- Toronto FC (TOR)
- Eastern Conference
- Home: BMO Field
- Canadian Championship: 2009-2012
Finally reaching the playoffs on their ninth attempt was a club milestone last season, if ultimately ending in a disappointing Knockout Round elimination to rivals Montreal.
Toronto FC has, however, used that mark as a springboard for the 2016 season. They quickly addressed their defensive shortcomings with key additions – Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper Clint Irwin – while Canadian International and two-time MLS Cup Champion, Will Johnson, brings with him experience, a winning mentality and some additional midfield bite.
Combining those moves with last year's core means the 2016 squad projects to be the deepest, most balanced, and most talented assembly that TFC fans have ever witnessed at BMO Field.
Sebastian Giovinco is poised to refrain his MVP season, Jozy Altidore is ready and eager (although he'll have to overcome a hamstring injury to start the year), while Michael Bradley now has the pieces around him to truly excel in his third season with the club.
General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko has always said that building a club is a three-to-five year process and this will be his third season at the club's helm. The coaching staff, led by head coach Greg Vanney and assistant Robin Fraser, enter their second full season as they seek to establish a "culture of winning." And Johnson has deemed himself and the other offseason acquisitions as the "final pieces" of the puzzle.
Toronto made all the right moves over the winter to ensure that the frailties that held them back in 2015 will not nag them in 2016. Their offensive prowess put every opponent on notice last season. If they can support Giovinco & Co. with a revamped team defense, they can aspire to big things.
Armchair Analyst's Take
The switch to the 4-3-3 is a huge move, and it is fraught because it moves Giovinco further from goal and Bradley into a position as a true defensive midfielder. Both of those things make me uneasy.
My personal axiom in this sport is “play your best player in his best spot, and go from there,” and there’s no question that Giovinco’s best spot is as a second forward. He’ll get free rein as an inverted winger on the left, of course, but that does mean added defensive responsibility and different starting points for his runs, as well as a different kind of partnership with left back Justin Morrow. It’s an adjustment.
For Bradley, my issue is that he’s always been more of a hunter than a protector; he doesn’t sit and shield, which is what the 4-3-3 often demands. If he goes chasing, what does that mean for the central defense?
Even with those notes of caution sounded, it’s hard not to like what this group has done in the offseason. Getting veterans in on the back line, at ‘keeper and in midfield, and clearing out cap space in preparation for an in-season move or two was a smarter play than going for another splashy signing. They have the pieces, and now just have to figure out how they fit.
Key Offseason Transactions
|KEY PLAYERS IN:||KEY PLAYERS OUT:|
Player to Watch: Jonathan Osorio
It's hard to believe that Canada's national team manager can't find a place in his squad for the world-class midfield talent of the 23-year-old Osorio:
Projected Lineup (4-3-3):
Irwin -- Beitashour, Moor, Perquis, Morrow -- Bradley, Johnson, Osorio -- Endoh, Altidore, Giovinco
Last year, Toronto jumpstarted their offense with major acquisitions, as Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5m) proved to be the best fantasy player, and likely will be again in 2016. TFC are now focused on defense, but you’ll want to wait until after their away games until you bring in value players like goalkeeper Clint Irwin ($5.5m) and center back Damien Perquis ($7.5m).
- Drew Moor
- Will Johnson
- Herculez Gómez