We’re a little over halfway through the MLS regular season and Toronto FC are on pace to make a strong challenge for the Supporters’ Shield.
But which player has been their most valuable to this point? A few Waking the Red writers have made their picks - let us know what you think in the comments.
Max Pacheco: Jozy Altidore
Though it’s highly tempting to pick Victor Vazquez as a (completely useless) form of protest to MLS’ seeming ambivalence towards the Spaniard’s impact, I have to go with Jozy Altidore. He has been immense, bagging eight goals and five assists, many of them pivotal. And though the team is stocked with talent throughout the squad, Altidore was instrumental in providing offensive prowess during Toronto FC’s otherwise indifferent start to the season, in which Sebastian Giovinco was largely unavailable due to injury.
Though the team is now playing with unprecedented success, and Giovinco has returned from injury, Altidore has continued to fire on all cylinders.
What I find so impressive about Jozy is despite his ‘image’ as the big centre forward, his intelligence and skill allows him to contribute in all areas of the field. Giovinco has been on fire as of late, but much of that is due to the lethal partnership formed with Altidore, whose ability to create opportunities has allowed to Seba to kick it into high gear. Finally, it seems like Altidore has put his injury woes behind him, allowing him to play consecutive matches and build a really impressive run of form.
Allan Singh: Michael Bradley
The captain has led Toronto's transition game and has been a key defender throughout the first 19 matches of the season. His contributions are not flashy or sexy. But they are essential.
Arguably, the 3-5-2 is built around Bradley's ability to link the back line with midfield. One of the best plays of the year so far was his pass to Giovinco on Altidore's goal against D.C. United. Watch the play again: Bradley's contribution was not flashy or overly memorable, but the goal doesn't happen without his timing, interception and vision. In the world of overly generous MLS scorers, I still don't know how Bradley wasn't awarded a second assist!
Furthermore, TFC's inability to handle a skilled and speedy opponent without their captain was laid bare against the Revolution in New England. He covers more ground than any other TFC player and leads the team in appearances, minutes, interceptions, passes per game and passing percentage. He is in the top three on the team in key passes per game, crosses and through balls per game. Again... not sexy, but totally essential.
Tej Sahota: Michael Bradley
That choosing a halfway MVP isn't as simple as yelling “Giovinco” is a testament to where this team is and how far it's come. While there are at least four viable candidates, for me it's the straw that stirs the drink: Michael Bradley.
He may not make the sexiest highlight-reel plays or score as much as the others, but his ability to control the play in a cohesive manner and connect defence to offence is integral to the success of this team.
For me it's Bradley, a hair above Giovinco, followed by Jozy and then Vazquez.
Oliver Platt: Michael Bradley
I’d love to be more original, but... no can do.
Giovinco, Altidore and Vazquez are all having excellent seasons; Vazquez, especially, is unlucky not to get a vote here for the way he has adjusted to a new team and a new league so seamlessly.
I’ve chosen Bradley on the basis that if any of Toronto’s ‘big four’ were to get a season-ending injury tomorrow, he would be the most damaging loss, in my opinion, in terms of their MLS Cup hopes.
It speaks to the excellent job that has been done in constructing this squad that every one of the quartet has a solid replacement waiting in the wings, as we have seen at various points so far this season.
At the same time, the absence of any of them come playoff time could prove to be terminal. The lack of a playmaker of Vazquez’s calibre was the team’s downfall last year, and though the Reds have other good strikers none compare to Giovinco and Altidore or could directly replace the qualities they bring.
But while Benoit Cheyrou is about as good a replacement for Bradley as is realistically affordable, could he win the midfield battle over two legs against a Schweinsteiger or a Ring?
No matter what challenge the opposition is offering in midfield, Bradley has had the answer all year long. The captain is unquestionably the heartbeat of the team and has established himself in a class of his own league-wide.