With Ayo Akinola questionable, does Jozy Altidore start for Toronto FC against Vancouver Whitecaps?

Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola - Toronto FC

It was shaping up to be one of Greg Vanney’s biggest tactical conundrums. Should the Toronto FC coach start Ayo Akinola or Jozy Altidore up front? Or both and change his team’s shape?

While that question may need to be answered in the future, Vanney apparently won’t have to worry about that tonight (8 pm ET | TSN 4/5 in Canada, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US) when Toronto FC resume their regular season in the first of back-to-back meetings with the Vancouver Whitecaps at BMO Field.

Akinola, who broke out at the MLS is Back Tournament with five goals in his first two games before suffering a hamstring injury, is considered “very questionable” for this game after just returning to training Monday.

“We’ll do some stuff with him tomorrow, but we’re not going to risk him,” Vanney said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “This is coming out of a quarantine and pushing into another stretch of games.”

As for Altidore, he’s no longer on the team’s injury report and has impressed Vanney at training with the dynamic movement the coach says is so vital for what Toronto FC look to do in the attacking third.

“I’ve been really impressed with that sprit repeatability he’s been giving us in training and hard work and defensive engagement,” Vanney said. “He’s been putting in the shifts and meeting and exceeding every sort of daily threshold we want the guys to meet.”

“He’s proving to us he’s prepared for some real minutes and part of getting him game fit, just like everybody else, is he needs to play some games and push some minutes in games,” he added.

Vanney said he’s been impressed with the strides the Whitecaps have made since Marc dos Santos has taken the helm. What they were able to accomplish in Orlando by reaching the knockout round despite missing several regulars speaks to the ‘Caps buy-in to dos Santos’ vision and the culture he’s looking to build, one of team defending, being dangerous on the counter and having difference-makers in the final third.

“He has laid the foundation now to start to take the club forward,” Vanney said. "That’s the biggest first step you can possible make. They went [to the MLS is Back Tournament] undermanned and they still put out a hell of a tournament and just competing and making it difficult, getting some big results at the right times. They’re in a good position.”

Of course, Toronto FC are no strangers to showing up in big moments. For Michael Bradley, so many of those big moments have been at BMO Field, a venue he cherishes playing in.

“We get to drive down to BMO tomorrow night and know that we’re stepping onto an incredible field,” he said. "We love playing there. It doesn’t matter whether it's at training or an intrasquad scrimmage like we did once or twice before we went to Orlando or now in this case a league game, it’s a great stadium, the field in the last year or so has been in incredible shape so we’re excited.”

Bradley said he’s also embraced "the most normal stretch we’ve had in a long time,” after the club exited their quarantine following the conclusion of their MLS is Back participation.

Whether it’s the quarantine or playing without fans, or months without games to matches coming thick and fast, Bradley said there will always be something to complain about and excuses at the ready.

But that’s not for Toronto FC.

“We’ve talked a lot as a group about the idea we’ve just got to get on with things,” Bradley said. "We have to have a mentality that says whatever is going on in other ways, when we have our chance to step on the field, we’re going to go for it, we’re going to play, we’re going to compete, we’re going to try to be as committed and relentless as possible to do what we always do — step on the field and win games.”