You know the apathy of the fan base is at an all time high when there seems to be almost no excitement about the first meaningful Toronto FC game in quite a while. Last time out in CCL play Toronto suffered a crushing 3-1 defeat against Santos Laguna which means that this game against C.D. Aguila is now a must win match.
Last week, Santos went down to El Salvador and claimed a 4-0 win over their hosts. They started quite slow in that match and looked like they might struggle to claim the points but they turned up the pressure in the second half and ended up with a comfortable win. The good news is that in the new CONCACAF Champions League format there is no need to worry about goal difference as the first tie breaker is head-to-head results. So that result doesn't really change anything. TFC still need to beat CD Aguila, then go to Torreon and come away with a better than 3-1 result. Yeah.
Maybe that is just why fans remain apathetic ahead of this game. Many of them either don't get excited about any CCL games (attendance has been low again this year despite last seasons success) or they figured that with only one team moving on from the group TFC's chances came to an end with that 3-1 defeat. They may be right about Toronto's chances of going down to Mexico and winning by 3 goals against a team that is clearly better than them but until Toronto is mathematically eliminated this game continues to hold more meaning than anything else the club has going.
Toronto is not in for an easy task down in El Salvador and that task is only being made tougher by the ever growing list of absent players. Torsten Frings and Danny Koevermans are done for the season, Eric Hassli is a major doubt with an ankle injury, Stefan Frei is still out injured and Milos Kocic is home with his new born triplets, Ty Harden being out with some convenient injury, add in Richard Eckersley being in doubt with a head injury and there are a lot of walking wounded who would otherwise have been potential starters.
All the missing players mean that Paul Mariner is going to have to find a way to piece together a starting lineup. It is a good thing then that he specializes in putting random players into random positions and hoping that they succeed where they have no familiarity. It is hard to imagine just how his backline will look if Ecks is not able to start. At this point I would not rule out him putting Ashtone Morgan or Jeremy Hall in the middle of the park with Darren O'Dea because that just seems like that kind of thing Mariner would do.
A randomly slapped together defensive unit in front of Freddy Hall might not be much of a worry though as the hosts do not have a whole lot of attacking punch. They have just one goal in their 3 matches and that came in the 5-1 defeat at BMO Field, a bit of a howler form Milos Kocic. In that game they managed to create a few chances but lacked any cutting edge in the final third which was still better than they showed against Santos as they struggled to create any chances for themselves in both games.
What Aguila has done is allow a whole lot of goals. IThey allowed 5 goals in each of their two away games and that was with the opponents taking it kind of easy one them. Toronto netted five on them with Reggie Lambe, Ryan Johnson, and Andrew Wiedeman leading the attack. The stats for that match had TFC taking a mere 25 shots and they really could have had more than five goals to show for their effort with some better finishing. Against Santos it was more of the same, the Mexican team scored 9 goals in the two meetings and managed to leave several of their big guns on the bench.
Looking at things on paper there really is no reason that Toronto should not win this game by a couple of goals. Going on the road to El Salvador is not exactly an easy task and Toronto does not pack nearly the fire power of a club like Santos but they should still have enough to come out on top. Anything less than a win though and it will be time to pronounce the season officially dead.
In a strange way it would be fitting if the season were to come to an end tonight in a far off location with hardly anyone watching because even if Toronto wins tonight most fans will still consider the season lost long ago. People are tuning out but for those that are still watching and cheering tonight will be one of the last chance to get excited about a TFC game in 2012. The only thing left to cheer for in MLS is playing spoiler so if you have any energy left, might as well focus it on the CCL where the team still has a hope not matter how slim it may be.