Having a record-setting season and winning a championship is something to be proud of and will always be remembered, but unfortunately for Toronto FC, a season that was full of expectations will be a year to forget.
The MLS was on high alert at the beginning of the 2018 season. With TFC going on a run in the CONCACAF Champions League and looking just as in form than their record-setting year, things looked promising.
The Reds have their final say on 2018. Full reaction ????
— Toronto FC (@torontofc) October 29, 2018
However, the first game of their season was a mess, and little did we know that is how the remainder of the year would go.
It also doesn’t take a genius to figure out what went wrong this season; which was just about everything.
For successful teams, it begins with a goalkeeper, someone at the back who can see the play, understand what is happening and most importantly be confident and keep the ball out of the back of the net. Toronto has two very capable and good keepers in Alex Bono and Clint Irwin, but they did not have good seasons.
Stepping just in front of the keepers is the backline, who no doubt was the weakest part of the roster. All year long different formations were attempted but none of them worked. Their best midfielder and captain, Michael Bradley was even forced to slot into the defensive line which would hurt the team even more because of the hole it left in the midfield.
The biggest disappointment was Gregory van der Wiel. The Dutch right-back joined TFC in the offseason and looked as if he would really be a big help. He didn’t have the season Toronto expected of him, but to cut him some slack he didn’t have much help on the back end from his teammates.
The midfield was probably one of the more promising parts to this roster; when Bradley wasn’t forced to play defense. Every game Bradley led his team out onto the field and was the anchor to the team. Along with Bradley was Toronto’s own Jonathan Osorio, who had the best season of his young career and was rewarded for it with a contract extension.
Up front, you will find one of the best forwards the league has ever seen in Sebastian Giovinco. After an enormous 2017, he wouldn’t find the same success this season. He struggled out of the gate and injuries didn’t help. His offensive partner Jozy Altidore struggled with injuries all season long and with him, not in the lineup it really hurt Giovinco. Nobody else on Toronto’s roster was really good enough to slide into the lineup and help him up front.
NEWS: Janson, Giovinco named to #MLS Team of the Week
— Toronto FC (@torontofc) October 29, 2018
That was until the team went out and signed Lucas Janson before the transfer window closed. Janson would immediately find chemistry with Giovinco, and gained praise from his teammates for just knowing the game of soccer.
The team also went through some struggles as the season went on. Bradley turned to the media to call out everyone in the organization saying that nobody was prepared for this season or knew what it was going to take to win it all again.
Along with mentally and physically struggling to have what it took to win, injuries and fatigue also played a major factor. Right from the beginning injuries hurt Toronto. Altidore found himself out for an extended period of time, Giovinco was hurt, and a big piece of their midfield in Victor Vazquez struggled with injuries all year long. That is only three of the team’s many injuries they fought off all year long.
There is a consequence for being champions and that is playing more games. For TFC they went to the finals of the CONCACAF Champions League which took place right at the start of the season, they played in the Campeones Cup, along with taking part in the Canadian Championship which they would win this year cementing their place in the CONCACAF Champions League again. There is no doubt the team struggled with fatigue at the beginning of the year and they fell behind in the standings because of it.
There are question marks when it comes to what will happen next for Toronto. It will be a long offseason, but no doubt one of getting healthy and figuring out how to bounce back.
I wouldn’t expect many changes to the roster or the front office. It was a down year and I would expect people to be given another shot at making things right. Something to keep an eye on however would be Giovinco’s contract situation. He has one year remaining on his deal and has expressed interest in returning to Toronto.
He will be 32-years-old come the start of the 2019 season and with him being the centerpiece to Toronto FC’s attack I would expect the organization will try to keep him around.
Someone who Toronto may lose would be Altidore. He has gained a lot of interest from teams all over Europe because of his size and ability to score big goals. Toronto has admitted that they aren’t looking to sell at the moment, but everyone has a price tag.
The team will no doubt target ways to get better defensively and I believe that is the main focus of this offseason. If the team is able to straighten out the problems on the back end then I would expect Toronto to bounce back and compete again next year.
At this very moment if I had to make a prediction about next year: Toronto will return to being a scary team to play and will make the playoffs.