After reaching MLS Cup final in 2019, Toronto FC will want to continue its stride despite losing their captain to injury.
After a slow start in 2019, Toronto turned its season around with a strong finish. Two coups for the Reds last season were the addition of and centerback Omar Gonzalez. The former U.S. men’s national team player strengthened the backline and allowed the Reds to push from the basement of the Eastern Conference and into the playoffs.
Toronto FC played its way to the final but lost to the Seattle Sounders. At the time, there was a scare that Michael Bradley would not be returning following the final game of 2019. After finally re-signing with the club, the captain’s ankle injury came to light.
The club initially waited to try and avoid surgery, but the midfielder went through the procedure in late January. TFC announced Bradley would be sidelined for a four-month period.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney will turn his attention to Liam Fraser as a replacement for his captain. The 22 year-old earned his first caps at central midfield for the Canadian national team in 2019. Fraser played most of Canada’s 2-0 win over the U.S. men’s national team, substituting in for an injured Mark-Anthony Kaye. Alongside Jonathan Osorio, Fraser will want to add a Canadian flair to the TFC midfield early in the season.
TFC start 2020 campaign on road against San Jose
Altidore, Pozuelo and TFC will start their season in the Bay Area, taking on the San Jose Earthquakes.
The attacking corps will be the first to test the Quakes’ new and improved back line. Head coach Matias Almeyda brought in center Oswaldo Alanis, who will reunite with his former manager from Chivas Guadalajara. In addition to Bradley and Piatti, who are both ruled out, Nick DeLeon is questionable for Saturday due to back tightness.
When: Feb. 29, 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Earthquakes Stadium
Broadcast: TSN 4/5
Live stream: ESPN+, MLS Live on DAZN in Canada
The buzz: Forward Jozy Altidore is expected to wear the captain’s armband for Toronto FC’s season opener.
Other key matches
April 18 vs LA Galaxy: Omar Gonzalez will play his former MLS club in a league match for the first time when the LA Galaxy visit BMO Field in mid April. This will also be Toronto first opportunity to witness the Galaxy’s newest star player Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.
June 13 vs Montreal Impact: BMO Field will host the first Canadian Classique of 2020. The Montreal Impact — who are recovering from the loss of Ignacio Piatti — will travel to Ontario to take on TFC, who now have a Piatti of their own, Pablo.
Check out the full 2020 schedule here.
Quotes and notes
Toronto’s biggest signing of the offseason was undoubtably Pablo Piatti. However, the Argentine carries the baggage of being an injury prone player. Piatti will not be available for TFC’s season opener, but Vanney remained confident.
“His general fitness level is good,” Vanney said. “So we just want to make sure that in terms of stability, balance, mobility, all those kinds of things, that he’s as far along and as prepared as we can get him.
“We want him to be safe, want to make sure he plays as much as he can this season and so we’re trying to be diligent about that.”
However, Piatti has yet to see the field for the Reds. The Argentine did not feature in a preseason game for his new club. Vanney said that the number of returning veterans could palliate for the loss of certain players.
“It’s helpful when you have a group that a lot of them came back from last year or the previous years. Our starting page is probably a little bit further than in the past,” Vanney said earlier in preseason.
Toronto ended its preseason in a shaky manner with losses to LAFC, the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire FC. TFC played a 1-1 draw to the Colorado Rapids to end training camp.
After spending a good chunk of time in California for preseason and their season opener, the Reds will be able to stay home for their second and third games of the campaign. Toronto FC will host NYCFC during its home opener on March 7. TFC will then take on expansion team Nashville SC at BMO Field on March 14.
Biggest offseason moves
• TFC acquired Argentine winger Pablo Piatti from La Liga side RCD Espanyol. The 30 year-old will be Toronto FC’s third designated player.
• The Reds re-signed Micheal Bradley to a TAM deal. The U.S. men’s national team player agreed to a pay cut in order to stay in Toronto.
• TFC acquired winger Erickson Gallardo on a TAM deal. The 22 year-old Venezuelan spent his entire career playing for Zamora FC in his home country.
• Nicolas Benezet left the club following the 2019 season. The French winger will start the 2020 campaign with the Colorado Rapids.
Forwards: Ifunayachi Achara, 22; Ayo Akinola, 20; Jozy Altidore, 30; Erikson Gallardo, 23; Patrick Mullins, 28; Jayden Nelson, 17
Midfielders: Micheal Bradley, 32; Nick DeLeon, 29; Marky Delgado, 24; Griffin Dorsey, 20; Tsubasa Endoh, 26; Liam Fraser, 22; Richie Laryea, 25; Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, 15; Noble Okello, 19; Pablo Piatti, 30; Alejandro Pozuelo, 28; Jacob Shaffelburg, 20;
Defenders: Auro Jr., 24; Laurent Ciman, 34; Julian Dunn, 19; Omar Gonzalez, 31; Chris Mavinga, 28; Justin Morrow, 32; Rocco Romeo, 19; Eriq Zavaletta, 27
Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, 25; Quentin Westberg, 33
See full roster details here.