Toronto FC Preview: Will Piatti fit in throughout MLS?

Toronto FC Preview

Editorial — Toronto FC will be entering its third decade as a Major League Soccer franchise in 2020. Toronto FC is a strong team on paper that will look to win their second championship. This article will cover the three questions Toronto needs to address this season.

The two question marks for Toronto would be their injury woes and their consistency on the defensive side of the ball. Finally, Argentinian Pablo Piatti, a 30-year-old La Liga veteran, will be looking to make a difference.

He will be the third Designated Player signing for Toronto. However, there are questions about the injury issues that he suffered during the last few years.

Pablo Piatti

“Pablo is an experienced player that has exceptional character,” said general manager Ali Curtis. “We believe that he will fit very well within our group. His eagerness to join the team in Los Angeles as quickly as possible is indicative of his team-first mentality. By adding Pablo to an existing strong attacking unit, we become a better team.”

Piatti has played at the highest level in Spain for many years. This includes playing for Barcelona-based team Espanyol. The most goals he scored for Espanyol La Liga was 10 in the 2016-17 season. He also scored 10 goals for Almeria in the 2010-11 La Liga season.

However, his biggest problem is his injuries — and Toronto is aware of that.

“(He) reminded me that No. 7 had an ACL (tear) and had a (great) comeback and has had a pretty good career,” Toronto President Bill Manning said in a conference call on Saturday.

No. 7 is the number worn by Kyle Lowry, considered by many as the greatest Toronto Raptors player of all-time. Finally, expect Piatti to get the Kawhi Leonard treatment in Toronto. He will undergo load management this year, in hopes of winning an MLS Cup title.

However, injuries are going to be an ongoing concern for Toronto. This is not just Piatti; other Toronto players must find a way to remain healthy throughout the season. This is especially true when Michael Bradley suffered an injury and will be missing action for three-four months post-surgery.

Toronto FC: Injury Woes

Bradley, the captain and anchor of this team, suffered a serious injury that will keep him from playing for the beginning of the season. Curtis indicated that the injury occurred on a challenge with Seattle Sounders FC player Román Torres around the half-way mark of the MLS Cup Championship match.

“He suffered a very severe and complicated ankle injury against Seattle in MLS Cup,” Curtis said.

This means that Homegrown players like Liam Fraser and Noble Okello might see increased playing time for Toronto FC. This may not be a bad thing, as Fraser played quite well in the Canada-USA Concacaf Nations League game in October.

Toronto suffered many injuries last year. Most notably was the absence of Jozy Altidore. He missed several games in the regular season and his only appearance in the playoffs was a second-half sub in the MLS Cup Final.

Also, key players like Bradley and Jonathan Osorio missed time last year because of injury. The Toronto players will hope that will not be a factor in the current season.

Finally, the defense Toronto incurred in large parts of the season played a factor in their MLS success. When they were not playing well, they were not a playoff team. When they did play well, Toronto was a championship-contending team.

Toronto FC: Defense

The defense was mixed last year. They played great defense towards the end of the season but giving up 52 goals at the end of the season. This is the third-most goals given up by an MLS playoff team. The only teams to give up more goals were the New England Revolution and LA Galaxy.

In fact, in the offseason, Drew Moor decided to leave the team for the Colorado Rapids. Everyone will need to work harder to keep the momentum that Toronto has been riding defensively.

Meanwhile, Laurent Ciman struggled defensively for most of last season. However, towards the end of the season and the playoffs, he and other defenders did not give up many goals against MLS opposition.

Expect Toronto’s defense to continue to thrive this year. If they are a defensive-minded team like they were last year, they should be considered contenders. Toronto’s offense is already gifted with players like Piatti, Altidore, Osorio and Alejandro Pozuelo on the team.

Overview of Toronto FC and their MLS Season

The Toronto FC organization is expected to compete for their second MLS Cup championship. However, there are question marks including injuries and defense. The other question will be about Piatti and how he will adjust to the MLS game in North America.

However, the signing of Piatti should give fans something to be excited about. He is a dynamic player and striker Toronto needs to be successful this year. Give Bradley a lot of credit for Piatti coming to Toronto. He voluntarily gave up his Designated Player spot and took TAM money. This also resulted in a pay cut for Bradley.

Toronto starts the MLS season in San Jose on Feb. 29, before hosting New York City FC on March 7, at BMO Field. Learn more about Toronto’s schedule, here.

 

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