Can TFC’s Morrow and Edwards play together on a consistent basis?


Justin Morrow, right, in action for Toronto FC. (Jimmy Jeong/CP)

Some burning questions came to my mind after watching Toronto FC fight back to earn a 1-1 draw away to the New York Red Bulls on Friday night, a result that extended TFC’s unbeaten run to seven consecutive games.

Can Justin Morrow and Raheem Edwards play in the same starting 11?

During Drew Moor’s absence due to an irregular heartbeat, coach Greg Vanney was forced to shuffle his line-up, and he ended up deploying Justin Morrow on the left side of his three-man defence. That opened up a spot for young Canadian Raheem Edwards, who filled in for Morrow at the left wingback position.

The duo ended up starting five consecutive games together, with Edwards more than holding his own during that stretch, building upon his growing reputation as a talented young prospect. But Moor returned on Friday after missing the previous seven games. He was back in the middle of the Reds’ back line, which meant Morrow returned to his left wingback position, which in turn meant Edwards was relegated to the bench.

TORONTO FC TALK: John Molinaro was on Sportsnet 590 The FAN talking about last night’s game and TFC’s seven-game unbeaten run. To listen to the interview, CLICK HERE

Edwards has been one of Toronto’s most dynamic and influential players during Moor’s absence. However, Moor’s return means the young Canadian was the odd man out on Friday, as Morrow, like Moor, is an automatic starter. What will be interesting to see going forward is if coach Greg Vanney can somehow figure out a way to shoehorn Edwards into the starting 11 now that Moor is back fulltime and Morrow isn’t required to fill in as one of the three centre backs.

If Vanney views Edwards a starter, what does he do? Does he move Morrow back into defence to accommodate the young Canadian? That would likely mean French defender Chris Mavinga, who’s looked solid in recent weeks and put in a man-of-the-match performance against New York, would lose his starting job. Does Vanney shift Edwards into a more central role at the expense of Marky Delgado? Or maybe he goes back to using Edwards off the bench, bringing him in the second half when his side needs a creative spark?

Will Jordan Hamilton get a chance?

Friday at Red Bull Arena wasn’t the best night out for Jozy Altidore, who was TFC’s best payer through the first quarter of the campaign. The American forward was comfortably contained by New York defenders Damien Perrinelle and Aaron Long, and he failed to convert from the penalty spot late in the game. Moments later he earned his fifth yellow card of the campaign, ruling him out for next Friday’s home game against the Columbus Crew through suspension.

Sebastian Giovinco is still out due to injury, so Altidore’s lack of discipline was ill-timed. It does, however, potentially open the door for youngster Jordan Hamilton to start against Columbus. But will he get the chance? Hamilton has played just one minute through the first 13 games of the season, coming on as late substitute against the Red Bulls. He’s clearly behind Giovinco and Altidore on the forward depth chart, with the DPs holding down regular starting jobs. Fellow Canadian Tosaint Ricketts is far more experienced. He’s also scoring goals and has earned more playing time and starts during the Reds’ recent stretch.

With a midweek contest against the Ottawa Fury in the Canadian Championship and the home match against Columbus looming, this could be the chance for Hamilton to finally get a look by Vanney – that is, if TFC’s coach wants to go with two forwards. He could very well decide to play Ricketts as the lone man up front, with Victor Vazquez pushed just in behind in a supporting role. Vanney is clearly in squad-rotation mode, though, and this seems like the right time to give Hamilton some minutes.

Soccer Central Radio - May 18 - Thursday
May 18 2017

Will Michael Bradley get a day off?

Captain Michael Bradley went the full 90 against New York on Friday. No surprise there. He’s played every minute (1,170 in total) of all 13 games this season, the only player on the club to not get some sort of break or time off. Toronto’s recent six-game winning streak was all the more impressive when you consider the gruelling schedule with which it had to contend. The Reds played five games in 16 days, including a cross-country trip to Seattle.

Friday’s game in New York marked the beginning of another five-games-in-16-days run for Toronto – two Canadian Championship semifinal matches, and three MLS games. Asked about Bradley’s iron-man streak this week, Vanney said he didn’t want to disrupt the continuity of the team, and that his captain wants to play every game when he’s fit because he knows he’ll miss games during the summer due to international duty.

But can this go on? Can Bradley continue to rack up the minutes early on in the season without a break? Surely, at some point, he needs a rest, allowing himself the chance to recuperate. You also have to think about the long-game. We saw in last year’s playoffs how Giovinco faded towards the end. Should Vanney not be concerned about managing Bradley’s minutes early on so that he’ll be in peak form down the season stretch and in the playoffs? The two-legged semifinal against Ottawa seems like the perfect time to give Bradley some time off, while also giving Benoit Cheyrou (who’s been excellent in his few appearances this season) some more playing time.

The first decade of Toronto FC in the words of the players, coaches, executives and fans who built the franchise.

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