Only one game remains before MLS Cup. The return leg of the Eastern Conference Championship between the Montreal Impact and Toronto FC takes place at BMO Field on Wednesday, November 30, at 7pm (RDS, TSN, FS1, 98,5fm & TSN Radio 690). Here are 10 things to know about TFC.
After a three-game winning streak to start the MLS Cup Playoffs, Toronto FC has now suffered defeat. The Impact took the lead in the series last Tuesday night, winning 3-2 against a Reds team that had defeated the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, before thrashing New York City FC by an aggregate score of 7-0 in the Conference Semis. The series now moves to BMO Field, where TFC has only won two of its previous seven games (both in these playoffs).
Toronto FC in the playoffs
2007: did not make playoffs
2008: did not make playoffs
2009: did not make playoffs
2010: did not make playoffs
2011: did not make playoffs
2012: did not make playoffs
2013: did not make playoffs
2014: did not make playoffs
2015: lost in Eastern Conference Knockout Round to the Montreal Impact
Current form (regular season and MLS Cup Playoffs)
Greg Vanney (31-30-17 all-time as Toronto FC head coach; 3-2-0 in MLS Cup Playoffs) became TFC head coach on August 31, 2014. He is also the club’s technical director. A professional player for 13 seasons in the United States and in France, Vanney then worked on youth development, most notably at Real Salt Lake and at Chivas USA, before joining TFC in December 2013. After taking on jobs as assistant general manager and TFC Academy director, he became the ninth head coach in club history, replacing Ryan Nelsen.
Regular season top scorer
Sebastian Giovinco (16)
Players to watch
1. Jozy Altidore (#17) – The US international forward has been on fire since he returned from injury, raking in 13 goals and five assists in 19 appearances.
2. Tosaint Ricketts (#87) – He hasn’t been getting starts, but he’s crucial. Coming on as a sub, Ricketts is a handful for the opposition late on and scores the odd important goal.
3. Justin Morrow (#2) – Ever-present on the left of the defence, Morrow pushes forward but can also cut inside to finish a play or two.
An eight-game road stretch to start the season gave TFC an opportunity to focus on its defence, and the team has kept on reaping the benefits of that work. The Reds posted the best defensive record and the second-best goal differential in the Eastern Conference this regular season. They are organized in a relatively low block – slightly higher at BMO Field –, with a dense midfield populated with players able to recover the ball and play it forward quickly – the Johnsons, Osorios, Delgados, Coopers and, most of all, Bradleys. Quickness and spaces between the lines remain TFC’s bread and butter. With Altidore’s hold-up play creating gaps for Giovinco to exploit, passing combinations down the middle punish opponents – although they’ve been using the flanks a bit better, mostly when the Italian floats wide. TFC is also one of the teams that shoots the most in MLS, especially through Giovinco, and shots come from pretty much everywhere – meaning that Toronto scores its fair share of goals from outside the box. Set plays are also generally useful for TFC, which has a knack for corner kicks and indirect free kicks. In these playoffs, though, the team has been mostly ruthless in transition – NYCFC defenders committed costly giveaways in their ill-advised attempts to play out of the back, as TFC pressed them. Defensively, the Reds have conceded their fair share of goals down the middle this season, but the backline has mostly held strong, forcing the opponent to look for gaps instead of leaving itself open to a plethora of shots.
The three-man defence has remained a constant feature in these playoffs for Greg Vanney, who did alter his strategy in the second half last Tuesday. Lineup v. Montreal (November 22): Irwin; Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund; Beitashour, Cooper, Bradley, Cooper, Osorio, Morrow; Altidore, Giovinco.
Injuries, absences and call-ups (as of November 28)