So, Toronto in Montreal again, for the 3rd and final time this season (I'm fairly confident there won't be a playoff matchup, just a hunch). The previous 2 games ended in a Montreal win and a ridiculously dull 0-0 draw. But that was at the Olympic stadium where Montreal had the hometown advantage of that terrible pitch. How have they done since leaving there? Well, in the 2 games since moving back to the new and improved but still kind of empty Stade Saputo, Montreal have scored 4 goals in each of them, against Seattle and Houston no less.
Toronto FC of course have never lost at Stade Saputo, so put those two streaks together, add in an injury ravaged Montreal defence and what do you get? A 4-4 tie? If there's any team that could pull that off, it's Paul Mariner's TFC. A new and reinvigorated attack and a back in form Danny Koevermans have led to a very good plan A that's seen them score 5 goals in the last 2 games. An inexperienced and mistake prone defence, combined with questionable substitutions and late game tactics that have amounted to an open invitation for the opposition to get dangerous balls into the box, have led to 7 goals conceded in 3 games, even worse than under Aron Winter. It's been entertaining and infuriating, exhilarating and depressing, and who really knows what will come next.
Hopefully it'll be defensive competence, Paul Mariner talked about needing to get a 'Bossman' in defence (I just spent ten minutes looking up the Big Boss man on Wikipedia. Mmm procrastination.) when the transfer window opens up today, or at least the secondary registration window, whatever the hell that means, but it's unlikely there'll be immediate help. Instead, notes from practice suggested we'll see a freshly shorn Logan Emory, probably alongside Richard Eckersley in the middle of defence.
That would mean a rest from the first team for Doneil Henry, and if it happens that's probably a good thing. Playing alongside Adrian Cann is one thing, and Henry has definitely once again shown off his potential in the last month, but these last few games, he's been as guilty as anyone of making mistakes that have led to goals, whether missing clearances or marking assignments. It's understandable that a 19 year old wouldn't thrive alongside an emergency converted right back amid this sort of chaos, so taking him out of the lineup is definitely a good move. Emory coming in doesn't exactly inspire confidence though does he. Apparently a lot of work was done on defending corners at training so hopefully that will have a positive effect.
In midfield, well as I said, plan A has been working very well recently, so I'd keep going with the same 4 midfielders, Terry Dunfield, Eric Avila, Torsten Frings and Julian de Guzman. They'll have their work cut out for them against Montreal's suddenly prolific new 4-2-3-1 lineup. The wide midfielders, probably Davy Arnaud and Justin Mapp will have noted the repeated success of teams getting down the line against TFC and putting crosses into the box lately, and Felipe Martins and Patrice Bernier have been combining well down the middle.
In the last couple of games, it's been late in the game, after substitutions have weakened the midfield that TFC have been overrun, so hopefully that mistake won't be made again. If Frings or de Guzman have to be subbed off for whatever reason when TFC are winning, at the very least they can be replaced with another midfielder, say Matt Stinson for want of a better alternative, rather than Reggie Lambe, presumably introduced in the last couple of games to use his pace on the counter attack. Whether it's his presence leading players to try and find him with long balls, or having fewer and less experienced midfielders to help the defenders move the ball out, it's been ugly as the ball has come back at the defence just as fast as they can blindly kick it out. If that persists, well Montreal certainly have the players to exploit that, and newly signed DP Marco Di Vaio is probably salivating at the thought of getting that much service in the box.
Up front, Danny Koevermans is very hot right now, scoring goals and also getting involved in the play in ways he just wasn't before the break, though he did manage to score against Montreal amid his stuttering start to the season. A healthy Danny is apparently a prolific Danny, and with Nelson Rivas and Matteo Ferrari both likely out with an injury, Montreal's defence may well be as shaky as TFC's so hopefully he can keep his form going. Alongside him, well no matter how often we say he needs a rest and how tired and beaten down he looks, it seems written in stone that Ryan Johnson will play all game, every game, so may as well pen him in up front as well.
There should be reinforcements on the way soon via the transfer window, whether from within MLS or from outside. it should be an interesting time to see who leaves to make the cap space necessary to bring in new faces. Miguel Aceval and Nick Soolsma are obviously the favourites in that particular race, I think it's no surprise that Luis Silva is the only one of the three to get an image rehab article in the papers, though it was reported that both will be travelling with the team to Montreal. It's unlikely there'll be any transfers that will affect today's game, but it would be nice to see the current squad play a full game, not panic late and get a win to start the momentum before those changes happen. Maybe getting a winning goal in injury time with no time to give it back is the way to go tonight, it's as likely as anything else I could predict.