TORONTO, Canada—Toronto FC resumed full-team training earlier this week ahead of the MLS is Back Tournament, which is set to kickoff July 8 at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.
With just over three months since the Reds last hit the field as a team, Toronto FC was expected to begin training on Monday with their full squad available for the first time this season.
“Everybody’s back,” said Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney in a media call last Thursday. “Pablo (Piatti)’s been in. Michael (Bradley)’s been in. I think both of those guys are fully aboard as they get into training.”
‘I feel really good’: Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley excited to return following ankle surgery#TFCLive | (via @MichaelSingh94) https://t.co/UgnUxZxwWV— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) June 9, 2020
The news should come as a delight to TFC fans, as prior to MLS stopping play on Mar. 12 as a result of COVID-19, the Reds had a plethora of injuries that the medical staff had to deal with:
Michael Bradley (Ankle Surgery)
Pablo Piatti (Hamstring)
Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty (Concussion)
Nick DeLeon (Back Spasms)
Jacob Shaffelburg (Hamstring)
Jozy Altidore (Back Tightness & Sore Hip)
In particular, the case of new designated player Pablo Piatti was particularly concerning.
When captain Michael Bradley decided to take a significant paycut to return to Toronto FC—one that saw his salary drop from $6.5 million to $1.6 million (prior to pandemic pay cuts)—it came with a promise from ownership that his money would be spent.
Thus, prior to the start of the season, the team made a splash, signing 30-year-old Pablo Piatti from Spain’s La Liga. Extremely talented, the Argentinian also came with serious injury concerns after suffering a ruptured ACL just over a year ago. As such, it was a real bummer for TFC fans to find out that Piatti had already injured his hamstring, just days into camp.
However, with an abundance of time to recover, the former UEFA La Liga Team of the Season midfielder has apparently looked sharp during individual and small-group training sessions, which resumed earlier last month.
“Everybody is moving forward, Pablo (Piatti) included,” said Vanney. “He’s looked great. He’s been very dynamic. His fitness level is good. He’s been great. It’s been nice to have him on the ball, he’s got a good personality, he’s explosive—very quick, shifty. So it’s nice.”
#TFCLive coach Greg Vanney on Pablo Piatti: pic.twitter.com/io41a39W7n— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) June 11, 2020
With a full squad in tact, Toronto is expected to train outdoors at the BMO Training Ground in North Toronto until early July when they’ll depart for Orlando, likely seven days before their first kickoff date.
The Reds were drawn as the top seed in Group C, joining the Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, and D.C. United. They’ll play each of those teams once, with all games counting towards Group C standings as well as the 2020 MLS Regular Season, which is expected to resume after the tournament final on Aug. 11.
A new rule in the MLS is Back competition may also benefit TFC, who will be bringing along all 30 players to Orlando. Clubs are now permitted to name a 23-player matchday squad (as opposed to 18) and use up to five substitutions per game, something that Vanney says he may exploit as an opportunity to give playing time to some of his younger players.
We’ll have more updates as we inch closer to the return of MLS, but a friendly reminder that we’re less than a month away from the return of TFC footy!