A win today would bring Toronto FC to 11 points on the season and all of a sudden they could possibly find themselves level with the Philadelphia Union as co-owners of the worst record in the league. Another good result would also further add to the positive feeling that has been around the club since Paul Mariner took charge. The new bench boss has guided the team to points in three straight games, and his short time has already collected nearly twice as many points as Aron Winter did in 10 games this season before being sacked. After a big 3-0 win over Montreal things are going about as well in TFC land as they have been at any point this season.
Saturday's opponent are no slouches though and it will be a tough ask for TFC to come away with anything even at home. Getting results against Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution and the Impact is nice but to get one against the New York Red Bulls would really show that this team is finally starting to make some progress.
The New York club comes into this game looking to take over top spot in the Eastern Conference and possibly draw level for the best record in the league. They bring a well balanced team that does well to limit the number of goals they concede while at the same time boasts an attack that is loaded with the kind of weapons that make them a threat to score at any moment. That was on full display last year in this fixture when a lovely goal from Thierry Henry denied TFC all three points late on in the match.
With Henry and Rafa Marquez both listed as questionable on the injury report, Toronto could be left with a few less threats to deal with but the young back line will still have to be sharp to deal with the threat of Kenny Cooper at forward and Joel Lindpere down the wings. It will be a test that the Reds will almost certainly have to face without Jeremy Hall who is likely to miss the match as a result of the beating his face took in Montreal midweek.Other than Hall likely being held out Mariner will probably not play around with his lineup all that much. The group that he went with in Montreal seems to be starting to click and the only real worry about continuing to go with basically an unchanged XI is the miles that are being logged by the older players. Late game fatigue did not come back to haunt them against the Impact but it did in the two previous games when Torsten Frings and Julian de Guzman had to be removed as they were completely spent. That left TFC extremely exposed in the middle of the park and they paid for it with dropped points each time. It will be key in this match that at least one of them is able to go the full 90.
Up front Toronto is certainly going to hope to ride the hot hand in Danny Koevermans. He has gone back to scoring at a silly pace after a bit of a slow start to the season and now has six goals in his last six games and has actually scored six of the clubs last ten goals. The lack of scoring from other players might be worrisome but it is a lot better to at least have Koef scoring than it was at the start of the year when no one was scoring and Ryan Johnson was just looking more and more frustrated with each game, and Johnson himself now also has goals in two straight games
The most important thing for TFC to do now is to continue to build on the clean sheet that they picked up against Montreal. In that match they were not really stretched by the Montreal attack and with a few exceptions they were able to keep things in check. That will be a tough task to repeat against a team that has a history of running up some very lopsided scores against TFC. Add in the fact that Toronto has allowed 28 goals, now only the second worst in the league, in just 14 goals and it will be a tough task to try and hold on to another clean sheet with Adrian Cann still out with his leg injury.
Dicoy Williams may be available for this match having missed nearly a year with a knee injury but he will almost certainly not be involved from the start but a place on the bench could be possible for him. With Williams, Cann, and Ty Harden all getting close to returning to full fitness Toronto could soon be back to having their full compliment of defenders but at this stage Mariner would be wise to keep sticking with the group that has done a decent job in recent games in hopes that a consistent run in the team together helps them improve. The constant changing of center back pairings under Winter did nothing to help stabilize the back line so hopefully Mariner learned from that and will have a preferred back four even when all his options are available in the coming weeks.
This game is Toronto's lone evening kickoff on a weekend and it should live up to the prime time billing. Both clubs are coming off big wins over rivals and will be looking to build on that momentum. Both have shown that they are capable of scoring goals and playing an exciting attacking style so we could well be in for a bit of an exciting match as the teams hope to live up to the big stage that is Galavision and Sportsnet One.