Toronto FC will be without its field general Michael Bradley for the next few weeks as the club prepares for battle in the final two “All-Canadian” matches.
The Reds will fly into Vancouver to face the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday night (9:30 pm ET) and complete Phase One of the MLS schedule next Wednesday in Montreal.
Bradley was taken down hard by Montreal’s Emanuel Maciel near the end of last Tuesday’s match — at 1-0 Impact win at BMO Field — which resulted in the veteran TFC midfielder suffering a grade 2 MCL strain (right knee).
“Timeline-wise it’s weeks, it’s not months,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney.
Following the tackle, referee Drew Fischer gave Maciel a red card. But after a VAR check, that was downgraded to a yellow card. Two days later, Vanney was clearly not impressed with the tackle or the ruling.
“I believe the indication from the referee was that he looked (at the replay) and it wasn’t a studs-up scenario, so therefore he felt like it should be turned into a yellow instead of a red,” said Vanney. “(But it’s) still a dangerous tackle. You can still break somebody’s leg if you go into them shin-high with your knee or other parts. (Fisher’s) putting one small piece of the rule into making that judgement. Studs-up is one way you can get a red card, but it’s not the only way you can get a red card.”
Expect 22-year-old Toronto native Liam Fraser to log more minutes with Bradley out.
The Reds will also likely also be without left back Richie Laryea (ankle sprain) on Saturday against the ‘Caps and forward Patrick Mullins is definitely out (hamstring strain).
“Richie is doing better,” said Vanney. “He’s progressing, he’s able to do a lot of things (in training). He’s getting closer.”
The winner of the Phase One schedule between TFC, Montreal and Vancouver qualify for the Canadian championship final against the Canadian Premier League champion with the winner of that series being awarded the Voyageurs Cup and a berth in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League. The Reds are in the driver’s seat with two games left. They have nine points, while Montreal has six and Vancouver none. Both those squads have three games remaining.
The Reds sit in second place in the regular season MLS Eastern Conference standings with 18 points, two behind the Columbus Crew. The loss Montreal on Tuesday snapped a seven-game home win streak going back to last season. TFC also saw its 18 game unbeaten streak end, one short of tying the MLS record – 19 set by Columbus (2004-05) and Dallas (2010).
NO MORE CUTE PKS
Vanney addressed the penalty kick controversy that arouse in Tuesday’s match. TFC star Alejandro Pozuelo, who is generally lights-out on PK’s, took a PK late in the first half and tapped the ball over to Pablo Piatti instead of taking the shot on his own. Piatti left-footed the ball into the goal, but the goal was disallowed, the ref ruling that there was “encroachment” on the play. Vanney wasn’t thrilled with the PK scheme Pozuelo and Piatti cooked up.
“It won’t happen again,” he told reporters on Thursday. “We talked about it, they talked about it with the group. It’s been addressed. Everybody’s fine, we move forward, it’s in the past. That was one piece of the game, we missed a number of other chances in the game that we’ve got to be a little more clinical with. And we gave up a goal that we’ve got to deal with better.”
Once Phase One of the MLS schedule ends, the league will unveil its plan as to how the three Canadian teams — facing border restrictions — play the rest of the regular season. There’s been speculation that the Canadian teams may have to relocate in the U.S. in order to play out their home game schedule — as the Blue Jays did by relocating to Buffalo. Vanney said he has seen some dates for the resumption of the schedule, but added that nothing is set in stone.
“Locations I think are getting closer to being finalized in terms of where we will play the games,” he said. “(But) I’ll leave that up to Ali (Curtis) and Bill (Manning). And as it relates to whether we are going to be able to fly in and out or have to relocate, I still don’t have an answer on that.”
The Reds can expect to see a desperate Whitecaps club on Saturday night, having failed to record a single point in Phase One games against TFC and Montreal, though Vanney doesn’t expect TFC’s west coast cousins to change anything dramatically. He said the Whitecaps are still working on their style of play and the vision for their group.
“I don’t think that they’ll play this game just trying to get a result for the sake of the Canadian championship. I think (‘Caps coach Marc Dos Santos) is trying to build something longer-term and understands that the vision of what they’re trying to do it probably bigger and more important than just one game, or a Canadian championship,” said Vanney. “You have to establish that culture before you win anything.”
One thing TFC fans could see on Saturday is Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola in the starting XI.
“I definitely think it’s something that we will look at more as we continue forward. Jozy is not for me just the typical No.9, even though he’s big and strong and can finish,” said Vanney.
“He can also drop in at times off the front line (and) he’s a very good passer. It gives Ayo the ability to be high and run through the lines and create space with his speed and his power and strength that he has getting behind the back line. I think they can be a nightmare for centre backs, having to deal with two strong guys like that.”