We are down to only 4 weeks until Toronto FC takes to the plastic field at Rogers Centre in their first competitive match of the season. Before they get there though they still have a fair bit of work to do so that they will be ready for the ever improving LA Galaxy.
We all saw yesterday that the Galaxy brought back even more talent, and some people even went so far as to suggest that they were suddenly going to be favourites to win the entire CONCACAF Champions League. To say that might be a bit of a stretch, as the top sides in Mexico are still probably stronger, but they may just be the best MLS side ever assembled. But before we crown LA for any titles they are going to have to deal with a tricky tie against our beloved Reds.
The match in four weeks time will be tricky for the Galaxy as they will have to deal with over 40,000 supporters in their away leg and then head home a week later to play in front of at most 7,500 fans due to the capped capacity of Home Depot Centre for midweek games. So maybe massive fan support and an improving roster will be just enough to cause the reigning MLS champs to stumble. To do that though Toronto is going to have to be ready from the starting whistle!For TFC, training camp is currently going on at Oakville Soccer Centre where they are spending most days on the field and then doing workouts. They will continue in that setting until the end of this week when they will begin to prepare to head down to Orlando, Florida. On the 13th, the team will be leaving for the 2012 Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, a tournament that the club has competed in a number of times.
Their trip to Orlando will include at least three games against a trio of fairly strong sides. Even if they fail to advance to either of the two finals the Reds will certainly benefit from facing serious opposition and getting a good run of matches. Their tournament kicks off on February 25th against Orlando City Soccer Club before matches against BK Hacken of Sweden on the 28th and wrapping up the group stage on March 1st against FC Dallas.
If those three matches go well then Toronto would be looking at another game on March 3rd in either the Championship Final or the Consolation final. That round of play is potentially a bit awkward for a team that kicks off their season only a few days later on the 7th. Ideally, Toronto will give the starters a good run out in the first three games and get a few good results to start the ball rolling and then sit anyone that might be involved in the CCL for the final match. It will be key for the coaching staff to strike that good balance between giving the key players time to develop chemistry and work towards match fitness but also avoid over exposing them and picking up needless injuries. This is literally a Mickey Mouse cup after all!
Other than the Disney Classic we can look forward to the team shedding a few more bodies in the coming weeks. There are still 38 players in camp, including nine from the academy, so the chances are that not all of them are going to get the chance to come along to Orlando. The coaching staff and others around the team have indicated that they have their eyes on two or three of the academy guys and there is at least one that is likely to sign a professional deal this year. It is those two or three that I expect to be invited along to Orlando while the other six or seven will likely be left in Toronto and return to the academy. That would leave the team still in need of making a couple more cuts but we will have to wait and see if they make these final releases before the 13th or after. I have a feeling that we will get a couple more this week and the rest just before the start of the season.
That is basically how the next month is going to shake out. It is all about paring down the roster, playing some decently competitive matches, and getting ready for the season. With no distractions around the club and the roster seemingly set for the most part, the team is in an unfamiliar position. For once Toronto seems to be on course to be ready for the start of a season which is the critical first step in getting any sort of result against LAG.