2017 MLS SEASON PREVIEW
Toronto FC caught a lot of flack for building a trophy case at its training facility for MLS Cup, especially after it lost the final game of 2016 to the Seattle Sounders via a penalty shootout.
The reality is that TFC had built trophy cases for every piece of silverware available to the club — just beside the still-empty MLS Cup slot sits the Voyageurs Cup, awarded to the winner of the annual Canadian Championship — but social media caught on to the overly ambitious construction work and it took on a life of its own. The idea that an empty trophy case could serve as a visual reminder of what the team is playing for nearly worked, with TFC barnstorming through the 2016 MLS playoffs en route to that frustrating night at BMO Field in which the Sounders thwarted every Toronto foray and held on for the victory in spot kicks.
Disappointment in how the season ended aside, TFC showed over the playoffs (and over the majority of the regular season) that it had finally become a balanced, lethal side with very little holes to fill ahead of 2017. And so it mostly stood pat while other clubs overhauled themselves in the offseason, choosing instead to target a couple of foreign additions to fill out the side, along with some added youth via its academy and the draft.
The conservative strategy is very much a departure from the haphazard days of the club's first decade, where it spent most offseasons frantically adding pieces big and small. Time will tell whether the staid approach is successful, but with TFC looking like a genuine contender from the outset its own ambition is what could ultimately separate it from the rest of the pack.
How did Toronto FC perform in 2016?
2016 finish: Third in Eastern Conference (14-9-11), defeated in MLS Cup final
Toronto FC was a legitimate contender for both the Supporters' Shield as the team with the best regular season record until an autumn swoon dropped the club to fifth overall in MLS. TFC found its mojo in time for the postseason, however, and set a league record for goals scored in a single postseason until losing a penalty shootout to Seattle at MLS Cup.
Toronto FC's key offseason losses
Toronto's concerted effort to keep its core together was not 100 percent successful, as Will Johnson elected to join Orlando City as a free agent.
Johnson was the biggest name to depart, but regular contributors Josh Williams and Mark Bloom also left for other MLS clubs. Homegrowns Quillan Roberts and Chris Mannella were not brought back after their contracts expired, while Daniel Lovitz also had his option declined and is now on trial with rival Montreal Impact.
Defender Clement Simonin, whose contract ran out at the end of 2016, has been in preseason with TFC and could possibly sign a new deal prior to the season opener on March 4.
Toronto FC's key offseason additions
Toronto's two-year pursuit of attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez finally ended in a deal this month, as the former Belgian footballer of the year joined the club two weeks before the season opener.
Defender Chris Mavinga was TFC's other transfer from outside the league, while homegrown Sergio Camargo and draftee Brandon Aubrey will look to push for first-team minutes this season.
How will Toronto FC's starting lineup look in 2017?
The 3-5-2 that Toronto experiemented with a handful of times in 2015 and fully implemented in the second half of 2016 looks like it'll be the go-to formation this season, with the team utilizing it almost exclusively throughout the preseason.
Mavinga is a good bet to claim Nick Hagglund's starting spot on the left side of the back three, with Vazquez likely to challenge Armando Cooper and Jonathan Osorio for playing time in the three-man central midfield just ahead of captain Michael Bradley.
The rest of the lineup is identical to the one that started MLS Cup back in December, with Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore leading the line for what should be another potent season in front of goal.
Full Toronto FC roster entering 2017 season
Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, Clint Irwin
Defenders: Steven Beitashour, Nick Hagglund, Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor, Ashtone Morgan, Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta
Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Sergio Camargo, Jay Chapman, Benoit Cheyrou, Armando Cooper, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, Victor Vazquez
Forwards: Jozy Altidore, Mo Babouli, Tsubasa Endoh, Sebastian Giovinco, Jordan Hamilton, Tosaint Ricketts
Toronto FC's national TV coverage schedule
Real Salt Lake vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, March 4, at 4:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, March 11, at 4:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, March 18, at 4 p.m. ET on CTV
Toronto FC vs. Sporting Kansas City - Friday, March 31, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN, FS1
Toronto FC vs. Atlanta United - Saturday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, April 15, at 8:00 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Chicago Fire - Friday, April 21, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Houston Dynamo - Friday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m. on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Orlando City - Wednesday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Seattle Sounders vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, May 6, at 4 p.m. ET on TSN, ESPN
Columbus Crew vs. Toronto FC - Wednesday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Minnesota United - Saturday, May 13, at 3:00 p.m. ET on CTV
New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC - Friday, May 19, 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Columbus Crew - Friday, May 26, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United - Saturday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution - Friday, June 23, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
FC Dallas vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, July 1, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Orlando City vs. Toronto FC - Wednesday, July 5, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
New York City FC vs. Toronto FC - Wednesday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Colorado Rapids - Saturday, July 22, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. New York City FC - Sunday, July 30, at 2 p.m. ET on TSN, ESPN
D.C. United vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, August 5, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Portland Timbers - Saturday, August 12, at 6 p.m. ET on TSN
Chicago Fire vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, August 19, at 8 p.m. on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Philadelphia Union - Wednesday, August 23, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC - Sunday, August 27, at 4:30 p.m. ET on TSN, ESPN
Toronto FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes - Saturday, September 9, at 5 p.m. ET on TSN
LA Galaxy vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, September 16, at 10:30 p.m. on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact - Wednesday, September 20, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, September 23, at 5 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls - Saturday, September 30, at 7 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. Montreal Impact - Sunday, October 15, at 3 p.m. ET on TSN
Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC - Sunday, October 22, at 4 p.m. ET on TSN