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Comparing Toronto FC’s bench depth since the end of last season

Is TFC’s bench better off now than they were last year?

Sean Pollock/Waking the Red

A team’s bench depth can be the measuring stick of how successful they will be during a season.

One may argue the reason why the majority of 2022 was lacklustre for Toronto FC was because they did not have enough talent on the entire roster. Younger players that would typically feature in mostly substitute appearances started many games, due to the fact that the bench was thin.

Now that TFC’s front office has had the offseason to bolster the supporting cast - let’s take a look at who will provide help to the starting XI, and in all likelihood, start some matches when the MLS schedule picks up steam.

Tomás Romero was coached by Bob Bradley at LAFC in 2021, and played the role of backup keeper to Pablo Sisniega and also to former Chelsea youth product, Jamal Blackman.

Romero won’t be between the sticks week in, week out, but he serves as a serviceable second-string goalie behind MLS veteran Sean Johnson. In my opinion, the mixture of youth and experience in net is an upgrade from the Alex Bono-Quentin Westberg duo in past seasons.

Tomás Romero in action for LAFC in 2021.
(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Shane O’Neill started 21 games last season, while Lukas MacNaughton took some time to adjust to MLS but found his footing and started 20 matches. Although both will not get consistent starts, they will be rotated into the XI throughout the season.

Shane O’Neill fending off New York Red Bulls defender John Tolkin.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)
Lukas MacNaughton during goal celebrations on July 23 vs. Chartlotte.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)

The emergence of left back Luca Petrasso last year was fun to witness, but the pacey youngster’s time with the club was cut short as Orlando City showed interest in him and executed a trade which sent him to The Lions, as TFC received General Allocation Money (GAM) in return.

Petrasso’s departure may result in more substitute appearances for Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty.

A significant injury impacted some of Marshall Rutty’s 2022, but he still featured in half of TFC’s MLS games. At 18 years of age, the academy graduate has his best years ahead of him and will look to impress the fans of his current club in the hopes of transferring to a European club in the future.

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty applauds the home support.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)

Ladies and gentlemen, Victor Vázquez is a Red again. Don’t expect him to be as fit as he was in 2017, but his IQ on the pitch remains sharp as a tack. The Spaniard playmaker will be a massive spark off the bench whenever Toronto is lacking creativity in the final third. It will be exciting to watch him link up with the Italian wingers.

Vázquez during a match with TFC against Chicago Fire in 2018.
(Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto FC increased their depth this past weekend when they traded for midfielder Brandon Servania from FC Dallas. The trade sent striker Jesús Jiménez in the other direction. Sacrificing your most prolific goalscorer last season can be seen as a head-scratcher, but having more depth in the middle of the park is more of a necessity rather than up front.

Servania can play as a 6 or 8, he has a ton of energy to cover the pitch and does the dirty work to win back possession for his team. This piece of business by Bill Manning and Bob Bradley is a move for the future.

Brandon Servania with possession against Colorado Rapids last season.
(Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)

Kosi Thompson was a name that arrived out of the blue last season, as the team desperately needed someone at right back after Richie Laryea’s departure to Nottingham Forest. Kadin Chung was signed from Pacific FC to fill that gap, but the performances from Thompson in the early weeks solidified him as the starter in that position until Laryea returned on loan in the summer.

If need be, Thompson can also fill in at centre midfield if injuries become a problem for starters along the way.

Kosi Thompson
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)

Deandre Kerr was a mainstay in TFC’s matchday roster for a lot of the season, and his respectable work ethic ended up in him scoring three goals in just over 1300 minutes. He’s versatile and can operate in multiple positions, either in the middle of the park or on the wing. He has something to prove, and I believe he can become a fan-favourite for years to come as long as he puts in consistent performances.

Deandre Kerr
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)

The 2023 season feels like it’s make or break for Ayo Akinola. The Canadian striker played 26 games in MLS last year and got on the scoresheet just twice. Akinola has to provide some competition to starting striker Adama Diomande if he wants to get more minutes. One way he can receive more starts? Score more goals when given the opportunity to play.

Akinola dribbles while being marked by Los Angeles Galaxy defenders on August 31, 2022.
(Sean Pollock/Waking the Red)

On paper, Toronto FC’s depth has improved somewhat since the end of 2022. Now, it’s a matter of the players stepping up to play their part when called upon.