The Vancouver Whitecaps travel to BMO Field to take on their Canadian rival Toronto FC Saturday afternoon. After dominating MLS last season, and nearly becoming the first MLS club to win CONCACAF Champions League, Toronto’s 2018 MLS campaign has been very underwhelming. With just a handful of games left, it is very unlikely that Toronto will make the playoffs. We caught up with our SB Nation colleagues at Waking the Red to get some information on Toronto’s disappointing season.
1. This has been an ‘interesting’ season for TFC. They made it to the final of the CONCACAF Champions League, and won the Voyageurs Cup. However, they are unlikely to make the MLS Playoffs. How do TFC fans view this season? Has it been a success? Failure? Something in-between?
TFC fans are pretty openly frustrated with this season, especially now that CONCACAF is so far in the rear view mirror. The injuries have just been absolutely brutal all year, but even when healthy the club just can’t seem to put it together like they could in 2017 (especially defensively). I don’t think anybody regrets the CCL run, but it definitely feels like the season might’ve gone differently if it hadn’t started with such an intense competition and tons of travel. The MLS season got off on the wrong foot with a lot of shorthanded lineups and things never picked up from there somehow.
2. Despite the up-and-down season, who have been surprising bright spots? Any players having a noticeable down season?
Some players have definitely been positive, Jonathan Osorio especially. In this year alone he’s scored more goals than all his previous seasons with TFC combined. Nobody really saw him turning into such a critical player in the lineup. In terms of players having down years, how much time do you have? Really though, it’s been a tough year for the defenders that have managed to stay healthy (namely Eriq Zavaleta and Nick Hagglund). Alex Bono has also come out and shouldered some of the blame for the poor season, and he has definitely let in a few softies this year. Michael Bradley has also taken a lot of stick, although that’s usually just when he’s played out of position at centre-back.
3. What is the expectation around management, spending, and players for the offseason?
People are pretty split on what they want management to do. On one hand, this roster was good enough to trample the entire league last year, why couldn’t it do the same in 2019 given a cleaner bill of health? On the other hand, these guys aren’t getting younger. It would be nice to see some more young talent brought in. TFC will also definitely need to look at signing another central defender, as well as some depth midfielders who can cover for Bradley and Vazquez, since that’s been a problem this year.
Saturday will mark ‘acting head coach’ Craig Dalrymple’s second match, after taking over for the fired Carl Robinson. Last Saturday, we were not quite sure what we would see from Dalrymple. Would he keep things relatively the same or would we see some major changes? At the end of the day, it is no surprise that Dalrymple elected to go with a very similar lineup to Robinson. Of course, there were some changes, with the club lining up in a 4-1-4-1 formation. The lineup changes we saw were more the result of injury (Yordy Reyna and Brett Levis) than change of style. However, it is worth noting that Cristian Techera was on the bench, with Alphonso Davies and Brek Shea occupying the wing roles, while Russell Teibert began in a more forward position. However, for major parts of the match, it didn’t really play out any different than other Whitecaps matches we saw this season.
Officially, Aaron Maund is the only player listed on the injury report, however, there are still a few question marks around Reyna and Levis. With another road match, it will be interesting to see whether Dalrymple plays a very similar lineup to the previous match or whether he switches it up. Despite LA Galaxy being in a slightly better position in the standings, a lot of similarities can be drawn between TFC and LAG. Therefore, it would be foolish to take Toronto lightly.
With many assuming Dalrymple to be a temporary replacement, with no plans on becoming the next head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps, I am curious to see how the season plays out. Despite being only six points back of a playoff spot, the Caps are essentially out of the running. That is, Vancouver is a sitting duck, with many players already knowing they will not return next season. Will we see some drive and hunger from players, looking to gain contracts elsewhere, and try to end the season on a bit of a positive, or will we see the club implode and close out the season with a whimper? It is still possible for the Whitecaps to finish 10th in the West, behind Houston Dynamo and Minnesota FC. YIKES!