2021 Toronto FC Season Preview

Jozy Altidore on September 9 2019 against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo

PREVIEW – This Toronto FC season preview starts from last year. They had a phenomenally successful 2020 MLS season. However, a big problem for them early in the season was keeping leads late in the game. This cost them points in several games early in the year. They had the most points in MLS Phase One and were leading the Supporters’ Shield race late in the 2020 MLS season. Unfortunately for TFC, injuries played a big part in their decline, which resulted in losing the Supporters’ Shield race and losing early in the MLS Cup playoffs.

Toronto FC Season Preview 2021

Players to watch:

Key Arrivals: Jordan Perruzza
Key Departures: Laurent Ciman, Pablo Piatti, Tony Gallacher
Young Player to Watch: Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty

The one acquisition TFC made was Jordan Perruzza. He will most likely play his first season as a Toronto player. The 20-year-old forward recently scored a goal in an MLS pre-season game in a 2-4 win against the Columbus Crew SC. He signed a contract last August, which came into effect this January. This is what Curtis said about Perruzza.

“Last year, he was excellent with TFC II. He’s aggressive, skillful with the ball, and has a knack for scoring goals.”

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty is the young player to watch for this team. According to Steve Buffery of The London Free Press, the 16-year-old got offers from Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus, Porto, and Bayern Munich. He played in one game for Toronto on October 24 against the Philadelphia Union. He plays the forward position and could get more playing time if injuries occur in TFC’s frontline. This is what Curtis said when they signed Marshall-Rutty to a first-team contract.

“He is an incredibly talented young man. While he’s only 15 years old, he plays the game in very mature way,”

Three Questions – Toronto FC Season Preview

Can the young players capitalize on their opportunities?

Toronto is a club that has signed many well-known international players like Sebastian Giovinco and Alejandro Pozuelo. However, many MLS fans do not realize how invested Toronto has been in its academy. As a result, one gets players like Ayo Akinola, who tied for first for Toronto in goals scored last year. This is what Toronto president Bill Manning said according to Michael Singh of Waking the Red:

Jayden Nelson is a forward that played seven games last year for Toronto. Similarly, there is also Ralph Priso who is a midfielder that played four games for TFC last year. There is also Julian Dunn and Noble Okello who also played for the first team last year.

Nelson is a player with a lot of potential and explosiveness. Toronto GM Curtis speaks highly of him:

“Jayden is an incredible young player,” said TFC GM Ali Curtis. “Very explosive and dynamic. Not afraid to take players on in the attacking third. We love his mentality — humble but confident.”

He is not the only one though. Priso, Dunn, Noble, and many others are being produced from Toronto’s academy. That investment into local players will be put to the test when these players start earning MLS minutes this year.

Will Jozy Altidore be able to stay healthy?

This is a big question mark for Toronto. There is no doubt that if Altidore is healthy, Toronto is a team to be feared and might possibly be considered the favourite to win the MLS Supporters’ Shield and/or MLS Cup. The problem is that he has been injured a lot in the last couple of years. In 2019, he was injured for most of the TFC’s MLS Cup playoff run. He only played in the MLS Cup Final as a substitute in the second half against the Seattle Sounders FC.

Then in 2020, Altidore suffered many injury setbacks. He only played 13 games, scoring two goals. One of those goals helped Toronto qualify for the 2020 Canadian Championship Finals against the Montreal Impact (now CF Montréal).

He also did not look sharp against Nashville SC in the MLS Cup playoffs coming back from injury. This is why keeping him healthy should be a number one priority from a TFC perspective. Fortunately, unlike last year, the schedule is more spread out and less compact compared to last year. TFC will rarely play on a weekday, which was the case last year. This should also help other older players with Toronto that also had injury problems last year.

It will be hard to replace Pablo Piatti

Pablo Piatti was one of Toronto’s three Designated Players (DP) last year along with Altidore and Puzuelo. While Piatti is not at the standard of Pozuelo, he still played reasonably well for Toronto. Piatti was tied second with four assists and tied third with TFC with four goals scored. The winger also did a good job connecting his play with goalscorers like Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo. This is what Pozuelo said about Piatti:

“He’s a big professional,”

For a winger, Piatti is a good defender and has an incredible work rate. On October 21, he ranked second in MLS in distances covered. He is also a very aggressive player and makes lots of defensive interceptions.

Maybe for a DP player, he is not up to par, but the fact remains he was one of Toronto’s best players last year. Can the younger players make his absence less significant will that be a big question heading to the 2021 MLS Season?

Last Word:

Toronto like previous years will enter with Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup aspirations. They are likely not going to win the Concacaf Champions League, but they can win every other title they can achieve this year.

It’s difficult to rank how high this team will go. How the young players perform for Toronto is an unpredictable variable that could have many outcomes.  In the end, Toronto should be a hard team to beat. This is especially true with current Most Valuable Player Pozuelo. The prediction is that Toronto finishes third in the Eastern Conference.

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