TFC notebook: Reds ready to rumble in home opener

Drew Moor, right, in action for Toronto FC. (Chris Young/CP)

Toronto FC was back in training on Tuesday ahead of its home opener against Sporting Kansas City on Friday.

Here are some news and notes from today’s practice at the club’s training facility in Downsview.

COMING HOME

After opening the campaign with three consecutive road games, TFC returns to BMO Field for a rare Friday night game. Thus far, the Reds are unbeaten this season, with two draws and a win (and only two goals against), and they are coming off of a 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Reds opened 2015 with seven consecutive road contests. Last year it was eight. Friday’s contest is also the first at BMO Field since last December’s MLS Cup final between Toronto and the Seattle Sounders, but that doesn’t mean the game carries any extra meaning, according to veteran TFC defender Drew Moor.

“It’s been a while since we had this early of a home game. We did well in our first three games on the road. I think we took some confidence from it; [but it also] felt like we left some points [on the table]. …. It’s the first game of the season, and it’s exciting, but it’s another game,” Moor said.

Moor sounds all business ahead of the showdown with Kansas City, insisting that TFC’s run to last year’s MLS Cup is in the past and that the club has moved on.

“[BMO Field] needs to be a place where it’s very difficult to come in [for opponents] and believe you’re going to get anything. It starts Friday night.”

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TFC Pitchside
March 27th ft. Jason Bent
Originally aired March 27 2017

BONO OR IRWIN?

After going with Clint Irwin in the first two games, coach Greg Vanney went with Alex Bono in net against the Whitecaps, raising questions as to who’ll be the starting goalkeeper against Kansas City.

Vanney confirmed that he’s already made that decision, but he didn’t tip his hand. He did say, however, that even though he’s settled on who is No. 1 ‘keeper is at the moment, he plans to give both Irwin and Bono opportunities to play early on in the season in order to keep them sharp and competing against each other.

“There may or may not come a time in the future when I’ll have to make a decision, but right now I have a good sense of a plan that I’m working towards,” Vanney stated.

COOPER VS. BRADLEY AND ALTIDORE

Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier between Panama and the United States in Panama City pits TFC’s Armando Cooper against American teammates Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

It’s a critical contest for both nations. Panama sits third in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, one point and one spot above the U.S. Only the top three in the region automatically qualify for the World Cup, while the fourth-place team will enter the inter-continental playoffs.

All three players will return to Toronto in plenty of time for Friday’s game, but Vanney hinted that he might limit their playing time due to the short turnaround.

“We’ll try to prepare them quickly and make decisions of how many minutes it makes sense for them to play,” Vanney revealed.

A former U.S. international, Vanney faced LA Galaxy teammates Martín Machón (Guatemala) and Roy Meyers (Costa Rica) in key World Cup qualifying games during his playing career.

“It’s an interesting dynamic. Obviously, you go out and compete to win. Usually what happens on the field is if you’re anywhere near [your club teammate] then there’ll be a couple of words along the way,” Vanney said.

“If you need to settle a situation between the two teams, you’re more likely to have that conversation with [your club teammate], if you’re trying to calm something down.”

Forward Jordan Hamilton is still away on international duty with Canada’s under-23 team in Qatar. He is expected to rejoin TFC later this week.

INJURY UPDATE

The Reds are not dealing with any major injury issues ahead of Friday’s contest. Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco participated in Tuesday’s training session and is expected to play against Kansas City. The Italian sat out the Vancouver game with a leg injury.

Canadian defender Ashtone Morgan (recovering from foot surgery) remains out long-term, and is still several weeks away from returning to full training.

TFC Pitchside will provide Toronto FC supporters with an inside look into their favourite obsession Monday nights at 11 pm ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Call it an all-access pass for all things MLS brought to you by co-hosts Dan Riccio, Thomas Michalakos and producer Amil Delic. You'll hear from the biggest names around the club, and the MLS. You'll also get reviews and previews of every TFC game with reports from Pitchside at training and on game days at BMO Field. The Six is about to get done!

SPENCER WITH TFC 2

Vanney confirmed that striker Ben Spencer, who spent last year with the TFC 2, will remain with Toronto FC’s farm cub that plays in the second-tier USL. Vanney added the expectation is that Spencer will be signed to the first team some time this season.

“At the appropriate moment he’ll make the transition [to Toronto FC],” Vanney said.

QUICK LOOK AHEAD TO FRIDAY

Kansas City is unbeaten in three games this season, with a pair of draws, and is coming off a 2-1 win at home vs. San Jose.

Kansas City won the lone match last year between these two sides, earning a 1-0 decision on March 20 at home.

Vanney described coach Peter Vermes’ team as a “tenacious group,” a sentiment echoed by Moor.

“The first thing you expect from Sporting is it’s going to be a dogfight. It’s going to be physical—they get into tackles, they let you feel them. They have some very good footballers, as well. But we have to be ready to match their intensity, to match their physicality,” Moor offered.

“We can’t give [midfielder] Benny Feilhaber or [forward] Dom Dwyer too much time and space on the ball because they’ll pick out good passes and they’ll pick out good shots.”

TFC hosts Atlanta United FC on April 8 and then take on the Columbus Crew in Ohio on April 15.