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TFC has more options with players recovering from injury and influx of new talent

With the influx of several new players and Toronto FC's training room beginning to thin out, coach Chris Armas's options are growing. Fitting everyone in will be the challenge.

With the influx of several new players and Toronto FC's training room beginning to thin out, coach Chris Armas's options are growing.

Fitting everyone in will be the challenge.

"We enjoy doing this as coaches," Armas said ahead of Saturday's visit to Yankee Stadium to play New York City FC.

"We spend time thinking about that — in a good way," he added. "When you have a roster the way we do and we're all healthy, for a coach, we look at it very positively because we have options."

Armas pointed to Wednesday's 2-0 win over Columbus SC when he was able to bring Jozy Altidore, Patrick Mullins, Kemar Lawrence and Tsubasa Endoh off the bench. The four had a combined 480 MLS regular-season games under their belt when they took the field.

"That's what the best teams around the world are like," Armas continued. "It's not always perfect for everyone but this is what winning looks like. You have to have a deep roster."

The addition of Venezuelan international winger Yeferson Soteldo and veteran striker Dom Dwyer add to an already crowded attack while Jamaican international fullback/wingback Lawrence can also bolster the midfield.

Consider that Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo has yet to feature this season due to a thigh injury. Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio is also coming back from a thigh issue. Both are expected back very soon.

Venezuelan winger Erickson Gallardo (groin) and forward Ifunanyachi Achara (knee) are recovering from surgery.

Pozuelo's attributes are well-documented. Simply put, the reigning league MVP creates goals and makes everyone better.

The versatile Osorio, meanwhile, has already won Armas over.

"He's so good on the ball. He's so smart. He also defends," the coach said. "I'm sure our supporters and fans love him. He has to be a fan favourite around here because there's nothing he doesn't do."

Osorio also has an excellent rapport with Pozuelo.

Armas has favoured a 4-2-3-1 formation but mused Thursday about what it would be like to play with two forwards, saying Pozuelo is best positioned in the middle of the field behind a two-man strike force.

Soteldo is likely to occupy the left wing, although he can switch sides. Armas believes the diminutive Venezuelan will make for a dangerous combination with the team's fullbacks when they move forward.

Michael Bradley has flourished beside 18-year-old Ralph Priso, whose disciplined presence has allowed the captain to move further forward.

"I love playing with him," Bradley said after the Columbus win in which he scored one goal and helped set up the other.

Up front, the options include Altidore, Ayo Akinola, Mullins, Jordan Perruzza, Dwyer and Achara (when healthy).

In midfield, Armas can also draw on Nick DeLeon, Mark Delgado, Jacob Shaffelburg, Noble Okello, Endoh and Gallardo plus teenagers Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty and Jayden Nelson.

Fullbacks Richie Laryea and Lawrence can also play as wingbacks.

Dwyer and Lawrence both bring experience and what Armas calls "bite." Dwyer, in particular, can be a bit of a pit bull on the field.

"We're talking about a proven guy in MLS," Armas said of the 30-year-old Dwyer. "He's a proven striker and he's an aggressive striker."

"Listen he's excited," Armas added. "He's going to push Jozy. He's going to push Ayo, Pat, Jordan. Because this is what he does. He's a starter and he's going to get starts."

Some personnel decisions take care of themselves.

Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, the starter the last two seasons, was late arriving in camp due to a personal matter. With Toronto (1-2-1) facing an early start in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League, that opened the door to former starter Alex Bono who has played all eight of TFC's games this season.

"Alex was available when we went to Mexico," Armas said by way of explanation.

Bono, who played just three regular-season games last year, made the most of the opportunity. Armas has yet to see a reason to switch 'keepers.

"We have two No. 1s. This is clear. We see it every day in training," he said diplomatically. "And then we know the track record shows that … We could go back to Q at any moment and I don't think anyone blinks. Maybe Alex (does)."

Given the club's recent record of success, making the starting 11 isn't easy.

"When you add players to this TFC roster … this is a hard chair to get into. It's a hard door to get into here," said Armas.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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