Sporting Kansas City faces Toronto FC at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday in their last match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. Toronto FC is 1-2-0 in their first three matches of the tournament to Sporting Kansas City’s 2-1-0 record. The two teams met on Wednesday in a scrimmage that ended in a 3-3 draw. On Saturday, we expect both teams will start lineups with a closer resemblance to what they will be presenting during the 2013 Major League Soccer regular season, which is now just one week away.
Toronto FC split ways with 12 players this offseason, ranking fourth in the League for most departed players since the conclusion of 2012, tied with the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas.
But of those six teams releasing a dozen players or more, Toronto FC has secured the sparsest lot of new personnel for the upcoming MLS season with six additions.
But perhaps, quality trumps quantity in the opinion of new Toronto FC Head Coach Ryan Nelsen. And if quality comes in the form of experience, Toronto FC may be onto something by picking up two seasoned veterans this offseason in Danny Califf and Julio Cesar.
Califf, 32 has played for the LA Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes, Philadelphia Union and Chivas USA in Major League Soccer prior to his move to Toronto FC and has also experienced playing for European soccer clubs such as Aalborg and Midtjylland in the Danish Superliga. Califf will bring a dose of experience to a Toronto FC backline that is fairly young. So far in the tournament, Califf has tallied 66 minutes of playing time.
The name Julio Cesar should sound remotely familiar as he was a staple in the Sporting Kansas City midfield during the 2011 and 2012 MLS seasons. Prior to his two seasons with Sporting Kansas City, Cesar played for multiple European clubs, most notably Real Madrid. Cesar will likely slide in at the defensive midfield position similar to that which he played while with Sporting Kansas City, however, Cesar hasn’t made an appearance since Toronto FC’s first match in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic against the Columbus Crew.
Sticking with the defensive mindset, Toronto FC also acquired Gale Agbossoumonde in the weighted lottery process. Agbossoumonde had an impressive youth career, including an invitation to be a part of the prestigious IMG Soccer Academy in 2007. Agbossoumonde also made 30 appearances for the United States Under-20 National Team.
Agbossoumonde spent the majority of his professional career playing for various clubs in Portugal, Germany and Sweden but never quite made it overseas. Most recently, Agbossoumonde was on loan to the Carolina Railhawks of the North American Soccer League. Agbossoumonde is still extremely young at the age of 21 and his physical presence could prove to be a good fit centrally for the Toronto FC backline, allowing English defender Richard Eckersley to focus on his role as an outside back.
Toronto FC also picked up goalkeeper Joe Bendik in a trade from Portland on December 12. Toronto FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei suffered a broken nose in Toronto FC’s 1-0 loss to Columbus in the opening match of the Walt Disney Pro Soccer Classic and Bendik was gifted the start and 90 minutes in each of the next two matches at the tournament. Bendik earned the shutout against Orlando City SC before allowing three goals against the Philadelphia Union.
The recent defensive focus should permit fifth year professional Jeremy Hall to push up into the midfield and become more of an attacking presence on the flank for Toronto FC.
Make sure to follow @SportingKC and @MLS_Insider on Twitter to keep up with the biggest moments of the match and visit SportingKC.com for the postgame recap, quotes and photos. Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC will meet again on March 9 at the Rogers Centre for both teams' second match of the MLS regular season.