On Sunday afternoon, Toronto FC’s miserable 2018 season finally comes to an end. Greg Vanney will surely look back at some of the lineups he put out for TFC and wonder what positions need more depth/better players, why so many players went down injured this year, but most importantly: why he didn’t ask himself WWBD more often (What Would Benedict Do?).
In all seriousness, Vanney’s lineups on occasion have been atrocious, whether it was starting TFC III in MLS games during their Champions League run, or playing Michael Bradley at centre-back 20 more times than he should have done (which is 0 times).
I think, with keeping the points record somewhat in our hands (if Atlanta pick up a point they break it, but the New York Red Bulls can also break it with a win), Toronto FC should start as good a lineup as possible, as they don’t have anything else to lose. I would like to see a bit of rotation to give a few different people some minutes, but I want to see a strong side that is capable of beating a Miguel Almiron-less Atlanta United side.
With a lot of changes expected this off-season, this match could also be a chance for TFC fans to say goodbye, and show appreciation, to some potentially departing players. More on that later...
I’m almost certain that Clint Irwin won’t be back in Toronto next season for a few reasons. He is surely frustrated at his lack of playing time, as he is likely capable as a starter on some teams around the league, so he will likely want to move on. Also, from a Toronto FC perspective. they will want to find a cheaper backup to Bono, as Irwin’s base salary of $210,000 is ridiculous compared to Bono’s $132,000.
Irwin, however, never publicly complained about his lack of playing time and has been a good player for the club, so I would like to see him get one last start if this is indeed it for him here in Toronto, but I think Vanney will instead go with Bono, to try and keep the aforementioned points record.
Gregory van der Wiel, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Ashtone Morgan
This back four has two players in it who could be playing in their final games for the Reds. The TFC back four has been sub-par this year and as many as four or five defenders could be on the way out/forced to fight for their jobs in pre-season. I think the only defenders that are safe are Mavinga, van der Wiel and maybe Morrow, with the rest needing to win spots as TFC will surely bring in new centre-backs and maybe a left-back.
Drew Moor is starting to show his age, so if he doesn’t retire and chooses to come back to Toronto in 2019, it could be in a Jason Hernandez-style role (playing when needed due to injuries or fatigue). Hernandez could keep that role going forward, if he doesn’t retire, as it is suited to him, and Drew Moor might not want to have that role.
Perhaps the most notable player on his way out of Toronto could be Ashtone Morgan. While the rumours that Morgan could be on his way out are purely speculation, they seem to make sense. If Toronto upgrade at left-back (Raheem Edwards or Leighton Baines, anyone?) and Justin Morrow is relegated to the bench, Ashtone will surely be gone, but if Morrow doesn’t want to sit on the bench, or if TFC don’t upgrade, Morgan could stick around as he is a solid, cheaper option at his position. He is the longest-serving Toronto FC player, having been around since 2008, and making his first-team debut in 2010. He’s been through the best and worst days at the club, and will surely hear chants of “He’s one of our own” ring around BMO Field tomorrow. There’s nothing more I want to see on Sunday than Ashtone leave the pitch in the 89th minute to a standing ovation.
Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Jay Chapman
With Victor Vazquez ruled out, the attacking midfielder that Vanney picks could be a variety of people. I think it will be Jay Chapman, as he continues to audition for a spot on next year’s team, allowing Lucas Janson to step forward with Sebastian Giovinco. Last week Marky Delgado was used at the top of the diamond for whatever reason, despite him being better further back and Chapman being better in attack.
Sebastian Giovinco, Lucas Janson
Jozy Altidore is already out of this match as he needs surgery on his injured foot, meaning his last time wearing a TFC shirt could be behind us. Sebastian Giovinco will be looking to end his season on a high, as he has been decent this year, but has also had some dry spells.
Tosaint Ricketts is another player who probably won’t be returning in 2019, so I think he’ll probably get a few minutes off the bench at some point.