Ah the end of the season - OK that's next week, but it's pretty close, indulge me - where almost every other team turns their sights to the playoffs (don't get me started on how stupid that is) and Toronto does their best to spoil as many of those hopes as possible; which makes a nice change from spoiling the hopes of their supporters.
Tomorrow we are in the odd position of being the most popular girl at the dance, as not only are Philadelphia cheering our Reds on but so too are our arch-rivals (or you know, rivals) the Montreal Impact. And of course our opposition is hoping to thoroughly trounce us to keep their hopes alive as well - this must be what being the swing vote on Survivor feels like! I wonder who we'll get to blindside this week! Hint - it's no one, this is TFC after all.
However, I think it's likely that the Fire hold all the votes this week as Toronto is not exactly rife with awesome lineup choices. We already know that this is most likely the Frei farewell match - which you may or may not agree with - but TFC are also missing Jeremy Hall due to suspension which likely means Darel Russell and Jonathan Osorio at the back. I know that there are many that want to see Bekker out there but I think you're going to have to learn to live with disappointment as I'll be shocked if he gets anything other than a few sub minutes.
However as word of nagging injuries to Bobby Convey, Russell and Robert Earnshaw begin to make the rounds, that lineup could be chock full of surprises. Who's ready for Reggie Lambe and umm, Justin Braun? Scary isn't it? And supporting Bright Dike up top will be Andrew Wiedeman and no one else - because there is no one else. Is the season over yet?
TFC and their coaches and such may say that the team is highly motivated, playing for spots, getting used to the 'playoff atmosphere' - because some day (really and truly!) they'll make the playoffs - and going for the win. Out of that list I'll give them a nod for playing for spots but the rest? Just more of your standard sports cliche soundbites - pay no attention to the crap on (and off) the field, the real TFC will reveal itself any day now....sorry, wee rant there, back to the preview.
Well speaking of actual motivated teams let's take a glance at our opponent shall we? Chicago is currently in the 5th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and have to win tomorrow's game to keep themselves in the running for a spot as the middle of the table is so up in the air that final spots likely won't be determined until next week.
The Fire have been on a strong run of form in the past few weeks - yes, I passed up the obvious pun, let's just move past that - and have actually played themselves back into contention unlike some of their Eastern Conference rivals *cough Impact cough* that are doing their best to free fall out of the playoffs alltogether. In fact since their last game against Toronto, Chicago have only lost one game. Joyous.
What's the number one thing that Toronto needs to do if they hope to eke out any kind of result in this game? Simple; neutralize Mike Magee. That's it - if they can mark him, take him out of the equation, don't let him take corners or free kicks - really it would be best if some sort of zany kidnap scheme could be put into effect. Magee (really LA, what were you thinking?) has been nothing short of amazing this season. His play, goal scoring (tied with Di Vaio for the Golden Boot with 19) and clear leadership have been honestly really enjoyable to watch. But if Toronto can't find a way to keep him quiet? Game over; likely in the first 20 minutes.
And then that leaves us with one last dance next weekend against Montreal - and if all the footy gods put the stars in order, then it will be an actual meaningful final game in front of the fans at BMO Field. In fact it would be the only meaningful game played at BMO since oh I don't know, April. And for many of us the thought of being the final nail in Montreal's coffin will be too delicious to pass up. Although I count myself as a member of that camp, it's also frustrating that 7 years in and the only end of season joy that we TFC fans get is the thought of wrecking it for someone else. Maybe someday some other team will be trying to spoil our party, but I think we're going to wait awhile. Sigh. So, come on you Reds? See you next week folks.