Toronto FC was back in training Monday ahead of what will be a busy week. The Reds host the Ottawa Fury on Wednesday in the second leg of the Canadian Championship semifinals and then travel to New England to take on the Revolution on Saturday.
Here are some news and notes from today’s practice at the club’s training facility in Downsview.
WHERE’S THE LOVE FOR THE BEST TEAM IN MLS?
Toronto FC’s 5-0 win over the Columbus Crew last Friday extended the Reds’ unbeaten run to eight games (with seven wins) and solidified their spot atop the overall Major League Soccer standings.
It also said a lot about the quality and depth of TFC that they put forth such a dominant performance – one of the best in franchise history, frankly – while missing top scorers Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.
And yet, coach Greg Vanney felt Toronto’s destruction job of Columbus didn’t garner much attention within MLS circles, specifically on TV broadcasts of other games this past weekend.
“What I find interesting is across the league, as a whole, there’s not a lot of attention on what we’re doing. That’s fine, and I’m comfortable with that. But as I watched the games unfold, I didn’t feel like there’s much talk of, ‘Hey, you should probably pay attention to that team up north. They’re doing pretty well.’ It was just sort of mentioned, but that was it,” Vanney said.
“I felt like a 5-0 win went somewhat unnoticed over the course of the weekend, which was a pretty substantial win without a couple of key players. People talked about it in passing but didn’t really take notice of what occurred.”
TFC is on a hot streak and is the best sports team at the moment in Canada’s largest city, so you’d think that would garner them more attention from the Toronto sports media. But there’s hardly been an uptake in the coverage during this unbeaten run, and there was only one reporter who showed up to cover Monday’s practice.
Is Vanney put off by the rather lukewarm response from the local sports media?
“What’s important for me is the fans show up and continue to support us,” Vanney said.
“I don’t know enough to have a strong opinion [about the media coverage], to be honest. Could it be turned up a bit more? I’m sure it could. These are very exciting times for the club right now, and we’d love for more attention.”
EXPECT A STRONGER LINE-UP VS. OTTAWA
TFC faces a small deficit going into Wednesday’s return match against the Fury after losing 2-1 in the first leg last week in the nation’s capital. Vanney fielded a very young side, with few regular starters in the lineup.
The loss to the Ottawa, who compete in the second-tier United Soccer League, wasn’t a complete disaster – a 1-0 win on Wednesday would see Toronto advance to the final on the away goals rule.
Expect to see a stronger starting 11 from Vanney for Wednesday’s contest.
“Everybody is in play,” Vanney said. “Guys are going to play right now based on their output in the last several games … I have everybody on the list as available to play.
“There’s no turf. There’s no travel. There’s no other reason why anyone shouldn’t play. We’re going to field a team that field is ready to go out and win this game.”
SEBA UPDATE, SUSPENSIONS AND INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES
Star striker Sebastian Giovinco worked out by himself on Monday and continues to make good progress. The Italian, who is tied for the club lead with six goals this season, missed the first leg in Ottawa and the last two MLS games with a quad strain.
Vanney revealed Giovinco could be cleared to play on Wednesday, and that he fully expects him to be available for Saturday’s trip to New England – although TFC’s coach hinted he might not use the Italian for that game because it’ll be played on turf.
Vanney said there are no other new injury concerns.
Captain Michael Bradley and joint-top scorer Jozy Altidore will be unavailable for both the Ottawa and New England games – they’re away on international duty with the U.S. national team.
Raheem Edwards is suspended for the game against Ottawa after he picked up two yellow cards in last week’s first leg.
QUICK LOOK AHEAD TO NEW ENGLAND
Like Vanney, New England manager Jay Heaps is a young coach who enjoyed a distinguished playing career a defender in MLS before getting into coaching.
Heaps’ fiery character on the pitch is what Vanney remembers the most about playing against him.
“He was a competitor, a real competitor. He didn’t take any plays off, and he was just one of those guys who you didn’t like playing against because he annoyed you and he got under your skin. You can see that with the way he coaches,” Vanney said.
“Off the field he’s a good guy, but when he crosses that line as a coach or a player, he’s looking for anything – whether it’s being in the ref’s ear – to get himself and his team the competitive edge.”
Saturday marks the first of three games this season between TFC and the Revolution. They’ll meet again on June 23 at BMO Field and on Sept. 23 in Foxborough.
The Revolution are coming off of a 2-1 loss away to the New York Red Bulls, a result that ended a modest two-game losing streak. New England currently sits eighth in the Eastern Conference with a 4-5-4 record and 16 points – six spots and 13 points behind Toronto.
TFC won the season series in 2016, with a 4-1 victory at home and a 1-1 draw on the road.
NOTE: I chatted one-on-one with Victor Vazquez after today’s practice about settling into life in Toronto and his strong start to the season. Look for my feature story later this week.