Toronto FC are still searching for their first win of the MLS season. Heck, at this stage even a single point would at least be a start. On Saturday, at 4:30 EDT, the Reds will once again take to the field against Chivas USA. It is yet another game in a nice run of winnable fixtures that so far Toronto has completely failed to take advantage of.
This week in training Aron Winter was not willing to rule out a possible return from Torsten Frings or Adrian Cann. Frings ruled himself though after Friday's training in what all those real reporters who get to attend these things were breathlessly trumpeting as his first ever press conference in English. Cann successfully completed over an hour of play with the reserve team on Wednesday, but he still seems some ways off from being fully fit following his 10 month layoff.
Most of the rest of the squad should be available though with only the expected names appearing on the injury report this week and only Logan Emory facing a ban after his red card against Montreal. That should see Winter return to a backline of Ashtone Morgan, Ty Harden, Miguel Aceval, and Richard Eckersley for want of better options in the middle. Cann should be on the bench again and depending on the game situation, may see some action to help ease him back in, but it seems unlikely.
In front of that back four will almost certainly be Terry Dunfield and Julian De Guzman who should again serve as very deep holding midfielders. They have, rightfully so, taken a lot of criticism for their performances since Frings went down injured. The problem is that even if they put in solid performances, it is not seen as good enough since neither of them brings the calm and leadership that has gone totally missing with the German skipper sidelined, leading to the mistakes that TFC have really been punished for recently. The other possible option in this position would be to bring in Matt Stinson but that seems unlikely as he has had very limited involvement so far on the season. Stinson would bring a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the middle of the park but I am not sure he would be an improvement over Dunfield where the calm and leadership talked about earlier are concerned.In the regular four headed attack Winter has the most options at his disposal. Having finally gotten on the score sheet last week against the Montreal Impact Danny Koevermans looks a likely choice to get the start up top. The big Dutch forward has been getting his fair share of chances and shots this season so he seems a likely candidate to notch a goal against Chivas. Who will join him is anyone's guess as Joao Plata, Ryan Johnson, Reggie Lambe, Eric Avila, and Luis Silva will all be options. At this stage who gets the start should come down to who has shown the most sharpness in training over the course of the week.
It would make sense to involve Johnson on the wing in the starting lineup as his size will combine well to cause Chivas some issues in the box. That will be important if TFC continues to find space on the wing to get all those crosses in. Getting the chance to cross the ball into the box is only worthwhile if the team is going to have targets in the box so having at least two in the form of Koevermans and Johnson is a good start.
Another possible move that Winter could make is bringing Avila into the starting lineup. Having held him out of the reserve game midweek Avila should be fresh and capable of making a contribution after having his minutes limited so far this season. If he does start he will hopefully provide the central play making ability that has been lacking with Ryan Johnson playing at AM and with Luis Silva struggling of late after such a bright start.
On the right wing it will basically come down to a choice between Joao Plata and Reggie Lambe. News came out of Friday's training that Nick Soolsma will be unavailable, presumably due to a previously unknown injury. Winter could move Plata over to the Right or go with Lambe in hopes that their pace will cause problems for the aging Ante Jazic. That seems to be a good option in theory but the problem is that Jazic has being playing quite well so far this season and might just be up to dealing with that challenge. Having either of them would also allow for those runs cutting in to the box that most of TFC's wingers love to make. It again plays into the idea of more bodies getting into the danger zone and creating chaos in the area and causing Dan Kennedy some issues.
Winter has options at his disposal against a Chivas team that can be beaten. Problem is, Dan Kennedy. He is a very talented shot stopper and it will take something special to beat him in most matches. That is why I cannot stress enough the importance of actually getting in to those danger zones in numbers. Chivas tends to play with a single attacker so there is no reason for JDG and Dunfield to constantly sit back and they should have some chances to become a bit more active in the attack. When Toronto gets the ball they need to counter quickly and get numbers forward to cause Chivas problems. If they don't do that they will find it very hard to deal with a well organized team in front of a talented keeper.
At the other end of the field the defensive issues will hopefully take a day off. The good news is that perennial headache of a forward Juan Pablo Angel is still listed as out for this week which should make the job of defending just a bit easier. The Goats do have other attacking options though and even though they only have 3 goals on the season so far they will surely cause TFC some problems at the back, I guess any team would at this stage.
For Toronto FC the two keys are going to be getting forward in numbers more often to allow for more men in the box and then matching the organization of the Goats. If they can do that they will certainly have a good chance to pick up their first points of the season and possibly their first win.