Toronto FC will get their 2019 Canadian Championship campaign underway on Wednesday night, as they’re in our nation’s capital to take on the Ottawa Fury.
Predicting a starting lineup for a game like this one isn’t easy. There are usually a couple of surprise inclusions, usually in the form of TFC II players — who don’t need to be signed to a first team deal in order to play in this competition.
I’m expecting a bit of rotation in this match, but The Reds also want to win this one, so don’t expect Greg Vanney to just throw out TFC II (although that would be kinda cool).
The only guarantee on Wednesday night is that Alex Bono will be between the sticks for Toronto FC. Bono hasn’t played for TFC since May 8th in Atlanta. Quentin Westberg has played every match since then, and Greg Vanney has said recently that the Canadian Championship will be Bono’s tournament.
Justin Morrow, Rocco Romeo, Eriq Zavaleta, Richie Laryea
After picking up a red card at the end of TFC’s game in New Jersey on Saturday, Justin Morrow will be suspended for TFC’s game against Orlando this weekend. Ashtone Morgan would’ve been my pick to start this game had Morrow not been sent off, but I think he’ll likely start on Saturday instead.
Trying to predict the starting lineup for a match like this plays tricks on your mind. With Morgan likely being saved for Saturday, and Morrow the obvious replacement, I can’t help but think that Greg Vanney might try to sneak in TFC II left-back Terique Mohammed at some point. He’s put in some great performances for II so far, and is someone that is likely on the verge of getting some first-team minutes. I doubt he’ll start, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes off the bench.
As mentioned above, TFC II players don’t need to be signed to first-team deals in order to play in this competition, so it gives Greg Vanney a chance to maybe try a few guys out - like he did with Jacob Shaffelburg down in Panama.
Another TFC II player who I think might get some minutes in this one is centre-back Rocco Romeo. Romeo has been solid for TFC II since returning from a loan spell in Denmark, and is another play who could use a tournament like this to audition for the first-team. He’s a commanding presence on both sides of the ball, and at 6’2, is an aerial threat, especially on set pieces. I think he likely sees minutes in at least one of the two games against Ottawa.
Erickson Gallardo, Jonathan Osorio, Tsubasa Endoh, Liam Fraser, Noble Okello
Wednesday night could finally see the long-awaited debut of new winger Erickson Gallardo. After missing a few matches with an injury, Gallardo is ready to get some minutes under his belt, and this match could be a good opportunity for him to get match-fit.
Another player who could make his debut is Noble Okello. Okello signed a first team deal earlier this year but hasn't played for the first team yet, and this could be his chance.
It's unlikely that TFC play Michael Bradley or Marky Delgado in this game, so Liam Fraser and Noble Okello could be the next two in line.
Captain Osorio was a fan-favourite during last year's tournament, and I think it'll happen again on Wednesday. TFC need to start at least three Canadians in this game, so starting the best one makes sense.
Jay Chapman should also see the pitch during this tournament, but I couldn't fit him into my starting lineup. I think he'll likely come off the bench at some point.
Akinola has played a couple of times with TFC II recently, including last Wednesday's game that saw 6 players with first-team experience take the field.
He hasn't played for the first team since coming off the bench on June 29th, so he should be pretty fresh and will almost certainly see some minutes in this game.
Other candidates to play up top in this one are Patrick Mullins, who could also use some minutes, as well as Jordan Perruzza from TFC II, who is currently second in the USL League One golden boot race.
My full starting XI: