The Vancouver Whitecaps and the rest of MLS will start the season on time, easily the most exciting news to come from the world of MLS this week. It means we get to bring back 'Three Questions With', where we talk with other blogs in the SBNation universe.
First up is James Grossi of Waking the Red. We talk Jermain Defoe, the buzz of last off-season, and who Whitecaps fans should be keeping an eye on.
Remember, you can check out the questions posed to me over at Waking the Red.
Eighty-Six Forever: Do you believe TFC will be better this year, even without Jermain Defoe? They've looked quite impressive in pre-season
James Grossi: Under normal circumstances, one would expect a club to suffer greatly at the lost of such a potentially valuable and influential member of the squad, but situations in Toronto are rarely, if ever, normal.
Jermain Defoe was a very good striker - his strike-rate, of eleven goals in nineteen appearances is up there with some of the best in MLS. But, there came a point midway through the season where it became clear that his heart was not in this North American vacation; it should be noted that his last goal came back on July 16, interestingly against Vancouver. He would not score in his six remaining appearances from that point onward, and TFC no doubt suffered for that loss. He was never a problem in the dressing room, or so his teammates swore up and down in the end-of-season press conference - each was asked by a determined reporter - and so whether his disillusionment weighed on the club would be impossible to surmise.
To the point at hand, replacing a goal-scorer like Defoe will never be an easy task, but Toronto has literally spared no expense in doing their best to ensure there would be no drop off between his quality and that of his replacements.
86F: Speaking of Defoe, can you compare the buzz this off-season, landing Altidore and Giovinco with the buzz from last years, with the acquisition of Defoe?
JG: The buzz this off-season has definitely been much more understated than the hype surrounding Defoe and the so-called Bloody Big Deal last; primarily for two reasons. First, as Toronto fans, this circus has come to town before. The club has never been shy about splashing the cash for big names, or at least, moderately sized ones - and there have been more Mustapha Jarju's and Eric Hassli's (wait, there actually was a Hassli) than there have been truly successful examples.
The second reason is that the club learned a valuable lesson with how the Defoe situation crumbled in their hands, and it's something that a lot of long suffering fans have clamoured for, namely, a sentiment that can be summed up as 'under-promise and over-deliver'. Too often this club has relied on marketing and proclamations to sell the product, now it is time for the play on the field to assume that role. Both Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco are huge acquisitions in their own right's, if not both large individuals, but to allow them the space to create their own hype with their play on the field has been a mindful and wise strategy from the front office and company.
86F: Besides the big name additions, are there any new faces on TFC Whitecaps fans should be paying attention to?
JG: Aside from the big two, Toronto made a handful of worthwhile acquisitions in the off-season, bringing in a pair of experienced European players at the back end of long careers. Benoit Cheyrou, a former Marseille midfielder, looks to be the perfect foil in the centre of the pitch to play alongside Michael Bradley as a deep-lying ball-mover. Cheyrou has turned some heads with his ball-skills in preseason, and one would expect him to handle the physicality of MLS very well. While Damien Perquis, a French-born, Polish international has been brought in to solidify a centre-back stable that suffered with the loss of Doneil Henry to Europe. There were some concerns about his age and a potential lack of pace, but he showed well in pre-season, including that essential competitive desire to make a last-ditch goal-line clearance to spare his side conceding.
As far as less talked about names, Vancouver fans may be interested to keep an eye on a pair of young Canadians in Jordan Hamilton and Jay Chapman. The eighteen year-old Hamilton - soon to be nineteen - was signed prior to last season, but spent most of the year on loan with either Wilmington in USL or with Portuguese club, CD Trofense. He saw just one minute of regular season action in 2014, but is expected to be much more involved in 2015. Just days before the MLS SuperDraft, TFC signed another local product, Jay Chapman. A highly-touted midfielder after a three-year career with Michigan State, the 21 year-old Chapman was expected to go in the first round of the draft, had Toronto not swooped in with a deal. Like Hamilton, minutes will be somewhat rare - Toronto is particularly deep at forward and midfield - but both are expected to contribute and will no doubt be called upon when injuries begin to mount.
86F: Can we get a score prediction?
JG: 2-2, both teams will be looking to get off to a good attacking start to the season and both need to some time to shore up the defensive third, so there should be some goals in this one.
Lineup: No reason to not expect a strong starting eleven from TFC, assuming there are no last minute injuries - Cheyrou and Justin Morrow both recovered from knocks and were full participants in training.
Joe Bendik; (4-2-3-1): Warren Creavalle, Steven Caldwell, Damien Perquis, Justin Morrow; Michael Bradley, Benoit Cheyrou; Jonathan Osorio, Sebastian Giovinco, Daniel Lovitz, Jozy Altidore.
Plenty of variations are possible, however.
Thanks very much to James Grossi for stopping by. You can follow him on twitter @grawsee.