On Saturday, Toronto FC travel to central Ohio for a match against Columbus Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium. Columbus, who have 25 points through 14 matches, haven’t lost since April 14 and are currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, a single point behind leaders Atlanta United. The Crew will be without a couple of key players as captain Wil Trapp, goalkeeper Zack Steffen and winger Cristian Martinez will all be missing out. Trapp and Steffen are away with the United States men’s national team and Martinez will be serving a suspension for slapping an opponent against Sporting Kansas City last week.
Greg Vanney is still dealing with an injury crisis when making his team selection, as Toronto FC are again missing a key group of players, especially in defence. Justin Morrow, Ashtone Morgan, Drew Moor, Nicolas Hasler and Jozy Altidore are all out of this game and Eriq Zavaleta and Chris Mavinga are questionable. Mavinga left last week’s match with injury, replaced by Nick Hagglund after 45 minutes. For this match I think Vanney will opt for the 3-5-2.
Fresh off a shutout victory in his first appearance for the USMNT, Bono should be high on confidence for this match. Bono described his first appearance with the national team as “an honour” and “a dream come true,” and will be hoping to translate the success he had to Toronto FC’s match on Saturday night.
Gregory van der Wiel, Michael Bradley, Nick Hagglund
Toronto FC may have to again use an unusual defence group (a “Frankendefence,” as my fellow Waking The Red contributor Mitchell Tierney once said), depending on the health of Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta. Both were rehabilitating injuries in midweek, and there’s a chance that both will be unable to play in Columbus. Along with many other TFC fans, I was hoping that the Michael Bradley at central defence experiment was over, but with an abundance of injuries, he might have to slide into that position again. Nick Hagglund came off the bench last week against FC Dallas, playing the final 45 or so minutes, and could be able to start this one. Gregory van der Wiel has looked solid in the middle of a back four or on the side of a back three, so I think that him starting there on Saturday is a sure thing. Jason Hernandez is another option for Greg Vanney, but I imagine he’d come off the bench for Hagglund or van der Wiel if he sees any action in this one.
Auro, Liam Fraser, Victor Vazquez, Jonathan Osorio, Ryan Telfer
Identical to the midfield group that started against FC Dallas, this group has a bit of everything. Auro and Ryan Telfer are speedy options on the wings, and have the ability to deliver dangerous crosses into the box. Both are capable of being strong attacking threats to their opponents and can find themselves in the box trying to put away a chance themselves. A great example of the link between the two came in the late stages of the match against Orlando at BMO Field. Auro delivered a delicious cross into the box that Telfer got on the end of, redirecting the ball into the goal net for his first career MLS goal and a 2-1 victory.
Victor Vazquez and Jonathan Osorio are two of the main creative forces for Toronto FC, and when they combine, can make up one of the most dangerous pairings in the league. Osorio brings flair and an eye for goal and Vazquez provides precision and an incredible sense of where his teammates are at all time. If these two players reach their full potential, the Columbus Crew will have a hard time keeping Toronto off the scoresheet, especially when the pair link up with Sebastian Giovinco.
Liam Fraser hasn’t been the worst player for Toronto FC this season, but having him start at the base of the midfield is not ideal. The reason why Fraser was included here is the aforementioned absence of some key defenders, meaning Michael Bradley must move back into the defence, leaving a gaping hole in the defensive midfield slot. Liam Fraser is the next best option for TFC in that role, but obviously Greg Vanney would rather have his best players on the pitch at all times, which Fraser isn’t quite yet. He is a solid option, but he is no Michael Bradley.
Jordan Hamilton, Sebastian Giovinco
Against FC Dallas, Greg Vanney opted to use Sebastian Giovinco and Tosaint Ricketts, but for this match I think he will choose Hamilton instead of Ricketts. With Jozy Altidore’s injury still hanging around, Hamilton and Ricketts have been called upon to fill the empty spot. Both have qualities that make them stand out, most noticeably Ricketts’ speed. It is very difficult to run at such a speed for a full 90 minutes, so I think that Ricketts is better suited for a late match substitution than a start.