Well, there's no distraction any more. The improbable CCL run with all it's upsets and fancy-dan flopping foreigners is now a thing of the past, and until the Voyageurs Cup starts off less than a month from now against Montreal, all Toronto FC has remaining to measure it's worth is it's MLS record. Of course that currently stands at a rather feeble 3 defeats and 1 goal to show from 3 games, so now really would be the perfect time to get things going.
Fortunately in that respect, this is the perfect chance to do it, against our equally hapless petits freres from up the road the Montreal Impact. They are the only team with a worse goal difference than TFC, now at -8 after a wednesday night loss against Real Salt Lake, but they do at least have a point to their name from their first 5 games, earned in their home opener against Chicago, and their other 4 games have been away from home. So , a combined record of 0 wins, 1 tie and 7 defeats and a minus 14 goal difference, yay Canada! 18 combined goals against in 8 games suggests a sloppy defensive shitshow of a goalfest could be in order, 4 goals scored in those 8 games suggests an impotent and incompetent 0-0 draw could be in the cards.
Now of course, Montreal do have the excuse of literally being an expansion team still trying to find it's feet in MLS, as opposed to TFC who just look like they're an expansion team, for the 6th straight bloody year, but beggars can't be choosers. Getting one over their rivals right off the bat was always important for the sake of pride and bragging rights, but TFC's rough start has made the 3 points even more crucial, and come the end of the season no-one's going to be working out how many points were won while Montreal was still figuring things out.
Can TFC put the CCL disappointment behind them, and at the same time finally bring their form from that competiton to league games? What sort of lineup will we see out there after the recent glut of games? Did Miguel Aceval get kicked off the team bus on to the mean streets of Torreon and left to fend for himself? I'll get into some of those questions, and more after the jump.
There's no getting around the fact that the last 45 minutes and 10 seconds against Santos were a bit of a shitshow, but that shouldn't take away from the fact that for the first half (minus 10 seconds) and for the 5 CCL games before that, TFC has been holding it's own against a few 'better' teams. Last week's game against Columbus saw TFC start with and stick to similar defensive tactics as used in the CCL and was by far the best of the 3 league games we've played so far. If they can play a similar game, but cut out the individual mistakes that have been absolutely killing us all season, and look a little sharper up front, we'll do alright.
As for a formation, I think there's a few changes we'll see. Certainly not in goal though, where Milos Kocic is now very clearly the number one. In defence, I can't see Adrian Cann being brought back into the staring lineup on the plastic pitch, so I think Logan Emory will replace everybody's new favourite figure of hate Miguel Aceval alongside Ty Harden, with Richard Eckersley and Ashtone Morgan keeping their places out wide.
In midfield Julian de Guzman and Terry Dunfield should both be back in front of the back 4, that's a combo I'm happy with,and it makes for a relatively solid defensive unit, as long as the sloppy mental errors can be eliminated.
Among the more attacking players, Danny Koevermans will be back up front. After last week's game, he seemed a bit pissed off about Aron Winter's comments about a lack of sharpness, so hopefully he'll have a point to prove and can finally get off the mark. Nick Soolsma absolutely deserves to keep his spot after a very strong performance against Santos, and on the left I'd go with Joao Plata again. Plata hasn't had a great start to the season but if there's one thing I know about tricky wingers, it's that they're streaky and unpredictable, and hopefully his 2 goal performance on Wednesday is the start of a hot streak for him. It's worth the risk to try and ride that for as long as he can keep it going, harsh as it is to Reggie Lambe who's had a couple of decent games recently after looking horrible in pre season.
If there's one player who played on Wednesday that looked like he needs a rest, it's Ryan Johnson. He's played every minute of every game so far, and more than once has taken a lot of punishment, whether from the opposition's defensive midfielders or Centre Backs, and it's really beginning to show. Watching him when he wasn't going at full speed, he looked achy, slow and as if he was fighting through injuries, so I'd give him the game off. For the Attacking midfield spot, that leaves us with Eric Avila or Luis Silva, and it's Silva I'd go with as he gives more of a direct scoring threat than Avila, and god knows we really need to get that whole goalscoring thing going.
Can that formation finally get TFC's stuttering MLS campaign off and running, and leave Montreal languishing where they belong at the bottom of the league? Let's hope so, as if TFC come back from Montreal with an 0-4 record, 4 points back of the Impact, that would thoroughly kill off any lingering goodwill or momentum that the CCL run may have given to cover up the stench of the MLS campaign so far. Of the two alternatives laid out at the start, I'll predict the defensively sloppy goalfest, with TFC coming out 3-2 winners.