To get everyone ready for today's match against Toronto FC, we spoke with Waking The Red's Oliver Platt to get his take on Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley missing the World Cup, what Toronto's lineup could look like, and the MVP of their season.
DSS: This is an odd question, but I’ll do my best to ask it. Obviously a big talking point over the past couple of weeks has been the U.S. mens national team not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Do Toronto FC supporters now have a different, perhaps more negative perspective on both Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley because they didn’t make it or has it not really affected them since, at the end of the day, Toronto isn’t even in the states?
WTR: It hasn't really affected perceptions of them in Toronto - if anything, there is bemusement here at the amount of criticism Bradley and Altidore get when they play for the USMNT.
I feel especially bad for Bradley because that might turn out to be his last shot at another World Cup and he's consistently been used in a tactically incoherent way. The amount the midfield has been neglected by two consecutive U.S. managers defies belief - in those final two games, he was essentially asked to be Andrea Pirlo and N'Golo Kante rolled into one so Bruce Arena could play two strikers and fit in Pulisic and Nagbe and Arriola. It's just ridiculous.
The question I ask is this: if you don't like Bradley, what one player would you suggest dropping him for? The answer usually involves a combination of two or three other midfielders which kind of illustrates the point.
DSS: Do you expect Greg Vanney to go for the MLS points record on Sunday with his strongest XI or are we likely to see a few usual starters rested?
WTR: It'll be a full-strength team, I expect. Everyone's had a week off now and they get another good rest after this before the Eastern Conference semis.
The main motivation for putting out the best XI might be momentum more than it is the points record. That'd be nice, for sure, but TFC have lost a bit of rhythm due to injuries and international call-ups over the past month or so. This is a crucial couple of weeks as a result: they can now get everyone together on the training field to iron out the creases and have one more dry run at a top Eastern Conference team before the playoffs start.
DSS: Obviously, Toronto has had arguably the best MLS regular season in league history. There are a lot of great players at the club, but who’s been your MVP this year?
WTR: It's a tough one for the same reason a TFC player probably won't win the league's MVP award: different players have stepped up at different times and the strength of the team as a whole kind of dilutes individual contributions.
For a long time I was pumping Bradley's tires as an MLS MVP candidate, and I still think he'd be a worthy winner. He's the leader - in every respect you can think of - of possibly the best team in the league's history and even when you strip all the intangibles away, he's just been outstanding at the base of midfield all year long.
But it's becoming increasingly difficult not to say Victor Vazquez. He's not had any injuries (touch wood) or international absences, for starters. He has eight goals and 16 assists in 30 games. He's a joy to watch and the closest thing MLS has ever had to Andres Iniesta, I think - he's not fast, he won't dribble past anyone but his vision and movement are world class.