Toronto (0-2-0, 0pts), who are about to open their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series against Club America on Tuesday, have yet to score a goal in their first two games of the season so far. Logging a 2-0 loss at home against Columbus on opening day, followed by a 1-0 road loss at Montreal, TFC will once again be forced to make some tough lineup decisions ahead of their crucial CCL semifinal first leg.
This, however, could bode well for visiting Real Salt Lake (1-1-1, 4pts). Coming off a 1-0 win at home against the New York Red Bulls, RSL will look to capitalize on Toronto’s scoreless start to the season, especially if Mike Petke can field a full preferred starting eleven, as he’s been down a few men due to early season injuries.
The overall series between the two sides has been clearly dominated by RSL, who boast a record of 9-5-4 over the Canadian club, outscoring them 25-14 through all competitions. That record includes two matches played in CONCACAF Champions League play back in 2010, when RSL knocked off TFC by a commanding aggregate score of 5-2 — the year RSL would advance to the CCL final only to lose to Liga MX side Monterrey.
Many would argue that the Toronto of old is one hundred percent different from the TFC we all know today, boasting stars like Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore who have all helped turn the club into an absolute powerhouse.
The last time these teams met was opening day in 2017, when RSL held off Toronto at home to grab a point with a 0-0 draw. Holding last year’s champs to a clean sheet was not something a lot of teams did in 2017, and RSL will look to do it again this weekend, though they’ll hope to grab the full three points in the process this time around.
While Toronto’s injury list is relatively short — listing only defenders Justin Morrow and Chris Mavinga as questionable — we could see a stunted starting lineup if head coach Greg Vanney decides to rest some players ahead of the match against Club America on Tuesday. It’s no secret that TFC is taking Champions League very seriously, even if it means sacrificing a few points at the beginning of the season.
In their last MLS outing on March 17th, Vanney fielded a strong lineup which included the likes of Giovinco, Altidore, Bradley, Gregory van der Wiel, and others you would expect to see make the eleven. Although Toronto outshot their opponents 14-13 (5-3 on target) and controlled 64% of possession, the match ended in a 1-0 loss to Montreal, thanks to a goal from Jeisson Vargas in the 41st minute.
TFC will be looking to bounce back from that loss, but it’ll be interesting to see what tactics Vanney goes with ahead of their CCL match.
For the visitors, coming off a 1-0 win at home over the Red Bulls followed by a week of rest, RSL should be ready and rearing to go. While Marcelo Silva is still officially listed as questionable, we can hope that the extra week off was enough for him to make it back into the starting lineup — or at least make an appearance on the bench should we need some extra power on the backline. I’d expect David Horst to make the start again, even if Silva is healthy, as Horst has been pretty solid and there’s no reason to risk further injury to Silva before he’s completely match fit.
It should also be noted that Adam Henley, after making the 18-man roster against New York, travelled with the team to Toronto, so don’t be surprised to see him get the start at right back this week.
Albert Rusnak, who scored his first international goal for Slovakia over the break last week, is tied for first in the league in chances create, with 13 on the season — an impressive number for the young attacking midfielder only three games in.
Additionally, newcomer Alfredo Ortuño made his first start in RSL’s last outing, going 79 minutes although he didn’t log a single shot during the entire game. Luis Silva had pulled up lame with an injury which shoved Ortuño into the starting role, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get the nod again this week, whether Silva is ready to go or not.
RSL: Rimando; Henley, Glad, Horst, Phillips; Beckerman, Kreilach; Savarino, Rusnak, Plata; Ortuño
TOR: Bono; Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund; van der Wiel, Morgan, Bradley, Aketxe, Osorio; Altidore, Giovinco
OUT: Tony Beltran (knee), Jordan Allen (knee), Taylor Peay (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: Aaron Herrera (groin), Marcelo Silva (hamstring), Joao Plata (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: Justin Morrow (calf)
PROBABLE: Chris Mavinga (abdominal discomfort)
GOALS: Joao Plata (2)
ASSISTS: Albert Rusnak (1)
When: Friday, March 30, 2018, 6:00PM MT
Where: BMO Field — Toronto, ON, Canada
Broadcast: KMYU, ESPN 700 (radio only), MLS Live
Weather: Partly cloudy, 39 degrees
Referee: Allen Chapman