Welcome to The Upgrade, a series tracking MLS players in EA SPORTS FIFA 17. Check out the previous installment here!
This week, we’re focusing on Toronto FC, who just won 2-1 at Columbus to notch the league’s first five-match regular season win streak since 2015. Will they continue it on Saturday, when they host Minnesota United(3 pm ET | CTV in Canada, MLS LIVE in US)?
As much as Toronto FC’s firepower stands out, both in FIFA 17 and in real life, it’s been their defensive personnel that’s made the difference during this run of form, and the difference makers have been rewarded. Wingbacks Justin Morrow and Homegrown talent Raheem Edwards received upgrades, center backs Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta both got boosted, and midfielder Marky Delgado got his POT bumped up. When EA SPORTS is showing love to just about the entire defensive core of a team, you can bet those guys have earned it.
What makes Toronto’s personnel so interesting in FIFA 17 is that they’re the only team in MLS that has committed consistently to a 3-5-2 over an extended period. For this to work, the pieces in their squad have to fit together differently than clubs who run other systems, and their wingbacks have had to be relentless, clever two-way players that are as deft at burning up grass and whipping in a cross as they are at defending in space.
Enter Morrow and Edwards. This season, Morrow has looked completely locked into the wingback position, and has been lights out for Toronto. His 78 sprint speed rating, 74 acceleration, and 83 stamina coupled with 64 crossing, 69 curve, mean he’s more than useful in offensive transition through 90 minutes in FIFA 17, too. On the defensive side of the ball, his 68 interceptions rating, 68 marking, and 70 in both standing and sliding tackles mean he’s prepared for just about anything he’ll have to deal with in MLS play. He’s a balanced player with a lot of utility and no real downside as a wingback.
While Morrow has been moved around throughout his career and is just showing mastery of his role at the age of 29, the 21-year old Edwards looks like he was born to be a wingback. A lot of folks are hopping on the young man’s hype train, and it’s not hard to see why. In six starts, Edwards has four assists (including two in a big road win against Columbus on Wednesday) and has looked extremely comfortable in possession and defending in space.
Edwards has gotten some love from EA SPORTS over the last few weeks, so he’s definitely got some digital fans as well. He’s up to a 65 OVR with a 74 POT eight matches into his first real season in MLS. Right now, his core defensive attributes like marking (42) standing tackle (50), and sliding tackle (48) need some serious help before he can become an elite defensive player, but his current offensive upside is very promising. The physical attributes like speed, agility, stamina, and aggression are all in place, and with a few more solid performances that showcase a mature defensive mindset, I’m pretty confident his hype train will be chock full of passengers soon – digital and physical.
Rounding out the come-ups for TFC so far this season is Delgado, who has had a major effect on Toronto’s defensive presence. Marky is a grinder, and at the age of 22, getting consistent minutes right now is huge for his potential. Right now, that potential sits at 73 in FIFA 17, which is a pretty respectable ceiling for a guy who doesn’t have a ton of MLS experience under his belt. Like Edwards, he’s going to have to prove that he’s the complete package as a midfielder – passing range, defensive ability, decision making in transition – before he gets a big boost. However, the fact that Toronto is already willing to trust him as a key cog in their five-man midfield is a very good sign for his future.