Following their victory over Ottawa Fury FC in midweek, advancing to the Canadian Championship final, where they will play the Vancouver Whitecaps, Toronto FC return to BMO Field on Saturday night to host the Chicago Fire in MLS action. The fans at BMO Field were as loud as ever, propelling their team to a third straight final (and a chance at a Canadian Championship “three-peat”). There were a few standout players on Wednesday, with a couple of them making it into my lineup prediction tonight.
Returning to BMO Field this weekend are two former Reds, and fan favourites at that, Nicolas Hasler and Raheem Edwards (#FreeRaheem). Both were recently acquired by Chicago, including the deal that sent Hasler to the Fire and brought Jon Bakero to Toronto last week.
For this match against the Fire I think Greg Vanney will opt for the same 3-5-2 formation he used in Chicago last week, a game that TFC won 2-1 thanks to goals from Jonathan Osorio and Sebastian Giovinco.
Toronto’s number one goalkeeper was rested against Ottawa in midweek and should be ready to go on Saturday. Bono was victorious last time out, against this same Chicago team, making a nice save and only allowing a single goal on route to a 2-1 win.
Chris Mavinga, Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta
Both Mavinga and Hagglund started against Ottawa in midweek, and Hagglund played the full 90 minutes. Both were solid in that match but it was Mavinga who really stood out to me. Considering it was just his second match after returning from injury, Mavinga looked to be in top form, often out-running opposition players and making a few key sliding tackles. Hagglund also had a good match, using his incredible aerial ability to clear away any ball lobbed into the penalty area.
Zavaleta had Wednesday off, probably in part because of his heavy workload recently and in part because Jason Hernandez needed to get some playing time to get himself back up to match fitness. Hopefully a full week off was enough time for Zavaleta to refresh and prepare for a crucial stretch in TFC’s 2018 campaign.
Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Jay Chapman, Gregory van der Wiel
Morrow and Chapman both started on Wednesday, but it was Osorio’s effort off the bench that caught the headlines. Osorio rounded a defender and smashed a ball over Maxime Crepeau and off the bottom of the bar, his team-leading 13th goal of the season. He is the only TFC player in double-digits and in my opinion, and I’m sure that many people will agree, he has been Toronto FC’s best and most consistent player this season. If Tim Bezbatchenko hasn’t already offered him a contract extension, now seems like as good a time as any to reward the boy from Brampton.
Gregory van der Wiel was in the starting lineup against Chicago last Saturday but wasn’t among the 18 against Ottawa. Assuming he is still healthy, I think he’ll start again in this match but if he won’t be starting, we could see Justin Morrow switch to the right side and Ashtone Morgan fill in at left-back.
Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
It sure is nice to predict that these two will be starting alongside each other again. Giovinco is second on the team with 9 goals in all competitions, but I believe that he could have had a lot more so far if Altidore hadn’t missed nearly three months following a foot surgery. The two compliment each other extremely well, as Altidore’s physicality draws defenders to him, freeing up space for Sebastian Giovinco to exploit, either to take a shot or give the ball to Altidore once defenders rush to Giovinco. It is a system that has worked for a few years now and one that I can’t wait to see once they start firing on all cylinders again.