On Saturday night Toronto FC will be at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City for a match with Sporting KC. Kansas City are currently 2nd in the Western Conference and have an impressive 32 points (9 wins, 5 draws and 4 losses) through 18 matches. In their game on Wednesday they fell 4-2 to Real Salt Lake, and to rub salt in the wound, lost two of their most important offensive players. Their leading goalscorer Daniel Salloi and assists leader Roger Espinoza were both sent off in stoppage time of Wednesday’s match, and will be forced to sit out.
Greg Vanney’s use of the 3-5-2 formation this season has been heavily criticized by many Toronto FC fans, due a clear lack of healthy central defenders, and some have even called for Greg Vanney to be sacked. While am I strongly against the idea of firing Vanney, as is my fellow Waking the Red writer Charlie, I do agree with the opinion that the 3-5-2 isn’t working and Greg Vanney should return to the 4-4-2 diamond used in MLS Cup 2017 or the 4-1-4-1 that he has used a few times this season. Wednesday’s match against Minnesota was hopefully a clear example to Vanney that the 3-5-2 just doesn’t work with the players that are currently available to him. For this match, I predict that Greg Vanney will use the 4-1-4-1 formation.
Clint Irwin got the start in Minnesota on Wednesday, meaning that Alex Bono is rested and should start this one. Bono was the unfortunate loser in his last match, as he let in a low strike from Kemar Lawrence in the 4th minute, and his teammates failed to score for the remainder of the match, and TFC lost the Canada Day affair 1-0. This time out he’ll be looking to gain some confidence and earn a clean sheet against a weakened Sporting KC attack.
Gregory van der Wiel, Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta, Justin Morrow
As mentioned before, Toronto FC’s defence isn’t healthy enough to use the 3-5-2 formation, as Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Auro and Jason Hernandez are all out injured at the moment. Gregory van der Wiel has spent some time at centre-back this season, but is naturally a right-back. If Vanney opts to play with 4 at the back, and chooses Zavaleta and Hagglund to be his pair in the middle, van der Wiel is the obvious option to play on the right. Another option could be to have van der Wiel play in the middle and have Nicolas Hasler take over on the right, but I think the side is strongest with van der Wiel on the right and Hasler in a more attacking role, as he is in my lineup today.
Justin Morrow has been decent since returning from injury, but has been forced to play out of position to fit the 3-5-2 system. He’s been forced to play at centre-back, which obviously isn’t ideal considering he is the league’s best left-back. He was chosen as the best left-back by MLS last season, and was selected to their Best XI.
Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Jay Chapman, Nicolas Hasler
With the continued absence of Victor Vazquez through injury, the midfield has struggled in recent matches. They haven’t been performing particularly well in attack or defence, although they kept possession well against Minnesota, having 61% of the ball and completing 86% of their passes, despite falling 4-3 to The Loons.
The group I have chosen includes a balance of attack and defence, while also including a strong work rate. Bradley and Delgado are two of the better defensive midfielders in the team, and are also capable of providing a strong link between the defence and attack, balancing out the more attacking duo of Jonathan Osorio and Jay Chapman. Osorio is tied with Victor Vazquez for the team lead in goals (5), and Jay Chapman (2) is not far behind.
Nicolas Hasler, Toronto FCs utility man, has struggled at times but is one of the hardest working players in the team. He never stops running and is capable of both scoring and assisting goals from both the right-back and midfield positions.
Giovinco scored a beautiful goal on Wednesday, but it wasn’t enough to lift TFC to victory. He has undoubtedly struggled without a physical beast like Altidore alongside him, but that is not a good enough excuse for why his production has dropped so much. He is visibly frustrated on the pitch, so hopefully the wonder goal he scored will lift his spirits.