The tenth season in Toronto FC history will certainly not be one that fans and supporters will forget anytime soon. The Reds became the first Canadian side to reach the MLS Cup final in thrilling fashion with one of the most potent attacks in recent memory.
Toronto FC 2016 Season Review
The campaign may have ended in frustration with Seattle’s MLS Cup victory, but 2016 was certainly a success for Toronto.
Head coach Greg Vanney and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko did a fine job of bringing in talented players to add to their already star-studded roster.
Defensive reinforcements were brought in with Drew Moor, Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper Clint Irwin. Canadian international Will Johnson and first-round MLS Superdraft pick Tsubasa Endoh brought excellent depth to the midfield.
An inconsistent start to the campaign set up a summer to remember at revamped BMO Field. Toronto captured their fifth Voyageurs Cup in a dramatic final against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Their league form became nearly unstoppable as well.
A seven-match unbeaten run through July and August featured six wins and incredible performances from 2015 MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco. Toronto finished the regular season with only two losses in their last 15 games.
The 2016 MLS Cup playoffs saw dominant performances against the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC. Against the Montreal Impact, the Reds advanced in one of the most thrilling and entertaining post-season clashes in league history on their way to the final against Seattle.
What went right
Toronto’s attack came on at just the right time late in the MLS season and powered the team towards the championship match. US international Jozy Altidore turned in an outstanding performance in the playoffs, scoring five goals in the first five matches.
Michael Bradley organized and controlled the midfield well, helping to cover space in front of the backline and spring movements towards goal effectively. Despite injuries forcing him out of action during the regular season, Giovinco again led the club in scoring with 17 goals.
The addition of Canadian striker Tosaint Ricketts over the summer paid immediate dividends. Ricketts provided excellent depth at the top of the line-up and he built a strong rapport with Altidore.
Their Canadian Championship triumph brings back CONCACAF Champions League qualification for the 2017-18 tournament.
Off the field, Toronto’s supporters and fans were a constant positive. The team’s average attendance was over 26,000 for the regular season and well north of 30,000 during the post-season.
What went wrong
Toronto played well in the MLS Cup final, controlling possession and putting constant pressure on the Seattle defense. If not for the heroics of Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the outcome of the encounter could have been quite different.
When presented with these critical opportunities, the Reds must be able to effectively put away matches.
Injuries took their toll throughout the year, with Altidore and Giovinco missing action. While it did not affect their title run, missing out on the top two seeds in the conference could have presented potential issues. Giovinco especially struggled during the playoffs and was subbed off in both the Eastern Conference finals and the MLS Cup final.
A strong defense in the regular season almost cost the squad in the conference finals against Montreal, requiring a 7-5 aggregate victory.
Toronto will want to focus on depth in the midfield and defense, while bringing back the key pieces of the attack that helped carry them to the MLS Cup final.
Goalkeeper Clint Irwin was selected by Atlanta United FC in Tuesday’s MLS Expansion Draft, but was quickly traded back to Toronto in exchange for defender Mark Bloom and allocation money.
A busy 2017 campaign is ahead, with the Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League taking place during MLS commitments. Quality moves at all ends of the roster will be essential when the schedule becomes congested during the summer and autumn months.
Tim Bezbatchenko has proven to be a capable general manager in constructing a strong squad for Toronto FC. Now, his mission will be to find the final pieces to the championship puzzle in order to bring the franchise its first MLS Cup in 2017.