On Tuesday night, Toronto FC return home for the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League tie against Independiente. After an atrocious first leg after which there was much left to be desired, there is a lot of uncertainty about who does/doesn’t deserve to start in the second leg, and whether or not Greg Vanney goes for the miracle five-goal victory or rests his key players ahead of their season opener on Saturday. I expect Vanney to go for the victory, as another loss would set off any alarms that aren’t already blaring.
It was obvious that whatever Vanney tried down in Panama didn’t work, as he tried to force his team to play the 4-3-3 that every other modern manager plays, and he had to play some people out of position. Marky Delgado and Justin Morrow in particular looked out of place and were pretty much invisible.
That 4-3-3 formation is hopefully in the past, and hoping that Vanney has learned from his mistakes, I have gone with a similar formation, the 4-2-3-1. This formation allows Vanney to keep his wingers while keeping the players in the middle of the park a bit closer together.
With that in mind, here is my prediction for Greg Vanney’s starting eleven:
Some people say that the goalkeeper is only as good as the defenders in front of him, and in the case of Alex Bono vs Independiente part one, that is very much true. Bono allowed four goals, so it was easy for many social media users to immediately pull out their device of choice and tweet about how much he sucks, or why he should be sold. The only goal Bono can be blamed for is the fourth one, as he came out of his net too early, but the first three goals were down to bad defending.
Bono will also be looking to have a strong game because Quentin Westberg has just joined the club. Westberg will be the backup, but he will put some pressure on Bono and challenge for the starting spot.
Auro, Laurent Ciman, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow
Despite this seeming like the obvious starting back four, Greg Vanney decided to throw Justin Morrow up the pitch as a left winger, a position he can’t play comfortably, despite having a few wingers on the bench. Although Ashtone Morgan is definitely good enough to start at left-back, Justin Morrow is better, and he should never have been playing up top. I expect Morrow to be in the back four again on Tuesday night, with Morgan available to come off the bench if needed.
Laurent Ciman and Chris Mavinga had a rough first game together down in Panama, as both made some poor defensive mistakes that led to goals. Both were at fault for the first goal, as neither one of them cleared the cross and Mavinga failed to block the shot. Ciman was also at fault for the second goal, as he tried some sort of a slide tackle, but went way too early and completely missed the attacker, who then scored an impressive goal from the edge of the penalty area.
Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado, Nick DeLeon, Tsubasa Endoh
Only three of these five players took the pitch last week, as Nick DeLeon was absent with an injury, and Tsubasa Endoh was left on the bench for some reason, despite being arguably the best winger available to Greg Vanney.
DeLeon is available for Greg Vanney, so I think he gets his first Toronto FC start, on the right side of an attacking trio behind the striker. Griffin Dorsey is a talented winger, but he should not have been starting in the first game after a crazy off-season and under such extreme pressure.
The failed Justin Morrow experiment is proof enough that Tsubasa Endoh should get the start on the left side of the trio, although I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jacob Shaffelburg get the start, or at least a substitute appearance, after his #MOMSCCL performance in the first leg. Endoh should have started last week, so why he never came off the bench is a mystery.
Jonathan Osorio was one of the players who I thought had a few good moments for TFC in leg one, but he couldn’t create the goal that TFC were so desperately searching for. In my opinion, he should’ve taken control and stepped up to take the penalty, but Terrence Boyd is the striker, so I can also see the reason for letting the player paid to score goals take the kick.
Michael Bradley and Marky Delgado were pretty much invisible in the first leg, and obviously they were unprepared to play their positions (although that can be said about pretty much every player on the park). A switch to the 4-2-3-1 would allow Bradley and Delgado to play alongside each other, and have Marky move up the pitch when needed, instead of just floating around in a free role, as it looked in the first leg. Delgado was seemingly told to be the box to box midfielder he usually is, but in that 4-3-3 formation, he had Bradley covering one box and Osorio covering the other, and he looked lost at times.
As I said last week, Terrence Boyd has had a ridiculous amount of pressure put on him, as some fans still think he’s the replacement for Sebastian Giovinco (although I’m sure plenty of the people saying that still are just trolls). With Jozy Altidore’s injury still lingering, Boyd will get the start again.
Missing the penalty was 100% his fault, but as has been said plenty of times since the last match, he didn’t have anyone playing balls into him for the rest of the game, so he is hardly to blame for the lack of goals.
Boyd came out and apologized for the loss on Twitter, despite not being the main reason for the defeat, which earned him a fair amount of respect from myself and TFC fans alike, so he’ll be hoping that he can channel his energy into the second leg and score some goals to give the Reds a chance to get back on track.
My full starting XI: