Photo credit: Toronto FC X

Toronto FC will host at BMO Field an impaired—because of the international window— Atlanta United, as they hope to continue their good start to the season.

TFC is faced with a couple of important injuries, which affected the game against New York City FC. They also have to figure out their lack of offence creation.

Nickseon Gomis (wrist), Sean Johnson (thigh), Richie Laryea (thigh), Raoul Petretta (thigh) and Brandon Servania (knee) will be out.

Jonathan Osorio (hip) is questionable for this game, but head coach John Herdman expects he can start on the bench.

Toronto also will be without Deybi Flores because of the international window. He will face Costa Rica for the Copa América qualifier.

Despite that, the Reds are favoured in this game because of Atlanta’s losses. The Five Stripes have six players out, four starters (Giorgos Giakoumakis, Thiago Almada, Bartosz Slisz and Caleb Wiley) and two bench players (Luis Abram and Ajani Fortune). Starting centre-back Stian Gregersen will also not make the trip to The Six because of a knee injury.

What to expect

According to Herdman, Atlanta United is going to play regardless of the conditions. They have a clear identity, and the game will be more open than the previous match against NYCFC. There will be more space for both teams.

Toronto FC will need to solve their attacking problem as Prince-Osei Owusu and Ayo Akinola have both been disappointing so far.

Finishing will be the most important part of facing Atlanta’s goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who has only had two goals against and nine stops in three games. Guzan has been one of their most important players, making clutch stops in important moments of the game.

Toronto has three goals in four games which is not ideal, but as Herdman said, the game will be open after the loss of two starters on defence.

TFC needs to exploit the through ball against Atlanta. It has been the visiting club’s main attacking choice so far this season.

Missing key pieces

It’s difficult to predict what to expect from the Atlanta United offence. They will have to play without Giakoumakis and Almada, their most important pieces on the attack.

Giakoumakis already has four goals this season, and Almada is their offensive architect.

Herdman said the MLS playing in the international window is “crazy” and “disappointing” because fans do not have the opportunity to watch their best players for a couple of games and the team has had to prepare differently.

The right adjustment

In almost every starting XI, we have seen at least one change from the previous. This time, Herdman needs to focus on the offence and keep doing what is working. Toronto is more dangerous with Federico Bernardeschi in front and not playing as a right wing.

Herdman needs to fix the goal problem as soon as possible and focusing Bernardeschi in the attack can be what they need as the team generates more football when he is playing with Lorenzo Insigne. He has the most shots this season for Toronto (16), but he needs to translate those shots into goals,

However, that is challenging to do playing so far from the box.

Toronto was the worst-scoring team last season with 26 goals. And even though it is early days, they are on pace to have even fewer goals this season.

The middle of the field is also a concern. The lack of production against NYCFC was disturbing. They missed the connection between the midfield and the attack, which was one of the reasons why New York dominated.

Losing Flores is not ideal, but it is a second chance for Matty Longstaff to get minutes and develop more in the system. He played 45 minutes against NYCFC, but he needs more time to grow.

The game will take place in Toronto on Mar. 23, at 7:30 p.m. It will be a cold one as the forecasted temperature is between is from -1 to -3 Celsius with a feel of -6 to -9 Celsius.