Greg Vanney looking ahead
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC try to stay on course amid "fair amount of chaos" in January

A tumultuous January at Toronto FC came to a conclusion this week with the departure of Sebastian Giovinco, leaving some massive shoes to fill.

The Italian's transfer to Al-Hilal FC in Saudi Arabia, along with that of Victor Vazquez to Al-Arabi SC in Qatar, has put a hole or two into the club's attack. Combined, the duo contributed 21 goals and 24 assists in MLS play last season. And with the start of the 2019 Concacaf Champions League mere weeks away, TFC head coach Greg Vanney knows exactly where his team needs reinforcement.

“Attack-minded players, who are goal-dangerous, want to get out and run and be aggressive. Guys who can set up actions, finish, who have some ability to get behind with speed, who can take people on one-on-one,” said Vanney via telephone on Friday, before he and his squad traveled from Southern California to Nevada for a friendly clash with Las Vegas Lights FC.

“This isn't going to be a one-player switch and hope that we replace what those guys brought. We're looking for a few different guys to fulfill those roles.”

Toronto have already been linked with several possible additions since the transfer, most recently Argentinean striker Jonathan Menendez, but replacing Giovinco will not be easy. It's not just his raw production, but how he occupied the opposition.

“Seba was a special player, who drew attention, who required numbers defensively, who would force teams to adjust,” detailed Vanney. “You miss that; miss his ability to make a difference in moments where special quality takes over.

“Doesn't mean that we won't have guys who can have [those] moments, but it was one of his qualities,” he continued. “He could take a play that looked like nothing and make something in a split second. That's what all teams feared: you have to plan to eliminate those moments where Seba could turn a game.”

For TFC, life after Seba will be just the latest evolution.

“It's going to be a little bit of a reshaping of the group, finding different ways to organize, and find qualities that will make us slightly different, but still play in the vision of how I like to play,” said Vanney. “Attacking-oriented, aggressive and relentless. We'll still do that.”

While some were caught off guard by the speed at which the speculation ramped up and concluded with the sale of the club's all-time leading scorer, the Reds had been planning for just such a possibility.

“I knew some of the stuff was coming,” said Vanney, referencing Giovinco having brought up his contract situation on the eve of the CCL final last year. “You have a sense of where people are at; what they're thinking.

“So while I didn't see all of this coming quite so quickly in the end, it's something you always want to be prepared for,” he added. “That's the appropriate thing for us as a club. At the end of the day, it's a business and you've got to be able to adapt and adjust quickly when things do happen.”

Now missing two formidable pieces and awaiting news of newcomers, for all the machinations outside, in camp the team has not been distracted.

“I've been incredibly impressed with the mentality of the group through what has been a fair amount of chaos over the last couple of weeks,” said Vanney. “The guys have been supportive, got on with their business. They're locked in and focused on approaching the season in the best way we can.”

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