Let’s rewind to Toronto FC’s final match of the 2022 season when they took on the Philadelphia Union in Chester, Pennsylvania. The MLS campaign was not a memorable one, and neither was the 4-0 drubbing they were apart of on that Sunday afternoon at Subaru Park.
Coach Bob Bradley had to rotate the starting lineup for that match. Both Domeinco Criscito and Lorenzo Insigne were struggling with injury, while Richie Laryea served a one-match suspension and Deandre Kerr missed out as well. Instead of opting for the regular 4-3-3 which was used often during of the second half of the season, Bradley switched to a 3-5-2.
One more time.— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) October 9, 2022
Our season finale Starting XI vs. @PhilaUnion#PHIvTOR | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/FmPWm0NRlr
The best starting lineups (typically) yield the best results. Here is the lineup that was played on July 23, 2022 against Charlotte FC (A.K.A. the debut of the two star Italians).
The wait is over.— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) July 23, 2022
Tonight's Starting XI vs. @CharlotteFC#TORvCLT | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/gGhHGQNaND
This was arguably their best starting XI, disregarding the absence of Richie Laryea who returned to the club on loan in early August. It would be beneficial to have a left-footed centre back in the defence which I believe will be a tough issue to cover since Chris Mavinga departed the club after six seasons, going to the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Goalkeepers Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg challenged one another for the starting spot between the sticks in 2022, but it was clear that the club needed to move on from both players. Bono was a free agent and signed with D.C. United where he will compete for the starting spot alongside veteran Tyler Miller. Westberg will most likely serve as a backup for Atlanta United.
The front office put full focus on retooling the backline this offseason, and rightly so. You will see all the familiar faces in midfield and attack who will consistently start games, but it may take some getting used to seeing the likes of Sean Johnson and Matt Hedges in Toronto FC uniforms.
Johnson is a definite upgrade in goal, a proven goalkeeper with championship pedigree as he was the 2021 MLS Cup MVP - he led New York City FC to their first ever title. His longevity in the league proves how valuable of a player he will be to TFC.
Matt Hedges was the anchor of FC Dallas’ defence for 11 seasons, and has a strong track record as one of the best centre backs in the league for well over seven years. He and Johnson will be pivotal pieces as vocal leaders in the heart of defence.
Toronto were in talks with Norwegian centre back Sigurd Rosted for what felt like months before the club announced his signing in early February. Rosted is a physical centre back who isn’t afraid of making a tough tackle. Although not the fastest of centre backs, he will make up for that in his ability to pick a pass both long and short.
The new centre backs stand at 6’4” and 6’2” respectively, which will definitely improve the percentage of winning aerial duels when attacking and defending corners.
It may have come as a surprise when Domenico Criscito announced his retirement in mid-November, and then decided to come out of retirement in late December to return to Genoa. The Italian left back had lots of experience under his belt when he arrived in Toronto and showed his quality game in, game out. His immense IQ calmed things down on the defensive side, and he was not afraid of going forward to link up play with the attack.
To replace “Mimmo”? Another Italian left back but younger and with promising potential: Raoul Petretta.
Petretta was signed in late January from Turkish club Kasimpasa SK where he made nine appearances. Prior to that, he played with Swiss team FC Basel for six seasons. A quick fullback that likes to run up and down the flank with the intent to create chances for both himself and his teammates. He and Laryea will be a promising fullback duo this year as they share similar skillsets.
Here is what Toronto FC’s lineup will look like in 2023 with the new signings.
Will TFC concede less goals this season with the help of their new defensive signings? Watch this space...