On Wednesday night Toronto FC will be at BC Place in Vancouver for the first leg of the 2018 Canadian Championship final. Both sides are coming into the final high on confidence as Vancouver are unbeaten in 3 games and Toronto are unbeaten in their last 5. Toronto reached the final with a 4-0 aggregate win over Ottawa Fury FC. 2 goals from Jonathan Osorio, one from Jordan Hamilton and a first TFC goal for Ayo Akinola saw the Reds move on comfortably. Vancouver had more work to do in their semi-final, needing a 2-0 victory in the second leg to come from behind and defeat Montreal 2-1 on aggregate, the kind of inspiring win that can boost a team going into the next round of competition.
For this tournament, Greg Vanney has used the 4-4-2 formation, a trend that I think will continue. I think there will be less rotation for the final (sorry Malik Johnson fans), but enough rotation to let a few young standouts get some action.
Irwin has been solid in his two Canadian Championship appearances so far this season, blanking Ottawa Fury FC in both legs of the semi-final. He has made a few nice saves, but for the most part hasn’t been really tested. Expect that to change against a dangerous Vancouver attack that includes MLS’s newest superstar Alphonso Davies and Kei Kamara, who are more than capable of generating loads of scoring chances.
Auro, Nick Hagglund, Chris Mavinga, Ashtone Morgan
As mentioned above, Vancouver has a clinical pair of attackers, Alphonso Davies and Kei Kamara. The pair feature a blend of strength, speed and good positioning. I think Vanney will use Chris Mavinga and Nick Hagglund in the middle of the back four for two reasons 1) they both combat the skillset of Vancouver’s attackers, as Mavinga is both quick and strong, and Hagglund has an exceptional aerial ability, perfect when up against a physical presence like Kei Kamara and 2) both have/will be rested. Hagglund didn’t take part against Atlanta, so he should be well rested and should start over an over-worked Eriq Zavaleta. Mavinga, unable to play this weekend against NYCFC due to a red card suspension from the Atlanta match, so I think Vanney will start him on Wednesday to give him a bit of game action.
Auro returned from injury against Atlanta and looked solid, making nice runs up the line and crossing in some dangerous passes. To get him back up to match fitness, Vanney may want to start him in the final to give him some minutes.
Marky Delgado, Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser, Jonathan Osorio
Marky Delgado seems to be picking up the pace a little after an awful start to the season. He has started to run for the ball more and is suddenly able to string a few passes together, something he lacked in the earlier matches.
The rest of my midfield is made up of 3 young, Canadian midfielders, the three Canadians required to start the match (including Ashtone Morgan, I’ve picked four). I think the midfield will include Liam Fraser in more of a defensive role, Jay Chapman and Jonathan Osorio, who I think (and hope) will captain the side. Osorio has been on fire lately, scoring in 4 of his last 5 matches, in both games against Chicago and in both legs against Ottawa, and could captain the side as he did in the first leg against Ottawa.
Jozy Altidore, Ayo Akinola
Ayo Akinola has been great for TFC in this tournament, starting both legs against Ottawa and scoring the winning goal in the second leg. Only 18 years of age, Akinola already looks comfortable with the ball at his feet, often confident enough to take on a defender or two when need be. Partnered with Jozy Altidore, a player who Akinola is capable of becoming, is a great sight, as it shows how the TFC academy is more than capable of developing top players, which I think Akinola will grow up to be.