In one of the most anticipated matches of the weekend, Toronto FC travel to British Columbia to take on their cross-country Canadian rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Toronto FC come into 2015 looking to put the past behind them and finally earn a Major League Soccer playoff spot. They proved last season that spending big money does not always equal success, but that didn’t stop them from doing much of the same this year. Unlike many of the moves made in 2014, the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Benoit Cheyrou, and Damien Perquis, were brought in with chemistry and current team needs in mind.
On Saturday, we find out whether all the new faces brought into the club and the league have had enough time to adjust to their new settings. Altidore told the media on Friday that the artificial turf in Vancouver “was dry and not the greatest”. Unfortunately, poor pitch conditions are something that all the new arrivals to MLS will need to get used to.
Although, Toronto had a terrific start to the season last year when Defoe’s brace in his MLS debut won them the game in Seattle, they did not have enough depth to be competitive all season long. Something they ensured to improve for the start of 2015.
Expect head coach. Greg Vanney to go with a 4-2-3-1 with Giovinco playing just behind Altidore. Bradley and Cheyrou will be bossing the middle of the park. All things considered, this should be a much better Toronto FC side than the one we saw last season, but only time will tell if they got all the pieces right in 2015.
Vancouver barely made the postseason last year and will not be happy the way they were dumped in the playoffs by a controversial call against FC Dallas.
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As always, BC Place will be rocking on Saturday evening with the Whitecaps expected to compete at the top in the Western Conference this season. The Whitecaps not only have a plethora of young homegrown talent (thanks to their terrific residency program), but they also have experienced veterans in the likes of Pedro Morales, Jordan Harvey, and Mauro Rosales to help lead the squad.
Former Welsh international, Carl Robinson made an immediate impact in his first season as head coach of Vancouver and will be hoping his club can take the next step this year. Expect 22 year old homegrown talent, Russel Teibert to have a massive season for the Whitecaps as he is ready to become a big time player in MLS.
Robinson’s side may not have made quite the international headlines that Toronto did during the off-season, but they managed to sign talented young striker, Octavio Rivero. The 23 year old Uruguayan, arrived in Vancouver as a Young Designated Player in December and could provide the offensive spark that the Whitecaps need to be an elite side.
Along with Rivero, they also have Matias Laba who they got from Toronto FC before the start of last season. Much like Gilberto this season, Laba was the odd man out last year when Toronto signed three Designated Players and had no spots left for the talented young Argentinian. The 22 year old started in 31 games last season and will need to have a big season if the club are to be successful.
Indeed, Saturday night’s showdown between Vancouver and Toronto will be one of the most intriguing matches in the opening weekend of Major League Soccer’s 20th season. Fans across Canada can catch the game on TSN 1.