TORONTO, Canada—The 2021 Major League Soccer (MLS) season is right around the corner and it is shaping up to be an intriguing year for the Reds. With most of the squad returning from last season, but a new head coach leading the pack, the team is expected to take on a different identity than in years past.
How that will play out? Early signs have been positive, but that’s still the million dollar question right now heading into the start of a new MLS campaign.
Here’s our 2021 Toronto FC MLS season preview:
2020 record: 13-5-5 | Conference standing: 2nd | 1st-round playoff exit vs. Nashville SC
Head Coach: Chris Armas
Key additions: Jordan Perruzza (Homegrown signing)
Key losses: Pablo Piatti (Signed with El Elche CF), Laurent Ciman (Retired, coaches with CF Montreal), Tony Gallacher (Loan Expired, Liverpool FC)
Projected Starting XI: (4-4-2): Westberg, Auro Jr., Gonzalez, Mavinga, Laryea, Osorio, Delgado, Bradley, Shaffelburg, Pozuelo, Altidore
Best offseason move: There aren’t many offseason moves to choose from for Toronto FC, so this one is pretty easy: re-signing veteran left-back Justin Morrow. Morrow, who has been with the club since 2014, is currently the only natural LB on the Toronto FC roster and his experience down the left flank will be ever-so-valuable for the Reds, who once again aspire to be title contenders in 2021. As the Executive Director of Black Players for Change, he’s also a terrific locker room presence and has been a leader in pushing for change throughout MLS and beyond.
Reasons to be worried about Toronto FC: Will TFC re-find the same success under new head coach Chris Armas than they did with Greg Vanney? That’s certainly the biggest question mark heading into this campaign as Armas is expected to instill a high-press, high-energy, high-tempo style of play that will be different from Vanney’s more methodical approach in the past.
On paper, the club also took a step backwards in terms of their roster makeup as their only offseason addition (so far) has been 20-year-old homegrown striker Jordan Perruzza, while Laurent Ciman, former designated player Pablo Piatti, and Tony Gallacher all departed at the end of the year. They have yet to make their third designated-player signing, and with the club competing in the CCL as well as having to manage a congested schedule throughout the year, the question remains: will Toronto FC have enough squad depth to contend for a Supporters’ Shield?
It certainly won’t help that they’ll also be starting the year (once again) down in Florida, away from home.
Why Toronto FC are worth watching: On paper, Toronto FC are still projected to be one of the best teams in Major League Soccer, led of course by the reigning MVP: Alejandro Pozuelo.
With Armas at the helm, the team appears to be re-energized and should play an exciting style of soccer that should appeal to fans this upcoming season. Michael Bradley is expected to contribute more offensively than in years past, while Jozy Altidore appears to have bought in to Armas’ vision, as he’s apparently working hard and pushing others in training in hopes of bouncing back after a dissapointing 2020 campaign.
The club is also extremely high on some of their young Canadian talent, like Ayo Akinola—the league-leader in goals per 90 last season—Jayden Nelson, Ralph Priso, Jacob Shaffelburg, Noble Okello, and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, as TFC arguably boast the best prospect cupboard in all of MLS. The youngsters are expected to earn quite a few minutes under Armas, which should be intriguing to fans who have been waiting to see what some of their local talent could do.
Fans got a small taste of it as Toronto FC advanced to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League on the back of their young guns for the first time since 2018.
It’s been seven years since the Reds had a new voice leading the pack: how will it translate in 2021?
We won’t have to wait too much longer to find out, as Toronto FC kick off their 2021 MLS season on April 17 against CF Montreal. You can find the full Toronto FC MLS regular season schedule here.