Toronto FC has a lot of baggage to shed as a club.
Though the franchise has existed since 2007, they qualified for their first-ever playoffs last season, ending the longest playoff drought in MLS. However, they did so in rather unconvincing fashion, as their form slipped down the stretch, forcing them into the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, their playoff career was relatively short lived, as it ended abruptly with a 3-0 loss to rival Montreal Impact.
Thus, Toronto reinforced their defense this season, and are well on their way to securing not just another playoff spot, but a serious run at MLS Cup. The question remains, for the most tortured club in the MLS’ brief history, can TFC seriously contend for a trophy in 2016?
In Toronto, everything begins and ends with Sebastian Giovinco, and this season is no different. Through 24 games with TFC, the Atomic Ant has notched 16 goals (the league lead) and 11 assists (third in MLS behind Steven Gerrard and Sacha Kljestan), all while remaining the key play maker in Toronto. Giovinco has been a revelation since TFC signed him just a year ago, and will contend for what would be his second consecutive MLS MVP this season.
However, it’s worth mentioning that beyond Giovinco, the attacking threat of TFC is relatively lacking. Toronto has scored just 37 goals through 24 games, the worst total of any playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Additionally, Seba has 16, which accounts for 43 percent of Toronto’s total goals this season, the highest percentage of any single player in the league. Furthermore, when you factor in his 11 assists, Giovinco has either scored or assisted on a whopping 73 percent of Toronto’s goals this season.
While his sustained run of incredible play has carried Toronto to this point, any fan of MLS knows that just one incredible player won’t cut it come playoff time. Should Giovinco get injured, or just simply have an off night, Toronto could be in serious trouble, especially when it comes to scoring goals.
However, the good news for TFC fans is the man who is supposed to help Giovinco on the goal scoring front is seemingly returning to form. Jozy Altidore, the USMNT striker who has sat out much of the summer with various injuries, is back in the fold for Toronto, and scored his fourth goal in five games during TFC’s 3-1 victory over Philadelphia this weekend. Altidore has remarked that he is feeling closer and closer to 100 percent fitness everyday, and after his second consecutive game of playing 70 minutes, he should be ready for 90 minutes of action moving forward.
If Toronto can somehow get Altidore scoring again, they could be an unstoppable force in the East. TFC’s historically leaky defense has actually held up quite nicely this year. They’ve given up just 26 goals, the best mark in the East, which has helped soften the hurt stemming from their relatively anemic offensive game. If Altidore can help the scoring and provide his normal work rate in defense, Toronto is going to be a very tough out come playoff time.
However, things could go south just as easily for TFC, and if history is any indication, that’s what fans can expect. Altidore has been injury prone his entire career, so losing him after a bright patch this season would likely come as no surprise. While Giovinco has once again provided a torrid pace in this regular season, he disappeared last year in the playoff game against Montreal, and could very well do so again. Realistically, any number of things could go wrong.
Barring any of those catastrophic events, Toronto should be a very dangerous team come playoff time.