On Saturday, Toronto FC travel up the 401 to the Olympic Stadium for a date with their bitter rivals, the Montreal Impact. Fresh off a grueling two-legged tie against Tigres in CONCACAF Champions League action, where they advanced to the semifinals and a series with Club America, Toronto will be tired and will require some squad rotation. They are also likely going to miss some players through injury, as Justin Morrow and Chris Mavinga suffered injuries in Mexico and Victor Vazquez is still battling a back issue, and might not be risked on the horrible carpet-like surface employed at the Big O instead of grass.
The 4-4-2 diamond formation is one that Greg Vanney has used in the majority of Toronto FC’s games so far this season, minus the pair of matches against Tigres, and I imagine the one he will use against the Impact, as it best suits the players that will likely be available to him on Saturday.
Clint Irwin lost his starting job to Alex Bono last season, when he was out injured, due to Bono’s dominance in net, and he never won his spot back. Bono started almost every game for the rest of the season into the playoffs and Irwin is yet to make an appearance in 2018. The last match he played in for Toronto was on the 23rd of September last season when Toronto visited the New England Revolution and fell 2-1. His chance to start is well overdue and he will look to take advantage of a much-deserved rest day for Bono.
Gregory van der Wiel, Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund, Ashtone Morgan
Drew Moor had a shaky game down in Mexico, often getting outrun by the speedy Tigres forwards and he was no match for the physical beast that is Andre-Pierre Gignac, but his veteran leadership (and Chris Mavinga’s injury) means that he should start in Montreal. The 401 Derby is always a passionate one so having an extra leader on the pitch to keep people calm can do no harm.
Nick Hagglund was limited to the bench in both matches against Tigres, and could start over Eriq Zavaleta, who started both games. Hagglund is, in many ways, just as good as Zavaleta, so it might be a good idea to give Eriq a rest, at least to start the match.
Justin Morrow left the second leg against Tigres in the 15th minute after picking up a calf injury and in all likelihood will miss this match. Greg Vanney said that the injury is being addressed on a day-to-day basis and that he shouldn’t be out for very long. Ashtone Morgan, the longest-serving Toronto FC player, will likely get his first action of the season, as he is the only other natural left back with the first team. Auro filled in nicely on Tuesday, however, and could get the chance to play again in that spot.
Michael Bradley, Nicolas Hasler, Marky Delgado, Ager Aketxe
Michael Bradley doesn’t take off days, it’s as simple as that. Especially not against the hated Montreal Impact in a match that Toronto wants to win for both bragging rights and to kick-start their MLS campaign (they lost 2-0 in the opening match of the season to Columbus, as you probably remember). He’ll be looking to anchor the midfield and provide a strong link between the back four and those in front of him.
Marky Delgado wasn’t as sharp in leg two of the tie against Tigres as he was in leg one but is good at frustrating opposing players, as he doesn’t stop running until the final whistle blows, and rarely hesitates to make a hard challenge when one is needed. If he gets a start on Saturday he will have the tough task of battling against his Montreal counterpart, Samuel Piette.
Nicolas Hasler and Ager Aketxe were both left out of Tuesday’s match and should be fresh for Saturday. With Victor Vazquez still battling a back problem and a revitalized Jonathan Osorio worthy of a day off, I think Aketxe will lead the attack and Hasler will slot into the diamond alongside Delgado.
Sebastian Giovinco, Jordan Hamilton
Sebastian Giovinco was up to his old tricks on Tuesday night, scoring a beautiful free kick to help TFC advance to the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. He has had a great start to the season, showing signs of his dangerous 2015 self, the one that won him the 2015 MLS MVP award. Jozy Altidore has looked more tired as each game has passed, so I think Greg Vanney will turn to his bench to fill out the second striker slot, more specifically to Toronto-born Jordan Hamilton.
Alex Bono, Eriq Zavaleta, Chris Mavinga, Auro, Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez, Tosaint Ricketts
As I mentioned before, Bono, Zavaleta and Osorio are all deserving of a day off, but could see action off the bench (hopefully not Bono, of course). Victor Vazquez and Chris Mavinga are both battling injuries but could still be on the bench for this one, and I think we could see Vazquez at some point late in the second half. Auro has come off the bench for van der Wiel a few times so far, a trend I expect will continue, and Tosaint Ricketts and his electric pace are a deadly weapon that challenge all that try to stop him, especially a Montreal back line that has become weaker following the exit of Laurent Ciman.
Kickoff on Saturday is at 3 p.m. You wont want to miss it.