After Tuesday’s disappointing result in Ottawa, Toronto FC will be looking to pick up another MLS win by fielding a stronger lineup this Friday. As many starters as possible should be back to greet the Columbus Crew as the two sides play the final game of this year’s Trillium Cup.
Thanks to the MLS scheduling department, TFC will play Columbus for the third time in a month and a half. The sides must know each other pretty well by now, each winning one of the games at MAPFRE Stadium by a score of 2-1.
Crew midfielder Justin Meram has increased his profile since the last time these teams met, scoring a hat-trick in Montreal two weeks ago. That win at Saputo was a good showing for the fifth-place Columbus, but last weekend’s loss against 10-men New England was a little shaky.
Greg Vanney has a couple lineup decisions already made for him, with Sebastian Giovinco and Nick Hagglund out with injury and Jozy Altidore suspended for yellow card accumulation.
At this point, it might make sense for Vanney to mix up the 3-5-2 formation a little bit with both main strikers injured, but that’s always hard to pin down. For the sake of this prediction, let’s assume he sticks with what’s been working.
His status as the No. 1 keeper on this team seems pretty clear. The fact that Vanney chose to play him in New York and Clint Irwin in Ottawa speaks for itself. I think Bono is slowly establishing himself as Vanney’s first choice, which leads me to wonder how long Irwin will stick around without the starting job.
Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta
Moor seems to be back properly now, and he should be ready to go again this week after playing a half in Ottawa. He might not play the full 90 on Friday, but I expect him to start. Hopefully he can soon return to being the anchoring force in the middle of TFC’s back line.
Zavaleta is apparently fit as well, after dropping out of Tuesday’s match with a minor knock. Mavinga didn’t play at all on Tuesday, so I think this is the back three TFC go with against the Crew. That means Justin Morrow will probably play out on the wing instead of Raheem Edwards, who played 90 in Ottawa and had one of his poorer performances.
Justin Morrow, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Steven Beitashour
This is TFC’s first-choice midfield in my mind, although I’m still not sure about how best to include both Morrow and Edwards. Vazquez has become one of Toronto’s most impactful players; the team’s attacking flow is miles better with him involved.
This will be Bradley’s last game before the international break, forced to miss both fixtures next week because of a USMNT friendly (ugh). There’s pretty much never any doubt anyway, but he’ll obviously be in for all 90 here.
Delgado’s spot is probably the most contentious in the entire team. It could actually go to any of Jonathan Osorio, Armando Cooper, Jay Chapman or Benoit Cheyrou. Both Osorio and Cooper have really struggled recently, and Chapman had a poor outing in Ottawa.
Cheyrou could actually get another run out; the 36-year-old has looked great in midfield the past few games. If anyone’s going to replace Delgado, it’ll be the Frenchman.
Tosaint Ricketts, Jordan Hamilton
I’m not confident this is the best possible strike partnership Vanney could go with on Friday, but it’s the one we’re most likely to see. Ricketts continues to win starts with late goals (or almost-goals), and is probably TFC’s de facto number three. With a healthy lineup, he’s better suited to being a late-game super-sub, but it’s hard to argue with him getting the start for this one.
Hamilton played a full 90 in Ottawa on Tuesday, so I could be wrong on this one. Ben Spencer could make his TFC debut, or Vanney could go with a lone striker formation, perhaps with Vazquez playing a little higher up behind Ricketts. If it is Hamilton, though, it’ll be good to see him get a chance against some MLS competition. His development into a viable option as another backup striker would take some pressure off Ricketts and give Toronto some more flexibility.