Toronto FC’s 2017 MLS kick-off begins on Saturday March 4, 2017 at 4:30PM as the Reds march down to Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah to face Real Salt Lake. The Reds begin the first of three away games (Philadelphia 03/11/17, and Vancouver 03/18/17) before returning to BMO Field for their home opener against Sporting KC on March 31 at 7:30PM.
Although there have been slight modifications to this TFC squad, not much has changed for the Reds going into 2017. 22 year-old TFC academy player Sergio Camargo becomes the 13th player in the club’s history to be signed from the Kia Toronto FC Academy. Camargo is from Newmarket, Ontario and will provide depth to the squad in the midfield throughout the season. Camargo represents 7 Canadian born players on Toronto FC;s 23 man roster. Nathanael Martin, of Northern Starting XI, has a more indepth interview of Camargo.
Toronto FC recently signed former Cruz Azul midfielder Victor Vazquez. The 30 year-old experienced midfielder will most likely be a key player for TFC throughout the 2017 season as he comes in with a very impressive resume. Although Vazquez was developed at La Masia, most of his Barcelona career (1996-2011) was played representing the team’s B and C squads. In 2011 Vasquez joined Clubbe Brugge and would eventually win the Belgian Pro League with his club and was named Belgian Professional Footballer of the Year. We may see Vazquez as a starting midfielder throughout the season if Johnathan Osorio loses his form or suffers injuries. There is no doubt that Vazquez will be dressed to play against Real Salt Lake.
Finally, Chris Mavinga the 25 year-old Left back / centre back joins the Reds after ending several Rubin Kazan loan spells to Stade Reims and most recently Troyes in Ligue 1, France. Mavinga’s youth career consisted of 3 years at PSG and represented Liverpool briefly as well. Mavinga will not be present during TFC ‘s match against Real Salt Lake as his wife recently gave birth in France. Although Greg Vanney’s 3-5-2 formation does not allow for a full back, Vanney will integrate Mavinga as he will provide depth and experience to the back line.
If coach Greg Vanney continues to play in the 3-5-2 formation as TFC did for most of the 2016 season, there will not be much of a change in the starting 11. Clint Irwin will most likely start at net as he recently signed a bigger contract with the club. Moor, Zavaleta, and Hagglund will be TFC’s back line with Mavinga to prove himself as a possible starter and in a four man defense formation, Ashtone Morgan and Chris Mavinga will also see minutes throughout the season. Captain Michael Bradley will continue to play in the defensive midfield role with Jonathan Osorio and Armando Cooper as central midfielders. 35 year-old Benoit Cheyrou may not play full 90 minute games but will be first off the bench in the event of a change in midfield. Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow will play the wings and up front will be Jozy Altidoire and “The Atomic Ant” Sebastian Giovinco who has recently turned down a rumoured $10 million transfer to the Chinese Super League.
For the TFC universe, the expectation is that TFC try to repeat their accomplishments of 2016 throughout the 2017 season. Toronto FC came so close in 2016 to win it all that they need to remain consistent and continue to keep their key players playing week in and week out with each other as the team continues to grow.
There will be obstacles in their way as TFC need to continue winning on the road. Getting those away points will be crucial for TFC if they want to remain in top position of the Eastern Conference. During the 2016 season TFC played 17 away games in which they won 6, drew 5, and lost 6. At home TFC were 8 wins, 6 draws, 3 loses and although there were many loses on the road, TFC kept one of their best records in franchise history for only allowing in 39 goals the second best record of the 2016 season.
There will be 5 MLS matches during the 2017 Gold Cup (July 7-26) in which TFC may potentially lose 7 key players to Canada, Panama, and the USA. 3 of the 5 matches are away matches. Luckily Giovinco will have the likes of Jordon Hamilton, Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh to keep him company in Altidore’s absence up front.
Another key factor for TFC in 2017 will continue to be their 12th man in which are the fans and supporters of this club. TFC continue to have arguably the most loyal, and dedicated fans throughout the MLS. For the opposition, playing at BMO field in front of 30, 000 red supporters will not be an easy task even for the likes of stronger, familiar opponents such as: New York Red Bulls, Montreal Impact, Columbus Crew, and New York City FC.