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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup against the Columbus Crew

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The Reds head to Columbus

MLS: Canadian Championship-Ottawa Fury FC at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Fresh off advancing to their fourth consecutive Canadian Championship final, Toronto FC are down in Columbus this evening to take on the Columbus Crew.

According to the MLS injury report, TFC aren’t expected to be missing anyone through injury, so after playing another rotated squad on Wednesday, Greg Vanney should have a full squad to choose from, something that hasn’t often been the case this season.

Because Toronto FC has such a deep squad all of a sudden, with a couple of players forcing themselves into the starting lineup conversation, it can be difficult to choose just 11 players, especially in Toronto FC’s crowded central midfield, where there’s as many as four or five players competing for three spots (assuming Greg Vanney continues with the 4-2-3-1. There are countless more looking for minutes, but can't seem to find any (Jay Chapman and Ayo Akinola come to mind).


Goalkeeper

Quentin Westberg

After a couple of strong showings from Alex Bono in the Canadian Championship, it’s up to Quentin Westberg to respond with a strong performance of his own.

Alex Bono, incredibly, has matched Westberg's win total this season, with five. Bono did it in eleven fewer matches, doing it in 8 appearances (all competitions), while Westberg has played 19 MLS games thus far.

Defenders

Justin Morrow, Chris Mavinga, Omar Gonzalez, Richie Laryea

Both Justin Morrow and Richie Laryea started on Wednesday night. Morrow was replaced by Ashtone Morgan at halftime, so he should be fresh, but Laryea played the full 90 minutes. Auro has been pretty good in recent weeks, but in my opinion, Laryea has overtaken him for top spot on the depth chart at right back. He's more consistent than Auro, and does a bit more defensively.

As I've said before, the centre back pairing of Chris Mavinga and Omar Gonzalez is TFC's best option in my opinion, as the leadership/ stability of Gonzalez pairs nicely with Mavinga's speed and ability on the ball.

Midfielders

Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Alejandro Pozuelo, Nicolas Benezet, Erickson Gallardo

As I said earlier, it's becoming more and more difficult to pick just three central midfielders. With that in mind, it's always possible that Greg Vanney changes formation again to fit in all of these players, who could be starting week in and week out: Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Alejandro Pozuelo, Michael Bradley, Liam Fraser.

That list doesn't even include Jay Chapman, who was surely expecting to get some minutes in the Canadian Championship, but didn't.

Today I've gone with Pozuelo, Delgado and Bradley. Bradley is the captain, so unless he's injured, or away for USMNT duty or something, he plays every single game. Pozuelo is one of, if not the best attacking players in MLS. When available, he's almost certainly to play every game.

The player that was hardest to predict here is Marky Delgado. For me, it's between him and Jonathan Osorio for that third spot, and I've gone with Delgado because of what he does defensively as well as offensively. Whichever one of the two doesn't play will likely come off the bench at some point.

I've also selected both of the new TAM wingers to start this game. Benezet wasn't in the 18 on Wednesday, but Gallardo played and was excellent. He missed a few good chances to score, but he's rapid, and set up multiple good chances for his teammates. Like with the central midfielders, it's not easy to argue that these two should be starting ahead of Shaffelburg/DeLeon/Endoh, who are in good form, but now is as good a chance as any to field your preferred 11, so it's probably wise to take advantage of it.

Forward

Jozy Altidore

Jozy will be hoping that Patrick Mullins didn't consume all the goalscoring juice, after he's scored in his last two matches.

Altidore will look to get back on the scoresheet after his recent four-game scoring streak ended, and get Toronto FC over the edge and into the playoffs.


My full starting XI: