Last Season's MLS Championship Runner-Up Faces Formidable Challenges Ahead
Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Toronto FC
Location: BMO Field, Toronto
Date and Time: August 18th, 8:00 pm EST, 5:00 pm PST
Television: TSN (in Canada) / MLS Live on ESPN+ (in US)
Toronto FC spilled out of the MLS is Back Tournament in the Round of 16 after a 3-1 defeat to NYCFC. After finishing first in Group C, Toronto looked to go on further in the tournament and their early knockout loss was quite the disappointment. On both sides of the ball, Toronto has much to improve on if they wish to finish top of the East.
The MLS regular season restarts for Toronto FC on Tuesday night with a match against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Ayo Akinola was a bright spot for TFC in the tournament and will hope to return from his injury soon. Akinola in his first two tournament matches finished with a brace and a hattrick, totaling for five goals over his three appearances. Due to a hamstring injury, Akinola missed the Round of 16 tie vs. NYCFC. Simply put, TFC was a better offensive side when Akinola was on the field. In the three games he featured in, the shots on target were five or above. NYCFC shut down the Toronto attack only allowing two, whilst blocking five.
The injury, according to the TFC head coach will leave Akinola highly questionable for the match. However, Jozy Altidore is set to be available for picking and could look to rekindle his attacking partnership with Alejandro Pozuelo. Jonathan Osorio should also be fit to play in the midfield alongside Michael Bradley after coming on as a sub in the match against NYCFC.
The defense took a major blow when Justin Morrow went down with an Achilles injury in the first match of the tournament. Morrow is hopeful to return at some point in the MLS restart. He was replaced by Richie Laryea, who was crucial in the final group stage game vs. New England and helped secure a clean sheet. The TFC defense as a whole must be better though. Other than the clean sheet, the defense gave up an average of 2.7 goals per game. Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga have a lot to prove in this Vancouver matchup.
Vancouver was shut out twice in four games at the tournament. Finishing with one win in four they were quite lucky to get as far as the knockout stage. The Whitecaps aren’t a great offensive side, so the TFC defense’s goal should be to keep a clean sheet. Offensively, TFC need to show they’re able to score without Akinola in the starting XI. His return will be heavily anticipated, but Altidore must be convincing in his absence.
The bottom line is, even thought it's just one game, Toronto FC has to prove they are still an MLS force on Tuesday night.
Headline Photo Credit: Toronto Sun