After losing their first game against Columbus, Toronto FC and the now smaller group of triallists hoping to play their way into one of the still numerous empty spots on their roster take on the hometown favourites Orlando City SC in their second game.
Orlando are still managed by Adrian Heath, who is of course the man who turned down TFC's big money offer to make the jump to MLS to be an assistant coach/be groomed to take over from Paul Mariner at some point down the line, preferring instead to remain with Orlando in USL-pro. A controversial dissing and curious lack of ambition/wise move and concise commentary on just how unattractive TFC's dysfunction was as a career path (delete according to bias)at the time, now it's something I imagine both parties are glad didn't happen. Where would Heath have fitted in under Kevin Payne, Ryan Nelsen and co? Would he have been fired along with Mariner? Thankfully, questions that didn't require an answer, but the fact that Mariner was busy trying to hire a coaching staff barely over a month before Payne was brought in as the main decision maker suggests the search wasn't as exhaustive and long running as MLSE might want us to believe.
Oh well, water under the bridge now and all that, what of Wednesday's game? Well, TFC currently sit at the bottom of their 4 team group as Orlando got a point out of their first game, against Philadelphia on Saturday. Their goal was scored by Dennis Chin, last year's USL-pro top scorer. They're apparently a sister club of Stoke City in England, and have a couple of former Stoke players on their roster in James O'Connor and Anthony (son of Tony) Pulis. Another name you might recognise, this time from his short MLS career is (Me love you) Long Tan, so there's some quality in the squad, it should be a very good test.
It was a good test last year as well, as the teams played to a 2-2 tie, a game that exposed the Miguel Aceval - Geovany Caicedo dream team as maybe not quite being up to snuff, though Aceval did score from a free kick. Also let's not forget that TFC stole Logan Emory from right under the nose of Orlando, usurping their efforts to trial and sign him from the Puerto Rico Islanders.
Emory of course won't be playing in this one, and though he seemed bullish on his prospects for March 2nd, I got the impression it's unlikely we'll be seeing Danny Califf in this one either. Doneil Henry will now have joined his Canada U20 teammates so will also be unavailable, and you've got to think that given it's just a preseason game and he's not really having to fight for his job that Stefan Frei will be given at the very least this game to rest his nose post surgery. Add in the 3 players released after Saturday's game, and we're down to barely over 20 players available, with 6 of those being as yet unsigned (only 2 1/2 weeks to first kick, tick tock Kevin, tick tock).
So who will we see? Well Joe Bendik will probably get the full game in goal, which will be a good chance to see just how able of a backup he can be to Frei this year. After that, well it's a bit of a crapshoot really. Is this game to be used to assess the potential of those still trying to win a place, or to try and get a bit of fluency going with what passes for the first team. I'd guess at the former, with the first team chemistry building to be set for the later games.
That means we should see more of pretty much everybody available at some point and who'll be starting, well your guess is as good as mine. Last game it seemed like the first choice available defence and forwards and a very experimental midfield. Will the likes of Frings, Cesar, Dunfield and Bekker be held back again? Will Hall, Osorio, Welshman and Lambe get the first half together again? Will Andrew Wiedeman actually make it on to the pitch this time?
I'd like to see more of the triallists/'academy kids' especially Nicolas Cabrera who didn't really get enough touches to make a positive or negative impression on Saturday. Quality wide midfielders are a desperate need so hopefully he can show that he has what it takes to fill that need. Same goes for up front, so hopefully Ashton Bennett and Taylor Morgan can get enough time to show off what they can do.
The result doesn't really matter too much of course what with it being pre-season. Even if TFC crash and burn and come last in their group, they'll get the extra game, as there are 3rd place, 5th place and 7th place playoffs. It's once again about finding bits of hope to cling to, evidence that things are coming together. That may be from individual players, hopefully one of the ones mentioned above, but more than likely, it will come from further displays of the team wide pressing and defensive focus, the safety net of organisation that Ryan Nelsen referred to for when things aren't going great up front. There's precious little true quality available right now up front, so let's hope either that organisation comes quickly, or the allocation money currently in Payne's pocket gets spent quickly and wisely.