Although this Saturday’s game means a lot to Toronto FC’s players emotionally, logic would dictate that it isn’t quite as important as last Wednesday’s date with Orlando, or the upcoming one in Columbus.
With a pretty congested schedule for May, expect to see Greg Vanney shake things up with his lineup against the Seattle Sounders. Several key players look like they could use a rest, particularly with key conference matchups coming up soon.
On Friday, news broke that Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez, Eriq Zavaleta, and Steven Beitashour are all staying at home for this one. Giovinco’s disdain for turf fields is well known, and TFC will need him more in Columbus. Vazquez and Beitashour, as well, both look like they could use a rest, even though Vazquez was subbed off early against Orlando.
Let’s explore what the Reds might do with their starting XI this weekend.
No explanation needed. He’s the keeper, possibly even beyond Clint Irwin’s return. He almost single-handedly preserved TFC’s win on Wednesday with a couple of mind-blowing saves on Cyle Larin.
Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund, Chris Mavinga
If I was picking a defender to rest, it would’ve been Morrow, who looks like he could use a break. Nonetheless, he’s been great in his relief duties in TFC’s back three, even though he really excels further out on the wing.
With Zavaleta out of this one, it could be a perfect opportunity to give Mavinga another look after a tough outing against Atlanta a few weeks ago. Zavaleta has played a lot of minutes for the Reds, really breaking out in that right centre-back role, but he’ll get this night off in place of the Frenchman.
While Hagglund was part of TFC’s defensive breakdown in the second half against Orlando, his overall body of work filling in for Drew Moor is still impressive. Hagglund made three tackles on Wednesday, along with nine clearances. If anyone’s going to withstand Seattle’s attack and shut down both Jordan Morris and Nicolas Lodeiro, it’s probably going to be him.
Raheem Edwards, Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper, Marky Delgado
Edwards has made himself virtually undroppable with his play recently. Although he may have faded a little toward the end on Wednesday, his move on Scott Sutter to set up the first goal was incredible. The rookie has quickly made himself one of the most important players in TFC’s lineup.
As I advocated for earlier this week, Beitashour is another player who could do with a day off. He had a few good moments in the first half on Wednesday, including the run that led to TFC’s second goal, but he did look tired at times. I’d like to see Delgado moved over to the right for this one, because that would allow him to stay in the lineup, and give Cooper a chance to get a start.
With Vazquez out, at least one of Cooper and Osorio will get a start. They’ve been effectively relegated to the team’s second-choice pairing of attacking midfielders for the moment, as demonstrated by their usage in this non-priority game.
Osorio had a pretty rough appearance as a substitute midweek, and has had a bit of an up-and-down season. Hopefully he’ll be able to connect better with the forwards, but his control over the attacking game is not quite on Vazquez’s level.
The captain looked pretty sharp to start off against Orlando. There’s very rarely any question of Bradley being dropped anyway, considering how critical he is to TFC’s shape. With so many key players out, they’ll certainly need a performance from him.
Jozy Altidore, Tosaint Ricketts
Altidore actually had a bit of an off night on Wednesday. He may have been credited with the assist on Giovinco’s first goal, but it was actually a pretty sloppy touch. Altidore had one shot and just 28 touches against Orlando. He takes a beating pretty much every night as well, as one of MLS defenders’ favourite targets.
Nonetheless, it seems Giovinco will be kept away from the turf field. Despite a difficult performance in the last game, Altidore remains in good form to start the season and is one of the top goalscoring threats in MLS. He arguably works better with Ricketts than Giovinco does, too.
Were this game played on grass, Giovinco would probably get the nod, possibly over Altidore. They’ve won once this season without him, on turf again in Vancouver, so they’ll be looking to find some of the energy from that game.