2020 Season Preview: Toronto FC

Toronto FC re-asserted their position as MLS heavyweights in 2019, making a return to MLS Cup … and their experience, stability and talent will have them contending again.

Still, two of their star players start the season with injury questions and head coach Greg Vanney will once again have to get the most out of the whole roster if they are to challenge for the top spots in the standings.

2019 Finish

  • MLS Reg. Season: 50 points (13W-10L-11D), 4th in East / 9th overall
  • MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in MLS Cup Final (vs. Seattle Sounders)
  • Canadian Championship: Eliminated in Final (vs. Montreal Impact)
  • Concacaf Champions League: Eliminated in Rd. of 16 (vs. Independiente la Chorrera)

Star players

  • Alejandro Pozuelo — Toronto’s big-money acquisition of 2019 was an instant revelation, putting up two goals and an assist in his debut and pushing on from there, racking up 12 of each across 30 appearances on his way to an MLS Best XI selection. Him replicating that type of production — along with strong output from Altidore and Pablo Piatti — would be gravy for TFC, and anything more should have him in the MVP conversation.
  • Jozy Altidore — As my colleague Matt Doyle will detail shortly, Altidore’s presence shapes the way Toronto FC play. Spoiler alert: they’re better with him on the field. He is one of the most formidable and complete forwards in the league, and he starts the season healthy; if he can put together the second 2,000-minute season of his MLS career, Toronto will almost certainly be in a good spot come fall.
  • Michael Bradley — TFC’s undisputed locker room leader is out until at least May or June after undergoing ankle surgery in January, leaving Vanney with a big hole to fill in the center of midfield. They have depth and talent at the position, but Bradley is a unique presence whose intensity and leadership, not to mention his ability to pick out a pass, will be missed.

Extratime Analysis: Toronto FC

Key acquisitions and departures

  • IN: Pablo Piatti — The 31-year-old Argentine is Toronto’s only major acquisition of the offseason so far — they’ve also signed a handful of Homegrown prospects — but he could prove to be a very shrewd one. His injury history is a question mark, but he has played at a high level in La Liga for over a decade and will thrive in MLS if he can stay on the field, especially in a team with the likes of Pozuelo, Bradley and Altidore.
  • OUT: Drew Moor — There are few better center backs in MLS history, but Toronto ultimately looked elsewhere when he became a free agent after making 22 combined appearances over the last two seasons.
  • OUT: Nicolas Benezet — As a consequence of Michael Bradley’s new TAM deal and a cap crunch, Toronto had to part ways with Benezet, who arrived in mid-2019 and ended up starting every single game for them in the playoffs. Piatti, if healthy, will be an upgrade, but Colorado will be getting a valuable contributor in the Frenchman.
  • OUT: Ashtone Morgan — TFC’s longest-serving player said goodbye after nine seasons in a Reds uniform. Though his left back spot is fairly well-covered and he was largely limited to a reserve role in his recent seasons with TFC, it is a heartfelt farewell for a native son and the first Toronto academy product to make 100 appearances for the senior team.

Projected Starting XI

2020 Roster

  • Goalkeepers (2): Alex Bono, Quentin Westberg
  • Defenders (9):  Auro Jr., Laurent Ciman, Julian Dunn, Omar Gonzalez, Richie Laryea, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Rocco Romeo, Eriq Zavaleta
  • Midfielders (14):  Michael Bradley, Nick DeLeon, Marky Delgado, Griffin Dorsey, Tsubasa Endoh, Liam Fraser, Erickson Gallardo, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Jayden Nelson, Noble Okello, Jonathan Osorio, Pablo Piatti, Alejandro Pozuelo, Jacob Shaffelburg
  • Forwards (4): Ifunanyachi Achara, Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Patrick Mullins

Armchair Analyst: Strengths and weaknesses

  • Strength: There’s a lot of depth and knowhow throughout this roster at almost every spot but especially on the wings. Guys like Nick DeLeon and Richie Laryea took turns last autumn winning playoff games, and they’re not even expected to be starters. Plus in Alejandro Pozuelo and Jonathan Osorio they have one of the best one-two attacking midfield punches in the league.
  • Weakness: That’s assuming Osorio and Pozuelo can play in the same midfield together. Last year one or the other had to be shunted out to the wing or TFC lost their defensive balance. And up top, there’s simply been no replacing what Jozy Altidore brings in terms of hold-up play, chance creation and goal-scoring. When he’s out, everything about how Toronto play changes.

Predictions

  • Ben Baer: 2nd in East
  • Marcelo Balboa (Univision): 5th in East
  • Calen Carr: 4th in East
  • Charlie Davies: 2nd in East
  • Matt Doyle: 1st in East
  • Kristian Jack (TSN): 3rd in East
  • Frederic Lord (TVA Sports): 3rd in East
Series: