Finding minutes for his midfielders will be one of Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney’s major challenges this season.
Vanney’s preferred formation is 3-5-2/5-3-2 with fullbacks Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour flanking a three-man backline.
Captain Michael Bradley is the anchor in midfield, looking to break down attacks and connect the TFC dots. That leaves two midfield spots with newly acquired Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, once he regains full fitness, likely to eat into the minutes of Armando Cooper and Jonathan Osorio.
Marky Delgado, Jay Chapman, Benoit Cheyrou, Tsubasa Endoh, Raheem Edwards and Sergio Camargo will be fighting for what opportunities are left in mdfield.
“There’s obviously a lot of competition in that spot,” said Vanney, whose team kicks off the season Saturday at Real Salt Lake. “I think right now one of my big challenges is we’ve got a young and up-and-coming group between Jay and Marky and obviously Sergio, who we added this year.
“In order for their development to continue to progress, I’ve got to find time to make sure that they’re in (the lineup). They have the ability to compete for those spots but it’s going to be a tough midfield to break into.
“If we stay healthy, it’s going to be a challenge to find enough minutes for everybody,” he added
Chapman made 18 appearances (nine starts) last season, showing vision behind the forwards, and will need a window.
The 35-year-old Cheyrou will likely continue as Bradley’s deputy and Toronto is looking outside the box to find space for others. Delgado and Endoh could provide depth at wingback. Edwards can play on the wing and at forward.
Vanney will also have to find minutes for forwards Tosaint Ricketts and Jordan Hamilton, whose road to the team sheet is blocked by the formidable presence of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, whose combined salaries were some US$12 million last season.
They’re nice problems to have. But some answers are needed to keep the squad happy and ticking over.
The Amway Canadian Championship will offer up opportunity. Vanney will also have to look to his squad to fill gaps due to international absences. Injuries will doubtless also play a part.
French-born Congolese defender Chris Mavinga’s debut will likely have to wait after missing time this week to be in France for the birth of his child. Reserve fullback Ashtone Morgan is recovering from a second bout of foot surgery.
Veteran Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta are the incumbent centre backs.
Toronto, which has yet to publicly fill out the remaining spots on the supplemental part of its roster, is short on experienced reserves in defence. Top draft pick Brandon Aubrey will be on the first-team roster after signing a pre-draft contract with the league.
Real Salt Lake finished sixth in the West last season with a 12-12-10 record.
The club’s marquee off-season signing was Slovak attacking midfielder Albert Rusnak. Forwards Joao Plata, formerly of Toronto FC, and Yura Movsisyan are the team’s other two designated players.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press