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MLS regular season review: Vancouver Whitecaps flying the flag for Canada

It has been a mixed season for the Canadian clubs in the MLS this season, with the Vancouver Whitecaps the only ones to reach the playoffs.

Here’s a look back on how Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto fared during the regular season and what the future holds for each club.

A year to forget for Toronto 

It really was a sorry season for Toronto FC as they finished rock-bottom of the Eastern Conference with just four wins from 34 games this term.

Unsurprisingly, a lack of goals was the major issue for the Reds, as they only managed to find the back of the net 26 times this season.

The lack of threat up front was no more evident than in the final weeks of the regular season, as Toronto failed to score in five of their last six games.

Federico Bernardeschi was the joint-highest scorer at the club in the regular season, scoring five goals in 31 appearances along with Deandre Kerr. Lorenzo Insigne, one of the team's marquee players along with Bernardeschi, notched four goals and four assists in 20 appearances.

It was a sorry end to the campaign and of course, change is necessary to turn things around at BMO Field.

Toronto have already announced a new manager ahead of next season, with John Herdman leaving the Canada national team job to take over.

The English tactician, who has managed the national side since 2018 after spells with the New Zealand and Canada women’s teams, will know the size of the challenge ahead of him.

Recruitment will be key over the off-season while an ageing squad is something Herdman will also have to address ahead of the new campaign.

The only way is up for Toronto and it will be interesting to see what impact their new manager can have on a squad that will have had its confidence shattered this season.

Plus, with club captain and midfielder Michael Bradley retiring while young players like Kerr, Kobe Franklin, Franco Ibarra, and Ayo Akinola stepped into the team, there are some reasons for optimism in Canada's largest city.

Montreal left ruing collapse

Montreal looked to be on course for the playoffs, but a shocking drop in form towards the end of the regular season saw Hernan Losada’s side finish two points outside the Wild Card spots.

The Impact only have themselves to blame as they recorded just one win in their last nine games of the regular season.

Once confidence took a hit, it was hard for Losada to get his troops back on track and even with a chance of making the playoffs on the final day, it was always going to be a struggle to win away at Columbus Crew.

Again, like Toronto, goals were the issue for Montreal as they only found the back of the net 36 times in 34 games.

Only Toronto and New York City scored fewer goals in the Eastern Conference than the Impact.

Mathieu Choiniere, a wing-back, was the highest goalscorer at the club this season with five goals in 28 appearances.

Montreal do have a younger squad than rivals Toronto, but Losada will need to see progress from his players going into next season, if they are to stand a chance of not only reaching the playoffs, but competing in them too.

Vancouver flying the flag

After finishing in sixth place in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps are the only Canadian side still in with a chance of title success.

Vancouver are up against LAFC in their best-of-three series. They drew against the Californian outfit 1-1 on home turf in the final game of the regular season and earlier in the year, Vancouver beat LAFC 3-2.

The Whitecaps are outsiders at +2500 to win the MLS title this season, while LAFC are +600 to go all the way and be crowned champions this term. In terms of the odds to advance to the next round, LAFC has the shortest odds at -350 while Vancouver has the longest at +350.

Vancouver are the standout team in Canada at present, as they recorded 12 wins through the regular season to finish eight points behind frontrunners St Louis.

Goals were not an issue for the Whitecaps, as they scored 55 throughout the regular season. Only St Louis scored more in the Western Conference.

With American Brian White scoring 15 and Scotland’s Ryan Gauld netting a further 11, the Whitecaps had two of this season's top players in the league at their disposal.

Former Scotland under-21 international Gauld also contributed 12 assists in what was a fine season for the 27-year-old from Aberdeen.

Getting past LAFC over the coming games will be a big ask but there is plenty to like about this Vancouver side.

No matter how this playoff series plays out, it has been a positive campaign for head coach Vanni Sartini and his side after their success to win the Canadian Championship.

The foundations look to be there in Vancouver for even more success in the future.

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