Stars pulling the strings for high-flying Toronto FC

Why the Reds are in position for a special season.

Toronto FC and manager Greg Vanney kept their position at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference with a comprehensive 2-0 victory over D.C. United on Saturday. For the first time in months, the Reds were able to rely on the talents of their marquee players.

Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley all started for Toronto, and made the evening extremely difficult for a visiting United side.

Former league MVP Giovinco has been struggling with injuries as of late, but put in a fine performance leading to three points on the night. The Italian international assisted both goals for Toronto.

After appearing in their first-ever MLS Cup final in 2016, Vanney’s side look ready to push for a league title once again. The Reds currently lead the MLS Supporters’ Shield race as well, with 32 points from 16 games.

A deep squad

Injury issues and international duty have kept Toronto from fielding a full-strength lineup in recent times, but the club are now set to continue positive results with all of their designated players set to compete together.

The various mechanisms that are utilized in Major League Soccer for player acquisitions can make the building of a deep roster a tough task. Academy signings, the college draft and the salary cap all contribute to a sometimes confusing process.

But Toronto and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko have found creative and smart ways to construct a side ready to be successful across all competitions. Players like Justin Morrow, Drew Moor, Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts combine with the team’s star quality to create a solid squad.

A possible “double” in 2017

The unpredictable nature of the MLS Cup Playoffs can make achieving a league and Supporters’ Shield double a rare feat, with the achievement only taking place six times (the last by the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2011). But Toronto FC have a special opportunity to change that trend in the current campaign.

Attacking talent like Giovinco and Altidore put pressure on the opposing defense, while a strong backline and goalkeeping play can keep any match in front of them.

After years of teams like LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders helping to see the Western Conference dominate MLS, Toronto and the Chicago Fire have now put the Eastern Conference out in front at the season’s midway point.

Toronto FC were a penalty shootout away from becoming the first Canadian team to win MLS Cup last year. In 2017, their sights are set on even greater accomplishments.