Last season was the one where Toronto finally lived up to their potential, making a run to the MLS Cup Final. But after a bitterly disappointing defeat to the Seattle Sounders at home — in a penalty shootout after not surrendering a single shot on goal over 120 minutes — they’ll be hoping to take the last step to the title their big stars were brought in to deliver.
Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco return for 2017. Giovinco’s agent claims he had a big-money offer from a Chinese Super League club, but opted to stay in Canada. The Reds have only made minor adjustments to their roster in the offseason, bringing in Chris Mavinga and Victor Vazquez to replace some departed MLS veteran role players. Those two new additions should challenge for starting roles immediately.
Continuity with the squad and coach Greg Vanney should help Toronto get off to a fast start in the new year. That, plus their new signings, could get them over the hump so they can challenge for Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup.
2016 record: 14-11-9, third in Eastern Conference
2016 playoffs: Lost to Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup Final
Head coach: Greg Vanney
Key additions: Chris Mavinga, Victor Vazquez
Key losses: Will Johnson, Josh Williams, Mark Bloom
Projected starting XI (3-5-2): Clint Irwin; Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta; Justin Morrow, Victor Vazquez, Michael Bradley, Armando Cooper, Steven Beitashour; Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore
Major trophies won, all-time: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2016 Canadian Championship
What we think of our team: The best team in club history should have won the MLS Cup last season and is primed to contend again in 2017.
What outsiders think of our team: “All the big names and most of the supporting pieces are still in place for TFC, so it is hard to think of them ending up anywhere other than near the top of the East once again. Of course, nobody saw both the Timbers and Columbus Crew SC failing to make the playoffs in 2016 either.”
Toronto FC’s biggest rival: Montreal. An all-time classic Eastern Conference Final last season has taken a historic rivalry to another level as far as soccer is concerned.
Our season hinges on … staying healthy and getting the breaks every team needs to mount a run at a championship. The talent is there.
Why this year won’t be like last year: Because the MLS Cup isn’t being won without a shot on target in open play again.
Key player: Giovinco is key to so much of what Toronto do on the pitch, obviously, but Drew Moor holds the defense together and was the single biggest factor in TFC’s step forward in 2016.
Predicted finish in 2017: First in the Eastern Conference.
Wild prediction: Much talk about the arrival of a new attacking midfielder was finally delivered upon with the signing of Victor Vazquez, who is an intriguing new weapon. Keep an eye, however, on Jay Chapman in the same role - the young Canadian has a rare level of technical ability and this season could be his coming-out party both in MLS and at the Gold Cup.