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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup vs. Orlando City

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What to do on the wings?

MLS: Orlando City SC at Toronto FC Gerry Angus-USA TODAY Sports

A few days after a shaky performance at FC Dallas, Toronto FC is in Florida on Wednesday to try to reclaim first place against Orlando City. While the effort in general was subpar on Saturday, many of TFC’s woes against FCD stemmed from their struggles in using the ball out wide as they usually do so well.

With Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow, and Raheem Edwards all unavailable, Greg Vanney’s options at wing-back are fairly limited. Ashtone Morgan and Oyvind Alseth filled in last time, and the whole team was noticeably less fluid (granted, neither had started a single MLS game this year).

A major focus heading into this midweek intra-conference fixture is that particular lineup decision. I’ll get into it a little more further down, but one significant question is whether or not Vanney sticks with the 3-5-2. With the players currently available, it might make more sense to use a back four — either Eriq Zavaleta or Chris Mavinga could slide over to full-back, leaving only one spot to fill.

The thing is, for this particular opponent, TFC is probably better off with a wider formation. We already saw earlier this year how Orlando can be exploited along the flanks. That said, neither Morrow nor Beitashour is there to do the exploiting.

We’ll assume the 3-5-2 stays, until it doesn’t.

Goalkeeper

Clint Irwin

Alex Bono is still this team’s number one, but he did have a bit of an off night in Dallas. Granted, he was hung out to dry several times, but it certainly wasn’t the best game he’s played. Irwin made a few excellent saves last week in the Canadian Championship, and he’s earned himself another MLS start.

Defence

Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Jason Hernandez

Zavaleta had arguably his worst performance of the season on the weekend. For some reason he seemed a step behind the entire night. Mavinga wasn’t quite spectacular either, but Dallas identified early that they’d have success attacking Zavaleta’s side. Moor generally played well, tracking back to cover for his teammates. If the back three stays, Hernandez could be involved. Zavaleta is the logical choice to take a break.

Midfield

Ashtone Morgan, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Tsubasa Endoh

Frankly, TFC have very few options for left wing-back besides Morgan. In fairness, he’s the third choice, and beyond him there isn’t much Vanney can do. He’ll do a good job defensively, even if he doesn’t offer much going forward.

It sounds like Vazquez will be back on the team sheet after sitting out the Dallas game, so he’s be a lock to start. His presence was sorely missed. Bradley’s in there too, of course, because I refuse to ever leave him out, barring suspension or international duty.

I thought Delgado was one of the few bright spots against Dallas. If he wasn’t so important to TFC’s attack, I’d put him out wide and bring in someone like Benoit Cheyrou. It’s a shame that Armando Cooper isn’t available either, because his form is improving and he has the pace to do some damage to Orlando on the wing.

For better or for worse, the Endoh experiment will probably continue at wing-back. Vanney could give Alseth another look there, but after the Dallas game he’ll probably be looking to change it up a little.

Forward

Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore

Probably. Of course, both players have seen quite a lot of action recently, so Jordan Hamilton could totally jump in for one of them. That said, if one area of your lineup is going to be weakened, it’s best that the other areas are strong to compensate. Giovinco was another TFC player who looked alright against Dallas; he made a few top-class moves, and the work he did on Delgado’s goal was fantastic.

Projected starting XI: