2018 MLS Fantasy Toronto FC Preview
(Originally published on MLS Fantasy Boss on January 29, 2018)
Feb 5, 2018 – TFC sign Greg van der Wiel
Feb 13, 2018 – TFC sign Auro Alvaro da Cruz Junior on loan
Scroll to the end for detail on these updates.
2017 TORONTO FC REVIEW
What more can you ask? Toronto FC earned the most points ever in an MLS season and were treble winners of MLS Cup, Supporters Shield and Voyageurs Cup. 2012’s “Worst Team In The World” was a distant memory. Club and supporters alike had the time of their lives being crowned “BEST TEAM EVER”.
Even the most successful clubs make changes.
Outgoing are midfielder Benoit Cheyrou (coaching at TFC Academy), forward Raheem Edwards (Montreal Impact) and right back Steven Beitashour (Los Angeles FC). Beitashour was the only starter lost, but his performance was often matched by right back Nicolas Hasler. Did you know Hasler plays up top for Liechtenstein? Pause for Google Search… OK, let’s proceed. If an affordable Hasler claims that starting spot, he should be on your Fantasy watch list.
Incoming, Toronto’s draft picks (right back Tim Kubel, goalkeeper Drew Shepherd, center back Andre Morrison and left/right back Ben White) are likely to feature solely for TFCII. However, forward Ayo Akinola and midfielder Liam Fraser are homegrown signings from TFC Academy who will look to earn first team minutes. Fraser is a player in the mold of Michael Bradley, and they’ve already been working closely together in preseason.
Despite some Twitter posts clouding the issue, center back Chris Mavinga says he is happy in Toronto. Center back Jason Hernandez is out of contract and in talks with the club. Midfielder Tsubasa Endoh, forward Ben Spencer, goalkeeper Mark Pais, defender Brandon Aubrey and midfielder Sergio Camargo all had their options declined. Spencer has signed a new contract. Ehdoh will take part in preseason, hoping for a new deal of his own.
It’s not a rumor that General Manager Tim Bezbachenko is always busy. International transfers look to be his target. Here is the latest at the time of posting – but watch this article for updates as the season nears.
Despite Hasler looking like a capable starter, TFC is reportedly quite interested in veteran Dutch right back Gregory van der Wiel (Cagliari, Fenerbahce, PSG, Ajax). His pedigree and experience could easily push Hasler out of the starting lineup.
There is also talk of interest in young midfielder Alexis Mac Allister (Argentinos Juniors). This is said to be timed for summer 2018. As a fall back, the club may also have an interest in a Chilean player.
Bezbachenko has said TFC are looking for “one additional piece on forward”. To that end, they are said to be in the mix with other MLS clubs regarding young USMNT forward Rubio Rubin (FC Utrecht). There is a real lack of detail on this rumor, especially compared to the growing buzz around Van der Wiel.
Finally, there was brief talk of TFC’s interest in Argentine CB Germán Conti (Colón), though that quieted quickly.
Whatever happens, it seems Tim Bezbachenko is eager to make the most of the money the reigning champions have. Watch this space for updates!
EXPECTED STARTING XI
With Hasler (or a more experienced player) replacing Beitashour in coach Greg Vanney’s preferred 3-5-2 formation, the club should continue as before.
Vanney has praised the team’s flexibility however, especially in the wake of their dominant MLS Cup Final performance, starring “Greatest American Hero” Michael Bradley at center back.
If Van der Wiel does join the club, their ability to adapt and switch to a 4-4-2 becomes more apparent. Van der Wiel been described as having pace on the right side, but just as often as a traditional right back. Indeed, Bezbachenko has said TFC are looking for someone who can offer “a little bit of a different look and variation to our group.”
TFC plays attack-minded football in front of a stable core at the back, with captain Michael Bradley able to support both ahead and behind his post. On occasion, the club may vary their dynamic by swapping Marky Delgado for Jonathan Osorio. Hasler and Justin Morrow should continue to join the attack. Goalkeeper Alex Bono impressed in his starting role last year. He now brings invaluable experience from last year’s long playoff run.
Toronto’s stability should give Fantasy managers confidence. In just his second MLS season, Víctor Vázquez could be one of the most consistent players in MLS. Frequent corner kicks and occasional penalty attempts give him a high ceiling for points. Patience in Jozy Altidore was rewarded with a fantastic 2017, so TFC supporters and Fantasy owners alike will be eager to back him for more goals.
Left back Justin Morrow was top of a small class last season, in terms of MLS defenders earning attacking points. Nick Hagglund missed part of last year through injury, but will return and compete with Eriq Zavaleta at center back. Both Hagglund and fellow center back Drew Moor are goal threats from headers, as well as bonus point earners from their strong defensive efforts.
Reliable late-game substitutes and occasional starters like forward Tosaint Ricketts can offer a valuable differential. In fact, with all the proven commodities on the field, if TFC does inject another high quality starter like Van der Wiel, that player would immediately become a big differential and at the same time a very logical Fantasy selection.
The reigning MLS Cup Champions will be expected to lead the league from the outset. They have an experienced and stable lineup that knows how to win.
This year Toronto FC will also pursue the CONCACAF Champions League trophy. That that means extra games and travel that the club will have to manage carefully. The club’s deep talent and Tim Bezbatchenko’s wise spending may net them the upgrades that could add to the trophy case both inside and outside MLS.
CLOSING FANTASY THOUGHTS
Hang on… did I fail to mention THE BEST PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE on the BEST TEAM EVER?
Sebastian Giovinco was often priced too high for his Fantasy output in 2017. His forward partner Jozy Altidore is priced lower and also capable of big numbers. If you play Fantasy Premier League, you’ll understand this analogy – Sebastian Giovinco is to FMLS as Harry Kane is to FPL. You’ll want Seba when he scores big. You’ll benefit from spending your budget elsewhere if you can predict when he might blank. Fortunately, the weekly unlimited transfers in MLS Fantasy allow you to take those chances.
Toronto FC offers a host of of potent Fantasy players at a range of prices. Look to Víctor Vázquez for consistency. Go with Justin Morrow and Nicolas Hasler (unless he is replaced) for attacking points plus clean sheets. Pick Alex Bono for saves and clean sheets. Choose Sebastian Giovinco for set play and penalty kicks goals. Finally, select Jozy Altidore for brute-force attack and mic-dropping victory speeches… baby!
Feb 5, 2018 – Following an initial stint in Los Angeles, TFC were briefly home in Toronto. Before departing for a round in Mexico, the club officially unveiled Greg Van der Wiel to the press.
Coach Greg Vanney had this to say about his new right-sided player: “He can play as a wingback, in a back five... and get up and down the line and use his qualities in attack. He can play in a back four. I don’t know if he’d love it, but he can probably play in a back three if we needed to cover there. He adds a whole other level of soccer sophistication on our right side. He can step inside into midfield positions. He can handle any of those roles.”
As suggested earlier, it seems flexibility will indeed be an important theme, and a key tactic, this season.
Feb 13, 2018 – Known simply as Auro, young Brazilian right back / midfielder Auro Alvaro da Cruz Junior (São Paulo FC) has joined TFC on loan. Perhaps a surprising move, since Van der Wiel was acquired for that same position.
There is talk that Hasler might shift to a midfield role, and Auro would serve as depth for both Van der Wiel and Morrow. In fact, Tim Bezbatchenko claims that Auro can play "both on the left and right side”.
For now, look at this signing as even more flexibility in what the club expects to be a long season.