Almost two weeks ago the Toronto FC were brought back to earth in Columbus losing 2-0. After a bye week only three weeks into the season, one would expect the club to be able to re-group, lick their wounds on their heavy road schedule into Sandy, Utah. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. An almost perfect storm of obstacles riddle Greg Vanney’s roster only four weeks into the season.
First and most obvious to point out is the international break as it would have been more helpful if the bye week was this week instead of last to coincide. Both Real Salt Lake and Toronto were off last weekend which only adds to the scheduling confusion as prime time matches should have prime time players available. Although the club is proud of their players who get called up to represent their country, it does take a toll on MLS teams who have a number of players who do. In total, five players are off on international duty, two of course being the starting DP’s in Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore with the US National Team. Sebastian Giovinco was also expecting the possibility of a call up from Italy in European Cup Qualification but Antonio Conte decided otherwise.
|Michael Bradley||United States|
|Jozy Altidore||United States|
|Marky Delgado||United States (U20)|
|Christopher Mannella (TFCII)||Canada|
|Quillan Roberts (TFCII)||Canada|
In fairness, Real Salt Lake will see a number of players unavailable on Sunday night as well. Real Salt Lake and United States star goalkeeper, Nick Rimando will be the most notable absence. Luis Gil (USA U23), Elias Vasquez (Guatemala) and Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica) will also be on international duty. Unexpectedly, Kyle Bekkerman was not called up by Jürgen Klinsmann.
The Toronto FC will also be without Justin Morrow who was given a very controversial red card just before half-time in Columbus by Dave Gantar. The red card was appealed but subsequently denied on Wednesday adding to an already thin backline. Steven Caldwell, Mark Bloom and Eriq Zavaleta are all unavailable for Sunday nursing injuries. Damien Perquis, although probable to play Sunday, did not practice on Tuesday due to a strain on his calf.
As a result of the roster troubles, Toronto FC called up Jordan Hamilton, Ashtone Morgan and Jay Chapman to give Greg Vanney some additional options, especially along the back line. Clement Simonin who currently has a USL contract, has also been reported to not only practiced with the Toronto FC this past week but also travelled to Utah. One can assume that if he’s travelled with the team he’s likely to have signed an MLS contract in order to be added to the final eighteen.
Their bad fortunes don’t end there as matches on the road will continue to be a challenge. Rio Tinto Stadium is an extremely tough place to get a result even at full strength. Last season, Real Salt Lake embarrassed a high flying Toronto FC team 3-0 which won their first two matches prior to visiting Utah. Real Salt Lake has gone 70W-13L-31D in their history at Rio Tinto Stadium, losing only one match in 2014 going 11W-1L-5D with less than one goal conceded per match.
Can Toronto FC get a result on Sunday? Anything is possible but they will need to dig deep and play as a cohesive team at their absolute best. Giving RSL their third draw this season would be a very respectable and satisfying result. The struggle or concern won’t be on the offense, as much as it will be on the defensive side. They need to keep their focus on the task at hand and while it’s a bad omen to look ahead, the schedule has the lack luster Chicago Fire which is agreeably the worst team in MLS the following week. With core players back in the lineup it should be their easiest road win of the season and make up for what would be expected to be an inevitable loss.