This afternoon at 3pm the carefree days of running about in the sun (or wind and rain as seems to be the fashion this year) will come to an end for TFC. The Reds play their final preseason match of the Mickey Mouse Cup and this year they're definitely not challenging for the dubious honour of playing for the trophy. No, instead they're playing in the consolation match against Sporting KC. Why do they call it a consolation match anyway? I've played in them and don't recall ever feeling all that consoled...
Toronto FC will take their still incomplete and injury ravaged lineup to the field in hopes of showing the beginning of some cohesion in what will hopefully be a starting XI that at least somewhat resembles the team we'll see a week from today (one week!) in Vancouver. As it's been noted before, the lineup has been an ever changing thing through the preseason. The main question for today is, who's lining up at the back? Stefan Frei is still a week or two away from playing in a proper game so Joe Bendik will don the keeper gloves once again - Bendik has been solid if unspectacular (ignoring all those pesky goals from the Union match) thus far and I expect more of the same.
But it's the four lining up in front of him that's a bit of a mystery. Presumably we'll see Richard Eckersley at RB and Darren O'Dea in the centre, but who will partner Darren? We've yet to see much of what many of us thought was going to be the opening day CB pairing of O'Dea and Danny Califf. Instead, Gale Abossoumonde has been pairing with O'Dea, while Califf hasn't seen as much time as he works himself back to match fitness. Hoping to see the two of them together today as that experience in the centre will be sorely needed come First Kick in Vancouver. The big question though is who starts at LB? Ashtone Morgan is still out with an injury (and looking unlikely for Mar. 2), Logan Emory has only just started full training with the team (still recovering from shoulder surgery) and umm, well I guess it's time for a trialist to shine! Take a bow Henrik Robstad..
The midfield has at least one question answered with Torsten Frings all but gone from TFC for good. Will coach Nelsen put Julio Cesar in against his old team? Otherwise expect to see Terry Dunfield, Kyle Bekker, Luis Silva and let's say Reggie Lambe gets another shot at his 1 in 6 game.
Up top I think that Taylor Morgan will be given another shot as he's shown fairly well this preseason. Ashton Bennett is also still in camp and fared well in the scrimmage against SKC earlier this week, so expect him to get some time as well. And as Justin Braun wasn't terrible in the last game and well we've just got to accept that he's our only actual MLS striker at the moment so we should embrace him - Gooo Justin!!
What kind of Sporting KC team do our Reds face? One without Toronto FC pest Kei Kamara who is currently on loan to Norwich City in the EPL. SKC are also without midfielder Roger Espinoza who has joined Wigan Athletic. But to offset the loss of the goals scored by Kamara and the experience of Espinoza in the midfield, Kansas have brought Benny Feilhaber on board and secured Claudio Bieler from LDU Quito as a DP forward. This only adds to a very strong Sporting team that boasts CJ Sapong and the man we love to hate; Teal (is a colour, not a player) Bunbury. In other words, expect to see a lopsided scoreline - I mean, we lost 3-0 to the Union - and SKC ain't no Union.
Honestly I'm not expecting a lot from this match. If there can be some sort of consistent starting XI that plays the majority of the game and no one gets hurt? Then I'll consider that a victory regardless of the score. I mean that, this game has to be about getting some of the last bits of rust (ok, swaths of rust) off with a real look to next Saturday when it's not playtime anymore. Blissfully we'll be unable to watch this game as there's no stream but keep your eye on twitter for game updates from Asif and the Toronto FC twitter.
It's been a rough offseason and an even rougher preseason folks. All I can say is that it's likely not going to get any easier any time soon. So enjoy this last Saturday of freedom before the games start to count and send up prayers to whatever footy gods you worship.