After a successful CCL qualifying campaign was comfortably wrapped up in the tiny Estadio Independencia, Toronto FC head to the ridiculously oversized RFK stadium on Saturday to play against D.C United. With playoff hopes long gone, there's two main storylines of interest for TFC fans. First off, seeing how the continued experiments with new signings and new lineups work out, will Eric Avila be given a place in the midfield? Can Ryan Johnson, Joao Plata and others continue the welcome recent trend of providing secondary scoring? Can we get some kind of settled defensive lineup and maybe some consistent play back there?
The second big storyline is of course Dwayne de Rosario, who'll be playing against TFC for the first time since he was controversially traded away back on April Fools day. It's been 4 months now since all those incidents finally came to a head, so feelings will have cooled off somewhat, but the response from the fans to him should be interesting, especially if he scores, and let's face it, he's going to isn't he?
I was thinking earlier about Faustian pacts, would I take a TFC defeat if guaranteed that De Ro wouldn't score, that sort of thing. Even with the playoffs over and the non CCL season being pretty pointless at this stage, I wouldn't go that far, and I also wouldn't wish an injury on him either. But let the record show that if Torsten Frings (well, anyone really, but this coming from a DP would make it more fun) were to give him an early 'reducer', well I certainly wouldn't be complaining, especially if he followed it up with a cheque signing motion.
At first glance, it seems like De Ro has had a great start to his D.C career, but look a little further and they're looking very much like a De Ro team. He has 3 goals in 5 games, all coming in wins against New York and San Jose. Aside from that though, well the team as a whole has only 5 goals in those 5 games since he came along, and though they're clearly outperforming TFC, has he really made that much of a difference to the team as a whole?
Anyway, enough about De Ro, after the jump, I'll get into the rest of the game, and take a random stab at what sort of lineup and performance we can expect from TFC.
The last time these two teams played was of course one of TFC's random fiascoes, a 3-0 home defeat, Adrian Cann injured, Ty Harden sent off, it drove the supporters to amuse themselves with flares and smoke bombs, which Aron Winter loved, but the Front Office not so much.
But that was 4 months ago, and with all the recent changes, anything beyond a month ago has pretty much no meaning to today's TFC, so what can we expect today? I'll confidently predict Stefan Frei will be in goal, but beyond that it's all guess work really. Despite a gruelling game and travel schedule recently, I don't think we'll be seeing players rested, partly because we have the rare luxury of a week off coming up before the CCL group stage kicks in.
In defence, Richard Eckersley should be at Right back, as we now have enough Centre Backs to come up with at least a theoretically decent partnership that allows Eckersley to contribute his usual strong Right back performance. With Eddy Viator seeming to have worked his way quickly out of Winter's thinking, we might see Doneil Henry again as he had a decent game against Real Esteli, but I think this could be the game we finally see the TFC debut of Dasan Robinson, more than likely alongside Andy Iro, with Ashtone Morgan probably getting another start at Left back. It's difficult to keep track, but I'm fairly certain Terry Dunfield and Peri Marosevic's debuts against Portland took us to 35 players for the MLS season, so if Robinson does play, he'd be the record tying 36th player, and if he AND Avila play, we'd bust past the record with 37.
In Midfield, Frings as the DM is as nailed on as any TFC outfield position can be, and though I'm interested to see how Eric Avila can do, given that DC now has De Ro to join Chris Pontius who was so good against us in April, I'd go with a more defensive midfield, with Dunfield and, if his knee's not playing up, Julian de Guzman playing ahead of Frings, with Avila waiting as a second half sub.
Up front, well we actually have positive options these days, rather than picking three guys that are the best of a bad bunch, we have options at each forward position, which is a very good thing. Despite Ryan Johnson's two goal performance as centre Forward midweek, I fully expect Danny Koevermans to be back there. Johnson certainly doesn't deserve to be dropped, and could slot in at the Left Wing position, but that's where Joao Plata's been playing well again in the last few games, and Eric Avila could play there as well to get him in the team without affecting the midfield's defensive strength.. At Right Wing, Nick Soolsma's been consistent over the last couple of months or so, but does Peri Marosevic get a start instead? Even Javier Martina should be in consideration after a very good half hour against Portland last week, and if Johnson does get the Left Wing spot, would Right Wing be a way to also get Plata in to the team?
Too many valid options is a great problem to have, even if it does make predictions difficult, but I'll guess at this as out starting line up.
Fairly conservative to start, with Plata, Avila and Marosevic all on the bench to provide some extra flair if needed. As for a prediction, well I think we'll struggle defensively as Charlie Davies could run riot against the defence as Frings has his hands full with De Ro and Pontius. Up front though I think we're looking better than we have all season, so there's some goals in us, I'm going with the entertaining 2-2 tie.