OK folks, the past week or so has been fun and yes we are all delighted that once again the Whitecaps will not hoist the Voyageurs Cup - hahahaha - however we've got to set that aside for a couple of weeks and concentrate on league play. I said league Play - there's nothing else in TFC Land to discuss! Nothing I tell you - OK, we may have something else to discuss, but first there's an MLS game coming up! And what better way to jump right back into MLS play than against the Red Bulls...come on, it'll be fun! Or something. Hey it's not like you had anything else planned for the long weekend - right?
For Toronto this game should be the start of them looking ahead to the rest of the MLS season; they're out of bye weeks (World Cup not included) and those many, many games in hand will start to dwindle. Right now they've as many as FIVE games in hand (on the Union) and four on the Red Bulls so their low table placement and getting increasingly less shiny point total can be taken with a few grains of salt. There is a ton of time and space for them to make up ground and theoretically they should given the talent level of the players on the team. Of course the increasingly burning question is will they? And with a home heavy schedule heading into the World Cup break, TFC must take advantage of the schedule disparity and start registering results at BMO Field.
While having a ton of games in hand is lovely, something else on the table stands out starkly and that is the number of goals scored - Toronto have scored just 7 goals on the season; 7. That's exactly a goal a game and considering the scoring threats they have on the team, that is starting to become a concern. Where there is hopefully a light at the end of the tunnel that is this lack of scoring, is a (hopefully) highly motivated/pissed off Jermain Defoe. Having not been selected for England's World Cup squad we can only hope that he wants to show Roy what he's missing and go on a tear.
Combine that with Gilberto (Gil to his friends), inching ever so close to getting his first goal - surely that dam is going to break soon, right? And Luke Moore didn't look too terrible on Wednesday night so there may be something positive in the offering - but it has to happen soon. There's nothing wrong with an aggressive attack, but if it doesn't produce and your defence can't absorb the pressure...well then you lose three games in a row; including two at home!
TFC face some lineup challenges (yes, again) this week stemming from World Cup absences, injury/illness and sudden trades. Julio Cesar is likely out with the flu - which based on Joe Bendik's outstanding performance on Wednesday isn't really a concern. More concerning in light of today's surprising trade of Issey Nakajima-Farran to the Impact, is the news that Jackson is out with a concussion suffered in the game against the Revs. With Alvaro Rey just coming back from injury (again) and likely not available for a full 90 minutes...well who do we have for wide players? Where does the attack come from?
Normally we'd look to Michael Bradley but he's off at the US camp ahead of the World Cup so it falls to Jonathan Osorio and...hold on, I'm thinking. Umm, Dan Lovitz come on down? Oh this is going to be a fun game isn't it? And by fun I mean potential train wreck...Hands up if you think DeRo gets the start - because that is a paper thin midfield until bodies are healthy or not on suspension (take a bow Collen Warner).
So while Toronto FC is again fielding an unfamiliar starting XI, the New York Red Bulls come into town also missing a few starters. Tim Cahill and Roy Miller are both away with their respective World Cup squads and now midfielder Peguy Luyindula is out with an injury. So there are a few areas of exploitation for TFC with New York's midfield losing two players as well as their starting left back, but even with those losses the Red Bulls are never to be discounted. Not only do they have Thierry Henry - I may not like him at all but damn he's talented - but in a surprising turn, Bradley Wright-Phillips has turned into a goal scoring machine! He's coming off a hat trick against Chicago on the weekend and has 8 goals in his last 4 games. Who knew?
Luckily New York hasn't been prolific away from home and aren't exactly boasting a rock solid defence this year, but this is TFC and they've really yet to prove that they can take the game to the opposition either on the road or at home. Yes, Ryan Nelsen did rest some key players on Wednesday - notably Defoe, Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow - but with the above noted absences, this is one of those games where the players' focus, chemistry and desire to win will be tested.
And it's not just the players who will be tested but Nelsen himself; because as the season wears on his game management skills are (rightly) being called into question. Will we once again see the very late substitutions, will Doneil Henry get the start after his possibly game losing error on Wednesday and will Nelly throw caution to the wind and change up the formation? The answers are likely: yes, yes and no. But hey, stranger things have happened - I think Toronto will get a result in this game but not the full 3 points - prove me wrong boys, prove me wrong!