Fi­nal stage of pre-sea­son

Toronto FC leaves snow for warmth of Florida

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY NEIL DAVID­SON

Toronto FC leaves the snow for the warmth of Florida to­day, kick­ing off the most im­por­tant part of its train­ing camp.

While the first part of pre­sea­son — in Cal­i­for­nia and Toronto — was about fit­ness and strat­egy, the Or­lando por­tion is about putting it all in prac­tice against qual­ity op­po­si­tion.

Florida is also a time to rekin­dle re­la­tion­ships. Cap­tain Michael Bradley and Jozy Alti­dore have missed most of camp so far due to U.S. na­tional du­ties and have been less than 100 per cent since their re­turn — Bradley with a virus and Alti­dore with a knee in­flam­ma­tion.

Star striker Se­bas­tian Giovinco, mean­while, has seem limited ac­tion in Toronto as the team looked to re­duce his time on ar­ti­fi­cial turf.

It has been a quiet pre-sea­son to date. The MLS Cup run­ner­sup have done lit­tle other than sign French-born Con­golese de­fender Chris Mavinga and re­ward goal­keeper Clint Ir­win, mid­fielder Benoit Chey­rou and for­ward To­saint Rick­etts with new con­tracts. De­fender Bran­don Aubrey and four oth­ers were taken in the Jan­uary draft.

Van­ney is tak­ing 30 play­ers to Or­lando with matches against Mi­ami FC (NASL), Or­lando City, Min­nesota United and the Chicago Fire. That in­cludes all 11 starters from the MLS Cup fi­nal, which ended in a penalty shootout loss to Seat­tle.

Toronto cur­rently has 23 play­ers signed with four more on trial: de­fend­ers Cle­ment Si­monin (whose pre­vi­ous time with TFC was dis­rupted by in­jury), Jor­dan McCrary and Jo­han Bruneel, and for­ward Aikim An­drews. The team will likely go with 27 or 28 play­ers dur­ing the sea­son with one loaned to Toronto FC 2 for the USL sea­son.

While GM Tim Bez­batchenko has talked of adding an at­tack­ing mid­fielder, he seems in no hurry. A wish list of three dropped to two re­cently and Bez­batchenko seems con­tent to wait un­til he gets the right man.

Part of the rea­son is that mid­field op­por­tu­ni­ties are limited in the 3-5-2 for­ma­tion, some­thing that no doubt fac­tored into the team al­low­ing vet­eran Will John­son to leave for Or­lando. Bradley, Ar­mando Cooper and Jonathan Os­o­rio are joined by Chey­rou, Jay Chap­man, Marky Del­gado and Ser­gio Ca­margo.

Van­ney needs depth in de­fence af­ter los­ing Josh Wil­liams (Colum­bus) and Mark Bloom (At­lanta) in the off-sea­son. He has Drew Moor, Nick Hag­glund, Eriq Zavaleta, Mavinga and Aubrey at cen­tre back with Justin Mor­row and Steven Beitashour as the re­turn­ing wing­backs.

Sup­port is needed at wing­back, where Ash­tone Mor­gan is the only spe­cial­ized re­serve. Winger Tsub­asa En­doh, nurs­ing a calf con­tu­sion, is cur­rently pen­cilled in as the re­serve right wing­back but would seem a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion at best.

Giovinco, Alti­dore, Rick­etts, Jor­dan Hamil­ton and Mo Babouli form the strike force. Alex Bono is Ir­win’s backup in goal.

Toronto has three in­ter­na­tional spots to spare, leav­ing room for Si­monin (France) and/or Bruneel (Finland) if so de­sired. The team is likely to keep one in­ter­na­tional spot open in case it gets the mid­fielder it is look­ing for.

Among younger play­ers vy­ing for se­nior ros­ter spots are speedy winger Ra­heem Ed­wards. Mid­fielder Liam Fraser has also im­pressed.

Toronto is slated to re­turn from Florida on Feb. 26. The reg­u­lar sea­son opens March 4.

CP PHOTO

Toronto FC head coach Greg Van­ney walks to the field dur­ing prac­tice ahead of the MLS cham­pi­onship fi­nal match against the Seat­tle Sounders in Toronto in De­cem­ber 2016. Toronto FC leaves the snow for the warmth of Florida on Mon­day, kick­ing off the most im­por­tant part of its train­ing camp.

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