Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Feb. 18, 2019) — Toronto FC went from the top to the bottom of Major League Soccer in the span of two years.
The club hoisted the MLS Cup trophy in 2017. After battling with the Seattle Sounders for the second-straight year in the MLS Cup Championship match, Toronto were able to celebrate with their home fans at BMO Field. In 2018, the script was different, as Toronto finished the season in ninth place with a record of 10-6-18.
2019 Toronto FC Preview: Will Ali Curtis make another roster change?
This offseason, the club didn’t waste any time in enacting change.
Most notably, the team hired Ali Curtis as the general manager. Curtis was formerly the general manager of the New York Red Bulls from 2014-17. He started off his tenure with some controversy, trading star striker Sebastian Giovinco to Saudi Arabia. He also brought in Terrence Boyd, a 28-year-old former USMNT player from the Bundesliga.
There have been rumors swirling around Jozy Altidore being the club’s next departure. However, according to a story from the MLS, Altidore said he’s healthy and wants to stay in Toronto.
“I want to stay in Toronto. For me and my family, Toronto is home, Toronto is everything,” Altidore said. “But if the direction is something else, it’s no problem. Like I said, it would be, ‘Thank you very much for the time’ and in the summertime I’ll have to look for a new team.
However, Altidore’s potential leave isn’t the biggest question for Toronto FC. Here are three questions that Toronto FC is facing before the start of their season.
— Toronto FC (@torontofc) February 13, 2019
Will Ali Curtis make another splash signing?
Curtis isn’t afraid to make bold moves.
Fans have already seen that through the addition of Boyd and the departure of Giovinco. While Toronto FC fans are ready to take up arms with their star Italian being traded, Curtis might have a trick or two up his sleeve to earn the fans’ trust back.
After using the No. 1 allocation pick to scoop up Laurent Ciman, Toronto FC reclaimed the pick right back. After a trade with FC Cincinnati — where Toronto sent Nick Hagglund to the new expansion club — Toronto FC jumped back up to No. 1. It’s likely that Toronto will wait until the summer to use this selection.
FC Cincinnati previously had their eyes on Fabian Johnson, a 31-year-old from the Bundesliga and USMNT international. Now, could Toronto be keeping a close watch on the Borussia Monchengladbach man?
Johnson is one of the most versatile players in USMNT history. He has featured for the USMNT as a right back, left back and left midfielder. His versatility was a blessing a curse under both Jurgen Klinsmann and Bruce Arena. Neither coach really understood what Johnson’s best role was — or listened to the player himself.
Tie in the fact that a potential move to Toronto could reunite Johnson with USMNT teammates like Michael Bradley, Boyd and Altidore, and the move could really pay off. Toronto could also keep a lookout on players like Geoff Cameron, Julian Green and Aron Jóhannsson.
Fabian Johnson scores his 1st goal of the season to put Gladbach up 2-0! pic.twitter.com/L2U2rqAK76
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 25, 2018
Can Jozy Altidore stay healthy enough to produce?
At 29-years-old, Altidore has picked up some pretty brutal injuries over the years.
He’s not as young as he used to be, but Altidore isn’t an “old-timer” either. In the same interview mentioned above, Altidore believes that he has five or six years left in the tank. However, injuries might be preventing that — and decreasing that number.
Altidore can hardly stay healthy.
It’s been a curse throughout his career. Who can forget how he went down with injury in the first match of the FIFA World Cup in 2014, hurting his hamstring. He didn’t play another minute in the tournament. Since 2015, Altidore has made 88 appearances for Toronto FC, scoring 45 goals.
Last season, Altidore only made 13 appearances due to an ankle injury. According to Toronto FC, Altidore is in the “final stages” of recovery and could be ready for the start of the MLS regular season.
“I haven’t had a muscle injury since 2016 and I feel good about that,” Altidore said. “It’s been three years now and all I’ve had is a broken foot and the ligament tear in the ankle. But surgery fixed those and I’m back to 100 percent fit. And I showed last year that I can still score goals when I’m on the field. So for me, there’s no [injury] worries at all and the club knows my situation. They know how fit I am and what the expectation is with that.”
If Altidore can’t stay healthy, he’ll likely need to shop for a new club. However, should he stay healthy, he’ll have to provide an immense amount of effort and work to remain in Toronto.
"I think Gregg will be a good candidate to get us back to playing for the crest and not the individual."
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) January 26, 2019
What kind of role does Terrence Boyd really play?
Let’s face it: Terrence Boyd isn’t the replacement for Giovinco.
If Toronto is looking for a suitable replacement, they might want to follow the footsteps of their “rival,” the Seattle Sounders. When Clint Dempsey announced his retirement, the team swooped in to grab Peruvian international Raul Ruidiaz. The move paid off, with Ruidiaz leading the team in scoring with only a half-season.
Boyd isn’t the player he used to be. He’s slowed down, which is likely why he came to MLS. While featuring for SV Darmstadt 98 in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2, he scored only five goals in 42 appearances.
He’s not going to be the replacement — “the guy” — to replace Giovinco.
Toronto needs to target a young striker, and according to the club they’re already looking for one. Suitable targets for Toronto would be Julian Green and Cyle Larin. These picks were based off a story by Greg Seltzer at MLS. However, the picks made sense, so I wanted to build off of it.
Larin took his chances going to Europe, signing with Beşiktaş J.K. in Turkey. Larin fought nail and tooth with Orlando City SC, where he remained from 2015-17, in hopes to go to Europe. However, the move has been lackluster. Larin has only scored five goals in 14 appearances.
Meanwhile, Green never made the first-team for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. He did feature for the side’s Bundesliga 2 team, making 51 appearances and scoring 25 goals. Green bounced around on loan with Hamburg SV before signing with VFB Stuttgart. However, his move across the Bundesliga faltered, with only 10 appearances. Green is still in Germany, featuring for SpVgg Greuther Fürth in the Bundesliga 2.
Both strikers are 23-years-old. Larin has more experience, especially within the league, and could be a dangerous offensive weapon for Toronto.
WATCH: Alphonso Davies swings a ball in from the left side of the box and Cyle Larin puts it in the back of the net
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) October 17, 2018
Last Word: Toronto, buckle up for a rollercoaster
This season is going to a rollercoaster.
There are a lot of “what ifs” for Toronto heading into the 2019 season. If Altidore can stay healthy, this team can be really good. If Boyd lives up to expectations, this team can be really good. Meanwhile, the team also could pick up new additions like Larin, Green or Johnson. If that happens, this team can be really good.
However, if none of these scenario play out, Toronto could have a rough year. It’s up to Greg Vanney to make sure his squad has some depth and is prepared to jump in, just in cast of emergency.