Displaced across the border for another season — this time in Orlando, Florida — the Toronto FC are set to kick off their Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) Champions League campaign against Mexican Club León on April 7 before starting their 2021 Major League Soccer (MLS) campaign on April 17 against CF Montréal.
While Toronto FC have been struck down with a number of COVID-19 cases in the meantime, here are some key headlines to watch for this upcoming season.
New season, new coach
Following the departure of the club’s most successful head coach, Greg Vanney, to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Toronto FC brought former New York Red Bulls boss Chris Armas in to take the helm. Armas ended his previous tenure with the Red Bulls in 2020, finishing with 33 wins in a total of 71 matches coached.
Armas was well known during his tenure with the Red Bulls for showing a willingness to give playing time to younger players. In terms of a potential play style, Armas has claimed that his team will play in a system requiring a high-press, a departure from Vanney’s possession-based system. Look for Armas to implement a system that pressurizes opponents when they have possession, forces opposing mistakes, and allows for quick ball movement when attacking.
Whether this Toronto FC team is suited for a pressing system remains to be seen.
Release the youngsters
Since Armas developed a willingness to play youngsters with the Red Bulls, he should have no problem integrating some of Toronto FC’s up-and-coming talents. With last season’s emergence of youngsters such as forwards Ayo Akinola and Ifunanyachi Achara — the latter of whom suffered from an anterior cruciate ligament tear last season — more youngsters are seeking to break through the ranks and become staples of the first team.
This includes the likes of debutants from last season in forwards Jayden Nelson and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty. Marshall-Rutty has drawn attention from some of Europe’s elite clubs such as Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Expect Nelson and Marshall-Rutty, among other youngsters, to be given a greater role heading into this season.
Who will be the third designated player?
With the departure of winger Pablo Piatti to La Liga side Elche, a third designated player spot has opened up for Toronto FC. One name that has consistently been linked with Toronto FC throughout the winter is Rafael Santos Borré of Argentine Primera Division powerhouse, River Plate.
The 25-year-old Colombian international joined River Plate in 2017, scoring 22 goals and adding six assists over his three seasons with the club, winning the Copa Libertadores in 2018. So what can Toronto FC fans expect from a player like Borré? Borré has been highlighted as a player who is clinical in the box but also a good creator and playmaker.
If Borré were to move to Toronto FC, expect him to play up front, leading the line, and potentially starting ahead of Jozy Altidore. Certainly, the prospect of watching a link-up play between Borré and last season’s MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo is mouth-watering. However, any deal for Borré is nowhere near close at the moment, especially with Brazilian club Palmeiras also being interested in his service.
Nevertheless, it’s shaping up to be an exciting season ahead for Toronto FC. Will Toronto FC contend for an MLS Cup or Concacaf Champions League title this season? It’s hard to make any judgment this early, but we are all hoping that the team find themselves playing in front of fans at the BMO Field again.