Toronto FC spent last weekend losing a game in Orlando, which they lost in the 100+ minute. Then midweek they flew to Vancouver, for a match that they won in the 95th minute. The stellar Giovinco played every minute of both of those games. On Saturday the Reds return to their home, facing a Seattle Sounders team that also played a midweek game. Seattle did so with rotational and squad players. In this poor 2016 season, it is the Sounders who are healthier and slightly more rested.
Mitchell from Waking the Red answers Three Questions.
SaH: Can Giovinco start after going 90 against Vancouver and traveling so much this week?
WtR: There will likely be a number of Toronto FC players who sit after the Canadian championship final, but I don't believe Sebastian Giovinco will be among them. The Atomic Ant wants to be on the field at all times, and as a result coach Greg Vanney rarely takes him off. Giovinco is coming off of an adductor injury, but in conjunction with the Copa America break has looked strong since his return. Not to mention the fact that Toronto FC is razor thin at the striker position with Jozy Altidore hurt. Toronto FC really needs Giovinco to play alongside rookies Jordan Hamilton and/or Mo Babouli if they are really going to threaten teams. Both Hamilton and Babouli are talented players with bright futures in this league, but they can struggle with consistency. Giovinco is always a threat at all times, and not only creates chances for Toronto FC through his skill, but also with the special attention that teams need to pay to him. Giovinco thrives in front of the home fans at BMO Field, and expect him to do so again on Saturday.
SaH: How does the midfield change without Michael Bradley?
WtR: The midfield will be Toronto FC's biggest question mark going into this weekend's match. Michael Bradley could be one of three veteran midfielders missing for Toronto FC. Will Johnson was injured in a collision with David Ousted after scoring the Canadian Championship winning goal on Wednesday. He was forced off the field, and there was little celebration of the goal as a result. His status for Saturday's match remains to be seen. Benoit Cheyrou, who has been incredible for Toronto FC of late, may also start the match on the bench due to fixture congestion. Toronto has managed the 35-year-old's minutes, but one would think he needs a rest sooner rather than later. As a result, it could well be an inexperienced midfield that Toronto FC fields against Seattle. Rookie Tsubasa Endoh is likely to start, while Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado are the other fixtures. Toronto FC likes to play a diamond midfield, but if there are too many absences they may adopt another strategy, such as playing a 4-3-3 with Giovinco, Babouli and Hamilton up top. If Cheyrou cannot play in the midfield, expect the role to be given to Jay Chapman.
SaH: Toronto's been great defensively this year. What's been the key to that turnaround and how will the keeper change affect it?
WtR: Fresh faces certainly make a difference. The most important ,perhaps, is Drew Moor, who has provided some much-needed leadership for Toronto FC's backline. This was something that they lacked last season when Steven Caldwell retired, and it showed. Moor has Toronto playing much better as a unit at the back, and the side has reaped the benefits. Steven Beitashour was also an important acquisition to fill a right back role that was the weak link in Toronto's backline last season. An early injury to Mark Bloom meant that Toronto FC did not have a natural right back for the duration of the 2015 season. Teams would target that area, and most of the time profit. Beitashour has given a newfound balance to the backline, and also gets up the pitch well providing an attacking option. While a quad injury rules out goalkeeper Clint Irwin for the next six weeks, he has also been important. While Joe Bendik was a good shot stopper for Toronto FC, he lacked many of the other qualities that Irwin brings. Depth has also been important. Josh Williams, Nick Hagglund, Eriq Zavaleta and Ashtone Morgan have all looked like capable backline replacements. Finally, the acquisition of Will Johnson has been massive. The workman midfielder runs all game long, and puts a lot of pressure on opposing players while not being afraid to get stuck in. All of this has combined to make Toronto FC a much better defensive side.
Projected lineup: Bono; Morrow, Moor, Zavaleta, Beitashour; Cheyrou, Osorio, Delgado, Endoh; Hamilton, Giovinco
WtR: The Sounders are the worst offensive team in the league. The hope will obviously be that a strong Copa America has woken up Clint Dempsey, but what else is this offense missing right now?
SaH: A clear partner for Dempsey. That could wind up being Jordan Morris, but they don't have a vibe or connection yet. When Morris has scored so far, it's from his own success rather than creating with Clint. That's part of why the Sounders need another DP. Clint was at his best, with two seasons of 10+ goals and 10 assists in a row, working with Obafemi Martins. Since Nelson Haedo Valdez is a good effort/team guy, but not creative nor a scorer.
Since nearly halfway through the season the offense remains broken and the team is not getting enough from their best attacking talent it is time to sign the type of talents that amplify those around them. Seattle will be adding a DP and a TAM player by the end of the window, which is good timing for Toronto.
WtR: Seattle has struggled away from home this season, what is the root cause of these struggles, and how big would a win in Toronto be in terms of turning things around?
SaH: On the road the Sounders are even more cautious than they are at home. This year's squad is focused on maintaining possession, slowing the game down, and just maybe finding quick route out from the back. But on the road they do this even more so. That means even fewer good goal scoring opportunities, which they are not converting. They sit deeper in possession away from CenturyLink only rarely getting into the attacking third. So the broken offense is even more broken on the road.
WtR: The Sounders have the least draws in Major League Soccer, what about their style has led them to either win games or lose games and not settle for a tie?
SaH: With 60% of Sounders games being a draw or decided by one goal or less one would think that there would be a lot of draws. A team with a bad attack and pretty good defense should set itself up to have a lot of 0-0 or 1-1 results. But with a truly horrible attack there are seven losses by only a goal. Three of those were by a shutout. With a better offense the club would get more draws (same with some better refereeing). Let's say the Sounders had an average offense, just hypothetically, it would be easy to see three or four of those one goal losses being a draw. At four the Sounders would be a completely average team with a 5-5-5 -2 record. Things wouldn't be dire, just mediocre.
Projected Lineup: Frei; Jones, Marshall, Evans, Mears; Alonso, Friberg; Dempsey; Ivanschitz, Morris, Kovar