Three Questions for the 2017 Toronto FC Season

From Last Word on Soccer, by Roy Emanuel

It was a winter of great excitement and eventual frustration for Toronto FC in 2016, as the Reds reached their first-ever MLS Cup final. An incredible effort against the Seattle Sounders did not go as planned, but will certainly provide intense motivation for manager Greg Vanney’s side in 2017.

Three Questions for the 2017 Toronto FC Season

The campaign gave Toronto a foundation to build upon. Leading the MLS Eastern Conference throughout much of the year, an eventual third place finish was chalked up to injuries and dips in overall form.

But the MLS Cup playoffs brought a run that will forever be remembered by Toronto supporters.

US international Jozy Altidore caught fire in a massive way, helping to lead the Toronto attack all the way to the final. Their 7-5 aggregate victory over the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the conference finals was one of the most dramatic and entertaining encounters in league history. The ability to score goals in bunches will once again be an aspect of Toronto’s game that takes the spotlight.

We examine three key questions ahead of Toronto FC’s opening match of the MLS regular season at Real Salt Lake on Saturday, March 4th.

Will Sebastian Giovinco be able to stay healthy?

Italian international Sebastian Giovinco has been nothing short of amazing since his arrival in MLS, and his impact on Toronto’s success is immense.

Part of what kept the club from earning a first-round bye in the 2016 playoffs was Giovinco’s fitness, as injuries forced him out of several matches and hindered some his performances during the postseason as well. Recapturing the stunning play he brought during his MVP campaign in 2015 will be critical to success for the Reds.

Sebastian Giovinco’s ability to stay fit and stay on the field throughout the season will determine much of Toronto FC’s positive results in 2017.

Can Jozy Altidore continue where he left off?

In a similar vein, striker Jozy Altidore struggled with his own injury issues in 2016 also. The forward missed 11 regular season games throughout the year.

But Altidore more than made up for it in the MLS Cup playoffs, becoming the first player in league history to score in five consecutive post-season matches. His efforts were a key component to reaching the final.

His work with the US national team can be taxing on his stamina and fitness, but a strong early start from Jozy Altidore could see Toronto FC enjoy immediate success in the Eastern Conference this season.

Can Toronto return to the MLS Cup final?

The MLS title’s format makes not only the defense of a championship extremely difficult, but just getting back to final is no guarantee. This is even true for a club as deep and talented as Toronto FC.

The Los Angeles Galaxy’s back-to-back triumphs over the Houston Dynamo in 2011 and 2012 were the last time this feat occurred, as changes to the post-season format make it more and more difficult to achieve consistent success.

The Portland Timbers (2015) and Seattle Sounders (2016) each captured the MLS Cup when it seemed that neither would make the playoffs altogether at various points of the regular season.

Toronto FC are a team built for the long haul and could certainly challenge for the Supporters’ Shield. But to return to the MLS Cup final and win their first league title, the club and manager Greg Vanney must focus on strong performances in crucial moments to build upon their success last year.