How quickly things change - it was less than a month ago that TFC went down to Boston and on the strength of Matias Laba's first MLS goal came away with all three points. Ah the beginning of August; when things seemed almost positive and as though maybe, just maybe our Reds were starting to gel. And then, well then came the AS Roma game, the loss to Seattle and the embarrassment of the Columbus game. And in that last game they of course lost the services of Toronto's best player Matias Laba - who is now out for the season (around the 2:30 mark) - that couldn't have come at a worse time, oh no. Thanks a lot Columbus - rivalry back on!
Last weeks game against DC showed that they're at least capable of bouncing back (somewhat) from a horrific game and that they won't completely collapse without Laba - at least not against opponents as terrible as themselves. When faced with actually talented opponents? We'll have lots of opportunities to see that in the coming weeks. And up first they have to get past the Revs in the third and final match between the two teams this season.
With only 9 games left on the season and little - OK nothing - really to play for other than the usual; pride, spots on the team next year, prove to the fans that they don't suck, etc; TFC will be little more than a practise game for most opposition teams over the next two months. The Rev are tied with Houston for the last playoff spot and won't be looking to do anything other than try to get their first win in Toronto. Oh good, an undermanned TFC up against a highly motivated Revs team - who also will be seeking some measure of revenge for the loss earlier in the month...joy. But hey, we get free tix to the EX!!! Priorities people, priorities.
OK, back to the game. Positives:
- Toronto's defense - no really that's a positive. Assuming that Ecks, Caldwell, Henry and Morgan (sorry Elmer, it's safer on the bench) all get the start and build off of recent solid performances, well they could hold off the Rev attack.
- Jonathan Osorio is back! And this time it's personal! Seriously, he's recovered from the knock to his ankle and is back (allegedly) to 100% which will at least give Toronto some energy in the midfield and an additional scoring option.
- Umm...Hey rides!
- Lack of fire power - with Jeremy Brockie (and his single goal) back in Australia, Danny K looking more like he'll never wear a TFC shirt again and Robert Earnshaw still not able to regain his form from earlier in the season, Toronto's season long faltering attack shows no signs of improving.
- What about Maxi Urruti you say? He's (according to coach Ryan Nelsen) still not at full game fitness and realistically he shouldn't be judged in these first few matches - hell, if the kid looks decent by the end of the season I'll be somewhat content.
- Everything else?
In all likelihood tonight's game is going to be a grind. Toronto still play better at home - even if 'fortress' is said mockingly these days - and well, they are trying to prove something - that they are a better team than last year and that this 34 game pre-season for 2014 has had a purpose.
So who will Nelsen put out on the field to try and deal with the likes of Juan Agudelo, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and of course, the Chad? Who will be called upon to test Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves at the back? Note: does anyone else get depressed typing names of quality players? Or is it just me? Sigh.... Does he throw the kids out to see what they can do or does he stick with close to the status quo? Many will be calling for Kyle Bekker and Emery Welshman (but mostly Bekker) to get tons of time because hey, why not?
However I doubt that is the route that Nelsen will take as he seems keen on keeping the existing core (or as much of it as is healthy and such) together for as many games as possible. And that's not a bad thing really. If these are the guys that will be returning next year and forming the base of this team, they should continue to play together - we've all witnessed far too may times what unfamiliarity does to this roster.
Tonight's game - like the rest of the season most likely - is going to be a grind. Best thing to do is just go in not expecting much, hang with your friends and if something good happens - celebrate! If they crash and burn, well we're used to it.