Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United FC
2017 MLS Regular Season
BMO Field – Toronto
Saturday, April 8 – 7:30 pm ET
WATCH: TSN4, TSN 5 in Canada | MLS LIVE in the US
The drama of this Eastern Conference match-up needs very little explaining: each team comes in with plenty of hype, and maybe even more to prove. Toronto FC, the reigning Eastern Conference champs, are all about battling back to MLS Cup after letting it slip away last year on their own territory. (This tifo from fans last week expresses as much.) And yet, they came away from their home opener last week, vs. Sporting Kansas City, with only a point after a frustrating 0-0 draw.
Still, in most years, one could dependably reply on Conference champions to make easy work of an expansion side. But this isn't most years -- this is the year that Atlanta United entered the league, along with all their breathless hype, and some results to back it up. There's just one issue. Their big goal-scorer so far, Josef Martinez, is out with an injury. But will many of the other talents on the squad fill in the gaps? We'll find out.
Much of Toronto's hopes, naturally, come to star Sebastian Giovinco up top -- he's perhaps still finding his footing this season, though. He's only had one shot on target in his last two MLS appearances. This makes for only the second time in his MLS career he's had less than two shots on target over the course of consecutive MLS appearances.
Still, he's got plenty of help to get him back fully in the game. Besides Tosaint Ricketts, during the home opener at BMO, the Atomic Ant also linked up nicely with left back Raheem Edwards, who showed plenty of promise in his first league start.
Also on defense, it's unfortunate that starting 'keeper Clint Irwin is out with an injury. But fans should be heartened by Alex Bono's quality; after subbing in for Irwin in the 37th minute, he saved three solid shots from Kansas City to keep his team's clean sheet.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT: GK Clint Irwin (hamstring strain), D Ashtone Morgan (stress fracture)
Projected Starting XI (3-5-2): Alex Bono (GK) – Eriq Zavaleta, Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund – Steven Beitashour, Jonathan Osorio, Michael Bradley, Victor Vazquez, Raheem Edwards – Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco
Notes: Following their 0-0 in their home opener last week, Toronto now have one win in their last seven regular season MLS home games (2L-4D). They had won five consecutive home games prior to this run. But the good news? They haven't lost in 2017 -- and they're one of only three MLS teams, alongside Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, who can say that.
Atlanta's last match, on the road, provided a tough test, to say the least -- they had to face reigning MLS Cup champions Seattle in their famously intimidating home. They also had to do so without Martinez. And though Atlanta couldn't manage to slot home a goal, their defense impressed. They faced the likes of Clint Dempsey, for one, after all, and still managed a clean sheet. This bodes well for an expansion side around which the hype conversation has largely focused on the attack.
- Suspended: None
- Int’l Duty: None
- Injury Report: OUT – D Zach Loyd (groin injury); F Josef Martinez (left quad injury)
Projected Starting XI (4-3-3): Alec Kann (GK) – Tyrone Mears, Michael Parkhurst, Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, Greg Garza – Julian Gressel, Jeff Larentowicz, Chris McCann – Yamil Asad, Hector Villalba, Jacob Peterson
Notes: Atlanta currently has a 22.5 percent shot conversion rate (including blocks), the highest total in MLS. They've also completed 935 passes in the opposing half so far this season, the second-most in the league.
- This is the first meeting between the teams
Referee: Dave Gantar
Assistant Referees: Philippe Briere, Jason White
Fourth Official: Geoff Gable