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Return of the Reds: Toronto FC vs Vancouver Whitecaps match preview

TFC are back at BMO for the first time in five months and take on familiar foes from the West coast

SOCCER: MAY 31 MLS - Toronto FC at Vancouver Whitecaps
Toronto FC teammates celebrate a tying goal in the last minutes of play during their match against the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on May 31, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada.
Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ST.JOHN’S, Canada— After a disappointing finish in the MLS is Back tournament, Toronto FC is back home at BMO Field and ready to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps in an all-Canadian regular season clash on Tuesday evening.

TFC was topped by familiar foes NYCFC 3-1 in the MLS is Back round of sixteen some three weeks ago. The early exit came much to the surprise of many of the Reds faithful, particularly with the success Alejandro Pozuelo and Co. have had against the Bronx Blues in recent memory.

For the Whitecaps, the surprise came in reaching the knockout stage at all, as several key players opted out of the tournament entirely before standout starting keeper Maxime Crepeau later went down injured in the group stage.

Riding the wave of replacement goalie Thomas Hasal, one of the feel-good stories of the tournament, Vancouver managed to claw their away into the round of sixteen, ultimately losing out on penalties to Sporting Kansas City.

While the reaction surrounding the two team’s early flights out of Orlando may have differed, the situation back in Canada is now the same for both sides.

Each of TFC, the Caps, and the Montreal Impact are set to face against one another three times apiece in the coming weeks with major implications for both the MLS regular season standings and the Canadian Championship at stake.

Labelled as ‘Canada’s Battle of the North’, the club with the most cumulative points from the upcoming all-Canadian MLS fixtures will face-off against the CPL Island Games winner in a one-off final for the Voyageurs Cup and a berth into the next Concacaf Champions League.

While the format is less than perfect, it is likely the only way the competition could be played in the current climate and should give Toronto some added incentive to pick up as many points as possible as they head into Phase One of the regular season.

The Reds squad may benefit in the long run from going out as early as they did in the MLS is Back tournament, as the chance to heal some lingering injuries during the past few weeks may prove helpful ahead of another congested upcoming run of fixtures.

All signs in training suggest Jonathan Osorio and Jozy Altidore should both be fit and available for selection… at least for the time being.

Breakout star Ayo Akinola is battling the hamstring tightness that kept him out of Toronto’s defeat against NYCFC. According to TFC head coach Greg Vanney, he has returned to training but is “very questionable” for Tuesday’s (re)opener. Fellow forward Ifunanyachi Achara remains sidelined for the season following ACL surgery last month.

According to Gareth Wheeler on the COYR podcast, Justin Morrow is “feeling better” as he continues to nurse the achilles tendonitis injury that kept him out of TFC’s final three games down in Florida, and we can expect the veteran full-back to return in the “not so distant future.”

On the Vancouver side of things, the Whitecaps should be supported with plenty more firepower upfront than the side that struggled to create scoring chances down in Orlando.

Back on Canadian soil, Marc Dos Santos can once again call on a trio of key attackers in Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero, and Tosaint Ricketts, who all opted out of the MLS is Back matches over COVID-19 concerns.

While the front three will be feeling fresh moving forward, concerns in between the sticks may be on Dos Santos’ mind as Crepeau remains on the sideline thanks to the thumb injury he suffered against the Seattle Sounders last month.

Crepeau’s pain appears to be Hasal’s gain as the 21-year-old Saskatchewan native gets his chance to prove his performance in MLS is Back was no fairytale.

These two Canadian clubs last faced off in the MLS back on May 31st, 2019 at BC Place where Nick DeLeon struck at the death to secure a single point on the road for TFC in a 1-1 draw.

Toronto fielded far from their strongest XI on the night with regulars including Bradley, Osorio, and Auro Jr. out of the squad on this occasion, and ultimately the match was far from the most exciting of last season.

With almost everyone available for selection and plenty of added incentive heading into Tuesday, expect Vanney to field as strong a side as possible to restart the 2020 regular season on a high note.

Additional Notes:

  • Former Reds striker Tosaint Ricketts will make his return to BMO Field, this time as an opposing player with the Whitecaps. The Canadian international made 66 appearances and scored 16 goals across all competitions in three seasons for TFC.
  • A point in this game would extend Toronto’s regular-season unbeaten run to 16 matches spanning across 381 days.