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2023 MLS season update: Struggling Canadian teams have potential

Major League Soccer’s three teams from Canada have had tough seasons so far, but each club has a reason for optimism.

Toronto FC sits in 14th place out of 15 Eastern Conference teams, while the Vancouver Whitecaps and CF Montreal are stuck in the middle of their respective conferences with both teams in eighth place.

Toronto FC struggles for points

The 2017 MLS Cup winners have plenty of talent, but they have not tied it together on the pitch as shown in a 3-2 loss to fellow Canadian side CF Montreal on Aug. 20.

Last season’s marquee signings, Italians Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, were supposed to reignite the glory days when their countryman Sebastian Giovinco ran riot from 2015 to 2018.

Bernardeschi and Insigne started well after joining the team midway through the 2022 season, but their output has stalled.

The locker room atmosphere reportedly deteriorated before the firing of head coach Bob Bradley, whose son Michael captains the team. 

Toronto only averaged a one point per game in 2022, but that has dropped to a league-low 0.76 points per game through 25 matches this season.

The only reason they’re not in last is because Inter Miami, who now have Lionel Messi and sit one point behind Toronto, have played three fewer games.

Despite their rebuild taking a downturn and currently riding a seven-match losing streak, there’s one reason for optimism in Canada’s largest city: John Herdman.

The Canada Men’s National Team’s head coach at the 2022 World Cup, Herdman helped the team qualify for its first World Cup since 1986.

He’s the leader to take over Bradley’s head coaching role, according to The Athletic.

CF Montreal has money to spend

Amid an unremarkable year after finishing second in the Eastern Conference in 2022, Montreal fans can take solace in the fact that their club has money to spend.

Their 3-2 win in Toronto marked just the ninth time they scored multiple goals in a game in their 24 MLS matches this season.

Wing-back Mathieu Choiniere scored twice to push his goal tally this season to four, good enough to be the joint-top scorer on Montreal.

Montreal need to find goals. Romell Quioto was last season’s top scorer with 15, but he’s sat out a while as he heals his injured hamstring.

Montreal have not replaced the production of Kei Kamara (nine goals and seven assists last season) and Djordje Mihailovic (nine goals and four assists). They also allowed midfielder Ismael Kone, right-back Alistair Johnston, and attacker Joaquin Torres leave before this season began.

On the plus side, they made about $15 million from the transfers those five players.

Vancouver Whitecaps dynamic duo needs support

The duo of Brian White (+12500 to be top scorer) and Ryan Gauld (+6600 to be top scorer) is among the most dynamic in the league, but inconsistent form has plagued Vancouver this year.

Sergio Cordova, one of the team’s three Designated Players along with Gauld and defensive midfielder Andres Cubas, has started in just nine of his 17 appearances and has scored two goals.

Vancouver has spent large sums on foreign talent over the past, and they have a mixed record with those signings.

Deiber Caicedo and Caio Alexandre were both signed for multi-million dollar fees ahead of the 2021 season, and both players were sent out on loan for 2023. Still just 23 and 24 respectively, they have time on their side. 

The question is whether or not they will reach their potential in Vancouver.

The Whitecaps have forged a solid foundation, but they need to support Gauld and White in order to break free from the middle of the pack.

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