JELD-WEN Stadium 11pm E.D.T
Any kid growing up in England in the 80's knows that dedication's what you need if you want to be a record breaker. Not even a week ago, I detailed some of the dubious records Toronto FC is quickly approaching both club (most goals conceded in a season, worst goal difference in a season) and league wide (quickest 3 goals this season (conceded by tfc obviously), most players used in a season ever) and today TorontoFC.ca handily pointed out another dubious achievement just ready to happen.
TFC are currently mired in a 4 game losing streak in MLS. They did this twice as an expansion team in 2007, but have never actually lost 5 straight league games. Tonight, that could all change, a defeat in Portland and Aron and the boys will have broken another dubious record, and you know what, dedication is absolutely what they need.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see us finally win an MLS away game, and I hope whichever 11-14 players we put out there try their hardest, but with the season on the line on Tuesday against Real Esteli, I'm hoping Aron Winter takes the opportunity to rest whoever needs it. If Torsten Frings or Danny Koevermans need to take a break after a busy start to their MLS season, they take a break. If Stefan Frei's hand still isn't 100%, let him heal. If Julian de Guzman or Terry Dunfield don't want to risk their recoveries on a plastic pitch, they shouldn't have to. Conversely, if there's anyone who's a bit rusty and wants the playing time, let them have it. After all the recent signings, we must have enough warm bodies who are hoping to get a chance to make an impression and will go out there and play hard.
I've called for this sort of approach before (the return leg against Edmonton, 3-0 up, a league game a few days later) and Winter put out his first team anyway, and I can't help but think he's going to do the same here, though who really knows who the hell that first team might be these days. Whereas earlier additions to the squad seemed to be filling needs and made a certain amount of sense, now, after picking up another couple of players this week, it seems like we've moved into full on experimentation mode, giving a bunch of players a chance and seeing who works. Peri Marosevic is the best example of that, a lot of potential but in two seasons he never caught on with FC Dallas and they waived him. Most teams taking this season seriously probably don't have roster spots, salary cap room or a place in their lineups to take a flyer on someone like this, that's what pre-season is for. One of the many knocks against TFC so far has always been how they've been unprepared at the start of the season and spend the first month finalising their squad where other team have done that before the season starts. For 2012 though, we're getting a valuable headstart right now it seems.
So, due to that, I've got no idea what kind of lineup we'll see, I'd say the following would be my guess at a full on first team, but whether we go for that, or we do take the chance to rest some players and try out some new ones is anyone's guess.
As for Portland, well after a great start to their MLS life in their refurbished stadium, they've struggled a bit, so are probably licking their chops at taking advantage of TFC's 'build everyone else's self esteem by letting them beat the crap out of them' programme. But they're definitely beatable, and have let in 12 goals in their last 5 home MLS games, so if we go at them, it could be a bit of a goalfest for both teams. Also, it's not as if our CCL exploits give them much of a tiredness advantage as they's stuffed every gap in their schedule this month with a friendly, playing 4 of them all together. 4!. If we were to put out our first team, we'd have a decent shot at a result, heck I'm almost talking myself into this idea, but no, this result really doesn't matter, so play whoever wants to play, rest whoever wants to rest and look forward to Tuesday. I think we'll end up with a similar lineup to the last game against Real Esteli, only one or two surprises rather than a wholesale changing, and I think it'll end 3-1 to Portland, but we'll have some moments of good play to cling to, along with the knowledege that we weren't really trying.
Anyway, as usual, here's some other reading for you pre-game. Stumptown Footy seem cautiously optimistic that TFC is just what their struggling team needs to get it's playoff drive back on track. MLSSoccer's neutral and facty preview is here, and of course over at Torontofc.ca you can get all the usual pre game interviews and previews.
I'll be watching at home and commenting here from about 10:00 onwards, whenever team news is released. Join me.
Come on You Reds!