2023 Toronto FC Season: Cautious Optimism

Toronto FC Player, Federico Bernardeschi, Celebrates Goal at BMO Field

PREVIEW – The 2023 Toronto FC season is all about making the MLS Cup Playoffs. They have not made the MLS Cup playoffs and hosted an MLS playoff game since 2020. A big reason for that has been their defence, but there are also other factors in play.

2023 Toronto FC: Cautious Optimism After the Signing of Sean Johnson

Players In: Hugo Mbongue, Tomas Romero, Victor Vazquez, Matt Hedges, Adama Diomande, Raoul Petretta, Sean Johnson, and Sigurd Rosted.

Players Out: Alex Bono, Quentin Westberg, Doneil Henry, Noble Okello, Ifunanyachi Achara, Luca Petrasso, Auro Jr., Domenico Criscito, and Chris Mavinga.

Sean Johnson Has Signed With Toronto FC

Defence is still a problem for the club as seen over the last two years. However, signing Sean Johnson means that Toronto has one of the best MLS goalkeepers this year. In 2021, he won the Concacaf Gold Cup and the MLS Cup MVP award. Then, in 2022, he made the MLS All-Star team for the first time in his career.

TFC head coach, Bob Bradley, had high praise for Johnson as he will make Canada his home for the first time in his international career. In particular, Bradley said this about the level Johnson brings to the team (source: rdnewsnow.com):

“Everyone that you speak to that has been around him talks about how he brings the level up around him,” said Bradley.

When looking on YouTube, there are many video clips of Sean Johnson making saves for New York City FC. This included against the Portland Timbers where he made four saves in normal time and was able to make two big saves in the penalty shootout to help give his team and club their first-ever MLS Cup trophy.

What Will Their Centre-Backs Look Like?

Losing Chris Mavinga was a big blow to TFC. Mavinga was Toronto’s best defender and was arguably their second-best player in the 2020 MLS season. However, they have also signed two centre-backs Sigurd Rosted and Matt Hedges.

Hedges is a name TFC fans might be more familiar with. He is a veteran in MLS, playing for 10 years with FC Dallas. He has won defender of the year three times in 2017, 2018, and 2019. He was also part of the MLS Best XI in 2015 and 2016 and MLS Defender Player of the Year in 2016. Also, winning the U.S. Open Cup and the Supporters’ Shield in 2016 with FC Dallas was a big accomplishment.

There is then Sigurd Rosted. The Norwegian centre-back played for Brøndby IF in Denmark for four seasons. Coach Bradley said this to the Canadian Press when talking about Rosted’s game.

“A smart player. Experienced. Reads the game well,” Bob Bradley, Toronto’s head coach and sporting director, told reporters in a virtual availability.

One has to wonder though if chemistry with their left and right centre-backs, as well as their new goalkeeper, might mean. How will Rosted’s game translate in MLS is the biggest question. It is also important to remember that there is Lukas MacNaughton, who had a decent year last year. He will most likely get at least some playing time even if it comes from the bench this season.

READ MORE: Everything MLS Fans Need to Know About MLS Season Pass on Apple TV

Young Player to Watch: Jahkelle Marshall-Rutty

Marshall-Rutty got a lot of playing time in 2022. There was a possibility that the Brampton native could move from TFC, but Tom Bogert, an MLS and USMNT insider said the deal was rejected. The winger is only 18 years old and has already made some big defensive plays for his team. Examples of this can be seen last year against Atlanta United FC and also against Nashville SC.

He had a fantastic start to last season. Bob Bradley, TFC’s head coach, had this to say about Marshall-Rutty (source: Paul Taylor of Tip of the Tower):

“Jahkeele, first game playing at right back, that was really quite good.”

Unfortunately, Marshall-Rutty’s year last season was derailed by injuries, hopefully, he can play many games and maintain his early form from last season. A lot of the prospects that were there last year like Jayden Nelson and Noble Okello are no longer with the team anymore. The expectations of Marshall-Rutty will be high as he enters another season for TFC.

2023 Toronto FC Season Preview: Tempered Expectations

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Finishes Seventh in the MLS Eastern Conference, Wins the Voyageurs Cup

The 2023 Toronto FC season will be tough. They need to play much better than they did in the past two seasons. Making the playoffs though should be a priority for this club. They definitely have the players to do it, but injuries have been something that has really hurt them the last two seasons. It will also be tough to make the MLS Cup Playoffs, but it is something that is achievable for TFC.

With the Voyageurs Cup, they are in a tougher half of the bracket with CF Montreal and also Forge FC also there. The good thing though is that TFC will have a home advantage in that game. The other teams to pay attention to are the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Forge FC.

READ MORE: Quentin Westberg made big saves as Toronto FC wins the Voyageurs Cup

TFC was very fortunate to win against Forge FC in Hamilton last year to win the 2020 Canadian Championship. The Hamilton that won three of the four North Star Shields will be a potentially formidable foe for TFC as well as CF Montreal, who performed very well in MLS last year. There is also the Whitecaps, who were able to win the Voyageurs Cup for just the second time in its club’s history. They will be seen as favourites to make the Canadian Championship Final this year. TFC though does have the roster to win the 2023 Canadian Championship. With the notable moves that they have made along with alot of the players that left CF Montreal, Toronto has a good chance at winning the Voyageurs Cup.


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