On Sunday, Toronto FC return to BMO Field to open up the month of July against the New York Red Bulls. The Canada Day match, which will be followed by a TFC II match against the Charleston Battery, is as close to a must-win as Toronto FC have had all season, as they now sit eight points out of a playoff spot, 10th in the Eastern Conference. Last time out, against the other New York team (before someone comments it: yes, the Red Bulls are in fact based in New Jersey), Toronto squandered the 1-0 lead they had at halftime following a nicely lobbed shot by Victor Vazquez.
The struggling Jo Inge Berget broke his goalless drought, scoring goals in the 51st and 68th minutes, earning his side three points to keep them in the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield. A big issue for TFC this season has been closing out matches, a bad habit they will hope to break on Sunday.
For this match, I think Greg Vanney will continue to use the 4-1-4-1 formation that provides a good balance of attack and defence in the absence of Jozy Altidore.
Bono gave up 2 or more goals in three of his last four starts. The blame can’t be entirely placed on him, as the defenders in front of him have been sub-par in recent times, but returning to the form that saw him help Toronto FC win the treble and earn himself a new contract are a must if he’s to stop lethal finisher Bradley Wright-Phillips on Sunday.
Gregory van der Wiel, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund, Justin Morrow
As mentioned before, the defenders have been sub-par recently. Although missing their two usual starting centre-backs (Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga), it goes without saying that everyone else needs to step up their game to try and avoid a slide like the one they are currently on. Only twice in 2018 have Toronto managed to keep their opponents off the scoreboard, both times against the Philadelphia Union, putting extra pressure on Sebastian Giovinco and the rest of the attackers. Organization late in the game has been a big issue, as highlighted by the 4-4 draw against DC United, 3-3 draw against Columbus and 2-1 loss to NYCFC.
Apparently Auro is dealing with an injury, and he’s listed as unlikely to start. So, this could be a chance for Gregory van der Wiel to go back into his natural right-back position. Until Moor and Mavinga return, it is up to this group to hold down the fort and protect Alex Bono’s goal.
Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez, Jay Chapman, Nicolas Hasler
My fellow Waking the Red writer Allan Singh published a piece on Wednesday about the changes that Toronto FC must make ASAP. In that piece he mentioned that watching Toronto FC at the moment “is like watching a troupe of mimes,” due to the lack of communication on the pitch. This problem is most noticeable in the midfield in my opinion, as certain players are trying to do nifty through balls and take long-range shots without purpose, as if they have given up on the basics. I would like to see a lot more consistency in attack, especially when it comes to making the simple passes without giving away the ball.
As you will have noticed, for this match I have Jay Chapman in my lineup instead of Ager Aketxe. Aketxe is as guilty as anyone on the roster for having poor body language, and has been performing at a much lower level than his salary would suggest. I think Jay Chapman might get a few more minutes in the coming matches, as Aketxe hasn’t been able to overcome his poor start to the season and Chapman must be itching for some playing time. It might only take a boost in confidence for Aketxe to get back to the player that had fans excited for his arrival, but whatever it is must come sooner rather than later if he is to make a significant impact for TFC this season.
Victor Vazquez is also listed as questionable to start this match, since he too apparently has a nagging injury, but let’s hope he’s fit to start.
It was announced on Friday that Seba would be a part of the 2018 MLS All-Star roster to play his former team Juventus on August 1st. Hopefully high on confidence, Giovinco will look to get back on the form that has seen him represent MLS in the last 3 All-Star Games.