TORONTO – Days removed from losing the 2019 MLS Cup Final, the 2020 season is already on the mind for Toronto FC.
While the normal order of things sees teams make the majority of changes in the offseason, Toronto FC underwent a significant evolution over the course of this campaign.
“We’re now in the stage of fine tuning,” TFC president Bill Manning said during his end-of-season press conference. “Last year when we lost Sebastian [Giovinco] and Victor [Vazquez], we had some really big holes to fill.”
“We went through that midseason and, as the season ended, this group came together,” he continued. “You’re going to have a great goalkeeper battle with Quentin [Westberg] and Alex [Bono], you have depth in the midfield, you have Richie [Laryea] and Auro and Justin Morrow [at fullback], center backs in Omar [Gonzalez], Laurent [Ciman] and Chris [Mavinga]. I feel we have a lot of depth.”
“Get off to a much strong start and adding a piece like another attacker that can score 10-15 goals,” prescribed Manning. “That’s just going to make us a better team.”
It wasn’t that goal-scoring was a problem per se – TFC scored 57 MLS goals in 2019, only six teams scored more – though they did amass 74 in the treble-winning 2017. It’s about having options.
“We can definitely use one more guy, a winger or that type of player who can make things happen on his own, be dynamic, and get us goals,” suggested Jozy Altidore, who scored 11 goals in 22 regular season appearances. “We did well this season, in terms of being a complete team.”
“I don’t think we need too much,” he added. “But a bit more firepower in terms of the attack.”
With the midseason additions of Gonzalez, Nicolas Benezet, Erickson Gallardo, Patrick Mullins, and Jacob Shaffelburg, Greg Vanney has already addressed many of the areas he desired. Now it’s about taking the next steps in terms of his vision coming to life.
He highlighted Gallardo as one who will have a more significant role next season – according to Vanney, the Venezuelan has looked the part in training over the last month and was unfortunate not to feature more in the playoffs. Vanney sees him as part of the solution to one of the facets TFC needs to improve.
“One of the areas that we can get better is in transition: be able to be faster to attack teams,” said Vanney. “Some of that is having pace and speed on the outside, guys who can get behind, having targets for ‘Poz’ to hit in depth.”
And with their stated desire to re-sign Michael Bradley, should a third Designated Player spot open up, TFC general manager Ali Curtis was adamant it would be used, responding when asked with a single word: “Yes.”
It’s about finding the right piece.
“The acquisition of Omar Gonzalez was game-changing for us. When he first joined us, that game at Montreal, we became a different team,” said Manning. “Someone who can put the ball in the back of the net, someone we can rely on – that is going to be a strong addition. We have a number of profiles that we’re looking at, but the economics will play out over the course of the next few weeks.”