TORONTO, Ont. - A busy and chaotic off-season for Toronto FC will come to an end on Saturday when the Reds officially open their 2022 MLS campaign against FC Dallas. Kick-off is scheduled for 5:30 PM EST and can be watched on TSN.
The Reds effectively hit the reset button following their dismal 2021 campaign. The off-season saw lots of changes on and off the field, with the Club parting ways with more than a dozen players from the 2021 squad and a new coaching staff.
While there is plenty of confidence and optimism heading into Saturday, Bradley did urge patience as he continues to impose his vision and playing style onto his players. An uninterrupted pre-season will have helped with that, but the Reds will continue to need more game time to get more and more comfortable with a new system.
There were many factors that can be attributed to the overall poor campaign last season. Being displaced south of the border for the first half of the season and the impact that had on the squad is certainly a consideration. However, the number of injuries to key players all throughout the season also started to take its toll and never allowed the squad to find any kind of cohesion.
Alejando Pozuelo, the 2020 MLS MVP, was one of many players who found himself on the sideline for lengthy periods of time. Pozuelo was limited to just 14 games last season and found the back of the net just once. The Spanish international will be looking to get back to the form that saw him dazzle fans across the league in 2020 and will be looking to become a key contributor on the other side of the ball this year as part of Bradley’s new system.
Alejandro Pozuelo says Bob Bradley has pushed him to play more defensively this preseason. Says it's easy to work with Bradley because he wants to improve himself as a player and there's constant communication— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) February 24, 2022
Along with Pozuelo, Bob Bradley will have a healthy roster to pick from in his debut game. Heading into the season opener, only Ayo Akinola (ACL) will be unavailable through injury and while Reds faithful are waiting on the Club’s marquee signing, Lorenzo Insigne, to debut, that won’t happen until later in the year. TFC’s other Designated Player acquisition from the winter, Carlos Salcedo, is expected to make his debut.
Toronto’s opponent on Saturday, FC Dallas have a lot of similarities between them going back to last season. Just like the Reds, FC Dallas also struggled to find wins including a disappointing end to the season where Dallas managed to win just three of its final 18 games. The 2021 season also prompted Dallas to make drastic changes across the board.
Nico Estévez joined FC Dallas over the off-season as the eighth head coach in franchise history and brings with him MLS experience having previously been with the Columbs Crew in 2017as an assistant and most recently an assistant with the US Men’s National Team program.
Along with a new head coach, FC Dallas also parted ways with a number of players - including last year’s top scorer Ricardo Pepi who joined FC Augsburg in January - and brought in nine new players to bolster their squad which included American international Paul Arriola and completed a club-record deal to bring in Argentinian winger Alan Velasco.
Similar to his Toronto counterpart, Estévez will have to focus on how his squad can keep the ball out of their own net. FC Dallas conceded 56 goals in 2021, which put them in the bottom three of the league behind Toronto FC (66) and FC Cincinnati (74).
Historically, FC Dallas has fared extremely well against the Reds, having won 11 of 18 all time meetings, including winning the last three matchups dating back to 2017. The clubs have not met each other since 2019, when FCD collected all three points in a 3-0 victory.
It’s been a long and busy off-season for TFC to once again strengthen this squad. While the path back to the top won’t be a quick or easy one, Saturday will be a fresh start and a first step for the Reds to return back to the summit of the MLS.
What will you be looking for in TFC’s season opener?
- FC Dallas haven’t lost a home opener since 2010 (7 W, 5 D)
- Club captain Michael Bradley can equal Justin Morrow’s record for second most appearances in club history (254). The all-time record belongs to Jonathan Osorio (292).
Opponent: FC Dallas
Kick-off time: 5:30 PM EST
Stadium: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX