Everyone needs to climb down off the cross and remember that this is still the beginning of the season and that this is indeed the best start by our Reds in their history. Low bar yes, but not to be discounted. Time for an Easter miracle? The real question is can TFC beat the team where Toronto DPs used to go to die, even without our high-priced talent?
Heading into Frisco - which always strikes me as weird, I think they're going to California - is no easy task for Toronto; of course that can be said about pretty much every MLS opponent over the course of the past seven years.
The comfy confines of Toyota Stadium - damn I miss Pizza (the) Hut Park - will offer one of the best playing situations for the Reds so far this season. It's an SSS with (by all accounts) a truly lovely pitch; something Toronto has yet to play on this season. So surface, locale and weather can't be used as excuses for a poor performance in this game; really other than playing away and being undermanned this is a great situation for the team. And those are just minor issues, right?
Dallas is currently the best team in MLS, boasting a lofty 13 points from 6 games on the back of 15 goals scored. Chief amongst their weapons is speed - this is a team that can turn the jets on and blow past opposing players with startling ease. Toronto being not exactly fleet of foot at all times - especially at the back - could be hard pressed to counter swift attacks without making stupid fouls. Jackson I'm looking at you...
This is a serious cause for concern. While yes Jackson and Andrew Wiedeman (yes, he's starting, just accept that), will be playing against their old team, which is generally a motivating factor (as is the need to bounce back from the disappointing effort on Saturday), there is a concern in Jackson's case that his aggressive tendencies and temper will be exploited by his former teammates. While I've nothing but praise for his recent play, that tussle with Davy Arnaud isn't so long ago that it can be completely discounted - moral of the story? Keep your cool Jackson!
More worrying is that TFC is still without a number of first team players as the injury bug (hamstring bug?) seems to have struck half the team. Not travelling with the team are Jermain Defoe, Alvaro Rey, Doneil Henry, Jeremy Hall, Dwayne DeRosario and of course Bright Dike. That's a scary list of injured players. I don't include Michael Bradley as he's a possibility and is travelling with the team or Ashtone Morgan (who may be dressed as a warm bench body again) - but only the former is likely to see any time if needed.
And then even more worrisome is the lack of scoring that is potentially plaguing the Reds. When your hired gun is stuck on the trainer's table, your prodigal son on the one next to him and the next in line seemingly unable to pot one as of yet, what's a team to do? Pray for rain so that Wiedeman will have a chance? You may laugh (you're welcome), but it's true. Other than Gilberto and his frustrating (for him and for us) lack of scoring so far who else is there? Well there's Jordan Hamilton and while Nelsen has shown some faith in the kids so far this season I don't see him starting - not yet anyway.
It's a bit maddening because although Dallas has one of the league's best defenders in Matt Hedges, they've not exactly been taking care of business at the back. FCD have let in 9 goals this season, but a tasty (to opposing teams) 7 at home! Toronto needs to keep that firmly in mind when on the attack.
There is some cause for celebration as Jonathan Osorio has been tapped to play - but caution is called for as Oso hasn't played in a game situation in weeks. However his ability going forward is sorely needed in the absence of Bradley and Rey. This is not to discount recent efforts by Kyle Bekker, but his strength is not creativity or speed and both will be needed in this game. Oso is also capable of scoring on occasion and will be looking to assert himself after such a long layoff.
So the question is does Bradley start and who plays next to Caldwell? I think there's little chance that Bradley won't start. Nelsen will want to have the Reds impose themselves on this game early and they'll need Bradley's abilities to help make that happen. If they have the game well in hand Bradley can be subbed off for Bekker and then we can all cross our fingers... As for the back - well, given the aforementioned speed of Dallas I'd like to see Nick Hagglund line up with Steven Caldwell again as opposed to Bradley Orr. This isn't a knock on Orr's play; well not too much - but Hagglund played admirably in his one game and is far more mobile than Orr. It also allows Caldwell to play on his normal side which can be the difference between clearing a ball and letting in an unfortunate goal.
This is not going to be an easy game - but unlike years past a loss isn't the foregone conclusion. Now I say that on the strength of having at least some of the walking wounded back and the fact that if Toronto keeps to their aggressive attack plan then they may have a chance. Damning with faint praise you say? Well that's all I can muster on this weekend where days off in search of chocolate may be more fun than watching TFC. But maybe not - ask me in three days.