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Predicting Toronto FC’s lineup against Real Salt Lake

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Vazquez and Mavinga could possibly return from injury as the Reds try to get back on track

MLS: Columbus Crew at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday night Toronto FC will host Real Salt Lake in their third league match of the season. After losing their first two matches of the season, most recently a 1-0 loss at the hands of the Montreal Impact, the Reds will be inspired to fight for that elusive first victory. After the international break, the side should be fully rested and ready to go on Friday, including a few players returning from injuries, although they may not want to rush anyone back ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League tie.

Victor Vazquez has been battling a back injury since March 3, when he was subbed out of the season opener against the Columbus Crew, and Chris Mavinga left their CONCACAF quarterfinal second leg against Tigres with a lower body injury. They could be able to play on Friday, although Justin Morrow is less likely to take part. TFC’s first-choice left back also went down in the second leg against Tigres with a calf injury, replaced by Auro a quarter of an hour into the match.

For this match I predict that Greg Vanney will elect to use the 3-5-2 formation that he used against Montreal and in the last round of Champions League action.

Goalkeeper

Alex Bono

Eventually Clint Irwin has to get a match, but I doubt it’ll be in this game as Bono is well-rested after the international break, and has been in fine form so far, starting all of Toronto’s matches this season. He was unlucky to be credited with the loss against Montreal, as the only goal of the game went into the net following a deflection, and Bono was unable to react to it, giving Jeisson Vargas his first goal of the season.

Defence

Nick Hagglund, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga

One of these days I’ll predict the right half of the Nick Hagglund/Eriq Zavaleta platoon to start alongside Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga. Zavaleta has been getting a lot of the starts recently, and that trend could come to an end on Friday as he was shaky in the 401 Derby, often being outrun by the Montreal attackers. It might be time to give Hagglund a start, especially if Vanney plans to start Zavaleta against Club America on Tuesday.

Chris Mavinga, as mentioned before, could be returning from injury in this one, and would likely line up beside Drew Moor. The duo will look to try and control Real Salt Lake’s star attacker Albert Rusnak, who scored his first goal for Slovakia during the international break, and will be high on confidence coming into this one.

Midfield

Gregory van der Wiel, Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Marky Delgado, Ashtone Morgan

Gregory van der Wiel has improved with each match he has played with TFC, and against Montreal finally began to show what he is capable of offensively, often charging down the right wing and looking for crosses. If that play is repeated on Friday, the RSL defenders will have a tough time stopping him.

Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado both had good international breaks, as Osorio was Canada’s best player against New Zealand according to Greg Vanney and Delgado picked up his first cap for the United States Men’s National Team.

Behind them will be the captain, as always, Michael Bradley. Bradley has played every second of the season so far for Toronto, and has looked solid both defensively and in possession of the ball.

On the left side of midfield, in the left wingback position should be Ashtone Morgan. Auro Jr. is another option, as he took over from Morrow against Tigres, and looked more than competent in that role. However, Morgan is a natural left back and for that reason, should get the start.

Forward

Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore

Sebastian Giovinco, like Michael Bradley, has played every moment of the season for Toronto FC so far, a trend that likely won’t continue past Friday as Greg Vanney may opt to take Giovinco out at some point to save him for the Champions League semifinal on Tuesday, but he should at least start this one and perhaps play for 70 minutes if all goes well. Giovinco has two goals so far this season, both in the Champions League, and will be looking to give Toronto its first goal of their 2018 MLS campaign.

Jozy Altidore was once again sub-par last time out, and was again voted the worst player on the pitch by Waking the Red readers. He scored in the first leg against Tigres but has otherwise been poor so far to this point in the season. He will be looking for some action to try and boost his confidence and get his season going again.

Bench

Clint Irwin, Eriq Zavaleta, Auro, Nicolas Hasler, Ager Aketxe, Victor Vazquez, Tosaint Ricketts

Greg Vanney’s common move this season has been replacing Gregory van der Wiel with Auro late in the match, a trend that could continue on Friday to preserve vdW for Tuesday’s match. Other possible options off the bench could be Tosaint Ricketts for Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez/Ager Aketxe for Marky Delgado/Jonathan Osorio.

Kickoff is at 8PM EST.

Projected Starting XI: