The boys are back in town! (The boys!) After a five month layoff for we the long suffering fans, it is finally time to return to BMO - our progressively less shiny home away from home - to cheer on our TFC. Thanks to the joys of MLS scheduling and a winter that just won't quit, this will not be a balmy day down at BMO. Instead we get cloudy skies, flurries and possibly freezing rain! Well if that doesn't lift your spirits I don't know what will.
Except of course that this is the season that all of our fortunes are supposed to change - brand new management, almost no remnants of previous regimes hanging about, shiny new DPs and something resembling a renewed sense of optimism. It's TFC 2.0 baby and this time things are going to be different!
Of course the more things change...from a purely razzle-dazzle side of things the Tims are coming out full force. Pre-game they're hosting a meeting with SSH about the proposed renovations to BMO (which myself and some other WTR folk will be attending) and then heading over to the patio (King patio? Whatever they call it) on the north end to talk to the assembled ‘crowd' at 2pm. Yep, 2pm on a cold Saturday - I doubt that even the (scary) siren call of $5 Buds will lure that many of the faithful outdoors to hear what TL has to say. Why not wait until closer to kickoff and speak to the fans that are in the seats? I think there's a good chance he's going to be talking to himself.
As for the rest of the circus, I'm sure that we'll be subjected to all the regular ceremonial stuff that we've been dealing with the past year or so. Although I truly hope that the Bitchy intro has been done away with; it never became whatever sort of crown rousing, inspirational thing they had hope; best to let it end. One positive of the razzle-dazzle for the home opener? Free mittens! OK, free mittens to the first 10,000 - but yay for appropriate giveaways! What? My hands get cold! You saw the part about freezing rain, right?
Enough of the dissecting the pre-game; let's get onto the actual game itself. The reason that many of us won't sleep tonight, that thing we live for? Oh yeah, it's really almost game time! This should be a winnable game. I don't often say that - but really; if they can waltz into Seattle and steal 3 points then surely, SURELY they can beat fellow bottom feeders from last season DCU. As much as we share many things with our brethren from the south - players, sucking in 2013, Kevin Payne, stadium drama...wait, are they the same team? Anyway, even though we share these things it is not going to prevent Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe from crushing their fragile spirits.
Too cocky you say? This is TFC you say? You know what? You're right; except that this is DC United we're playing and off-seaon rebuilding in the town that House of Cards put back on the map, has not been anywhere near the level that Toronto has achieved. They've made a few significant changes (hello Eddie Johnson, hi Bobby Boswell, hi Espindola, hi Nana), but again - while a marked improvement over last season, it's not the shopping spree for high level talent that the Tims went on for Toronto and while stocked with solid veteran players, again - TFC should be able to take this.
Other than the supremely talented Bradley and Defoe, the back being anchored by Steven Caldwell, Doneil Henry and some guy named Julio Cesar, well there's a little matter of a guy named Dwayne De Rosario. While I am not the biggest fan of DeRo I do respect that he has come back for one last kick at the hometown can and genuinely seems to want to succeed. But really it's all about the DeRo vs. a former club (any former club!) effect - you can almost set your clock by the fact that DeRo will make a former club miserable when playing against them - and I say we embrace that!
I expect to see pretty much the same starting XI as we did last week; with the possibility of a (hopefully) healthy Gilberto being inserted into the lineup. Hey, we paid a pretty penny for him - he must play! Who cares if he's still injured? Actually I'm fairly confident that the current management would not rush him back if he's not ready - optics or not - but at some point we're going to need to see how he and Defoe work together up front and whether opposition defences simply intimidate them with size or if they're going to be helpless against the proven abilities of Defoe and the (as yet unproven) Gilberto. Stay tuned footy fans!
As I said, this is game is more than winnable. Even with DCU looking to prove something after that shellacking they got from the Crew in the first week - TFC should win. This is a heavily motivated team, in front of the home crowd for the first time with a fair amount to prove. Playoffs are the minimum expectation for Toronto this year and that means winning at home - a lot. Yes, the weather is going to suck and the pitch isn't perfect and they're still gelling - but I say this again - if they can beat Seattle, on the road, on plastic, then surely they can give us a win as a welcome back gift. Surely.
Would you be satisfied with anything less than three points from this game? Regardless of the team still gelling, the conditions and so forth - is this a must win game in your eyes? Let us know in the comments. Until then I'm going to be selecting my warmest layers and warming up vocal chords in anticipation of actually cheering and celebrating. It's been a long, cold winter (both the season and the previous 7 years); a little sunshine in our lives would be most welcome. See you Saturday? Come On You Reds!