As the season progresses, Toronto FC’s lineup is becoming increasingly hard to pin down. The season is now pretty officially underway, so the Reds are seeing the injuries and shifts in form that plague any team.
Some worrying news came down from TFC on Friday, as the club announced that Drew Moor will be out of the lineup this weekend against the Columbus Crew (and possibly longer) with an irregular heartbeat. That’s always a scary thing to hear, and we wish him all the best as he undergoes further testing.
Players’ health comes first, always, but the fact does remain that this puts TFC in a tough spot in terms of their back line on Saturday.
Greg Vanney was very critical of Chris Mavinga after last weekend’s draw with Atlanta United, but he may be forced to start the Frenchman again.
If Vanney intends on sticking with three at the back, as he has done all year, he has a few options to fill the void left by TFC’s best defender. He could slot Mavinga in there with Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta. Or, he could bring one of Justin Morrow or Steven Beitashour down into the back three, and instead play somebody like Raheem Edwards at wing-back.
The third - and in my opinion, most likely - option would be to give recent signing Jason Hernandez his first start for Toronto. A natural centre-back, he was probably brought in to be the primary backup to Moor. If he’s fit enough to play (he hasn’t seen any action this season), he would be the logical choice.
If the Hernandez experiment doesn’t work and he can’t keep up, then Vanney would probably shift Beitashour or Morrow back to replace him and sub in Edwards.
Of course, TFC could also revert to four at the back, but Vanney seems pretty set on his formation - at least for now.
As for the front of the lineup, this will be a prime opportunity for Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Victor Vazquez to continue to gel. That trio will likely go untouched, and they’ll probably continue to morph into a sort of three-pronged attack.
The other central-midfield spot is then up for grabs by either Armando Cooper or Jonathan Osorio (as, I think, is the intention for this season). Cooper played arguably his best game of the year against Atlanta, so he’ll probably get the nod on Saturday, too.
The rest of the lineup is relatively stable. Morrow and Beitashour on the wings, of course, and Michael Bradley calling the shots from the back of midfield. Alex Bono will start in goal again, with Clint Irwin still out of action. Bono may not have had his best game last weekend, but the two goals he conceded were the first he’s given up all year. There’s still no reason not to be confident in him.
TFC will need their lineup to be clicking in Columbus, as passes will have to be sharp to break through the Crew defence.