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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup vs. New York Red Bulls

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What will we see from the Reds now that they’re a little more rested?

MLS: Minnesota United FC at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, after what seems like an unending sequence of schedule congestion, Toronto FC got some time to rest this week before their meeting with the New York Red Bulls on Friday night. It’s been a successful few weeks, with TFC picking up six wins on the trot to climb atop MLS, but a few days off will be a welcome privilege.

Now, Greg Vanney is likely able to field a first-choice lineup from the players available (excluding, of course, the injured Sebastian Giovinco and Nick Hagglund). As such, let’s take a look at what that might look like.

Goalkeeper

Alex Bono

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Vanney may actually be starting to lean toward the 23-year-old as his No. 1 keeper. Bono took the net in both of TFC’s last two games, in Columbus and home to Minnesota, despite there being just three days between them. I’m wondering if maybe Clint Irwin tweaked his injury two weeks ago in Seattle; it was surprising to see him start there, but perhaps more surprising that we haven’t seen him in either game since.

That said, Bono did seem to take a knock against Minnesota after Hagglund landed on him awkwardly. That could also be a concern, but we haven’t heard anything about it since.

Defence

Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta

He’s back! Or, at least, we think he is. It sounds like Moor is available this week, although Vanney has expressed doubts about whether he can play the full 90. Nonetheless, he’s a much-welcomed addition to TFC’s back three, especially in the absence of Hagglund.

On another note, I think Mavinga had his best-ever performance in a TFC shirt last Saturday. He looks like he’s starting to get the hang of the MLS pace, and he seemed to be in on every defensive play in the box. He also did a very impressive job jockeying for position on TFC’s second goal.

Midfield

Justin Morrow, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Steven Beitashour

As far as I’m concerned, this is pretty close to the best midfield combination TFC could employ. Now that Mavinga can be trusted a little more, Morrow has been can move back over to the wing, where he’s much more effective.

Vazquez, of course, is amazing. TFC’s attack with and without him is night-and-day different. When he came on late against Minnesota, the Reds pretty much never let up in the search for a winning goal. Over on the other side, Delgado has flourished playing in front of the captain and behind the strikers. His TFC career has seen a pretty impressive revival now that he’s playing off both Vazquez and Beitashour so well.

I’ve decided it’s no longer worth it to predict Bradley sitting out. I’m actually pretty confident that he could play 90 minutes every other day if he needed to. The man is a machine.

I didn't forget about Raheem Edwards, by the way.

Forward

Jozy Altidore, Raheem Edwards

It’s a pretty risky pick, but this is something I’d really like to see. Edwards is a natural forward, but TFC have introduced him to MLS at wing-back because of positional need. Of course, I’m not saying that Edwards should permanently be a striker; when Giovinco is healthy, he’s much more useful on the wing.

Without the Italian, though, I think it could be worth the experiment. Edwards has pace, and it looks like he’s been taking some tips from Seba on ball control in tight situations. I’m not sure he has the finishing touch to be a pure striker yet, but he could probably work pretty well down the middle between Vazquez and Altidore.

I know Tosaint Ricketts probably deserves the start again, after three goals in two games, but he’s definitely much more effective at the end of a game. His performances as a super sub changed a lot of games during last year’s playoff run.

Projected starting XI