Ultimate Guide to MLS Weekend: Toronto Dealing with Long Road Trip to Start 2016

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 18, 2016

Mar 6, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; Toronto FC defender Damien Perquis (24) heads the ball away from New York Red Bulls midfielder Dax McCarty (11) during second half at Red Bull Arena.The Toronto FC defeated the New York Red Bulls 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Earning points on the road in Major League Soccer is never an easy task. For Toronto FC to remain relevant over the first three months of the season, the Reds have to do just that. 

In their first two matches of the 2016 campaign, Greg Vanney's side used three second-half goals to pick up a late victory and a come-from-behind draw in the New York City area. 

"We've started eight games on the road and we talked about giving ourselves a chance to win games," Vanney said after TFC's win over the New York Red Bulls in Week 1. "However we get results, we get results, that's all that matters." 

Mar 6, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio (21) celebrates with teammates after their 2-0 opening day victory at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto didn't appear to be headed for a positive result in the season opener at Red Bull Arena, but the improved back line held firm against pressure from the Red Bulls and allowed Sebastian Giovinco to work his magic in the final 10 minutes. 

Giovinco was isolated for most of the match, but he was able to break free in the latter stages of the Eastern Conference clash as he created a penalty, scored from the spot and assisted on his team's second tally.

The Atomic Ant was at it again in Week 2 as he provided the Reds with a goal and an assist at Yankee Stadium to help his side earn a 2-2 draw with New York City FC. 

Mar 13, 2016; New York, NY, USA;  Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) advances the ball in front of New York City FC forward Tony Taylor (99) at Yankee Stadium. Toronto tied New York City, 2-2.  Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

While Giovinco may be the name on the marquee every time Toronto visits a city, Vanney is getting solid contributions from some of the lesser-known players in the squad as well. That bodes well for the Reds during the summer when Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley are expected to miss a good chunk of time due to international duty. 

"We try to build depth into our roster," Vanney said. "That's the only thing we can do. Create over this preseason and early [in the] season and develop a system where we can kind of plug guys in and it makes sense for the vast majority of our guys."

"When we miss guys, we plug young guys in or other guys who are hungry and looking for minutes and looking to make a case for themselves and [make] a career," he continued. 

Two young players have already made an impact with Altidore out of the lineup due to a hamstring injury. First-round draft pick Tsubasa Endoh and 20-year-old Marco Delgado have shown bright spots over the first 180 minutes of action this season. 

"I thought Tsubasa has an enormous engine, and he'll work, and he'll run, and he'll track, and he's got a good education for the game in terms of his decision making and his tactical understanding of where to be and when," Vanney said following Endoh's key contributions in the second half versus the Red Bulls. 

Mar 6, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; Toronto FC midfielder Tsubasa Endoh (9) dribbles up field in front of New York Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan (16) during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

"[Marco] had a great year last year and he's ready to help us this year," Vanney said of Delgado, who netted a strike in the victory over the Red Bulls. 

The play of the young attackers as well as the effort put forth by the new-look back line has given Toronto hope of earning valuable points while the big three are off representing their respective nations. 

The next test presented to Toronto comes on Sunday, when it travels to Children's Mercy Park to play Sporting Kansas City in the final game of the weekend. The Canadians' trip to the Sunflower State is the third of eight road matches on the team's docket to begin the season before it opens its home slate on May 7 against FC Dallas at the newly-renovated BMO Field. 

The games don't get any easier after Sunday as New England, D.C., Montreal and Portland await after a visit to Colorado that all of a sudden doesn't look as easy as it did a few weeks ago since the Rapids downed the LA Galaxy at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Week 2. 

If they continue to make strides in building their depth and keep pace with the majority of their Eastern Conference rivals, the Reds must be considered a true contender when the business portion of the regular season rolls around. 

Toronto's visit to Kansas City is just one of the things to watch in Week 3. Below we'll have a look at the players and games to keep an eye on over the next three days. 

 

Week 3 Schedule

Orlando City at New York City FC (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, UniMas)

Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire (Saturday, 5 p.m, ET, MLS Live) 

Houston Dynamo at New York Red Bulls (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Montreal Impact at FC Dallas (Saturday, 9 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

Real Salt Lake at Portland Timbers (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live) 

San Jose Earthquakes at LA Galaxy (Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

New England Revolution at Philadelphia Union (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, MLS Live)

Colorado Rapids at D.C. United (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Toronto FC at Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1) 

 

Players to Watch

Cyle Larin, FW, Orlando City

An in-form Cyle Larin should wreak plenty of havoc on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.

Mar 11, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando City FC forward Cyle Larin (9) dribbles the ball during the second half of a soccer match at Orlando Citrus Bowl Stadium. The Orlando City FC and the Chicago Fire tied at 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TO
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Canada international, who has two strikes and one assist through two matches, is going up against a New York City FC defense that has let in five goals over 180 minutes. 

There are few things we are able to guarantee when it comes to weekly predictions in MLS, but one of them is Larin producing yet another standout performance for Orlando City. 

 

Lloyd Sam, RM, New York Red Bulls

The entire New York Red Bulls attack is under pressure as the defending Supporters Shield winners enter Week 3 without a goal in 2016.

Mar 6, 2016; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Lloyd Sam (10) advances the ball in his game against the Toronto FC during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Toronto FC won, 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Lloyd Sam and the rest of the front four will look to turn that shocking record around on Saturday against a Houston team facing its first true road test of the season. 

If Sam creates space between himself and DaMarcus Beasley on the right flank, he will force the Dynamo defenders to swing over to the wing and help mark him, which in turn could lead to plenty of open territory for Bradley Wright-Phillips to pounce. 

 

Victor Cabrera, CB, Montreal Impact

There will plenty of pace on the pitch at Toyota Stadium on Saturday, and it will be Victor Cabrera's job to halt the speedy FC Dallas attackers in their tracks.

Cabrera has formed a solid center-back partnership with Belgian Laurent Ciman in a part of the field where the Impact don't receive a ton of attention. 

MONTREAL, QC - MARCH 12: Felipe Martins #8 of the New York Red Bulls challenges Victor Cabrera #36 of the Montreal Impact during the MLS game at the Olympic Stadium on March 12, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The 23-year-old enters Week 3 second in interceptions per game with 6.5 and tied for fourth in blocks per contest at 1.5, per WhoScored.com

If Cabrera disrupts the FC Dallas attack from the start of the match, Montreal has a chance to leave Texas with its third consecutive win. 

 

Kevin Doyle, FW, Colorado Rapids

Not even the best hype men in the fighting business could find a way to get you excited for Sunday's clash between D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids. 

However, there are a few players worth watching if you decide to tune in. Republic of Ireland international Kevin Doyle is one of them since he will be forced to create on his own up top for the Rapids. 

Feb 27, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Colorado Rapids forward Kevin Doyle (9) passes the ball during the first half against Arizona United at Kino North Grandstand. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The 32-year-old will be without strike partner Shkelzen Gashi, who was suspended one game by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for entering the field of play while he was on the bench in Week 2, per a league release

If Doyle puts shots on target, he could get lucky since D.C. is down to its third-string goalkeeper Travis Worra after injuries to starter Bill Hamid and backup Andrew Dykstra. 

 

Game of the Week: Toronto FC at Sporting Kansas City 

The final contest of the weekend should be the best of the bunch in Week 3 as Toronto heads to Children's Mercy Park.

The Reds have a ton of confidence at the moment from two positive road results, while Sporting KC enters on a high after a pair of wins to open the new season. 

Both teams have dynamic forwards in Sebastian Giovinco and Dom Dwyer, and they also possess defensive-minded midfielders that have the potential to destroy any attacking moves. 

Toronto and Sporting KC are evenly matched at almost every spot on the pitch, and it may take a moment of individual brillianceor a fewto break the deadlock on Sunday night. 

 

Joe Tansey covers MLS for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @JTansey90.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.