For a brief moment two weeks ago, the troubles at Toronto FC seemed to disappear as the club finally ended an ugly losing streak. After another lengthy break, the Reds will be back in action on Saturday night, hoping to pick up a second win in as many matches, something the club has not done all season long.
Including this weekend’s matchup, the Reds have seven matches left this season. For a club that is sure to undergo major changes this winter, the home stretch will serve as something of a tryout for many of the players vying for a spot on next year’s squad.
Terry Dunfield, who will still take charge of the Reds until the end of this month, will continue to have many of his weapons available for Saturday night’s matchup. Leading scorer Federico Bernardeschi will look to add to his tally while Deandre Kerr and Kobe Franklin will be hoping to keep their places after stellar outings in the Reds’ last matchup against the Philadelphia Union. With Sean Johnson continuing to heal after surgery, Tomás Romero should continue to keep his place in the TFC net.
While the Reds faithful’s hopes of seeing a familiar face on their own team in the form of Sebastian Giovinco appear to have been dashed, they will have to settle for a familiar face on the opposition this weekend when they take on the Vancouver Whitecaps. Canadian international Richie Laryea, who started the MLS season with the Reds on loan, joined the Whitecaps during the July transfer window.
TFC will be very familiar with the danger that Laryea provides. During his time with Toronto, Laryea was one of the few bright spots in every match. On a low-scoring TFC squad, Laryea tallied two goals and three assists in 18 matches with the Reds. His two goals still rank third highest on the Reds (tied with Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye) and still only sit behind three Reds: Bernardeschi (five goals) and Lorenzo Insigne and Kerr (four goals each).
The ‘Caps currently sit in sixth in the Western Conference, four points ahead of FC Dallas who occupy the ninth and final playoff spot. In anticipation of a playoff run, the ‘Caps have loaded up ahead of the MLS roster freeze that goes into effect tonight at 8 pm ET.
In addition to Laryea, Vancouver acquired Canadian defender Sam Adekugbe on a transfer from Turkish club Hatayspor and most recently announced the signing of Canadian forward Junior Hoilett, as a free agent, until the end of the season. Hoilett will not play in this weekend’s matchup, but Adekugbe is listed as questionable for the Caps’ visit to BMO Field.
Vancouver has found themselves in good form over the last two months. The Western Conference squad has out-and-out lost just two of their previous 10 matches in all competitions. In MLS play, the club is unbeaten in their last three matches with two wins against the Portland Timbers and the Chicago Fire and a 1-1 draw last week against New York City FC.
In Leagues Cup action, the Whitecaps ended group stage play with a shootout loss and a win, before ultimately falling in the Round of 32 through a shootout loss as well.
Head coach Vanni Sartini has not had a problem getting his offence going in the MLS this season. Through 26 regular season matches this season, the ‘Caps have scored 43 goals, second most amongst Western Conference teams, and have failed to score a goal in just three matches. The Whitecaps’ attack is led in tandem by Brian White and Ryan Gauld, each of whom have scored 10 goals a piece.
Gauld, in particular, will be the biggest threat to the Reds’ defence. The Scotland native has scored three goals and contributed two assists over his last three MLS games, including scoring the Whitecaps lone goal in last week’s matchup, and has now extended his run of goals to 11 goals over his last 15 appearances.
Related read: Ryan Gauld: The ‘Scottish Messi’ whose MVP-calibre form is driving the Whitecaps’ playoff charge
Saturday’s match against the Whitecaps will be the beginning of a busy period for the Reds. Following Saturday’s matchup, the Reds will travel to Miami to face Lionel Messi and Inter Miami, followed by a trip to New York to face off against NYCFC next weekend.
Opponent: Vancouver Whitecaps
Kick-off: 7:30 p.m. ET
Stadium: BMO Field
Watch: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV