Toronto FC was back in training on Monday ahead of its home match against the Seattle Sounders later this week.
Here are some news and notes from the day’s practice.
Vanney looking for more ruthlessness
It’s not that coach Greg Vanney is at all concerned about TFC’s lack of goals. It’s still early on in the campaign, after all. There’s plenty of time for the attack to shift into high gear.
But it is interesting to note that Toronto has only scored nine goals and has been shut out three times through the first seven games of the Major League Soccer regular season. Star forward Sebastian Giovinco only netted his first MLS goal in Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Philadelphia Union.
Vanney says his team is creating chances and getting decent looks on goal. But he wants his players to be more ruthless in and around the penalty area.
“We are getting to good spots. … [But there’s been] a couple of occasions when we have a good look and we try to take a better look, and then we don’t get anything. In those opportunities, we have to be more prepared and more willing to take that moment, and try to put it away,” Vanney said.
He later added: “The mindset of putting teams away, and to bury our chances when we get them, is for sure something that we can continue to improve.”
BMO Field pitch still an issue
Vanney feels that one reason why TFC hasn’t been as ruthless in front of the goal is due to the quality of the pitch at BMO Field.
Toronto has had an unusually wet, long and cold winter. Also, the Reds have played a lot of home games thus far, starting with the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League series against the Colorado Rapids on Feb. 27.
Captain Michael Bradley wasn’t impressed with the state of the pitch after the recent 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire, complaining to reporters after the game that it was “choppy.”
Vanney said the quality of the grass field is getting better with every day, but maintains that proper footing remains a problem, and that the pitch sometimes shifts under players.
“It’s a challenge right now with the stability of the field. You can see big chunks take off. … It leads to either a little less confidence, or a little less precision in the end,” Vanney explained.
“Sometimes I feel like we might be looking for the tap-in. Or we try to get it just a little closer, or we try to do a little bit more to make it easier, instead of taking the chance when the chance is there.”
A new grass pitch is scheduled to be installed at BMO Field in late May.
There’s some good news on the injury front for the Reds.
Defenders Chris Mavinga (lower body), Eriq Zavaleta (quad muscle) and Nick Hagglund (hamstring) have missed multiple games in recent weeks. But all three practised with the team on Monday morning, and are making steady improvements.
“Chris and Eriq and Nick are reintegrating back into training, and are very close [to returning]. We might see one or two or three of them over the course of this week or into next week,” Vanney said.
Left fullback Justin Morrow (calf) is also improving, but he is a little further away from coming back after missing several games.
“[Justin] is not quite there yet. He’ll be reintegrating back into things next week,” Vanney said.
Forward Jozy Altidore remains troubled with “a mild hamstring strain” he picked up in the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Chivas.
“Jozy is out for the time being, and we’ll reassess him in terms of getting back into things over the next week or so,” Vanney confirmed.
Veteran defender Drew Moor remains out in the long term with a quad tear.
A busy week ahead
TFC will play a pair of games this week, at home to the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday and away to the New England Revolution on Saturday.
Under normal circumstances, and considering the Revs play on artificial turf, Vanney might have rotated his squad between the two games and given some players a rest. But the team’s current injury situation means he can’t afford to do that.
“We’re not in a position to make any wholesale changes from Wednesday to Saturday. The expectation is that we can get a couple of guys back between now and Saturday, which might help us out. But at the same time, with some guys I don’t want to rush them into 90 minutes straight away,” Vanney admitted.
Looking ahead to Seattle
TFC and the Sounders met twice in 2017. TFC won 1-0 in Seattle in May during the regular season, and, of course, they beat the Sounders 2-0 in the MLS Cup final in Toronto.
Seattle currently sits in last place in the Western Conference with a 1-4-2 record, and is coming off of a 0-0 draw versus the Columbus Crew at home on the weekend.
Injuries to defenders Roman Torres and Chad Marshall have hurt the Sounders, as has the loss of star forward Jordan Morris, who tore his ACL in pre-season and was ruled out for the entire 2018 MLS campaign.
“They’ve gone through a little bit of change, they’ve gone through some injury issues. … Their back line has been pretty beat up, between Torres and Marshall,” Vanney said.
“Obviously, the loss of Jordan Morris is big for them because I’m pretty sure they were counting on a quite a few goals coming from him.”
That being said, Seattle is a still a dangerous side, especially with talented attackers in Clint Dempsey and Will Bruin.
“They’ve had a mishmash of guys who’ve been out, and consistency has taken its toll on them. I still think they’re a good team, I still think they have players who can make plays,” Vanney offered.
“Dempsey is a guy with any kind of half-look [on goal] can be extremely dangerous. Will Bruin is going to work his tail off and be a nuisance and [wreak] havoc, and can get scoring chances.”