TORONTO, Ont.—After nearly three months of waiting, Toronto FC are back.
Following some preseason fun in the sun in California, the Reds stick around the Golden state to kick off the 2020 MLS regular season on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes.
“A lot of it is going to come down to mentality. Playing the way they play, it's a mentality game.” #TFCLive— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) February 27, 2020
TFC come into 2020 looking very similar to the side that came oh so close last season, making it all the way to the MLS Cup final in 2019.
The big offseason addition came in the form of designated player Pablo Piatti, with the Argentine winger joining the club from La Liga side Espanyol.
In typical Toronto FC fashion, Piatti is unavailable for the opener due to injury and will be joined on the sidelines by club Captain Michael Bradley thanks to an operation on his ankle. Bradley is expected to be out until at least May, while Nick DeLeon is also questionable for Saturday as of now due to back spasms.
For a more detailed breakdown of the state of the team heading into 2020, check out our WTR season preview here.
San Jose are coming off a mediocre 2019 season which saw them finish eighth in the Western conference, four points back of FC Dallas for the final playoff spot.
The Earthquakes offseason was not dissimilar than that of Toronto. Much of their work consisted of internal affairs, bringing back key senior players and graduating some homegrown talent to the first team.
Their three big moves were bringing back Captain Chris Wondolowski for one final season, making Cristian Espinoza a permanent Quakes player, and acquiring Mexican defender Oswaldo Alanis on loan from Liga MX outfit Guadalajara.
At age 36, Wondolowski still had it for San Jose last season scoring a team high 15 goals. With the American legend still converting at a quality rate, bringing him back for one last kick at the can was a no brainer.
Espinoza is coming off a strong debut season in San Jose where he scored twice and added 13 assists while on loan from Spanish side Villarreal. The 24-year-old Argentine should be a key piece of the Quakes attack this season with a new deal and a full year of MLS experience under his belt.
Alanis is a name many TFC fans will remember as he played a big role in Guadalajara’s 2018 Concacaf Champions League final triumph where they beat the Reds in penalties. For his efforts in that competition, he was named to the best XI as one of the top four defenders.
Quakes Head Coach Matías Almeyda will be hoping the now 30-year-old Alanis will bring some of that stability and experience to the San Jose backline.
The two sides faced off just once last year with San Jose topping TFC 2-1 in May at BMO Field thanks to a Wondolowski brace. The loss came in the middle of an eight-game stretch by which Toronto failed to win a single match. Even with a couple key pieces missing through injury, expect a much more energetic side this time out.
Ahead of the opener on Saturday, Greg Vanney addressed the media regarding the group’s preparations for San Jose as well as the season as a whole:
“It’s always interesting to start the year with a team that plays such clear, defined, but unique, style,” said Vanney. “And we want to prepare for an entire season, we don’t want to just prepare for one game. They won’t change things too much. That’s the way he (Almeyda) plays; they’ll try to just get better at what they’re trying to do.”
Despite a few injuries and some fresh faces within the group, Vanney likes where the team is headed as they begin the quest to get back the MLS Cup Final for a fourth time in five years.
“We’ve got a good mix of guys, they get along great, work hard for each other, have good chemistry on the field, we’re comfortable with that and now we get the league started.”
- Toronto FC Head Coach Greg Vanney would secure his 100th win in charge of the club with a victory on Saturday.
- Chris Wondolowski currently leads the MLS all-time goals list with 159 and counting. The closest active player on the list is Colorado Rapids forward Kei Kamara who sits in fourth place with 126 coming into the 2020 season.
- Jozy Altidore is expected to wear the Captain’s armband vs. San Jose with Michael Bradley missing out through injury.
Predicted Starting XI:
Here’s Waking The Red’s predicted Toronto FC starting XI for the first matchup of the season.
HOW TO WATCH:
Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. EST on Saturday afternoon, and those in Canada can watch on TSN. Alternatively, you can stream the match using ESPN+ or FuboTV subscriptions ($), which gives you access to all MLS games this season. Michael Singh will have your Live Game Thread up right here before the match, so make sure you come ready to chime in. The 2020 Toronto FC season begins today.