It's almost disappointing that TFC's next two matches are on the road - just when they're starting to find some cohesion and consistency, they're off on a road trip so we the fans have to watch anxiously from home or from our favourite pub instead of sharing that anxiety in the stands with one another. Although this does mean we only have to navigate the madness that is the Ex just once this month...umm, good job MLS scheduling gods!
Up first is of course our greatest (made up) foe; the Columbus Crew - time to bring home that shiny Trillium Cup! Or, as it's TFC playing Columbus and on the road, probably not. Hey I'm just being realistic here folks, don't shoot the messenger! Toronto has a hill to climb if they can't pull out the win tomorrow night due to the joy of away goals - they need to score 3 goals if it ends in a draw. 3 goals - I'll let that sink in while you contemplate their next match; or something fun.
Goals - or lack thereof - continues to be the theme for this season and so far doesn't show any immediate signs of changing. With Urruti watch still in full effect - besides, he wouldn't play tomorrow anyway - there's zero expectation that Maxi (Mad Max?) would be the game changer for this match; especially as (at this moment) he's still not officially signed with the team. So as we all hold our breath - or not, many have given up and think that Urruti is just a season long troll on TFC fans - where are the goals going to come from?
Do we look to Jeremy Brockie who failed to score in the dying moments of the game against Seattle and from a purely scoring aspect has been a bust this season? I'm not knocking his energy or effort - just his complete lack of finishing, so probably best not to. Well back to full fitness and likely to start is Robert Earnshaw - or Mr. March as we call him - who looked quite good in the Sounders match (in a purely energetic, non-goal scoring way, though he came close with the shot off the post). If Earnshaw can show the same intent up top (plus the willingness to track back) and perhaps trusts his teammates a touch more he could regain the form that so impressed everyone to start the season.
As for the rest? Well, until Koef is healthy (if ever) and more signings are made he's only got Andrew Wiedeman and Justin Braun as; well I hesitate to call them viable strike partners but they're all Toronto has at the moment. You're excited now aren't you? *Koef future update here*
This game - and TFCs only shot at 'silverware' this season really does rest on the shoulders of the forwards. With the defense getting more solid with each passing game - last week's gaffes notwithstanding - there is a sense of optimism around the back line. When speaking of the teams deficiencies that is usually the last thing to be mentioned. And as TFC and Columbus have similar numbers for goals conceded this has to speak well for at least that aspect of the game tomorrow.
Of course they need to be mindful of Dominic Oduro and Frederico Higuain as they are the usual (and most recent) thorns in the side of TFC and hopefully they've reviewed the tape from their frozen statue act last week many times. While the team has to be feeling good about having finally beat Columbus at home there will likely be a certain amount of revenge on the mind of the Crew.
The only other question really is will Alvaro Rey finally get a start? If not this week then next I expect to see Rey in the starting XI as work on the midfield continues. Obviously Matias Laba (seriously, can we clone him?) and Jonathan Osorio have locked down their respective spots in the middle and Bobby Convey seems to have done enough to keep that other wing position. Osorio taking the middle spot means the right wing place is open, and recently it's been Reggie Lambe which is not without controversy as Lambe struggles to be effective both ways - although I will give him props for that lovely dummy last week. However that one moment (his 1 in 6, 10, 16?) does not erase the fact that he's really not a starter and better is needed. Could Rey be that player? Unknown as he's not played enough for us to really assess what he's going to look like in a game, so hopefully he sees significant minutes tomorrow and going forward. I look forward to seeing Laba, Rey, Osorio and Convey out there eventually - they may not strike terror into the hearts of opposition players but neither would they be taken lightly.
This is likely going to be one of those grinding games that the Reds come out of with a moral victory as new and returning players look to work themselves into the lineup. The other option is that they manage to pull off the unlikely feats of either a win or scoring 3 goals to bring home the cup! Oh and you know, build momentum and stuff like that too - yeah, that's probably more important. Come on boys, bring home the Cup! Or hell, just play well. Come on you Reds!