Preview: Shorthanded Reds set for San Jose showdown

Mar 24, 2023 - 10:20 PM
Matt Hedges during the match against Columbus Crew at BMO Field on March 11, 2023. | Sean Pollock/Waking The Red

Toronto FC will face their first Western Conference opponent of the season this Saturday when they pay a visit to the San Jose Earthquakes. Coming off of last week’s 2-0 victory over Inter Miami at home, Toronto will now look to win on the road for the first time in 2023. The contest in California will put team depth to the test though, with a number of key players unavailable due to international duty and injuries.

Last weekend’s result at BMO Field was a cathartic one for a squad that was looking for its first win in 10 games. The Reds followed up a disappointing home opener with a comfortable display over the South Beach side, giving supporters a first glimpse of what should be a club ready to contend again. TFC defended with confidence and won the midfield battle. Going forward, Federico Bernardeschi and Richie Laryea were influential down the right flank, each assisting a goal in the second half.

Now though, a FIFA international window will throw a wrench in Toronto’s plans for a first winning streak of the season. TFC will have five players on international duty during their trip to the Bay Area; El Salvadorian backup keeper Tomas Romero, and Canada men’s national team players Laryea, Mark-Anthony Kaye, Ayo Akinola and Jonathan Osorio.

Osorio, who scored the winner in the 2-0 triumph over Inter Miami, was asked about his thoughts on the international breaks which overlap with Major League Soccer fixtures after last weekend’s match.

“It’s tough for us. Obviously we want to be here for every game for our club, but then again we also want to play every game for our country as well,” Osorio said during the postgame press conference.

“In Europe they find a way to have an international break and over here I feel like they have to do the same because in a league that’s growing you’re going to have more and more internationals.”

 Sean Pollock/Waking The Red
Jonathan Osorio scored the winner in TFC’s last match, a 2-0 win over Inter Miami at BMO Field. He and four teammates will miss Toronto’s next match while on international duty.

Cristian Gutierrez, Lorenzo Insigne and Adama Diomande will also be unavailable for the fixture at PayPal Park. After being claimed off of waivers Gutierrez is yet to appear for his new club as he deals with an illness. Attackers Insigne and Diomande are still recovering from their respective lower body injuries.

With a number of important figures missing for Saturday's contest, head coach Bob Bradley has some decisions to make with regard to who will get the nod in the starting lineup. Given Laryea’s absence, one of Kobe Franklin, Kosi Thompson or Jahkeele Marhsall-Rutty will likely be handed their first start of the season on the right side of defence.

Further up the pitch, Victor Vazquez could make his first start for TFC since October 2018. The Spanish playmaker could play on the left wing or as a central attacking midfielder. One of Deandre Kerr or Hugo Mbongue will likely feature up top in Bradley’s favoured 4-3-3.

 Sean Pollock/Waking The Red
Deandre Kerr scored in TFC’s last match against San Jose, a 2-2 draw at BMO Field in July 2022.

Bradley has also called on some reinforcements from Toronto FC II. Midfielders Alonso Coello Camarero and Markus Cimermancic have both signed short-term loan agreements with the first team.

San Jose will be without a couple of key players themselves on Saturday night. The Earthquakes have lost left-back Miguel Trauco and midfielder Jamiro Monteiro to the international break. Canadian midfielder Michael Baldisimo could be in the running for his first Earthquakes start in the place of Monteiro. The former Whitecaps man has featured twice off the bench so far this season.

Like Bradley, San Jose head coach Luchi Gonzalez has also had to figure out how to deal with early season injury woes, having already lost two starters to injury in goalkeeper Daniel, and defender Nathan. Last year’s starting goalie JT Marcinkowski has returned between the sticks in Daniel’s place, while February arrival Jonathan Mensah has started the opening four matches next to Rodrigues in central defence.

After two wins against the Whitecaps and Rapids, the Quakes came back to earth in their last match, a 3-0 loss to MLS newcomers St. Louis CITY. Like TFC, San Jose has a poor track record of keeping the ball out of their net. Only D.C. United shipped more goals than the Quakes in 2022. With that being said, things have been a lot more promising in the attack.

The California club scored a respectable 52 goals last season, spearheaded by the deadly attacking duo of Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristian Espinoza. Ebobisse scored in the last meeting between these two sides, a 2-2 draw at BMO Field in July 2022. San Jose’s striker already has himself two goals to start the 2023 season, and the Cameroonian will be hoping to get back in the goals after his team was shutout in their last match.

Predicted Lineups

San Jose Earthquakes: Marcinkowski; Marie, Rodrigues, Mensah, Akapo; Baldisimo, Gruezo, Yueill; Cowell, Ebobisse, Espinoza

Toronto FC: Johnson; Petretta, Rosted, Hedges, Franklin; Servania, Bradley, Thompson; Vazquez, Kerr, Bernardeschi

Game Notes

  • TFC hasn’t won in San Jose since 2010, the Reds are (0-2-3) in their last five visits
  • TFC hasn’t been shutout by San Jose since 2012, finding the back of the net in nine-straight meetings

Match Details

Opponent: San Jose Earthquakes

Kickoff time: 10:30 pm ET

Watch: MLS Season Pass, TSN

Stadium: PayPal Park, San Jose, Calif.

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