Soccer·Preview

Toronto FC return home to renovated stadium with renovated defence

The Reds return home after a two-month road trip to begin the 2016 MLS season and will take on FC Dallas in the newly-renovated BMO Field.

BMO Field refreshed with $150M renovations

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco has five goals in eight matches in 2016, a season after he won the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the MLS. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

After two months on the road, the Reds are coming home.

For the second year in a row, construction at Toronto's BMO Field forced the Toronto FC to begin the season with eight-straight away matches. The team returns to the newly-renovated lakefront stadium for their home-opener on Saturday against FC Dallas (7:30 p.m. ET).

The stadium is ready after the second-phase of construction, which began in September of 2015. The renos saw a new canopy roof installed and the necessary changes made to accommodate the CFL's Toronto Argonauts, who will now share the stadium with the Reds.

On the same trip a year go, the TFC posted a 3-5-0 record. This year's first eight games gave them a moderately better result of 3-3-2, picking up points in five of their first eight matches.

Off-season saw defensive holes filled

Saturday's game is looking to be a clash of offensive powers, specifically between Toronto striker Sebastian Giovinco, who carried the club to its success last season, and Dallas's midfielder Mauro Diaz, formerly of Argentine club River Plate. Both players wear No. 10, and lead their respective clubs from differing positions. Giovinco is a pure goal-scorer while Diaz is a playmaker.

Giovinco's addition re-made Toronto into a scoring powerhouse – his first year in the league saw the Italian striker win the Golden Boot, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and the MLS MVP. This year, with a few games in hand, the Juventus-raised player sits third in goals with five, just off of what fans grew to expect last season.

It was on the other side of the ball that was TFC's most obvious weakness in 2015. They surrendered 58 goals on the year, tied for the worst in the league. After their opening eight games in 2016, the team has only conceded seven goals, tied for second-best in the league, suggesting off-season acquisitions are paying off and filling holes.

Toronto added goalkeeper Clint Irwin, centre back Drew Moor, right back Steven Beitashour and Canadian midfielder Will Johnson to reinforce and deepen their d-corps.

Dallas will test Reds' new defence

Dallas, third in the Western Conference, comes into Saturday's match with a 5-3-2 record and is fresh off a 4-0 routing by the New York Red Bulls. Toronto holds the same position in the East, and also coming off a defeat last weekend to Portland, losing as much to goalkeeper Jake Gleeson as the Timbers' other 10 combined.

Still, the game might come down to how well the Toronto can defend against an explosive Dallas team.

In Dallas, the Toronto will face a team which looks a lot like they did a year ago. The Toros rep one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, capable of ending a game early against an unsuspecting defensive unit. However, their backs are lacking and have helped the team to a gaudy stat: 17 goals-against in eight matches.

Saturday's rare home game for Toronto, is also a rare meeting between these two clubs. The teams faced-off just once in 2015 (a match Toronto dropped on the road) and the Reds haven't won against the club during the regular season since their first-ever meeting in 2007.

The match might be one of the most telling tests for Toronto's new defensive unit while giving the offence a time a shine at home, showing off the renovated stadium and a renovated team.

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