this season could be a good opportunity for him to boost his confidence and go on a run.

Defense

Auro, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow

This is the area that TFC have struggled with this season. In six games, Toronto FC have allowed 11 goals, only four less than the New England Revolution for the most allowed in the Eastern Conference. TFC have also played three fewer games than the Revolution, so they could very well pass them for goals allowed over that nine-game spell to start the season.

A conference-best 18 goal scored has bailed them out on a few occasions, but as seen in the Seattle Sounders game a few weeks ago, they can’t score like that every week, so the defense needs to improve sooner rather than later. That could come in the form of a new signing to sure up the backline, but with the current crop of players already in the team, there is no reason why internal options shouldn’t be good enough for the job, they just haven’t been performing as well as they should be.

Whether it’s down to confidence, organization, or simply bad luck, something is off at the moment in the TFC backline, and whatever it is needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

Midfield

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

On paper, this is the best midfield available to Greg Vanney, and has started all four games in the Alejandro Pozuelo era. Pozuelo has been playing higher up the pitch than the rest of them, almost as a striker at times, in a free role, so it looks more like a square in midfield with Jonathan Osorio and Nick DeLeon coming into the middle when Pozuelo roams higher up.

Alejandro has scored four goals and provided four assists in his four starts, in what has been an incredible start to his time in Toronto.

As mentioned, this group of five has started each of the last five matches, so some rotation is bound to happen eventually. Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser and Noble Okello are all options to get some minutes, although Okello played for TFC II on Friday night. With the Gold Cup coming up, it might be time for Vanney to start working these guys into the squad more and getting them some experience.

Forward

Jordan Hamilton

With the injury to Jozy Altidore, Jordan Hamilton, Ayo Akinola and Terrence Boyd are the remaining options for Greg Vanney up top. After scoring the two goals that saw the Reds go from 3-2 down to 4-3 up, Hamilton is in-form, and seemingly confident in front of goal, so Vanney might want to keep riding his hot streak for as long as it lasts.

Ayo Akinola is right on his heels, however, and could earn a start or two following his recent good form.


My full starting XI: