PREVIEW – The Toronto FC season preview looks at the surprisingly lacklustre year last year. From 2020, where they almost one the Supporters’ Shield, to 2021, where they finished with the second-worst record in MLS. It is quite surprising how TFC had fallen off in just one year. In particular, that 7-1 loss to DC United is a memory many TFC players and fans want to forget. The injury bug also hit them throughout the season including the 2021 Canadian Championship, where Alejandro Pozuelo got injured.
Players that joined: Jesús Jiménez, Carlos Salcedo, Lukas MacNaughton, Greg Ranjitsingh, Deandre Kerr, Luca Petrasso, Lorenzo Insigne, and Shane O’Neill.
Players that left: Auro Jr., Jozy Altidore, Yeferson Soteldo, Marky Delgado, Dom Dwyer, Richie Laryea, Erickson Gallardo, Liam Fraser, Tsubasa Endoh, Nick DeLeon, Omar Gonzalez, Julian Dunn, Patrick Mullins, Kevin Silva, Rocco Romeo, Eriq Zavaleta, and Justin Morrow.
Young Player to watch: Jayden Nelson.
Toronto FC Season Preview: Can They Make the MLS Cup Playoffs?
The Potential Impact of Lorenzo Insigne and Bob Bradley
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) January 8, 2022
The forward is by far TFC’s most expensive Designated Player. Lorenzo Insigne is also most likely going to be their best. In 20 appearances in Serie A with Napoli last season, he scored six goals. Last season, Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio led TFC with only four goals.
The only other player who can be counted as a striker is Ayo Akinola, who is currently injured. He had nine goals in the 2020 MLS season. The good news for TFC fans is that he said on The Canadian Press that the recovery from knee surgery is going well.
Bob Bradley on an MLS news conference says he’s been really impressed with Shaffelburg and Petrasso at LB in camp. #TFCLive
— Michael Leach (@LeachCityNewsTO) February 17, 2022
With the new TFC head coach and sporting director, Bob Bradley, it is about bringing an identity to the club. This includes experimenting with Jacob Shaffelburg and Luca Petrasso. Also, while injuries happen all the time, they happened too often last year. How will he tackle this problem? No one knows but Bradley will most likely try to tackle this problem in 2022. Lastly, according to Charles Boehm of MLS Soccer, Bradley said “It’s going in the right direction.”
Will the Improvements at the Centre-Back Be Enough?
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) February 1, 2022
This is a position that Toronto has worked on in the offseason. The TFC defence had given up the second-most goals last year with 66 goals given up. The first player to mention is Carlos Salcedo, who last played for Tigres UANL. Salcedo made 85 appearances for Tigres, scoring six goals and winning the 2019 Concacaf Champions League. This is what Bob Bradley said about Salcedo according to Toronto FC:
“We felt he brings a lot,” levelled Bradley. “His experience, his versatility in the defence – he’s played both as a right centre-back, left centre-back, he’s played in a back three. All those things come into play.”
Bradley also said that Salcedo is a very good passer. He will most likely be paired with Chris Mavinga at the centre-back positions. A backup to those two though would be Lukas MacNaughton. MacNaugton previously played with Pacific FC from 2019 to 2021. He just won the North Star Shield a few months ago in the CPL.
Who will replace Richie Laryea?
While Laryea can play in the midfield position, his success with TFC was at the right-back position. This was a big reason why he was their best player last year for TFC. His speed and passes will be something TFC will miss as he moved on to Nottingham Forest. Also, Auro Jr. has just recently signed a loan with the Brazilian side Santos FC.
The two right-backs Toronto has right now are Luke Singh and Shane O’Neill. Former USMNT player, O’Neill, who was signed by TFC in the off-season, will most likely be their starting right-back. This is what coach Bradley said about O’Neill according to MLSsoccer staff:
You'll look great in Red 🔴
Welcome aboard, Shane O'Neill! #TFCLive
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) December 22, 2021
“Shane is an experienced central defender with an excellent team mentality,” TFC head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said in a release. “I have great respect for his competitiveness and work ethic. He has continued to improve throughout his career, and we are excited to bring him to TFC.”
O’Neill gives Toronto an adequate right-back. The other right-back, Luke Singh, had some positive moments last year. This included the Concacaf Champions League win-over Club León. However, he is still quite young and struggled a bit last year.
Last Word on Toronto FC Season Preview:
𝘾𝙡𝙪𝙗 𝙭 𝘾𝙪𝙡𝙩𝙪𝙧𝙚
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) February 19, 2022
PREDICTION: Finish sixth in the MLS Cup Playoffs, loses 2020 Canadian Championship and wins 2022 Voyageurs Cup
If TFC is to add hardware, it will be either the 2020 and/or the 2022 Canadian Championship. The 2020 Canadian Championship will be hard to win though as they will play on the road against Forge FC. They will also not have Insigne until July. However, they have enough talent to make the playoffs with significant improvements made at the forward and centre-back positions.