Preview: Dallas vs. Toronto – prediction, team news, lineups – Sports Mole

Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Major League Soccer clash between Dallas and Toronto, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

On Saturday, we will get our first look at two Major League Soccer clubs that went through significant changes during the offseason as Dallas open the 2022 campaign by hosting Toronto at Toyota Stadium.

Neither side had a particularly memorable 2021, as they each missed the playoffs, with The Toros finishing 11th in the Western Conference, while TFC have turned things over to Bob Bradley after ending last season as the second-worst team in MLS.

Match preview

FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira (9) celebrates with teammates and fans after scoring a goal during the second half against Austin FC at Toyota Stadium on August 7, 2021© Reuters

After three solid regular season campaigns (2018-2020), qualifying for the playoffs each time, we saw a significant drop off in the team from Big D last year, capturing 33 points, the fewest amount since 2003 when they were known as the Dallas Burn.

A year onward from what looked to be, at times, an uninspiring squad, there are plenty of new faces to this side, who should have a point to prove.

Nico Estevez brings with him a ton of experience when it comes to working with youngsters, which could benefit them, after selling some of their most gifted players from a year ago.

It will be interesting to see if their 42-year-old coach decides to play a more direct, up-tempo style like we saw when he was assistant to Gregg Berhalter with the Columbus Crew, or if Esteves chooses a more structural and conservative approach, similar to the current edition of the United States men’s national team, where he served as second in command to Berhalter before landing this position.

Two areas that need work this year would be their defensive shape, as they made it far too easy for opponents to get into dangerous shooting areas in 2021, while goalkeeping was a significant trouble spot as well, as they and their state-rivals Austin FC conceded the most goals in the Western Conference (56).

Even though their golden boy and leading scorer last season, Ricardo Pepi, signed for Bundesliga side FC Augsberg, while Justin Che went to Germany (Hoffenheim) on loan, the front office still spent a lot of money to recruit some new players with star quality, who will be eager to make an early impact.

Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (10) celebrates with midfielder Yeferson Soteldo (30) after scoring a goal against New York City FC during the second half at BMO Field on August 7, 2021© Reuters

It is safe to say that the Chris Armas experience in the Ontario capital did not go nearly as well as they had hoped last year.

The current assistant coach at Manchester United managed only one win in his 11 matches before being sacked following a 7-1 defeat to DC United.

The rest of the campaign under Javier Perez was not much better as this veteran group suffered a losing season for the first time since 2018 when they won 10 games but lost 18.

Heading into what is likely to be a transitional period for the club, the expectation will be that the former Los Angeles FC boss, and father of current captain Michael Bradley, can develop these youngsters into quality players who can turn this team into one of the dominant Eastern Conference sides, like they were under Greg Vanney.

Toronto had their share of holes defensively in 2021, conceding 66 goals, second only to FC Cincinnati (74), and while it is a year later, there are still some doubts about their fullbacks ability to contain the pace of opposing wingers.

With so many moving pieces and new concepts in place, the biggest obstacle for this group could be finding a way to bring it all together and develop chemistry, an area that may be a steep learning curve with some of the young and fresh faces that we are sure to see.

In their preseason fixtures, The Reds have looked more like a running and pressing team than a passing one, and if that continues into this campaign, it could test the stamina of some of the veteran leaders on this squad.

Dallas Major League Soccer Preseason form:

Toronto Major League Soccer Preseason form:

Team News

Toronto FC players celebrate after a goal by forward Patrick Mullins on June 24, 2021© Reuters

The Pepi deal allowed Dallas plenty of room to spend money with the club signing striker Alan Velasco from Independiente for a reported seven million dollars, a team record.

While that move was significant, it was not their only one, as they acquired Paul Arriola from DC United and traded away Ryan Hollingshead to LAFC, receiving Marco Farfan in return.

With some new players in the attack, there will be pressure on Jesus Ferreira to become the provider for this team after he led The Toros with eight assists last year, while Maarten Paes is on loan from Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie and Nanu, who is being loaned from FC Porto, should add a ton of versatility to the backline.

Midfielder Szabolcs Schon was second on the team in assists last year with six, while they will be expecting big things from Paxton Pomykal, who only scored one goal and notched one assist in 2021.

Perhaps the most significant MLS signing over the offseason came north of the border when Toronto inked Lorenzo Insigne, to a new contract from Napoli, with the bonafide European star fresh off winning the Euro with Italy.

Carlos Salcedo will be a big part of the TFC overhaul at the back, though it remains to be seen whether he will partner with Chris Mavinga, who has made over 100 appearances with The Reds since 2017, or Shane O’Neill, the former Seattle Sounders centre-back.

Jozy Altidore‘s time in Toronto is over after he was bought out before moving to the New England Revolution, Richie Laryea was transferred to Nottingham Forrest in the Championship, Omar Gonzalez has reunited with Bruce Arena and the Revs, while Yeferson Soteldo joined Tigres in Mexico.

Dallas possible starting lineup:

Paes; Farfan, Martinez, Hedges, Nanu; Pomykal, Quignon, Schon; Velasco, Ferreira, Arriola

Toronto possible starting lineup:

Bono; Petrasso, O’Neill, Salcedo, Marshall-Rutty; Bradley, Osorio; Pozuelo; Nelson, Akinola, Achara

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We say: Dallas 2-1 Toronto

It takes time to bring a new look team together, and that will be the case for both of these sides when they hit the field in Texas this weekend.

Toronto may be improved on paper, although Insigne is not slated to arrive until later this summer, and it remains unclear whether or not they are sharper defensively, so expect to see them struggle when it comes to containing the speed and aggressiveness that The Toros bring to the table.

Top tip

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