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Assessing the Toronto FC Roster for 2021

| April 9, 2021 10:58 am PDT

You would think that Toronto supporters would be happy heading into the new MLS season with guys like Alejandro Pozuelo (2020 MVP) and Jozy Altidore (100+ USMNT caps) on the books.

But a distinct lack of offseason business at BMO Field means there are question marks over the Toronto FC roster for 2021.

Having released Pablo Piatti at the end of last season, the Reds are running out of time to fill their third and final DP spot. All the while, Chris Armas needs to figure out his best starting XI, with a host of young stars vying for a place in the new head coach’s team.

In this post, I break down the 2021 Toronto FC roster and analyze the club’s offseason transfers. I also look at three potential Designated Player targets for the Ontario outfit before giving my final assessment of the TFC roster in 2021.

Toronto FC Roster in 2021

Well, let’s get right into it. Here is the Toronto FC roster for the 2021 MLS season.

GoalKeepers Defenders Midfielders Forwards
Quentin Westberg Chris Mavinga Liam Fraser Jayden Nelson
Alex Bono Omar Gonzalez Ralph Priso Jacob Shaffelburg
Kevin Silva Eriq Zavaleta Noble Okello Ifunanyachi Achara
Julian Dunn Jonathan Osorio Erickson Gallardo
Justin Morrow Marky Delgado Tsubasa Endoh
Richie Laryea Michael Bradley (C) Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty
Auro Jr. Nick DeLeon Griffin Dorsey
Matt Di Rosa Nathan Crofts
Alejandro Pozuelo (DP) Ayo Akinola
Jozy Altidore (DP)
Patrick Mullins
Jordan Perruzza

Will TFC Have a New First-Choice GK in 2021?

Quentin Westberg has been Toronto’s number-one gloveman for the past two seasons, with Alex Bono waiting in the wings. But it feels as though Bono could become TFC’s first-choice goalkeeper this year.

The 26-year-old was given a few opportunities last season, before an injury prevented him from nailing down a place in the team. However, Armas selected Bono for a recent CONCACAF Champions League game, so the new head coach obviously trusts him.

With youngster Kevin Silva as a decent backup option, it will be interesting to see what Armas decides to do as the season progresses.

Does Toronto Have Enough Defenders?

The Reds’ first-choice backline pretty much selects itself. Omar Gonzalez and Eriq Zavaleta form a formidable center-back paring, while Justin Morrow and Richie Laryea are likely to occupy the full-back roles, with Auro Jr. pushing for a start.

But it is fair to say that Armas doesn’t have a wealth of defensive options.

We all know that Chris Mavinga is a solid center-back, while Julian Dunn is an exciting future prospect. But other than that, TFC’s defensive options are limited.

Do not be surprised if Toronto dips into the transfer market and acquires one or two defenders before the deadline.

The Reds Boast a Reliable Midfield

It is no secret that Alejandro Pozuelo is the headline act in Toronto’s midfield (and the 2021 Toronto FC roster, for that matter). I mean, the gifted Spaniard bagged nine goals and nine assists en route to clinching the Landon Donovan MVP Award last year.

While Pozuelo brings creativity and flair, guys like Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, and Michael Bradley add grit and dynamism to the TFC midfield.

Elsewhere, Liam Fraser and Ralph Priso are among the best young Canadian soccer players in 2021. Right-sided operator Nick DeLeon also offers a different dimension, adding width to the Reds’ midfield.

In term of top-quality midfield options, the 2021 Toronto FC depth chart is stacked.

Too Many Wingers, Not Enough Strikers?

With 12 recognized forwards in their ranks, the Reds aren’t short of attacking options. But given that Toronto has eight wingers and only four strikers in the squad, there is a clear imbalance in the forward department.

I expect young wingers like Jayden Nelson and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty to be given game time this year, while Erickson Gallardo and Tsubasa Endoh are also likely to play important roles. However, Armas simply won’t be able to accommodate everyone.

Having become one of the most expensive outgoing transfers in MLS history, Jozy Altidore returned in 2015 and is now one of the most dangerous strikers in the league.

Ayo Akinola netted nine goals in 16 appearances last season, so I’m excited to see him develop this year. In fact, he is among my 10 young MLS players to watch in 2021.

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Toronto FC’s Offseason Transfers

Much to the dismay of the TFC faithful, the Reds have been extremely quiet during the offseason. Many believe that a lack of transfer activity could come back to haunt Toronto as the 2021 MLS campaign unfolds.

Incoming Players

  • Matt Di Rosa – Maryland (Draft)
  • Nathan Crofts – Virginia Cavs (Draft)

Armas will no doubt be frustrated that he has yet to stamp his mark on the Toronto FC roster in 2021. Apart from a couple of MLS SuperDraft acquisitions, the new head coach hasn’t been able to sign any new players since arriving at the club.

In fairness, Matt Di Rosa could prove to be a shrewd pick. The youngster is likely to be pushing for game time in TFC’s midfield this year, along with English winger Nathan Crofts.

The Reds haven’t been afraid to splash the cash over the years, but they certainly aren’t among Major League Soccer’s big spenders this year.

Below, I share my thoughts on who Toronto could sign before the transfer window slams shut on May 4, with one DP spot still available.

Outgoing Players

  • Rocco Romeo – HB Koge (Loan)
  • Pablo Piatti – Released
  • Laurent Ciman – Retired

Laurent Ciman’s retirement has left the 2021 Toronto FC roster light in defense, there is no denying that. The ex-Belgium international was a key figure for TFC, but he now represents CF Montreal as an assistant coach.

Having chalked up four goals and four assists in 17 league games last season, Pablo Piatti was released at the end of the previous campaign. The Reds decided not to exercise their 2021 option on the Argentine’s DP contract, which understandably angered a section of supporters.

Meanwhile, young center-back Rocco Romeo will spend the season on loan at Danish side HB Koge.

3 Potential Designated Player Targets for TFC

We all know that Toronto has enjoyed huge success in the DP market over the years. In Sebastian Giovinco, TFC possessed one of the best overseas players in MLS history, while Altidore and Pozuelo have shone in recent times.

If the Reds are going to fill their vacant Designated Player berth before the transfer window closes, here are three players that I believe they should consider.

Haris Seferovic – Benfica

I have already touched on Toronto’s lack of striker options – and Seferovic could solve that problem. The Switzerland international has been in and out of Benfica’s starting XI this season and would add goalscoring experience to the 2021 TFC roster.

Jonathan Rodriguez – Cruz Azul

The Reds are no strangers to a South American signing, so acquiring Jonathan Rodriguez would make sense. Operating mainly as a forward, the Uruguayan has bagged 19 goals and five assists in 31 appearances this term, adding to his tally of 17 goals and two assists last season.

Mamadou Sakho – Crystal Palace

Mamadou Sakho’s Crystal Palace contract expires this year, meaning the center-back would be available on a free transfer. He would likely demand hefty wages, but the former PSG and Liverpool man would enhance Armas’ defensive options.

Final Assessment of the 2021 Toronto FC Roster

Do not get me wrong – the 2021 TFC roster is packed with quality. Armas has a nice blend of exciting youngsters and experienced campaigners at his disposal, although it is difficult to predict how the new head coach will fare this year.

Armas is one of several new MLS head coaches in 2021, so it will naturally take him some time adapt to his new role.

Boasting players such as Pozuelo, Osorio, and Fraser, Toronto’s midfield is among the best in Major League Soccer. Still, I am slightly concerned about the club’s defensive and attacking options.

In defense, there is a clear lack of depth, especially in the full-back areas. At the other end of the pitch, it feels like there are way too many wingers.

When it comes to assessing the Canadian MLS teams in 2021, the Reds are undoubtedly the strongest of the three. But if they fail to address their DP issue, they could find themselves falling down the pecking order.

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Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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