TORONTO – Decisions, decisions.
Having collected a massive three points on Saturday night with a 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact at BMO Field, Toronto FC prepare to enter a pressure-packed final two months of a tumultuous 2018 season.
First up: the difficult question of a midweek away match against Western Conference opposition, with the Reds set to visit the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night (10:30 pm ET | TSN 3/4 – Full TV and streaming info).
With a plethora of nagging injuries, Greg Vanney will once more have to manage his lineup.
Drew Moor played his first complete 90 minutes since an April injury held him out of the Concacaf Champions League final and Jozy Altidore will be available again after his suspension. But Chris Mavinga and Auro are both dealing with hamstring concerns. A trio of attacking pieces – Sebastian Giovinco (groin), Jonathan Osorio (hip) and Victor Vazquez (knee) – are all carrying knocks.
Giovinco and Vazquez exited early against Montreal with the match all but won, but Osorio was forced to gut out the entirety despite obvious discomfort. With the quick turnaround and the cross-continental travel, who makes the trek to Portland?
“That's a decision I'll have to assess as we take inventory after this game and see what’s the cost of going to Portland with everybody, trying to get a road result,” said Vanney post-match.
“What I've found from this season is you can't plan too far ahead. Every game gives us something different to work with,” he added. “I have an idea of what I want to do this week, but I won't know if we're going to go with that until I see where guys are at physically.”
Midweek, Vanney suggested that he would not risk anyone, but maintained if players were healthy and ready to go, he would take them to Portland. And with TFC six points out of the playoff places with nine games to go, every game counts.
“We are in no position to be picking and choosing right now,” said captain Michael Bradley on Saturday. “We feel good about what went into tonight, but the recovery process starts now and we're going make sure that everybody who goes to Portland is ready to step on the field and go for things in a big way.
“[The Timbers] play tomorrow. We've got to travel, but have one day more of rest. It's a good team, but a team that in the last few games has had some poor results. So, it should be a fun game. It's always a good place to play, atmosphere is good. We'll get ourselves ready to go.”
And after that comes the first-ever meeting between TFC and LAFC – one Bradley, in particular, has said is circled on his calendar for obvious reasons (his father Bob coaches the expansion side). It's the first of two matches against Los Angeles-based clubs at BMO Field on either side of the international break.
“For now all the home games are 'must-win' games,” said Vanney. “We need to win six more games now and my calculation is there are five home games and four road games. And so, our home wins are vital.”
So begin the final chapters of a strange year for TFC.
“It's been that kind of year: nothing has come easy. But we're not dead,” said Bradley. “That's for damn sure.
“Along the way, there have been a few people that have been ready to count us out,” he continued. “We've been able to just keep ourselves going, find ways to fight and scrap and claw. We're going to have to do that for nine more games: do everything we can to take this down to the wire and get ourselves into the playoffs.”